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Daily News Blog

Archive for the 'Agriculture' Category


12
Jan

Banned Pesticides in Well Water Linked to Declines in Kidney Function

(Beyond Pesticides, January 12, 2022) Well water in agricultural regions of Sri Lanka is contaminated with highly hazardous insecticides and associated with a decline in kidney function, according to research published in npj Clean Water this month. This finding is the latest piece in an ongoing ‘puzzle’ regarding the epidemic of chronic kidney disease of unknown origins in Sri Lanka and other developing countries in agricultural regions. Although the exact etiology of the disease has not been confirmed, a number of scientific studies have pointed the finger at industrial agriculture, increasingly finding evidence of chronic pesticide exposure in affected populations.   To better understand the connection between agrichemical exposure and kidney health, researchers enrolled 293 individuals from Wilgamuwa, Sri Lanka into a prospective study. Baseline data was retrieved on occupational and environmental exposure factors, focusing in on the water source individuals used at their homes. Samples of each participant’s household wells were taken and analyzed for the presence of pesticides. Of the wells sampled, 68% were found to contain pesticides. Further, every well where pesticides were detected had at least one pesticide recorded above global drinking water guidelines. The chemicals found were also some of the most toxic pesticides to […]

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10
Jan

Consumers Misled by USDA Genetically Engineered Food Ingredient Label; Will Congress Act

(Beyond Pesticides, January 10, 2022) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is now undermining full public disclosure of genetically engineered ingredients in our food, both through misrepresentation in labeling and through a definition that allows a large percentage of ingredients to go undisclosed. The National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Act, dubbed the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act by food safety advocates, establishes a national GMO (genetically modified organisms or genetically engineered GE) food labeling requirement that has led to deceptive messaging, preempts states from adopting stronger label language and standards, and excludes a large portion of the population without special cell phone technology (because information is accessed the QR codes on products). However, USDA regulations go further—creating loopholes and barriers to transparency that prohibit the use of the widely-known terms “GMO” and “GE” and prohibit retailers from providing more information to consumers. Tell USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to require USDA agencies to honestly disclose genetically engineered ingredients and carry out the goals of the Executive Memorandum, Modernizing Regulatory Review. Urge your U.S. Senators and Representative to ask Agriculture Committees to hold oversight hearings to ensure that USDA holds to those goals.    USDA is huge—encompassing 29 agencies and offices, with […]

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07
Jan

USDA Genetic Engineered Food Label Misleads Consumers, Took Effect January 1

(Beyond Pesticides. January 7, 2022) Unbeknownst to most Americans when they woke up on New Year’s Day 2022, a new labeling system for genetically modified-engineered foods— promulgated in 2019 — which does not mention genetically engineered or GMO ingredients, went into effect. Consumer, food, and environmental advocates say that the new label is misleading, insufficiently transparent, discriminatory, rife with loopholes, and confusing for consumers. The new labeling requirement mandates that genetically engineered foods bear labels that indicate that they have been “bioengineered” or that provide a text-messaging phone number or a QR code as avenues for further information. (“Additional options such as a phone number or web address are available to small food manufacturers or for small and very small packages.”) The new labeling rule from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) aims, according to the agency, to eliminate the crazy quilt of labels affixed to foods and ingredients that have been scientifically altered. According to an agency spokesperson, the rule is designed to “balance the need to provide information to consumers with the interest in minimizing costs to companies.” Genetically altered food items and ingredients have heretofore been called, and labeled as, “genetically engineered” (GE) or “genetically modified” (GM), […]

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15
Dec

It’s Time for Bayer/Monsanto to Leave Hawai’i after Pleading Guilty to Multiple Violations that Harm People and Environment of the State, Advocates Say

(Beyond Pesticides, December 15, 2021) Monsanto has pleaded guilty to multiple environmental crimes in Hawaiʻi for the second time in less than four years, and the island communities are left asking “when is enough enough?” In the most recent case, Monsanto will plead guilty to 30 environmental crimes in Hawaiʻi, related to pesticide use violations and putting field workers at risk.  In both cases, they admit that they knowingly violated pesticide law and put field workers in harmʻs way.  They will pay a $12 million fine this time, bringing their criminal fines and “community service payments” to a total of $22 million since 2019. At the center of these cases is the fact that the Monsanto field workers had to transport, apply, and suffer exposure to these toxic and banned pesticides as a part of their job. Autumn Ness, director of Beyond Pesticides’ Hawai’i organic land management program,  said: “In small island communities of Hawaiʻi, Monsanto workers are our friends and family. Folks live just downwind and next door to these fields.  We are concerned about their health, and those concerns are glaringly missing from news reports and in the distribution agreements for the community service payments.” There are two […]

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09
Dec

The Expense of Pesticides Significantly Outweigh Economic Benefits

(Beyond Pesticides, December 9, 2021) The cost to maintain crops using conventional pesticides outweighs the economic benefits from crop production and yield, according to a report, Pesticides ‘cost double the amount they yield,’ by the French-based organization Bureau for the Appraisal of Social Impacts for Citizen Information (BASIC). Moreover, the annual cost of increasing organic farms three-fold by 2030 is less than the cost of pesticides to society (i.e., adverse health and ecological effects from pesticide use and contamination). However, the price to pay from pesticide use encompasses much more than the products themselves. Researchers point to the need for government and health officials to consider the billion-dollar costs associated with adverse health effects from pesticide use, especially as studies confirm that pesticides cause cancer, Parkinson’s, and other diseases that are increasing. Thus, this report adds to the growing body of research demonstrating the unsustainability of conventional, chemical-intensive agricultural practices. The National Academy of Sciences identifies four goals of sustainable agriculture—productivity, economics, environment, and social well-being for future generations. However, current chemical pesticide use threatens sustainable agriculture. Although the primary concerns about pesticide usage centers on health and ecological concerns, including food security, this report provides an economic assessment that offers an […]

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07
Dec

One Single Neonic Exposure Saps Wild Pollinator’s Ability to Reproduce

(Beyond Pesticides, December 7, 2021) One exposure. That’s all it takes for wild bees to experience declines in reproduction and population growth from neonicotinoid insecticides, according to research recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). This incredible sensitivity is exactly the sort of process that could rapidly drive pollinator species into extinction. It is the sort of finding that one would expect government agencies tasked with protecting the environment to discern. Yet, regulators at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs have consistently failed to listen and meaningfully respond to the latest science. As this is done, the agency is fully aware that ever more pollinators are slated for endangered status, jeopardizing our agricultural economy, ecosystem stability, and the joy we all gain from watching our favorite pollinators flit about the landscape. Over the course of two years, researchers established a crossed experiment with ground-nesting blue orchard bees (Osmia lignaria). These pollinators, native to North America, overwinter and nest in narrow holes or tubes, making them particularly sensitive to ground-based pesticide applications. Researchers conducted their study during the first year by exposing a group of larval bees to the neonicotinoid imidacloprid through […]

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30
Nov

CA Supreme Court Upholds $87M Award in Glyphosate Damage Lawsuit, Bayer/Monsanto Challenge Fails

(Beyond Pesticides, November 30, 2021) The chronicle of developments in the glyphosate saga has just grown longer: the California Supreme Court has rejected a request by Bayer AG for review of the August 2021 First District Court of Appeal (San Francisco) ruling, for the plaintiffs, that Monsanto knowingly marketed a product — Roundup — whose active ingredient (glyphosate) could be dangerous. The $87 million in damages awarded to the plaintiffs in the litigation, Alberta and Alva Pilliod, has thus survived Bayer’s challenge. This highest state court decision racks up another loss for Bayer (which now owns the Monsanto “Roundup” brand) — despite its dogged insistence, throughout multiple lawsuits (with many more still in the pipeline), that glyphosate is safe. Beyond Pesticides has covered the glyphosate saga extensively; see its litigation archives for multiple articles on glyphosate lawsuits. Glyphosate has been the subject of a great deal of public, advocacy, and regulatory attention, as well as the target of thousands of lawsuits — particularly since the 2015 declaration by the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) that the compound is a likely human carcinogen. In June 2020, facing approximately 125,000 suits for Roundup’s role in cancer outcomes, Bayer announced a $10 billion […]

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11
Nov

Secret Inert Ingredient in ‘Bee Safe’ Pesticide Found to Kill Bumblebees

(Beyond Pesticides, November 11, 2021) Evidence is building that so-called ‘inert’ ingredients in pesticide formulations are harming pollinators and undermining regulatory determinations that designate products as ‘bee-safe.’ According to a new study published in Scientific Reports, the fungicide Amistar causes lethal and sublethal effects that can be primarily attributed not to its active ingredient azoxystrobin, but to alcohol ethoxylates, a co-formulant, or inert ingredient intentionally added to a pesticide formulation. While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) utilizes a ‘bee advisory box’ on pesticide labels to indicate danger to pollinators, results of this and previous studies on inert ingredients underline how EPA’s ‘cute little bee icon’ is little more than window dressing for massive regulatory failures and a pollinator crisis that has shown no signs of abating. Scientists at Royal Holloway University in London, UK began their study with three packaged colonies of Bombus terrestris, a European bumblebee often bred for commercial use in greenhouses throughout the world. In order to suss out differences in toxicity between the various ingredients in the formulated Amistar fungicide, bees were separated into multiple groups. One group acted as a positive control, and was dosed with dimethoate, a pesticide known to be highly toxic […]

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27
Oct

Global Pollinator Declines Threaten Plant Biodiversity

(Beyond Pesticides, October 27, 2021) Declines in pollinator populations throughout the world may result in the loss of tens of thousands of wild flowering plants that rely on their services, according to research published this month in the journal Science Advances. “Our paper provides the first global estimate of how many plant species mostly or completely rely on animal pollinators to make seeds and thus to reproduce,” wrote author James Rodger, PhD, in an article in The Conversation. “We found that it’s about 175,000 plant species – half of all flowering plants. This means declines in pollinators could cause major disruptions in natural ecosystems, including loss of biodiversity.” Pollinators are being threatened with multiple interacting stressors, from climate change, to pesticide use, disease, habitat destruction, and other factors. In the US, an increasing number of pollinators, including iconic species like the American bumblebee and monarch butterfly, are being added or in consideration for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Systemic neonicotinoid insecticides implicated for their earth-spanning hazards to pollinator populations themselves put 89% or more of U.S. endangered species at risk. Many are aware of the fact that pollinators help make available one in three bites of food. Research studies […]

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19
Oct

Common Insecticide Malathion Linked to Chronic Kidney Disease

(Beyond Pesticides, October 19, 2021) Exposure to the insecticide malathion increases risk of developing chronic kidney disease (CKD), according to a study recently published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. According to study co-author Nicholas Osborne, PhD, CKD is on the rise in developing countries in Southeast Asia and Central America, and, “[n]early one in 10 people in high income countries show signs of CKD, which is permanent kidney damage and loss of renal function.” Although CKD risk increases with age, and is associated with other health factors like smoking, heart disease, and diabetes, cases without clear cause are increasingly common, indicating the that environmental factors are likely playing a role. Researchers began with data drawn from the United States’ National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), an ongoing study that assesses Americans’ health and nutritional status through interviews, physicals, and other health tests. Urine samples taken from individuals enrolled in NHANES 2001-2004 and 2007-2010 (tests within years between these dates did not analyze specific pesticides) were reviewed for the presence of pesticides, and compared against data collected on kidney function. In addition to malathion, 2,4-D, chlorpyrifos, and 3-PBA, the major metabolite for most synthetic pyrethroid insecticides, […]

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12
Oct

Stop Ag Secretary Vilsack from Undermining Climate Initiative to Transition Agriculture

(Beyond Pesticides, October 12, 2021) Tell President Biden and Congress that there is no room for agriculture policies that are not in line with the Executive Memorandum and directive Modernizing Regulatory Review. USDA must remove all barriers to a national transition to organic agriculture. One of President Biden’s first actions, on the day of his inauguration, was the Executive Memorandum and directive Modernizing Regulatory Review, requiring the heads of all executive departments and agencies to produce recommendations for improving and modernizing regulatory review, with a goal of promoting public health and safety, economic growth, social welfare, racial justice, environmental stewardship, human dignity, equity, and the interests of future generations. This mandate should reverse the trend of regulatory review, which has so far protected the status quo, rather than advancing urgently needed change. Why, then, do we see Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Tom Vilsack opposing moves in the direction laid out by the Presidential directive? A recent Mother Jones article by Tom Philpott focuses on Mr. Vilsack’s opposition to the “Farm to Fork” initiative in the European Union, which aims to “push the continent’s agriculture in a healthier, more resilient direction, to reduce the use of toxic chemicals […]

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08
Oct

Ag Secretary Vilsack Pushes Petroleum Farming Inputs, Fights EU’s Climate-Friendly Organic “Farm to Fork’ Initiative

(Beyond Pesticides, October 8, 2021) Taking a page from the playbook of Trump Administration Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the current secretary, Tom Vilsack, used a September G20 summit in Italy to target the European Union’s “Farm to Fork” (F2F) strategy, a part of its European Green Deal. Mr. Perdue had said that F2F is “more . . . ‘political science’ than demonstrated agricultural science”; Secretary Vilsack called it “a path very different from the one the U.S. is pursuing.” The F2F initiative aims to transition the EU to a sustainable food system such that it also achieves significant mitigation of climate change. But Mr. Vilsack chose to counter the F2F efforts by promoting an “alternative strategy” — under the moniker “Coalition for Productivity Growth” — through which “other nations pledge not to follow the European path on farm policy.” He has described this alternative, U.S.-led strategy as “a market-oriented, incentive-based, voluntary system [that] is effective” at slashing agricultural carbon emissions. Climate, pesticide, organics, and other environmental and health advocates, including Beyond Pesticides, are troubled by these actions. Mother Jones poses the central question in the headline of its September 30 article: Why is Secretary Vilsack So Afraid of a Plan to Cut […]

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06
Oct

Monoculture Agriculture Leads to Poor Soil Health

(Beyond Pesticides, October 6, 2021) Agricultural soils under monoculture cropping systems are not as healthy as soils with diverse plantings, finds research recently published in the journal Agrosystems, Geosciences and Environment. Soil and soil quality are declining rapidly in the United States and around the world, with recent data indicating that the U.S. Corn Belt has lost 35% of its topsoil. Advocates say it is critical that the response to this problem focus on practices that conserve and improve the soil health by building organic matter and healthy microbial populations. “Understanding the management practices that lead to healthier soils will allow farmers to grow the same crops while reducing costly chemical inputs (fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides) and protecting the environment,” said study coauthor Lori Phillips, PhD. To investigate disparities in soil health between cropping systems, researchers analyzed a long-term cropping system that includes 18 years of continuously grown soy, corn, and perennial grasses. Each cropping system was evaluated for its bacterial and fungal population, as well as a test called CNPS, which measures the enzymes produced by microbes specifically related to the soil’s carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, and sulfur cycles. Researchers indicate that these measurements create “a holistic measure of biological activity,” […]

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04
Oct

Tell EPA and Congress to Protect the Integrity of Minimum Risk Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, October 4, 2021) Recent findings of high levels of toxic pesticides in products permitted to be used as “minimum risk pesticides” (terminology used for essentially nontoxic) point to the need for greater oversight of these products and more severe penalties for violations. Pesticides classified as minimum risk are allowed under Section 25(b) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) [40 CFR 152.25(f)] to be used without going through EPA’s pesticide registration process. These products are limited to a specific list of ingredients, and all ingredients, including “inert” ingredients, are required to be listed on the label.  Minimum risk pesticides are used by organic growers, municipalities, and others who are not permitted to use, or choose to avoid, toxic chemicals.  Tell EPA and Congress to protect the integrity of minimum risk pesticides. Organic growers can lose their organic certification if they apply materials that are prohibited, which include the toxic ingredients glyphosate, bifenthrin, permethrin, cypermethrin, and carbaryl, found by the state of California in dangerous and misbranded Eco-MIGHT and W.O.W. (Whack Out Weeds!) products, falsely labeled as 25(b) minimum risk. Contamination of these products came to light in late July, when the California Department of Food and […]

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30
Sep

Commonly Used Neurotoxic Pesticide Exposure Increases ALS Risk to Workers and Residents

(Beyond Pesticides, September 30, 2021) Individuals working or living in areas with frequent neurotoxic pesticide use experience more amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) incidences than the general population. The study, published in NeuroToxicology, finds a positive association between sporadic (non-genetic, spontaneous) ALS incidences among individuals exposed to neurotoxic pesticides.  Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (or Lou Gehrig’s disease) is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. As many as 16,000 – 20,000 Americans live with this condition, which weakens muscle/motor function leading to loss of muscle control for walking, talking, eating/swallowing, and breathing. Severe ALS progression is fatal and has no current cure. Although research supports genetic factors play a role in disease etiology (cause), most ALS cases do not result from genetic inheritance. Several research studies demonstrate exposure to environmental or work-related toxicants (i.e., pesticides) predispose humans to the disease. With researchers predicting a global ALS incidence increase of 69% by 2040, identifying ALS’s causal factors are important to future research. Therefore, research like this showcases the importance of assessing aggregate health risks associated with toxic chemical exposure, especially for illnesses, which are not curable. In this study, the researchers note, “[W]e identified pesticides applied to crops in the area of […]

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29
Sep

Conventional Agriculture Decreases Diversity of Gut Bacteria in Foraging Bats

(Beyond Pesticides, September 29, 2021) Bats foraging in chemical-intensive banana plantations have much less gut diversity than bats foraging in organic banana fields and natural forestland, finds research published this month in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. Although there is increasing recognition that a diet of conventional, chemically grown food leads to adverse disruptions of the gut microbiome (also known as dysbiosis), little research has been conducted on the effect of production practices on the gut of wild foraging species. According to the present study there are significant differences that regulators must begin to account for in pesticide risk assessments, and consumers should consider when making choices at the supermarket. Researchers focused their investigation on Pallas’s long-tongued bat (Glossophaga soricina), a nectar feeding bat native to Central and South America. The bat is highly adapted to human environments, sustaining populations in both conventional and organic banana plantations, as well as surrounding forest land. For the study, researchers trapped nearly 200 bats across the country of Costa Rica over a 22-month time span. After trapping, physiological characteristics, like size and body weight, were measured, and bat guano was analyzed for its microbial population. All sampled bats were released back […]

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17
Sep

Retailers Fail to Protect Pollinators…Badly

(Beyond Pesticides, September 17, 2021) Against the backdrop of what The New York Times in 2018 called the “insect apocalypse,” and the dire plight of pollinators in particular, Friends of the Earth (FOE) recently issued its retailer scorecard, which benchmarks “25 of the largest U.S. grocery stores on pesticides, organic offerings and pollinator health”— with the vast majority of retailers failing to protect pollinators. FOE reporting shows some, but far too slow and anemic, progress by corporate actors in enacting pollinator- and bee-friendly policies across both retail sites and supply chains. Such policies, to be genuinely effective and protective of pollinators (and human health), would eliminate or at least dramatically reduce the presence of pesticides in the food supply. The path out of the chemical pesticide quagmire is organic: companies must do more to move suppliers to organic, regenerative production practices, and EPA should be pulling these toxic compounds from the market. Tracking the pollinator policies and enforcement activities of various huge companies yields a useful barometer in monitoring the travel of pesticides to the consumer. Yet the results in the FOE scorecard — e.g., only two of those 25 retailers scored even in the “B” range, and 21 scored […]

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10
Sep

More Scientific Evidence that Endocrine-Disrupting Pesticides Disrupt Thyroid Function

(Beyond Pesticides, September 10, 2021) Research conducted in Thailand shows that exposures to pesticides, even at low levels, can impact the human endocrine system and distort thyroid function. The study looked specifically at interactions of genetics and environment: it investigated associations between variations in genes involved in pesticide metabolism and altered thyroid hormone concentrations in agricultural workers. This research underscores some of the complexity and difficulty of determining human vulnerability to impacts of pesticide exposures, given genetic variables. Beyond Pesticides believes that this very complexity is a cogent argument for anchoring regulation of pesticides in the Precautionary Principle. If exposure to a pesticide can cause damage to human (or environmental) health, it sometimes will do so. Thus, to protect people’s health, agriculture and other land management practices must transition from the use of synthetic pesticides to broad adoption of organic regenerative approaches that obviate the need for such chemicals. This research is part of a longitudinal study that seeks to evaluate sub-chronic impacts, on thyroid hormone levels, of repeated exposures to a variety of pesticides. The farmworkers studied in this phase comprise two groups: those working on organically managed farms (216 subjects), and those working on conventional farms that use pesticides […]

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03
Sep

Danone (Horizon Organic) Threatens the Backbone of Organic Dairy—Family Farms and Their Consumer Supporters

(Beyond Pesticides, September 3, 2021) Groupe Danone, multinational corporate owner of Horizon Organic, has announced that it is terminating its contracts with 89 small-to-medium-sized organic dairy producers in the Northeast as of August 2022. At that point, all of Horizon’s contracted organic dairy farms in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and northern New York may well have no buyers for their milk and will likely face a very uncertain future. In July 2021, Beyond Pesticides covered a major contributor to this development — the failure of the NOP (National Organic Program) to protect the integrity of organic dairy, which failure has advantaged large producers over smaller operations (see more on this below). This development in a region with historically strong demand for organic dairy products is of concern on several fronts, not the least of which is the fate of these small producers. A letter with the news was sent by Danone to 28 Vermont producers, 14 in Maine, 2 in New Hampshire, and 45 in New York State’s three northernmost counties. The company plans, instead, to source milk primarily from larger producers, including “organic” concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) — in Ohio, Pennsylvania, the Midwest, and some Western states — that […]

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31
Aug

Study Underscores Chemical-Intensive Farming Hazards and Need to Shift to Regenerative Organic Models

(Beyond Pesticides, August 31 2021) To ensure long-term ecological, human health, and socioeconomic benefits, food production, distribution and consumption must transition from conventional to regenerative, organic food value chains, as outlined in research published in the journal Productions and Operations Management. “We are paying a high price for a lack of transparency in our food supply and realize that taking shortcuts, or efficiencies, is not sustainable,” said Aleda Roth, PhD, study coauthor and professor in the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business at Clemson University. “We need to look at multiple performance outcomes, and in doing so, it will become evident that a regenerative, socially responsible approach to agriculture is imperative to a sustainable food supply, but it also extends across other business sectors.” This research is the latest to underscore the importance of revamping the U.S. food system towards a focus on organic practices that account for externalities and provide multiple add-on benefits for society at large.   To make the case, Dr. Roth and her co-author Yanchong Zheng, PhD, an associate professor in the Sloan School of Management at MIT, define and contrast conventional and regenerative, organic food value chains, with an eye toward “quadruple aim […]

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30
Aug

Tell EPA to Ban ALL Uses of Chlorpyrifos

(Beyond Pesticides, August 30, 2021) As with other actions on pesticides, EPA’s chlorpyrifos decision is filled with exceptions that respond to vested interests seeking to ignore or deflect the science. EPA, since announcing its decision in 1999 to ban “residential” uses of chlorpyrifos, continues to allow the following uses: (i) Residential use of containerized baits; (ii) Indoor areas where children will not be exposed, including only ship holds, railroad boxcars, industrial plants, manufacturing plants, or food processing plants; (iii) Outdoor areas where children will not be exposed, including only: golf courses, road medians, Industrial plant sites; (iv) Non-structural wood treatments including: fenceposts, utility poles, railroad ties, landscape timers, logs, pallets, wooden containers, poles, posts, and processed wood products; (v) Public health uses: Fire ant mounds (drench and granular treatment); (vi) nurseries and greenhouses; and (vii) Mosquito control. These uses are unaffected by EPA’s announcement. We need to finish the chlorpyrifos job. Tell EPA to ban all uses of chlorpyrifos. The collective effort to remove this one chemical is a tremendous feat in eliminating one exposure to a hazardous material for children. Achieving the ban on food uses required an enormously resource-intensive effort at a time in history when we are […]

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24
Aug

Socioeconomic and Environmental Benefits in Organic Farming Exceed Chemical Practices

(Beyond Pesticides, August 24, 2021) Organic agriculture provides multiple ecosystem functions and services at greater economic benefit to farmers than conventional, chemical-intensive cropping systems, according to research recently published in the journal Science Advances. The study, conducted by a team of scientists based in Switzerland, goes beyond farming evaluations based solely on ecosystem services to include socioeconomic elements. “We did this because agroecosystems also have a socioeconomic dimension for producers and policy makers,” the authors note. While it is unsurprising based on prior research that organic practices provide greater environmental and economic benefits, the study lays bare the true cost of policies that myopically focus on yield while ignoring other factors. Researchers conducted their study using data derived from a long-running Farming System and Tillage Experiment (FAST) based in Switzerland. FAST tracked four types of cropping systems: conventional intensive tillage, conventional no tillage, organic intensive tillage, and organic reduced tillage. Cropping systems were evaluated based on four broad categories, including provisioning (ie food production), regulating (ie water, air, and soil management), and supporting (ie biodiversity and soil health) ecosystem services, as well as socioeconomic well-being. These categories were subsequently broken down into nine assessments: soil health preservation, erosion control, biodiversity […]

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23
Aug

Tell EPA Misleading Biopesticide Classification Must Be Redefined

(Beyond Pesticides, August 23, 2021) “Biopesticides”—widely regarded as an alternative to chemical pesticides and hence given a special status in regulation—need a better definition. “Biopesticide” is generally poorly understood, and defined differently by various entities and stakeholders. The term can be misleading and mixes contradictory approaches. It is troublesome when we continue to look for product replacements or substitutions for agricultural practices that are clearly ineffective, and in the process avoid the changes necessary to transition to organic practices, which represent the real, long-term solution to concerns among chemical-intensive farmers that they are losing pesticides in their arsenal, either to organism resistance or regulatory restrictions. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses the following definition for “biopesticides”: Substances that interfere with mating, such as insect sex pheromones, as well as various scented plant extracts that attract insect pests to traps (and synthetic analogs of such biochemicals); Microbial pesticides consisting of a microorganism (e.g., a bacterium, fungus, virus or protozoan) as the active ingredient; Plant-Incorporated-Protectants (PIPs), pesticidal substances that plants are genetically engineered to produce. Tell EPA it’s time to redefine “biopesticide.” It is deceptive and misleading. The definition should not include genetically modified organisms or synthetic analogs of naturally occurring […]

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