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Daily News Blog

Archive for the 'Congress' Category


09
Nov

Protection of Children from Pesticides under Threat in Farm Bill Negotiations, Data Shows

(Beyond Pesticides, November 9, 2023) Two-hundred-foot pesticide spray “buffer zones” around 4,028 U.S. elementary schools contiguous to crop fields—according to data evaluated by Environmental Working Group—are threatened by potential Farm Bill amendments now under consideration. Legislative language, if adopted, would take away (preempt) the authority of states and local jurisdictions to protect children and restrict agricultural pesticides used near schools. Pesticide drift is a widespread problem throughout the U.S. that has attracted national attention in recent years because of crop damage caused by the weed killer dicamba in numerous midwestern states. In the face of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) failure to mitigate drift hazards, states enact limits on when and how pesticides can be used, establish buffer zones around application sites, and in some cases, ban uses. In 2018, Arkansas banned dicamba use from mid-April through the end of October (and survived a Monsanto challenge to the ban. For a historical perspective on the drift issue, see Getting the Drift on Pesticide Trespass. Children, in particular, face unique risks from pesticide and toxic chemical exposures. Due to their smaller body size, they absorb a higher relative amount of pesticides through the food they consume and the air they breathe. Additionally, children’s developing […]

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23
Oct

Don’t Get Comfortable: Government Shutdown Exacerbates Food Safety Threats

(Beyond Pesticides, October 23, 2023) As the immediate threat of a government shutdown has temporarily subsided, concerns are mounting over the potential threats to food safety in the United States if the government shuts down in mid-November. Experts are warning that a shutdown could jeopardize critical food safety inspections and oversight. A partial government shutdown in 2019 disrupted federal oversight of food monitoring for various pathogens and pesticides, as labs were shuttered, with agency employees furloughed. See Beyond Pesticide’s reporting about food safety risks during the last government shutdown. However, it should be noted that residues of pesticides in food continue to raise concerns about safety of food grown in chemical-intensive (conventional) farming operations. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) contingency plans dictate that the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) continue its regulatory inspection of meat, poultry, and egg products, as mandated by law. However, it is important to note that the FSIS will operate with a reduced workforce, with a portion of employees deemed “essential personnel” for food safety operations. Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which includes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is also preparing for a potential shutdown. According to HHS’s contingency […]

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13
Oct

Urgent Action—Will Congress Defend Communities’ Right to Protect Public Health and the Environment?

(Beyond Pesticides, October 13, 2023) Will the chemical industry and pesticide-dependent service industry (e.g., conventional landscaping industry) trample democratic rights and force the allowance of pesticide use against the will of communities across the U.S.? The answer is unequivocally yes, they are trying. In fact, the industries’ campaign is now playing out in the U.S. Congress, as members deliberate on the next Farm Bill. Members of Congress who advocate the pesticide lobby’s anti-democratic position are telling constituents that they do not support their right to restrict pesticides more stringently than the federal government. Please urge your U.S. Representative to sign the Congressional “Dear Colleague” Letter and uphold the right of local governments and states to restrict pesticides. Time sensitive: Please take action today (Friday, October 13, 2023) or as soon as possible. Thank you! Advocates are clearly telling members of Congress that the long-held federal-state balance of local, state, and federal authority will be broken if the federal government steps in to deny localities the authority to control pesticide use more stringently than federal law. The history is clear. The U.S. Supreme Court in Wisconsin Public Intervenor v. Mortier (1991) found, “[The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act] FIFRA nowhere […]

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28
Sep

Beyond Pesticides Celebrates the 50th Birthday of the Endangered Species Act

(Beyond Pesticides, September 28, 2023) As the United States commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), there is a growing recognition that the planet faces an existential biodiversity crisis, with a rising number of species on the brink of extinction. In a collective effort to address threats to global biodiversity (i.e. diversity of all life), a coalition of environmental organizations including Beyond Pesticides, are sending an urgent letter to President Joe Biden. This letter, titled “Meeting the Challenges of the Biodiversity and Extinction Crisis Over the Next 50 Years,” calls for bold and comprehensive action to preserve our planet’s natural heritage for future generations. The ESA is celebrated as one of the most effective conservation laws globally, credited with preventing the extinction of 99 percent of listed species. Over the past five decades, the ESA has played a pivotal role in preventing these extinctions by safeguarding the most critically endangered species within biological communities. However, this concentration on highly threatened species often results in temporary solutions that may not comprehensively address the broader issue of biodiversity loss. The ESA establishes a framework to categorize species as “endangered” or “threatened,” granting them specific protections. While it is crucial […]

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14
Aug

Legislation Upholds Local Authority to Restrict Pesticide Use, Advances Other Reforms

(Beyond Pesticides, August 14 2023) The Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act of 2023 (PACTPA), introduced on July 28, 2023 in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 5085) and previously introduced on February 2, 2023 in the U.S. Senate (S.269), seeks to improve federal pesticide law. Many advocates, while endorsing the Congressional effort, maintain that the law (Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act—FIFRA) is structurally flawed in not requiring restrictions and the elimination of pesticides for which there are safer alternative practices and products. A key provision in the legislation includes language that affirms local authority to restrict pesticides. Both the House and Senate bills retain the basic structure of FIFRA, while strengthening various aspects of the current risk assessment-based approach to pesticide restrictions. Risk assessment in the current policy context assumes that pesticides are necessary and sets allowable levels of harm based on inadequate information on chemical effects—and margins of safety that allow for numerous uncertainties and disproportionate effects to vulnerable population groups. Importantly, the legislation does include a provision that grants communities local authority to restrict pesticides on all property, public and private, within their jurisdiction, allowing towns, cities, and counties to move society away from pesticide dependency and […]

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25
Jul

Advocates and Scientists Urge that USGS Pesticide Data Program Be Elevated, Not Eliminated as Proposed 

(Beyond Pesticides, July 25, 2023) How can scientists fight the elimination of national pesticide data? More data! A new report surveys 58 academic institutions, nongovernmental organizations, government officials, and businesses to measure the scientific, educational, and policy use of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Pesticide National Synthesis Project (PNSP), a database that is getting phased out by the current administration.   According to the report authors, Maggie Douglas, PhD, Bill Freese, Joseph G. Grzywacz, PhD, and Nathan Donley, PhD, the PNSP is the “most comprehensive public description of pesticide use in U.S. agriculture.” Despite its widespread use across the government and 348 citations since 2010, the database has been degraded in recent years, including a shift from monitoring 400 pesticides to 72 pesticides in 2019. Moreover, starting in 2024, estimates of agricultural pesticide use will be released every five years (instead of annually). Advocates believe the loss of PNSP data could further hinder the ability to manage pesticide impacts on humans, agriculture, and the environment. These concerns are outlined in a letter to USGS and the Department of Interior, signed by more than 250 scientists.  Beyond Pesticides extensively tracks USGS data and resulting findings to inform local and state […]

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10
Jul

Take Action: Pro-Pesticide Lobby Attacks Local Democratic Process to Protect Health and Environment

(Beyond Pesticides, July 10, 2023) [Editor’s note to readers: The local, democratic decision-making process to adopt restrictions on pesticide use, now under attack in Congress, has historically been critical to the protection of health and the environment when federal and state governments have failed in their responsibility. This local democratic right has not only protected communities where action is taken, but it has driven state and federal policy to do better—to do what is required in a society that cares about a sustainable future. While federal and state pesticide policy sets a floor on minimum protections and rights, there is nothing more important than nurturing the local democratic process to increase and strengthen protections that elude government agencies that are unduly influenced by the powerful chemical industry. As we face existential crises of health threats, biodiversity collapse, and the climate emergency resulting from gridlock in legislative bodies that ignore the scientific facts documenting harm and solutions that are within our grasp, there is nothing more important than empowering local communities to embrace meaningful changes that eliminate pesticides and adopt organic land management practices. These changes embrace nature and ecosystem services. While the federal regulatory process is skewed toward assumptions of […]

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07
Jul

Pesticide Lobby Pushes Farm Bill Amendment to Strip Localities and States from Restricting Pesticides

The introduction of the Agricultural Labeling Uniformity Act in the U.S. House of Representatives, expected to be a part of the Farm Bill negotiations, is raising the specter (yet again) of undermining local and state authority to protect the health of their residents from pesticides—effectively overturning decades of Supreme Court precedent.

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12
Jun

Take Action: Help Boost Transition to Organic Agriculture

(Beyond Pesticides, June 12, 2023) In view of the urgent need to enact a transformation to organic agriculture in order to address existential threats to human health, climate, and biodiversity, U.S. Senator Peter Welch (VT) and U.S. Representatives Jimmy Panetta (CA-19) and Alma Adams (NC-12) have introduced Senate and House versions of the Opportunities in Organic Act to reduce cost-barriers, expand access to new markets and resources, and provide support and training. >>Tell your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators to cosponsor H.R. 3650 and S. 1582, the Opportunities in Organic Act. Thank those who are current cosponsors. Although some existing programs support organic agriculture, transition, and research, they do not level the playing field for organic producers and do not adequately or holistically meet their needs. Organic certification costs and processes remain a barrier for many, and most producers have limited access to organic-specific technical assistance or mentorship – especially in regions with smaller organic sectors. The Opportunities in Organic Act will expand the existing National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program to reduce these barriers and better serve organic producers. The Opportunities in Organic Act has three major components: Organic Certification Cost-Share. The Opportunities in Organic Act will modernize reimbursements for organic certification, […]

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24
Mar

As Global Warming Accelerates to Catastrophic Levels, President Biden Vetoes Bill that Would Exacerbate Crisis

(Beyond Pesticides. March 24, 2023) The news on March 20 yielded a telling juxtaposition as the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report asserting that the world is on the “brink of catastrophic warming” — even while Congressional Republicans passed a measure to allow corporate profiteers to make that warming worse. Fortunately, President Biden vetoed that “ESG” bill, which sought to overturn a Labor Department rule that eased the ability of pension and 401(k) fund managers to consider environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) impacts of investments and shareholder rights decisions. (On March 23, House Republicans tried, but failed, to override the veto.) The IPCC‘s definitive report finds that humanity is very close to a dangerous climate threshold, but that “it does not mean we are doomed” if humans rapidly transition off of burning fossil fuels. Beyond Pesticides endorses both investment rules that advance protection of the climate, people, and the environment, and dramatic action on climate — including the cessation of use of fossil-fuel-derived synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and the transition to organic agriculture and land management. The IPCC report, says The Washington Post (WaPo), asserts that the world is very likely to blow by the […]

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13
Feb

Local Authority to Restrict Pesticides Would Be Codified by Federal Reform Bill

(Beyond Pesticides, February 13, 2023) As more and more communities across the country outlaw pesticides on their public land, parks, and playing fields, most states prohibit (or preempt) localities from restricting hazardous use on private property. As a result, pesticides used on landscapes—uses that can be replaced by organic management practices—result in chemical drift and runoff, putting the community in harms way and people involuntarily exposed. The Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act of 2023 (PACTPA), S.269, includes a provision that grants communities under federal pesticide law (the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act—FIFRA) local authority to restrict pesticides on all property, public and private, within their jurisdiction. While the U.S. Supreme Court (in Wisconsin Public Intervenor v. Mortier) in 1991 found that FIFRA does not preempt local governments’ authority to restrict pesticide use in their town, cities, or counties, state governments have taken that authority away in 44 states at the behest of the pesticide lobby. Urge your Senators to co-sponsor PACTPA and reforms to the toxic core of FIFRA, including upholding the right of local governments to restrict pesticides. As local governments debate the hazards associated with pesticide use in their communities, many have decided to transition their […]

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07
Feb

Pesticide Reform Bill Reintroduced in U.S. Senate, Advocates Call Changes Major But Not Systemic Ones Needed

(Beyond Pesticides, February 7, 2023) U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) reintroduced legislation last week to increase protections against exposure to toxic pesticides. The Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act of 2023 (PACTPA), S.269, addresses many of the controversial issues with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which governs the registration and use of pesticides in the U.S. This major reform legislation tackles some of the documented deficiencies in the regulation of pesticides and removes a number of loopholes in the law. The legislation, introduced with Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Brian Schatz (D-HI), also includes a ban on all organophosphate and neonicotinoid insecticides, as well as  the weed killer paraquat, which is known to cause Parkinson’s disease and lung fibrosis. Despite these reform provisions, the legislation does not touch the core of FIFRA’s pesticide registration process and chart a path for the systemic, transformative change that Beyond Pesticides says is essential to meet the existential challenges of current times—devastating health threats, biodiversity collapse, and the climate crisis. FIFRA, which is under the jurisdiction of the agriculture committees of Congress, has long been criticized for failing to protect the public and workers […]

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29
Jul

With Industry Support, a Republican U.S. Senator Introduces Bill to Codify Easier Access to Ag Pesticides–As If It Wasn’t Easy Enough

(Beyond Pesticides, July 29, 2022) Perhaps attempting to capitalize on the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision limiting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) ability to regulate carbon emissions, Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas (R) has filed a bill in the Senate that seeks to limit the agency’s ability to regulate pesticide use. The so-called EPA Transparency for Agriculture Products Act of 2022 is touted, on Senator Marshall’s website, as “a comprehensive bill to prevent . . . EPA . . . from overregulating essential pesticides that the ag industry heavily depends upon.” In truth — and perversely, given that he is a medical doctor — the bill aims to provide more license to use toxic pesticides that harm human health, the environment broadly, and ecosystems already under assault from toxic, synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, habitat destruction, and climate change. Couched in language about “feeding the world,” the bill’s central concern seems to be financial impacts or challenges that farms (a good portion of which, let us remember, are giant, well-resourced agribusinesses) may face because of EPA pesticide regulations. Those regulations, of course, are promulgated by the agency to protect people, organisms, ecosystems, and natural resources from harmful impacts and risks […]

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