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Daily News Blog

Archive for the 'Ecosystem Services' Category


25
Jan

Bill to Protect Birds and Bees in New York Raises Political Challenges to Addressing Ecosystem Collapse

(Beyond Pesticides, January 25, 2024) Legislative efforts to curtail some life-threatening pesticides associated with birds and bees (and other pollinators) decline were weakened in New York State at the end of December 2023 as the governor negotiated and stripped elements of a bill relating to agriculture that had passed the legislature—again illustrating the grip of the agrichemical industry on public policy intended to begin to address the crisis in ecosystem collapse. (See “Study Cites Insect Extinction and Ecological Collapse.”) In passing the Birds and Bees Protection Act, New York joined New Jersey, Nevada, and Maine in banning most nonagricultural uses of neonicotinoid (neonic) insecticides, but, in last-minute changes to avoid the governor’s veto, failed to phase out corn, soybean, and wheat seeds coated with these chemicals. [Pointing to an exemption in federal law that has been challenged by advocates, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not regulate treated or coated seeds as pesticides despite their toxic pesticidal properties.] In New York State, the governor can, in consultation with the leadership of the legislative branch, negotiate language changes (called Chapter Amendments) in legislature-passed legislation (originally enacted) before deciding to sign it into law or can simply choose to veto the legislation. […]

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30
Nov

Viruses Shown to Be Effective Biological Control

(Beyond Pesticides, November 30, 2023) Scientists at Minami Kyushu University in Japan have made a groundbreaking discovery of a new biological control for a target insect. They have identified a virus in tobacco cutworms that kills males, creating all-female generations. The discovery was described in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences and The New York Times as evidence that multiple viruses have evolved to kill male insects. This “male-killing” virus could be added to the growing attempts to control unwanted insects with biological, as distinguished from genetically engineered (GE) solutions. Efforts range from the introduction of natural predators, to radiation-based sterilization of insects, CRISPR-based genetic mutations, and other techniques. While the GE approach has run into controversy because of unanswered questions associated with their release into natural ecosystems, some approaches have also run into resistance problems. Nearly a decade ago, researchers found armyworm resistance to Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)-incorporated genetically engineered (GE) maize in the southeastern region of the U.S., calling this evolution of insect resistance to a naturally occurring soil bacterium engineered into crops “a serious threat to the sustainability of this technology.” The general population knows to avoid eating raw eggs because the bacteria salmonella, […]

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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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26
Sep

Africa’s Resilient Refusal of Agrochemicals Offers a Lesson in Tackling Invasive Species

(Beyond Pesticides, September 26, 2023) In Ethiopia’s Bahir Dar, where Lake Tana feeds into the Blue Nile, a major hydroelectric power plant stands, serving as an emblem of the ecosystem services the river provides to over two million inhabitants. Yet ever since its first appearance in 2012, this crucial waterway has been under attack by one of the world’s most invasive species: the water hyacinth.   In America and Europe, where agrochemical giants such as Bayer and Syngenta are headquartered, such problems might quickly be remedied using herbicides. However, the prevailing ethos coming from the African continent is quite different. Dion Mostert, whose South African boat business has suffered due to the water hyacinths infestation, encapsulates this sentiment, saying he has considered herbicides but sees them as a temporary fix to a much larger challenge.  Instead of relying on temporary—and often harmful—agrochemical solutions, Ethiopia and other African countries are embracing holistic and sustainable solutions.   For instance, Lake Victoria–a water body shared by Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda—suffered from a water hyacinth infestation in the 1990s. In response, scientists introduced two species of weevils known to be natural predators of the hyacinth: Neochetina bruchi and Neochetina eichhorniae. The initiative was extremely successful, […]

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15
Jun

Recent Supreme Court Ruling on Clean Water Act “will take our country backwards”

(Beyond Pesticides, June 15, 2023) The Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the Clean Water Act’s jurisdiction dramatically limits the EPA’s ability to protect critical wetland ecosystems. On May 25, in a 5-4 majority decision, the Supreme Court ruled that EPA has authority to protect only “wetlands with a continuous surface connection to bodies that are ‘waters of the United States’ in their own right.” Wetlands must appear “indistinguishable” from larger waterways at a surface-level perspective. Wetlands next to a large waterway are no longer protected if they are separated by a manmade or terrestrial barrier. Water flows underground from upstream to downstream sources and exits the confines of its customary boundaries during periods of flooding, so to declare waterways distinct based merely on a surface-level perspective defies scientific understanding of ecosystem health.  Critical Nature of Wetland Ecology  The conservation of wetland ecology is critical to the health of our environment. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) states, “Wetlands are among the most productive habitats on earth” given their role in flood resilience, improvement in water quality, and coastal erosion control. Wetlands are essential nursery grounds for many species of fish and oases for […]

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16
Nov

Pesticide Spraying of Urban Trees Found to Disrupt Natural Biological Management of Landscapes

(Beyond Pesticides, November 16, 2022) Putting up with moderate pest levels can attract and maintain predators and parasitoids that provide important biological control services throughout the landscape, according to research recently published in Environmental Entomology. While scale insects can be a problem in urban areas, dropping sticky ‘honeydew’ on cars and structures, they also play a critical role in maintaining native populations of pest predators. Scientists at NC State University (NCSU) set out to understand just how important these pest populations are at maintaining their own natural enemies. To do so, researchers worked through a series of three hypotheses on the connection between urban trees, scale insects, and pest predators. Focus was first placed on investigating different oak species and comparing the number of predators between trees infested and not infested with scale. Twigs from willow oaks, sawtooth oaks, and overcup oaks were collected from scale infested and scale uninfested trees on the NCSU campus over the course of spring, and counted for their scale abundance. Then, through the summer, researchers used a sampling tool that effectively shook insects out of the tree and into a funnel collection. Unsurprisingly, scale infested oaks contain more scale insects. But these trees also […]

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06
Sep

Ending Fossil Fuel-Based Pesticides and Fertilizers Central to National Forum and Legislation

(Beyond Pesticides, September 6, 2022) Beyond Pesticides is holding its National Forum series, Health, Biodiversity, and Climate: A Path for a Livable Future, beginning on September 15. The National Pesticide Forum has undergone tremendous change in the format, giving participants easier access to timely, bite-sized, and provocative learning experiences and empowering action to fuel change. This year, it focuses on meeting the health, biodiversity, and climate crises with a path for a livable future. We examine both the existential problems associated with current public health and environmental crises and chart a course for a future that solves these urgent problems—public health threats, biodiversity collapse, and the climate emergency. The first seminar launches September 15, the second on October 12, and a third will be announced for November. Register for free! The Forum will address both the science that defines the problems associated with the threats and the solutions, some of which are contained in legislation such as the Zero Food Waste Act and the Compost Act. Two ways of helping to reduce agricultural carbon emissions and reduce hunger are addressed in these two bills—by maximizing the amount of food that is eaten and ensuring that food waste is composted to build soil […]

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05
May

First Report of Environmental Pollutant Risk Among Tropical Mammals Across the Globe

(Beyond Pesticides, May 5, 2022) A report published in Biological Conservation finds environmental pollutants, including pesticides, pharmaceuticals, plastics, and particulate matter, adversely affect tropical terrestrial wildlife. Specifically, these contaminants can interact with one another, altering the chemical landscape of the ecosystem, and causing changes in the endocrine and microbiome systems of mammals. Since the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962), global attention to the danger of pesticides has increased, with environmental agencies banning the use of legacy pesticides like organochlorines for their devastating toxic—sometimes lethal—effects. However, these chemicals can remain in the environment for decades and interact with various current-use pesticides, including organophosphates, neonicotinoids, and pyrethroids. Although many studies demonstrate that environmental pollution plays a significant role in premature deaths among humans, there is a lack of research on how environmental pollution directly affects tropical species mortality. Considering human and wildlife habitats tend to overlap, and chemical pollutants can drift from chemically treated areas, wildlife populations are more likely to experience similar health effects. With the number of chemicals in the ecosystem growing, studies like these highlight the need for pesticide policies that protect human health in addition to the integrity of the chemical landscapes accommodating wildlife. The researchers note, “Using […]

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15
Apr

Beyond Pesticides Makes Science-based Case that It Is Imperative to Phase Out Pesticides in a Decade

The organic solutions to problems highlighted in the latest issue of Pesticides and You—based on the importance of healthy ecosystems and public health protection—are within reach, and the data creates an imperative for action now that phases out pesticides within a decade, while ensuring food productivity, resilient land management, and safe food, air, and water. (Beyond Pesticides, April 15, 2022) The current issue of Pesticides and You, RETROSPECTIVE 2021: A Call to Urgent Action, is a look at a year of science, policy, and advocacy that informs both the existential problems that the U.S. and the world are facing due to toxic pesticide dependency, and solutions that can be adopted now. The information in this issue captures the body of science that empowers action at the local, state, and federal level, and provides a framework for challenging toxic pesticide use and putting alternatives in place. The issue finds that 2021 was a pivotal year in both defining the problem and advancing the solution. This year in review is divided into nine sections that provide an accounting of scientific findings documenting serious pesticide-induced health and environmental effects, disproportionate risk to people of color and those with preexisting conditions, regulatory failures, at the same time […]

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13
Apr

Ecosystem Services Provided by Birds and Bees Synergize to Increase Farm Yield and Profit

(Beyond Pesticides, April 13, 2022) The combined effects of insect pollination and natural pest control provided by birds synergize to improve yields and income for coffee farmers, finds research published this month in the journal PNAS. Ecosystem services – the positive benefits provided by ecosystems, wildlife, and their natural processes – underpin agricultural production, but are often analyzed in silos, on a case by case basis in the scientific literature. The current research finds that the quantitative benefits of ecosystem services can be greater when considering their interactive effects. “Until now, researchers have typically calculated the benefits of nature separately, and then simply added them up,” says lead author Alejandra MartĂ­nez-Salinas, PhD of Costa Rica’s Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE). “But nature is an interacting system, full of important synergies and trade-offs. We show the ecological and economic importance of these interactions, in one of the first experiments at realistic scales in actual farms.”   Researchers based their experiment in Costa Rica, working with 30 shade grown coffee farms owned by small landholders. Eight coffee plants on each farm were selected for the study. Pest control services provided by birds were assessed using a 20mm mesh screen that excludes […]

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