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Daily News Blog

Archive for the 'Agriculture' Category


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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06
Apr

Living Within 2.5 Miles of Chemical Farming Increases Risk of Childhood Brain Tumors

(Beyond Pesticides, April 6, 2021) Pregnant women living within 2.5 miles of agricultural pesticide applications have an increased risk that their child will develop central nervous system (CNS) tumors, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Research by a team at University of California, Los Angeles. The results are particularly concerning as it reveals that individuals do not have to be in close contact with pesticides for risky, health-harming exposures to occur. “This transition from farmland to residential neighborhoods is abrupt across California, and, of course, constantly changing as farmland is developed,” said study co-author Myles Cockburn, PhD. “The simplest way to mitigate these risks is by reductions in exposure to pesticides, through restrictions to aerial spraying and air blast that lead to increased drift, and by farming methods that decrease reliance on pesticides.” Researchers note that the present study is unique in that it was able to pinpoint the specific pesticides related to the development specific types of tumors. To make these determinations, scientists made use of California’s Cancer Registry records. Diagnosed children aged 0-5 were matched to maternal residences where pesticide applications were made within 4000 meters (~2.5 miles). Pesticide application records were obtained from data […]

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05
Apr

Ban Endocrine Disrupting Pesticides Now

(Beyond Pesticides, April 5, 2021) The failure of EPA to meet its statutory responsibility to protect people and wildlife from the dire consequences of exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals must end. Over recent decades, evidence has mounted showing that many pesticides interfere with hormones—and are therefore endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). In 1996, the promise of screening pesticides for endocrine disruption generated support from environmentalists and public health advocates for the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), which traded the absolute prohibition of carcinogens in food of the Delaney Clause for a risk assessment standard that is subject to manipulation and an underestimation of real-life hazards. And now, 25 years later, we have yet to see EPA use endocrine disruption findings in pesticide registration decisions. >>Tell EPA that pesticide use cannot continue without findings of no endocrine disruption. The endocrine system consists of a set of glands (thyroid, gonads, adrenal and pituitary) and the hormones they produce (thyroxine, estrogen, testosterone and adrenaline), which help guide the development, growth, reproduction, and behavior of animals, including humans. Hormones are signaling molecules, which travel through the bloodstream and elicit responses in other parts of the body. More than 50 pesticide active ingredients have been identified as […]

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02
Apr

Lawsuit Challenges EPA Allowance of Antibiotic Streptomycin in Citrus

(Beyond Pesticides, April 2, 2021) Having raised the alarm for many years (and most recently in November 2020) on the dangers of the burgeoning antibiotic resistance crisis, Beyond Pesticides has joined a coalition of public interest groups in a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its approval of use of the medically important antibiotic streptomycin on citrus trees. Beyond Pesticides executive director Jay Feldman comments: “It is past time to take urgent action to transition away from practices in agriculture that are dependent on antibiotics, advance organic farm management, and avoid new deadly pandemics. This lawsuit is an important action to reverse the previous administration’s decision to ignore the science and allow expanded use of an antibiotic in agriculture.” According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the suit charges that EPA “failed to ensure that the approved uses of streptomycin as a pesticide would not cause unreasonable harm to human health or the environment and failed to adequately assess impacts to endangered species.” The coalition of plaintiffs includes Beyond Pesticides, NRDC, Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, Farmworker Association of Florida, Farmworker Justice, Migrant Clinicians Network, and U.S. PIRG. The coalition is represented […]

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01
Apr

Pesticides Are More Widespread in Both Conventional and Organic Agricultural Soils than Previously Thought

(Beyond Pesticides, April 1, 2021) A legacy of toxic pesticide use in agriculture is showing up as residues on organic farms, emphasizing the threat of a history of weak regulatory standards that has left farmland poisoned and the urgent need to transition to organic. A study, published in Environmental Science & Technology, documents the findings of pesticide residues on organic farmland and shows a decrease in residues after transition, with lingering effects for decades.  Some banned pesticides like organochlorines (e.g., DDT and chlordecone) are stable as research demonstrates these chemicals can bind to and linger in the dirt for years to decades. However, other current-use pesticides also pose a soil contamination risk due to drift, runoff, and leaching.  Widespread, increasing pesticide use in genetically engineered crops has implications for contamination of natural resources, including soils. Since pesticide residues can kill off beneficial soil life, impacting soil health and function, agricultural production may decline. Past studies examining pesticide residues rarely investigate residue’s presence in the soil where the chemical has never been used, like organic systems. Therefore, studies like these highlight the need to examine the effect potential pesticide contamination has on soil health, especially in organic where reliance on biological soil […]

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29
Mar

Suspension of Deadly Insecticide Use and Transition to Organic Needed to Save Hummingbirds

(Beyond Pesticides, March 29, 2021) New data on the hazards of neonicotinoid insecticides calls for urgent regulatory action. The same pesticides that are linked to the worldwide decline of insect pollinators also present significant risks to their avian counterparts, hummingbirds. Widely known for their nectar-fueled hovering flight powered by wings beating up to 80 times per second, hummingbirds display unique reactions to toxic pesticides. Research by scientists at the University of Toronto finds that hummingbirds exposed to systemic neonicotinoid insecticides for even a short period of time can disrupt the high-powered metabolism of this important and charismatic animal. Tell EPA and Congress to save the hummingbirds by suspending use of neonicotinoid insecticides and supporting the transition to organic practices. While hovering, a hummingbird consumes calories faster than any other bird or mammal. That’s why the finding that exposure to the neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid slows metabolism up to 25% is so disturbing. Systemic pesticides like imidacloprid and other neonics are transported throughout the plant, including nectar. Findings on the danger neonicotinoids pose to hummingbirds decades after the chemicals were first permitted to be used in the environment, and by independent scientists, not regulatory agencies, is indicative of a regulatory approach that fails […]

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26
Mar

Court Rules Soil-less Hydroponics Allowed Under Organic Standards, Organic Farmers/Consumers Say No

(Beyond Pesticides, March 26, 2021) Certified organic, soil-based growers were dealt a blow on March 22 when a U.S. District Court in San Francisco ruled that soil-less hydroponic growing operations can continue to be eligible for USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) organic certification within the National Organic Program (NOP). According to the Center for Food Safety, the judge ruled that USDA’s exemption of hydroponics from the “soil fertility requirement mandatory for all soil-based crop producers was permissible because the Organic Foods Production Act did not specifically prohibit hydroponic operations.” The litigation was brought by the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and eight organic producers, and asked that the court to prevent USDA from allowing hydroponically grown crops to be sold under the USDA certified organic label. Beyond Pesticides has advocated against allowing soil-less crop production to be certified as organic under the NOP because doing so “undermines the authenticity of organic farming, and creates unequal competition, market instability, and consumer distrust in organic certification.” The coalition of plaintiffs in the suit included some long-standing U.S. organic farms, such as Swanton Berry Farm, Full Belly Farm, Durst Organic Growers, Terra Firma Farm, Jacobs Farm del Cabo, and Long Wind Farm, in […]

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24
Mar

Kenyan Farmers Are Resorting to Hand Pollination After Pesticide Use Kills Off Local Pollinators

(Beyond Pesticides, March 24, 2021) The worst predictions of scientists and advocates are playing out in the fields of eastern Kenya, as chemical-intensive farming there threatens the future of food production. According to Radio France Internationale (RFI), Kenyan farmers have resorted to pollinating their crops by hand after pesticide use killed off most of the pollinators they rely on. “We are mostly affected by pesticides because they have killed most pollinators which pollinate our crops—this has affected our food production compared to previous years,” said Joseph Mbithi, a farmer in Mbakoni village, Makueni County, Kenya to RFI. Crop yields in the region have tapered off over the last two years, and farmers like Mr. Mbithi are pointing to pesticide use as the cause, citing past reliance on the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) and the organophosphate insecticide malathion. “Pollinators such as bees and butterflies are not around due to chemicals which we spray in our farms,” he told RFI.   As a result, farmers are using toothbrushes and sponges as a substitute for the buzzing work of local pollinators. And it’s more complicated than one may think. ‘’The flowers are different in shape and are different in sizes. The male one is […]

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23
Mar

Arkansas Plant Board Takes First Step to Roll Back Crop Damage Protections from Dicamba/Herbicide Drift

(Beyond Pesticides, March 23, 2021) Earlier this month, the Arkansas State Plant Board (ASPB) voted to loosen regulations curtailing use of the highly drift-prone herbicide dicamba. With an 8-7 vote, ASPB eliminated measures advanced in 2016 that protect growers from dicamba drifting off of genetically engineered (GE) soybean fields. Farmer, health, and environmental advocates are encouraging groups and individuals to submit testimony in opposition to the changes should the state’s Governor continue the proposal to a 30-day comment period. Dicamba has been the subject of intense debate and scrutiny over the last several years—most prominently in Southern and Midwestern states where extensive cotton and soybean monocultures are grown. Due to rampant weed resistance to glyphosate herbicides in GE crop fields, Bayer/Monsanto developed new seeds capable of growing into plants that can withstand repeated sprayings of both glyphosate and dicamba. The company released these new seeds in the mid-2010s without waiting for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve a corresponding herbicide formulation Bayer/Monsanto claimed would reduce drift problems. Farmers began using older, unapproved dicamba formulations, but ultimately even after receiving approval, new formulations proved too drift-prone and problematic to be used without incident. In response, ASPB instituted changes that […]

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18
Mar

Common Use Organophosphate Insecticides Pose a Greater Threat to Women’s Health

(Beyond Pesticides, March 18, 2021) A new study published in Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology finds chronic (long-term) organophosphate (OP) pesticide exposure increases adverse health and cancer risk for U.S. women relative to men. Organophosphorus pesticides have a wide range of biological uses—from insecticides to flame retardants—that make these chemicals ubiquitous, significantly contributing to ecosystem contamination. Furthermore, while organophosphates have less bioaccumulation potential, residues are consistently present in human and animal blood, urine, tissues, and milk. Although research demonstrates that OPs are highly toxic, there remains an inadequate understanding of how OP exposure impacts the nonagricultural population in the U.S., especially women. Therefore, it is essential to investigate the sex-specific health effects chemical contaminants can produce to mitigate exposure among vulnerable populations. Study researchers note, “Given the higher burden of OP exposure and their significantly higher overall health risk, including cancer, reducing OP exposure in U.S. women needs to be prioritized.” To examine the relationship between OP exposure and health risks, researchers investigated the presence of commonly detected OP metabolite concentrations in urine using participants from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Urine samples measure OP metabolite as an indicator of OP exposure like previous agriculture-related population surveys. Study participants report health issues […]

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16
Mar

Pesticide Exposure, Agricultural Work Associated with Chronic Lung Disease

(Beyond Pesticides, March, 16, 2021) Occupational and environmental exposure to pesticides and other contaminants in the environment increase the risk of developing a lung condition known as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), according to a meta-analysis published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. IPF is a chronic, degenerative disease with no certain cause or cure. It is estimated to affect roughly 13 women and 20 men in 100,000 adults worldwide annually, with onset averaging age 66. With scientific literature continuously findings new connections between pesticide use and diseases that are all too common in today’s world, advocates say it’s critical for residents and officials at all levels to embrace safer, alternative organic methods of addressing weed and pest issues. To determine risk factors for IPF, researchers narrowed down relevant research in the available literature from thousands of studies to eight relevant for their meta-analysis. These eight studies looked at IPF risk factors for a number of different populations with different life histories. Overall, roughly 1,000 IPF patients, ranged in ages 50 to 75, were compared to a control group of approximately 2,500 non-IPF patients. The studies covered risk factors based on the environmental contaminant in question, as well as an individual’s […]

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15
Mar

Dangerous Levels of Heavy Metals in Baby Food; USDA and FDA Must Act!

(Beyond Pesticides, March 15, 2021) A staff report produced for the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy of the Committee on Oversight and Reform of the U.S. House of Representatives has documented substantial levels of the heavy metals arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury in infant foods. The researchers examined organic as well as nonorganic brands, finding contamination of both. They found that heavy metals were present in both crop-based ingredients and additives. However, many unknowns remain regarding the precise origin of the metals. Tell FDA and USDA to get heavy metals out of baby food! Two U.S. Senators (Amy Klobuchar, D-MN and Tammy Duckworth, D-IL) and two U.S. Representatives (Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-IL and Tony Cardenas, D-CA) have drafted legislation to strengthen regulations for infant food safety, but meanwhile want the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to use existing authority to take immediate action. The National Organic Program should also take action to ensure that parents can depend on organic baby food to be the best possible. Heavy metals can have serious health impacts, especially on young children. As stated in the report, Children’s exposure to toxic heavy metals causes permanent decreases in IQ, diminished future economic productivity, and increased risk […]

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12
Mar

Relief Bill Seeks to Correct Injustices for Black Farmers Historically and by Modern Day USDA

(Beyond Pesticides, March 12, 2021) The American Rescue Plan, legislation that will provide nearly $2 trillion to help a broad variety of people, state and local governments, and businesses struggling with the huge and myriad impacts of the COVID pandemic, has a number of less-touted features embedded in it. One of those is that $5.2 billion of the bill’s funds will be directed to help disadvantaged farmers, 25% of whom are Black; thus, approximately $1.3 billion will directly support Black farmers. As reported by The Washington Post and other outlets, advocates are calling this “a step toward righting a wrong after a century of mistreatment of Black farmers by the government and others,” and a boon to Black farmers not seen since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The bill, passed by the U.S. Senate and House, was signed by President Biden on March 11. The bill will provide a menu of benefits to Black farmers, including: debt relief; grants and loans to improve land acquisition and address heritable property issues, such as when a farmer dies intestate (without a will) and land assets are to be allotted to legal heirs; financial support for research, and education and training programs; and […]

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04
Mar

Implications for Human Health: Glyphosate-Related Soil Erosion Re-Releases Toxic Pesticides from Soil

(Beyond Pesticides, March 4, 2021) A new study finds glyphosate use stimulates soil erosion responsible for releasing banned, toxic pesticide chlordecone (Kepone), which was used in banana production. For years, an unknown pollution source continuously contaminated water surrounding islands in the French West Indies (Martinique and Guadeloupe). However, researchers from the University of Savoie Mont Blanc in France have found that chlordecone—extensively used on banana farms from 1972 to 1993—is the contamination culprit. Glyphosate is the most popular herbicide in the world, thus ubiquitous in the environment. Therefore, it is vital to understand the implication glyphosate use has on soil health and the potential re-release of soil-bound, toxic contaminants into the surrounding environment to safeguard human health. Researchers note, “[Chlordecone] fluxes drastically increased when glyphosate use began, leading to widespread ecosystem contamination. As glyphosate is used globally, ecotoxicological risk management strategies should consider how its application affects persistent pesticide storage in soils, transfer dynamics, and widespread contamination.” Conventional pesticide use contaminates soil and their respective Critical Zone (CZ) compartments. These CZ compartments interact between the four main spheres (i.e., hydrosphere, biosphere, lithosphere, and atmosphere) of the Earth to support life. Recent decades demonstrate an increase in soil erosion due to sediment changes […]

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01
Mar

Support National Reckoning to Bridge Racial Divides with Meaningful Action

(Beyond Pesticides, March 1, 2021) The greatest impediment to entering organic farming is access to land. Since organic farming requires a long-term commitment to avoiding prohibited substances, building soil, and conserving biodiversity, it is difficult to manage on rented land or land farmed on “shares.” Black, Indigenous, and other people of color are especially disadvantaged because of institutionalized racism embodied in U.S. policies, which has either prevented access or has undermined land ownership. With deep reflection into the injustice associated with past policies, from pioneers to slaveholders, members of Congress are elevating the national discussion of policy changes and reparations to address a past of racial injustice. This discussion has taken on greater general public understanding since the killing of George Floyd, as there is more national awareness of systemic racial injustice and the deep adverse impact that it has on all aspects of life. One of those institutional effects to Indigenous, Black, and other people of color is the taking away or denying access to land ownership. Tell your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative to support for increased equity for Black, Indigenous, and other people of color in farming. Holistic systemic change is needed to restore relationships between members of […]

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26
Feb

Current and Projected Patterns of Global Pesticide and Fertilizer Use Are Not Sustainable, Says UN. . .Again

(Beyond Pesticides, February 26, 2021) The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the environment arm of the highest-profile international organization (the UN), has issued a draft report whose top finding is this: “The global goal to minimize adverse impacts of chemicals and waste by 2020 has not been achieved for pesticides and fertilizers.” Increased use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers — driven by rising demand for food, feed, fiber, fuel, and feedstock crops — is cited as causal, at least in part. Those factors no doubt contributed to the failure, but Beyond Pesticides asserts that such increased uses are symptomatic of the larger issue: in the U.S. and globally, chemical agriculture is a dangerous dead-end for public and environmental health. According to Beyond Pesticides: With this dominant system in place, “reductions” in use and impact are laudable but wholly insufficient. The whole system of petrochemical farming needs to be transitioned to organic, regenerative practices in agriculture, and in all land management. Such systems do not cause health and environmental harms, but are beneficent, viable, and profitable. The report warns that, going forward, “Business-as-usual is not an option.” The UNEP draft report was produced just ahead of the fifth session of the UN Environment […]

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24
Feb

Glyphosate and Other Weed Killers Create Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria in Agricultural Soils

(Beyond Pesticides, February 24, 2021) Soil sprayed with weedkillers glyphosate, glufosinate, or dicamba are likely to contain higher amounts of antibiotic resistant bacteria, according to research published earlier this month in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution. Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people develop an antibiotic resistant infection, and over 23,000 die. Authors of the study say widespread herbicide use is likely playing a role. “Our results suggest that the use of herbicides could indirectly drive antibiotic resistance evolution in agricultural soil microbiomes, which are repeatedly exposed to herbicides during weed control,” said Ville Friman, PhD of the University of York in the United Kingdom. Scientists began their investigation by looking at changes to soil communities in soil microcosms over the course of a roughly two months. Microcosms were grouped by the herbicide applied, while a control microcosm remained unexposed. Each microcosm had a single herbicide applied at a rate reaching 10 parts per million (ppm) in soil. The researchers replicated each treatment 12 times. Contrary to the pesticide industry’s claim that these chemicals break down quickly and become inert by binding to soil particles, large proportions of the herbicides remained in the soil at […]

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22
Feb

Help Get Congress to Support National Biodiversity Strategy Legislation

(Beyond Pesticides, February 22, 2021) Congressional Rep. Joe Neguse, Rep. Alan Lowenthal and Chair of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife Rep. Jared Huffman have reintroduced their resolution (H.Res. 69: Expressing the need for the Federal Government to establish a national biodiversity strategy for protecting biodiversity for current and future) to create a national biodiversity strategy. Everywhere we turn, we see signs of ecological collapse—wildfires, the insect apocalypse, crashing populations of marine organisms, more and more species at risk, rising global temperatures, unusual weather patterns, horrific storms, and pandemics. Never was a holistic strategy on biodiversity more urgent. Tell your U.S. Representative to cosponsor Rep. Neguse’s National Biodiversity Strategy Resolution, H.Res. 69. The resolution calls for a natio. 69.nal commitment to addressing the biodiversity crisis by establishing a strategy to be developed through an interagency process announced by the president in an Executive Order. The strategy process will encourage agencies to identify and pursue a full range of actions within existing laws and policies and encourage consideration of new ones. It would also promote accountability and progress in addressing the biodiversity crisis through a new quadrennial assessment. “The decline of biodiversity presents a direct threat to the security, […]

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19
Feb

Herbicide Use in “Regenerative” No-Till Contaminates Waterbodies

(Beyond Pesticides, February 19, 2021) Governments and policy makers are feeling a lot of pressure to mount effective responses to the climate crisis and to extraordinary levels of pollution in our environment. Tackling any one problem without precautionary attention to potential consequences of a solution — before it is enacted — is the opposite of the holistic understandings and strategies needed to solve environmental crises. Piecemeal approaches often generate unintended consequences. To wit: Vermont Public Radio (VPR) reports on revelations from a retired state scientist, Nat Shambaugh, who finds that farmers’ efforts to reduce agricultural runoff from fields into waterbodies, by planting cover crops, has resulted in significant increases in the use of herbicides to kill off those crops. So as one kind of pollution is reduced, another has become intensified. In Vermont and elsewhere, there has been much attention paid to nutrient pollution of waterbodies and waterways from agricultural runoff, largely because phosphorous and nitrates from fertilizers lead to contaminated drinking water, as well as to blooms of algae (some of which have their own toxic byproducts) and hypoxic dead zones in water bodies. The most notorious of these dead zones in North America are at the mouth of […]

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16
Feb

Shift to Organic Farming, Not Carbon Trading, Is Critical to Thwart the Climate Crisis and Biodiversity Collapse

(Beyond Pesticides, February 16, 2021) The climate crisis, with unprecedented temperature shifts, storms, and wildfires, and the devastating decline in biodiversity are escalating as a result of uncontrolled and unnecessary reliance on toxic chemicals. These existential crises that threaten life, to be successfully thwarted, require a meaningful holistic strategy that commits our nation to ending our fossil fuel-based economy and use of petroleum-based materials that release harmful levels of carbon and noxious gases (including greenhouse gases/GHG) into the environment. The proposals now in Congress and the administration require close attention and scrutiny if we are to meet the urgency of the moment. The carbon market approach embodied in the Growing Climate Solutions Act and President Biden’s Climate 21 Project does not adequately and comprehensively respond to the current and looming interconnected threats to public health and the environment. The focus on carbon to the exclusion of a holistic approach that addresses complex life-supporting biological communities allows the continuation of disproportionate hazards to people of color and communities living adjacent to toxic sites. The mechanisms of carbon trading or the purchasing of carbon offsets under consideration do not establish an end date for admittedly unacceptable materials and practices, nor do they ensure a […]

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12
Feb

Eliminating Pesticides Increases Crop Yields, Debunking Myth of Pesticide Benefits

(Beyond Pesticides, February 12, 2021) Being many decades down the path of chemical-intensive agriculture, growers and other land managers (and all the industries that influence them) have come largely to ignore the efficacy of healthy, functioning natural systems to maintain ecological equilibrium, i.e., not letting any one pest or disease proliferate. Recent research points to an example of such ecosystem efficacy. The study, by researchers in California and China, sought to evaluate whether increased population densities of fungi might be suppressing nematode populations in California production fields frequently planted with the cole crops (such as brussels sprouts and broccoli) they favor. The research finds that a diverse population of fungi in soils is highly likely to be effectively killing nematodes that threaten such crops. This is not the first time Beyond Pesticides has covered the potential of fungi as an effective control for agricultural pests. Thirty years ago, these nematodes were dealt with by application of soil fumigants and nematicides, because at sufficient population levels, the nematodes can destroy cole crops. During the following three decades, state-mandated monitoring showed that use of those chemical controls was diminishing and, by 2014, had been eliminated — even as yields rose. The co-authors […]

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