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Daily News Blog

Archive for the 'Agriculture' Category


11
Jun

Switzerland to Hold Landmark Vote on Nationwide Ban of All Synthetic Pesticides June 13

(Beyond Pesticides, June 11, 2021) On Sunday, June 13, Switzerland will hold a national vote on two landmark initiatives related to pesticide use (as well as several referenda). The vote on one initiative, dubbed by advocates “For a Switzerland Free of Synthetic Pesticides” (FSFSP), will determine whether or not the country will ban synthetic pesticides. If it does, it will become the first European nation to do so. The other initiative, which aims to eliminate direct subsidies of farmers who use synthetic pesticides or antibiotics for livestock, is focused on improving the quality of Switzerland’s drinking water and food supply. Beyond Pesticides covered the grassroots origin of the Swiss “no synthetic pesticides” initiative in 2018 and sees potential passage of both it and the water quality initiative as a watershed moment in the protection of health and the environment. These measures would go a long way to protecting and improving the health of humans and ecosystems, and the food supply, as well as protecting biodiversity in Switzerland. It could also — as advocates hope — encourage other European countries to follow suit. This vote has been scheduled, in part, as an outcome of a 2018 petition by the advocacy group, Future3, […]

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09
Jun

Court Blocks Trump-era, Toxic Citrus Pesticide, Defended by Biden EPA

(Beyond Pesticides, June 9, 2021) Earlier this week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia blocked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from approving use of the hazardous insecticide aldicarb on citrus crops in Florida. The decision comes shortly after Nikki Fried, Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner, denied a state-level registration for aldicarb, which was cancelled in the United States over a decade ago due to risks to children and water contamination. Health, conservation, and farmworker advocates that brought the suit are praising the court’s decision. “We applaud this decision by the court whose ruling confirms what we already knew — that there is no place for a toxic pesticide like aldicarb to be used on crops in Florida where our workers and our water would be at grave risk,” said Jeannie Economos, coordinator of the Pesticide Safety and Environmental Health Project at Farmworker Association of Florida in a press release. “Farmworkers can breathe a bit easier knowing that this neurotoxin will not be used on the citrus crops they harvest. We are grateful to Florida commissioner of agriculture Nikki Fried for refusing to allow this toxin to poison our communities, our food and our environment. This decision sends […]

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04
Jun

Pesticide Pollution Continues Unabated, According to New Data

(Beyond Pesticides, June 4, 2021) The release of the most recent U.S. Geological Services (USGS) study of pesticide contamination of rivers on the U.S. mainland finds that degradation of those rivers from pesticide pollution continues unabated. USGS scientists looked at data from 2013 to 2017 (inclusive) from rivers across the country and offered these top-level conclusions: “(1) pesticides persist in environments beyond the site of application and expected period of use, and (2) the potential toxicity of pesticides to aquatic life is pervasive in surface waters.” Beyond Pesticides maintains that ultimately, water quality and aquatic organisms and their ecosystems will be fully protected from pesticides through a wholesale movement to organic land management practices. USGS undertakes periodic assessments of the presence and toxicity of pesticides in the country’s surface waters under the agency’s National Water-Quality Assessment Program. Recent news from these studies has not been good. In September 2020, Beyond Pesticides reported on another, related USGS survey, which found that nearly 90% of U.S. rivers and streams are contaminated with mixtures of at least five or more different pesticides. A March 2021 Beyond Pesticides Daily News article noted that USGS research demonstrated that, of 422 water samples taken from streams across […]

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01
Jun

Tell EPA to Protect Farmworkers Now; Hear Directly from Farmworker Community Members

(Beyond Pesticides, June 1, 2021) Farmworkers are at greatest risk from pesticides. EPA’s policies toward farmworkers comprise a blatant example of systemic racism. Although everyone suffers from pesticide poisoning, farmworkers and their families shoulder a disproportionate burden of the hazards.  Agricultural justice demands that we ensure a workplace with fair wages and benefits, no discrimination or coercion, and protection from hazards, such as harmful chemicals, including pesticides. Acknowledging, respecting, and sustaining the workers who plant, cultivate, and harvest our food is central to the basic values and principles that advance sustainable practices. Agricultural justice demands that we ensure a workplace with fair wages and benefits, no discrimination or coercion, and protection from hazards, such as harmful chemicals, including pesticides. Acknowledging, respecting, and sustaining the workers who plant, cultivate, and harvest our food is central to the basic values and principles that advance sustainable practices. Tell EPA to protect farmworkers from pesticides. Worker Protection Standards Are Inadequate to Protect Farmworkers Worker protection standards are set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The original standard was developed after field hearings in which EPA heard from growers, but not farmworkers. With the threat […]

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26
May

Coffee Leaf Rust Hits Hawai’i, Emergency Fungicide Approved, Hyperparasite Biocontrol Possible

(Beyond Pesticides, May 26, 2021) Coffee leaf rust, caused by a fungus that can devastate fields of coffee plants, and the coffee industry of entire countries, was recently detected on the Hawaiian Islands for the first time. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acted quickly to approve the emergency use of a synthetic fungicide, but new research conducted in the fungus’ home range shows the promise of a hyperparasite biocontrol. Caused by the fungus Hemileia vastatrix, coffee leaf rust was first documented in its home range of Africa in the 1860s. By the later part of that decade, it had spread to Sri Lanka, and destroyed the country’s monoculture coffee plantations, which were subsequently replaced with tea cultivation. The disease has now been found in every coffee producing country, but up until late last year, it had never been seen on the Hawaiian Islands. Thus, Hawaiian coffee farmers are rightly concerned about the disease. In response, EPA permitted the use of a product called Priaxor Xemium, a fungicide consisting of the active ingredients fluxapyroxad and pyraclostrobin, which has been linked to birth and developmental effects, and presents significant hazards to birds and aquatic organisms. “Hawai’i coffee growers now have an […]

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19
May

Canada Quietly Bans Chlorpyrifos, While EPA’s 60-Day Deadline For Action Rapidly Approaches

(Beyond Pesticides, May 19, 2021) Last week Health Canada quietly announced its intent to cancel all remaining registrations of the brain-damaging insecticide chlorpyrifos. The decision by Canada’s federal pesticide regulators comes shortly after a U.S. federal court gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) a 60-day deadline to make a final decision on whether to amend or cancel the chemical’s registration. With Europe and now Canada eliminating use of this hazardous insecticide, advocates are urging that the Biden Administration, under EPA administrator Michael Regan, finally puts an end to the decades of harm caused after chlorpyrifos was first registered in 1965. Up until recently, Canada and the U.S. had relatively similar provisions regulating chlorpyrifos use. Officials in both countries eliminated homeowner use, and tightened up on agricultural uses in the 2000s and early 2010s, requiring additional personal protective equipment and drift mitigation measures. However,  Health Canada  began to look at significant restrictions on chlorpyrifos in 2019, when it proposed eliminating a range of uses that threaten environmental health. Under its draft decision, regulators planned to eliminate all uses except for mosquito control, structural pest control, outdoor ornamentals, and greenhouse ornamentals. Certain agricultural uses were provided an extended phase-out period with […]

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18
May

Conventional Meats Contaminated with Multi-Drug Resistant Bacteria, at Significantly Higher Rates than Organic Meats

(Beyond Pesticides, May 18, 2021) Organic meat is far less likely to be adulterated with multi-drug resistant bacteria (MDRB) than conventional meat, according a study published earlier this month in Environmental Health Perspectives. The research by experts at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is the latest news on the health and safety benefits of choosing organic, which prohibits the regular use of risky antibiotics, for one’s food purchases. Scientists indicate that contaminated foods pose serious dangers for consumers, public health, and the economy at large. “The presence of pathogenic bacteria is worrisome in and of itself, considering the possible increased risk of contracting foodborne illness,” senior author Meghan Davis, PhD, associate professor at the Bloomberg School said. “If infections turn out to be multidrug resistant, they can be more deadly and more costly to treat.” To determine the level of contamination in various packaged meats, scientists turned to the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS), a collaborative program between the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For a five year period spanning 2012-2017, NARMS collected meat products (chicken breast, ground beef, ground turkey, and […]

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17
May

Stop EPA’s Racist Policies that Disproportionately Harm Farmworker Children’s Brains: Ban Chlorpyrifos

(Beyond Pesticides, May 17, 2021) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has less than two months to decide whether to cancel or modify its registration of the brain-damaging organophosphate insecticide chlorpyrifos, following a decision from a federal appeals court. The ruling comes after more than a decade of delay from the federal agency tasked with protecting public health and the environment from the hazards of chemicals like chlorpyrifos. The decision now falls to the Biden Administration’s EPA Administrator Michael Regan, after the previous administration reversed a proposal to ban agricultural uses of chlorpyrifos in 2017. Most residential uses of the chemical were banned in 2000.  Tell EPA to ban chlorpyrifos and other neurotoxic pesticides. The target of action by which chlorpyrifos and many other pesticides kill is the nervous system. It is not surprising, then, that pesticides also target the nervous system in humans. They are particularly hazardous to children, who take in greater amounts of pesticides relative to their body weight than adults, and whose developing organ systems are typically more sensitive to toxic exposures. The body of evidence in the scientific literature shows that pesticide exposure can adversely affect a child’s neurological, respiratory, immune, and endocrine systems, even at […]

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11
May

Bayer Loses Bid to Overturn Neonicotinoid Ban in Europe

(Beyond Pesticides, May 11, 2021) Last week, multinational agrichemical company Bayer Cropscience lost its bid to overturn a 2018 ban on bee-toxic neonicotinoids throughout the European Union. The ruling from the European Court of Justice rejected all grounds on which the company filed its appeal, noting, “It must be held that the arguments put forward by Bayer CropScience cannot, in any event, succeed.” In denying the appeal, the court ruled Bayer responsible for paying its own legal fees, as well as the fees of environmental organizations that intervened to defend the ban. Environmental groups are applauding the ruling, as it reinforces several important aspects of the EU’s pesticide policy that favor greater public health and environmental protections. In an interview with EURACTIV, policy officer Martin Dermine at Pesticide Action Network Europe notes that the decision provides more leeway for pesticide regulators to consider new scientific evidence on pesticide hazards. “More than that,” he told EURACTIV, “the Court confirms the definition of the precautionary principle:  in case of doubts on the toxicity of a pesticide, the European Commission is entitled to ban it.” Pesticide regulators in Europe began restricting neonicotinoids in 2013, when a continent-wide moratorium was put in place based […]

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10
May

TAKE ACTION: USDA Must Complete Rulemaking Initiated by the National Organic Standards Board

(Beyond Pesticides, May 10, 2021) USDA is dragging its heels in completing rulemaking recommended by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)—including recommendations passed as early as 2001 and including those concerning both materials and organic practices. This threatens organic integrity and public trust in the process governing the USDA organic label. When the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) was passed in 1990, supporters had grave mistrust of the commitment of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)—a department that had embraced chemical-intensive agriculture and promoted the dependence on pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Therefore, Congress built into the law protections by assigning a major role for the NOSB—an advisory board comprised of representatives of all the stakeholders including producers, processors, retailers, certifiers, consumers, scientists, and environmentalists. Not only must the NOSB vote on allowed synthetic materials used in organic production, but USDA must also consult with the NOSB on all aspects of the National Organic Program (NOP).  Tell USDA that NOSB recommendations must be proposed as regulations. Crucial to organic practices, and written into OFPA, is the concept of continuous improvement. The importance of this concept is most apparent in materials review, which includes a sunset provision that requires all synthetic materials […]

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07
May

Meta-Review: Pesticides Kill or Harm Soil Invertebrates Essential to Soil Health

(Beyond Pesticides, May 7, 2021) Soil health is one of the linchpins on which the food production that sustains human life — as well as biodiversity, pollinator health, and carbon sequestration — depend. A recent meta-review of nearly 400 studies finds that, in 71% of the cases reviewed, pesticides kill or otherwise harm soil invertebrates that contribute mightily to soil health. In their paper, “Pesticides and Soil Invertebrates: A Hazard Assessment,” published in Frontiers in Environmental Science in early May, the researchers write, “A wide variety of soil-dwelling invertebrates display sensitivity to pesticides of all types . . . [These results] support the need for pesticide regulatory agencies to account for the risks that pesticides pose to soil invertebrates and soil ecosystems.” Beyond Pesticides, which has long reported on impacts of pesticides on soil health, concurs with that conclusion, and adds that the real solutions to noxious pesticide impacts lie in the adoption of  regenerative organic approaches to all land management because they obviate any need for petroleum-based toxic chemical controls. The term “pesticide” can refer to myriad kinds of chemical treatments — including antimicrobials, disinfectants, rodenticides, and others — but in the agricultural and land management realms, primarily means insecticides, […]

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04
May

Federal Court Gives EPA 60-Day Deadline to Decide the Fate of Chlorpyrifos

(Beyond Pesticides, May 4, 2021) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has less than two months to determine whether cancel or modify its registration of the brain-damaging, organophosphate insecticide chlorpyrifos, following a decision from a federal appeals court last week. The ruling comes after more than a decade of delay from the federal agency tasked with protecting public health and the environment from the hazards of chemicals like chlorpyrifos. The decision now falls to the Biden Administration’s EPA Administrator Michael Regan, after the previous administration reversed a proposal to ban agricultural uses of chlorpyrifos in 2017. Most residential uses of the chemical were banned in 2000.   “The EPA has had nearly 14 years to publish a legally sufficient response to the 2007 Petition,” reads a 2-1 opinion from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco. “During that time, the  EPA’s  egregious  delay  exposed  a  generation  of  American  children  to  unsafe  levels  of  chlorpyrifos.” Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide that is currently registered for use on a range of food crops, golf courses, and for public health mosquito control (in cases of mosquito-borne diseases). It is highly acutely toxic, causing numbness, tingling sensation, in-coordination, dizziness, vomiting, […]

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30
Apr

Research Shows Adverse Impacts of Glyphosate on the Human Gut Microbiome

(Beyond Pesticides, April 30, 2021) A bioinformatics tool developed by researchers from the University of Turku in Finland indicates that “54% of species in the core human gut microbiome are sensitive to glyphosate.” This tool may help predict which microbes in the human gut could be negatively affected by exposure to the ubiquitous herbicide. Because damage to the gut biome is linked to a variety of diseases, this information could prove critical in recognition of the role(s) glyphosate may play in the development of human diseases. Published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, the researchers’ paper states, “The widespread use of glyphosate may have a strong effect on gut microbiomes as well as on human health.” Beyond Pesticides has long reported on the relationship between glyphosate and human health, including potential effects on the human gut microbiome. Used in multiple herbicide formulations, glyphosate has become widely known as the active ingredient in Bayer/Monsanto’s RoundupÂŽ, the most-used herbicide worldwide. The pervasiveness of glyphosate-based herbicide (GBH) use in agriculture, and of Roundup in particular, is due largely to their pairing with genetically engineered (GE) seeds for soy, canola, and corn crops. In many regions, these GE seeds — engineered to resist the glyphosate […]

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29
Apr

Glyphosate-Based Herbicides and Sustainable Agriculture Do Not Mix!

(Beyond Pesticides, April 29, 2021) Glyphosate-based herbicides (GBHs) are incompatible with sustainable agriculture goals, according to a recent scientific literature analysis by scientists at Tufts University, Massachusetts. Glyphosate is the most commonly used pesticide active ingredient worldwide, appearing in many herbicide formulas, including Bayer’s (formerly Monsanto) RoundupTM. The use of this chemical has been increasing since the inception of crops genetically modified to tolerate glyphosate. However, studies demonstrate glyphosate is the main contributor to human, biotic, and ecosystem harms as toxicities from herbicides are now double what it was in 2004.  The National Academy of Sciences identifies four goals of sustainable agriculture—productivity, economics, environment, and social well-being for future generations. However, pesticides like glyphosate are ubiquitous in the environment, putting the health, economy, and food/resources for future generations at risk. Therefore, research like this is vital for understanding how chemical use can undermine sustainable agriculture goals to protect humans, animals, and environmental health. Researchers note, “[W]hether or not GBHs are viewed as essential or unessential to contemporary agriculture, and notwithstanding their role in non-tillage agriculture, this study shows that glyphosate-based herbicides do not reach the bar of agricultural sustainability, with respect to humans and the environment, making the system they are part of unsustainable.” Researchers thoroughly examined […]

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27
Apr

Florida Officials Put a Stop to Trump Era Proposal to Spray Highly Toxic Insecticide in Citrus Groves

(Beyond Pesticides, April 27, 2021) The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) is denying a chemical company’s application to use a highly toxic insecticide on the state’s citrus crops due to the risks the chemical poses to human health and the environment, according to a statement from FDACS released last week. At issue is aldicarb, a carbamate class insecticide that was cancelled in the U.S. over a decade ago. “While there are promising new horizons for fighting citrus greening, like recent breakthroughs at UF/IFAS on genetic resistance, aldicarb poses an unacceptable risk to human, animal, and environmental health in Florida, is one of the world’s most toxic pesticides, and is banned in more than 100 countries,” said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “The registrant’s application does not meet the requirements of state law, and we must therefore deny the registration of aldicarb for use in the State of Florida.” At the end of the Trump Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took “aggressive actions” by announcing it was registering aldicarb and the antibiotic streptomycin for use against citrus greening, a disease that is damaging Florida’s citrus industry. The registration provided for a supplemental label allowing use on […]

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26
Apr

Tell Your U.S. Representative and Senators to Support the Agricultural Resilience Act

(Beyond Pesticides, April 26, 2021) Representative Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M), and 17 House cosponsors have reintroduced the Agriculture Resilience Act (ARA), which establishes a roadmap for achieving net-zero emissions from agriculture by 2040, while empowering farmers with the tools and resources needed to improve soil health, sequester carbon, reduce emissions, enhance their resilience, and tap into new market opportunities. Pingree first introduced the legislation in the 116th Congress, where it served as a model for recognizing agriculture as a part of the climate solution. Ask your U.S. Representatives and Senators to Cosponsor the Agricultural Resilience Act. Thank those who already have. The ARA offers farmer-driven climate solutions to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in U.S. agriculture by 2040: Research Increases funding for USDA’s Regional Climate Hubs Invests in public breed and cultivar research Soil Health  Authorizes USDA to offer performance-based crop insurance discounts for practices that can be demonstrated to reduce risk Creates new USDA grants to state and tribal governments to improve soil health Directs USDA to establish a Soil Health and Greenhouse Gas Advisory Committee Farmland Preservation and Farm Viability  Creates a new Local Agriculture Marketing Program (LAMP) subprogram to help  Farmers develop and expand markets for […]

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20
Apr

Roundup Shown to Kill Bees—But Not How You Might Expect

(Beyond Pesticides, April 20, 2021) Roundup products manufactured by Bayer-Monsanto kill exposed bumblebees at high rates, according to a new study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, which points to undisclosed inert ingredients (those that typically make up a majority of the product formulation) as the primary culprit. Roundup products have become synonymous with their main active ingredient glyphosate, but Bayer-Monsanto has been quietly reformulating its flagship product with different herbicides in a likely attempt to rebrand as glyphosate cancer lawsuits drag down the company’s performance. The new study reveals that these new Roundup products present the same hazards to pollinators as glyphosate-based formulations, raising important questions about the pesticide regulatory process. Researchers based at Royal Holloway University of London, UK conducted the present study to better understand the hazards posed by herbicides often characterized as “bee safe” to the public. To do so, 10 healthy bumblebee (Bombus spp) colonies were retained, split into small groups, and sprayed with a particular herbicide. Four different herbicide products were employed, including: i) Fast Action RoundupÂŽ Ready‐To‐Use (containing glyphosate); ii) RoundupÂŽ Speed Ultra (containing acetic acid and no glyphosate); iii) WeedolÂŽ Gun! Rootkill Plus (containing glyphosate) and; iv) RoundupÂŽ ProActive (contains glyphosate […]

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16
Apr

Pesticide Pollution in Recreational Lakes Documented

(Beyond Pesticides, April 16, 2021) Recent research, published in Environmental Pollution in late 2020, examines levels and persistence of pesticide pollution in recreational lakes. The study finds: (1) concentrations of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid at levels exceeding ecotoxicity limits for aquatic invertebrates in a recreational lake that receives predominately urban runoff, and (2) that pesticide residues persist in the studied lakes throughout the growing season. Based on their findings, the scientists emphasized the importance of stricter regulation of insecticide compounds, and of better education about their impacts. Beyond Pesticides maintains that neonicotinoid pesticides should be banned for several reasons, not least of which is the extreme damage they cause to pollinators. The goal of the study was to evaluate potential ecosystem exposure to pesticide contamination in Midwestern recreational lakes, as well as the persistence of pesticide residues in those water bodies over the course of the growing season. Study authors hypothesized that watersheds with significant agricultural land uses would have higher concentrations of pesticides compared to largely urban and herbaceous watersheds. This research, out of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the University of Kentucky, looked to evaluate the occurrence of neonicotinoid and organothiophosphate insecticides, and some fungicides, in three lakes with differing […]

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14
Apr

Lawsuits Mount for Syngenta/ChemChina Over Claims Paraquat Herbicide Causing Parkinson’s Disease

(Beyond Pesticides, April 14, 2021) Litigation on the highly toxic herbicide paraquat may soon move into its next phase as lawyers representing victims recently requested cases be consolidated in the federal district court of Northern California. Over a dozen lawsuits have been filed against the Swiss-based agrichemical corporation Syngenta in several states throughout the U.S. The complaints allege that exposure to Syngenta herbicides containing paraquat resulted in their diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. Paraquat dichloride (paraquat) is a highly toxic herbicide that has been registered for use in the United States since 1964. Although not permitted for residential use, the product is registered on a wide range of agricultural land, from row crops to vegetables and trees, and on non-farm areas, including airports, certain industrial sites and commercial buildings. It can be used as a preemergent, post-emergent, and post-harvest as a desiccant or harvest aid in the field. The lawsuits target both Syngenta and Chevron corporation, which previously held the rights to sell paraquat in the 1960s under an agreement with a company that was eventually purchased by Syngenta. Syngenta itself, while still headquartered in Switzerland, is now owned by the Chinese National Chemical Corporation (ChemChina) after a 2016 merger. Despite […]

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13
Apr

“No Pollinator is Safe” — New Evidence of Neonicotinoids Harming Wild, Ground Nesting Bees

(Beyond Pesticides, April 13, 2021) A new study is making it increasingly clear that current laws are not protecting wild, ground nesting bees from the hazards of neonicotinoid insecticides. According to research conducted under a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) projects, Blue Orchard Mason Bees (Osima spp) are at particular risk from pesticide-contaminated soil they use to create their nest. Authors of the study note that with honey bees already in decline, pollination services provided wild managed bees like Mason bees are growing in importance. “Wild bees such as Osmia are becoming increasingly popular as managed pollinators in many systems, as there is growing concern that honeybees may not be able to continue to meet the increasing demands of agricultural pollination if these trends continue,” the study reads. The study looked at three overarching threats to mason bee populations, aiming to identify risks from pesticide contaminated soil used as a nest, effects on larvae exposed to contaminated soil, and whether female mason bees could determine the difference between contaminated and uncontaminated soil. “Imidacloprid is a neonicotinoid, which is a group of pesticides that are highly toxic to bees,” said Christine Fortuin, PhD, […]

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09
Apr

Chemical-Intensive Land Management Contributes to Toxic Lagoons Overflowing with Synthetic Fertilizer Waste

(Beyond Pesticides, April 9, 2021) In early April, the leaking, open-air, Piney Point storage pond near Tampa, Florida necessitated hundreds of resident evacuations over concerns that the “reservoir” would breach and flood a three-county area with what was described as a potential “20-foot wall of water.” Ultimately, controlled releases from the 480-million-gallon “pond” (into Tampa Bay) avoided such a flood, but the event underscores the “ticking bomb” nature of such open-air, toxic-liquid-waste facilities, which are used by multiple industries in the U.S. Among those are, as in this case, the phosphate mining sector, and the synthetic fertilizer industry. The latter is tied directly to the chemical-intensive agriculture crisis, and to the exact kind of waste storage facility at issue in the Florida event. This “double whammy” related to synthetic fertilizers further validates Beyond Pesticides’ advocacy for a global transition to organic land management — which rejects the use of synthetic fertilizers for the myriad harms they cause. As reported by The New York Times, that Florida storage pond contains “legacy processed water” — code for wastewater with traces of heavy metals and other toxicants — contained by walls of phosphogypsum tailings at least 70 feet high. Phosphygypsum tailings are the […]

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08
Apr

Invertebrates and Plants Face Increasing Threat from Pesticide Use, Despite Declining Chemical Use Patterns

Pesticide use threatens aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates and plants more than ever, despite declining chemical use and implementation of genetically engineered (GE) crops in the U.S., according to a University Koblenz-Landau, Germany study. Since the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962), many environmental agencies have banned the use of pesticides like organochlorines, organophosphates, and carbamates for their devastating toxic—sometimes lethal—effects, particularly on vertebrates, including humans. However, this ban created a pathway for a new generation of pesticides (e.g., neonicotinoids, pyrethroids) to take hold. Although these pesticides are more target-specific, requiring lower chemical concentrations for effectiveness, they have over double the toxic effects on invertebrates, like pollinators.  Invertebrates and plants are vital for ecosystem function, offering various services, from decomposition to supporting the food web. Furthermore, invertebrates and plants can act as indicator species (bioindicators) that scientists can observe for the presence and impact of environmental changes and stressors. Therefore, reductions in invertebrate and plant life have implications for ecosystem health that can put human well-being at risk. Study lead author Ralf Schulz, PH.D., notes, “[This study] challenge[s] the claims of decreasing environmental impact of chemical pesticides in both conventional and GM [genetically modified or genetically engineered (GE)] crops and call for action to reduce the […]

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07
Apr

Toxic Pesticides Are Polluting Over Half of Arable Land, Reinforcing Need for Global Organic Transition

(Beyond Pesticides, April 7, 2021) Toxic pesticides are putting more than half of the Earth’s farmland at risk of pesticide pollution that contaminates water, harms biodiversity, and ultimately undermines food security, according to research published in Nature Geosciences last month.  While there is firm understanding that environmental crises like climate change are affecting the entire globe, the impacts of pesticide pollution are often thought of as local, or regional issues. This study, led by researchers based at the University of Sydney, Australia, underscores the wide-ranging effects of modern civilization’s global dependence on toxic pesticide use. “Although protecting food production is essential for human development, reducing pesticide pollution is equivalently crucial to protect the biodiversity that maintains soil health and functions, contributing towards food security,” said lead study author Fiona Tang, PhD. To better understand pesticide risks at a global scale, scientists sectioned a world map into 10×10 kilometer (6.2×6.2 mile) squares that were assessed for their pesticide risk. The map also included data relating to water scarcity, biodiversity, and national income, to better determine trends and hot spots of concern. Scientists evaluated 92 different pesticide active ingredients and determined their risk within each square on the map based upon information […]

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