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Daily News Blog

Archive for the 'Federal Agencies' Category


21
Sep

Study Finds Packaged Organic Foods Are Healthier than Conventional Products

(Beyond Pesticides, September 21, 2021) Processed organic foods are healthier than their conventional, chemical-intensive counterparts in important ways, according to a new peer-reviewed study published in the journal Nutrients led by scientists at the Environmental Working Group. While a steady diet of whole, unprocessed foods is ideal, packaged foods are ubiquitous in U.S. supermarkets and often unavoidable. In addition to eliminating concerns over highly toxic pesticide use, according to this new research, choosing packaged organic is an effective means of evading highly processed ingredients associated with adverse health outcomes. Researchers began with a food product dataset including over 72,000 conventional and 8,000 organic packaged foods, representing 85% of all food products sold to U.S. consumers. These products and their ingredients were then classified into four groups corresponding with the amount of processing, with one being unprocessed or minimally processed and four being ultra-processed. A statistical analysis was then conducted on a range of product variables to differentiate various health concerns between organic and conventional products.   Results show that organic packaged foods present far fewer health concerns than conventional products. Processed organic products were likely to have lower amounts of salt, saturated fat, sugar and added sugar. According to the […]

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13
Sep

Organic Must Lead the Way in Environmental and Health Protection

(Beyond Pesticides, September 13, 2021) The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is receiving written comments from the public through September 30. This precedes the upcoming public comment webinar on October 13-14 and online meeting October 19-21—in which the NOSB deliberates on issues concerning how organic food is produced. Written comments must be submitted through Regulations.gov. As always, there are many important issues on the NOSB agenda this Fall. For a complete discussion, see Keeping Organic Strong (KOS) and the Fall 2021 issues page. In the spirit of “continuous improvement,” we urge you to submit comments (please feel free to use our comments on the KOS page) that contribute to an increasingly improved organic production system. The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) requires that all synthetic materials used in organic production be approved by the NOSB, included on the National List, and reassessed every five years. Among those up for sunset review this Fall are some controversial materials—copper sulfate, carrageenan, and list 3 “inerts.” In addition, the NOSB is once more considering a petition to allow the antibiotic kasugamycin in fruit production. Copper sulfate is used in organic rice production to control algae and an invertebrate known as tadpole shrimp. It […]

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07
Sep

Save Organic Dairy, Family Farms and Consumer Support for Organic!

(Beyond Pesticides, September 7, 2021) If regulations concerning “origin of organic livestock” and “access to pasture” seem beyond your comprehension as an organic consumer, think again. Lacking enforcement of strong regulations on these topics, organic dairy is in imminent danger. Multinational food conglomerate Danone, owner of Horizon Organic, has just sent notice to 89 organic milk producers in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and at least three counties (Clinton, Franklin and Saint Lawrence) in New York that it is cancelling their contracts. While this action is devastating to the affected farms and the economies of those states, it has much broader implications. Why is Danone cancelling contracts as organic milk production in the Northeast is increasing? In Danone’s words, the company “will be supporting new partners that better align with our manufacturing footprint.” Ed Maltby, executive director of the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers, explains this “footprint,” with reference to low cost, ultra-pasteurized milk that is easily transported and warehoused, which has become a staple on the organic shelf. More importantly for the future of organic dairy is the expectation that USDA will promulgate a weak regulation on origin of livestock—that “will allow the massive loophole of being able to sell or […]

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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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21
Jul

Millions of Acres in West To Be Sprayed with Toxic Insecticides for Grasshoppers

(Beyond Pesticides, July 21, 2021) Western states are in the midst of one of the largest spray campaigns in recent history, targeting native grasshopper species on more than two million acres of rangeland with highly toxic insecticides. Grasshopper populations have exploded this year due to the West’s ongoing drought, and government officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are hoping that hazardous pesticide use will stop the voracious winged insects from consuming forage used by cattle operations. Environmental groups are urging changes to the program, which has conducted insecticide campaigns against the native grasshoppers since the 1930s. “Aerial application of insecticides on this scale will eliminate millions of insects that pollinate, recycle plant nutrients and perform natural pest control,” said Sharon Selvaggio, Pesticide Program Specialist with the Xerces Society. “Insecticide sprays on this scale across native ecosystems are short-sighted and unsustainable.” According to a June 2020 press release, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is spending $5.3 million dollars of taxpayer money in order to conduct what it calls “suppression treatments.” APHIS claims the $5.3 million will protect $8.7 million worth of agricultural resources, but advocates argue that the agency has failed to meet the “level of economic […]

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06
Jul

Are Big Dairies Undercutting Organic Milk Producers and Organic Integrity—and What Can We Do About It?

(Beyond Pesticides, July 6, 2021) ACT NOW: Public Comment Period Ends July 12, 11:59pm (eastern). A new proposed rule on the “origin of livestock” is intended to undo nearly two decades of regulatory failure by the USDA. Organic dairy producers have suffered economic harm and many organic milk consumers have been drinking substandard milk, while the National Organic Program (NOP) failed to promulgate a Final Rule on the issue of transitioning non-organically certified dairy bovine animals to organic production. The public comment period on this rule closes on July 12, 2021 at 11:59pm (eastern). We all have a stake in growing the organic marketplace by supporting the transition from conventional chemical-intensive practices to clearly defined sustainable and regenerative practices that support family farmers and a production system that confronts the climate crisis, biodiversity decline, and rising public health threats. We do this by supporting transition and then continually improving standards to ensure a robust and healthful organic sector. The issues challenging organic dairy production are a part of the continuous efforts of Beyond Pesticides to ensure organic integrity, while growing the organic market. Tell NOP to adopt an origin of livestock rule that protects dairy farmers and consumers.  When the […]

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08
Jun

Sewage Sludge Fertilizers Sold at Hardware Stores Found to be Contaminated with PFAS Chemicals

(Beyond Pesticides, June 8, 2021) Biosolid-based fertilizer products like Milorganite, often sold to consumers as “organic,” are contaminated with dangerous PFAS chemicals, according to a study published by Sierra Club and Ecology Center. Biosolids, also known as sewage sludge, have been found in the past to contain residues of hazardous pesticides, heavy metals, antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and a range of other toxicants. While the latest news may not be surprising for careful shoppers who have long avoided biosolid fertilizers, none of these risks are relayed to consumers on fertilizer packages. With fertilizer regulations failing the American consumer, it becomes more important than ever to seek out certified organic fertilizer products. Sierra Club and Ecology Center looked at nine fertilizer products, each produced from the sewage sludge of a particular American city. For instance, Milorganite, perhaps the most well-known biosolid sludge fertilizer, is derived from the Milwaukee, Wisconsin sewage treatment system. Other products were derived from locations including Sacramento, CA (Synagro); Tacoma, WA (TAGRO); Madison, GA (Pro Care); Las Vegas, NV (Ecoscraps); Eau Claire, WI (Menards Premium Natural Fertilizer); Jacksonville, FL (Greenedge); North Andover, MA (Earthlife); and Washington, DC (Cured Bloom). As the report notes, many of […]

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04
Jun

Pesticide Pollution Continues Unabated, According to New Data

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

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18
May

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

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

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11
May

Bayer Loses Bid to Overturn Neonicotinoid Ban in Europe

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

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10
May

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

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

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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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22
Mar

Keep Antibiotics Out of Organic—Keep Organic Strong on Range of Issues; Comment by April 5

(Beyond Pesticides, March 22, 2021) The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is receiving written comments from the public through April 5. This precedes the upcoming public hearing on April 20 and 22—concerning how organic food is produced. Also, by April 5, sign up to speak (3 minutes) at the virtual NOSB hearing. Written comments must be submitted through Regulations.gov. As always, there are many important issues on the NOSB agenda this Spring. For a complete discussion, see Keeping Organic Strong and the Spring 2021 issues page. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is considering a petition to allow the antibiotic kasugamycin to be used in organic apple and pear production. Earlier NOSB members struggled long and hard to erase the stigma of antibiotic use in organic fruit production—something that was left over from the transition of so many chemical-intensive fruit orchards after the Alar “scare” in which apple and apple products were contaminated with the cancer-causing plant growth regulator daminozide. Do we now want to step on that treadmill again? The reasons for rejecting the kasugamycin petition are the same as the reasons for eliminating the antibiotics streptomycin and tetracycline in crop production. Now that we have learned what a pandemic […]

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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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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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10
Feb

Groups Urge Endangered Species Listing for American Bumblebee after 89% Population Decline

(Beyond Pesticides, February 10, 2021) Pollinator advocates are petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to list the American bumblebee (Bombus pensylvanicus) under the Endangered Species Act. The petitioners are the Bombus Pollinator Association of Law Students at Albany Law School and the Center for Biological Diversity. Like many other wild pollinators, the American bumblebee has undergone dramatic reductions in recent decades. According to petitioners, the last 20 years saw an 89% decline in the pollinator’s population. Declines of the American bumblebee have occurred throughout its range, which encompasses 47 of the lower 48 states. However, there are also particularly hard hit regions. In New York, for instance, the pollinators have experienced a stunning 99% decline in relative abundance. Midwestern populations are also severely affected. Losses have followed in lock step with declines in the rusty patched bumblebee, which was listed as endangered in 2017. While the rusty patched has lost 90% of its midwestern range, the American bumblebee has experienced 83% declines. The petitioners note that the American bumblebee declined across a larger land area, and in several states where it was once the most populous pollinator. The causes behind these catastrophic declines are familiar to many pollinator […]

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08
Feb

Tell Agencies—New Executive Order Requires Bold Regulatory Action to Confront Environmental Crises

(Beyond Pesticides, February 8, 2021) Immediately following his inauguration, President Biden issued an Executive Order (EO) directing 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 Executive Order, if effective, will  reverse the historical trend of status-quo regulatory reviews required by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that typically support vested economic interests of polluters (e.g., petroleum-based pesticide and fertilizer manufacturers). Instead, the President’s EO, Modernizing Regulatory Review, sets the stage for the adoption of agency policy across government to seriously and with urgency confront the climate crisis, biodiversity collapse, and disproportionate harm to people of color communities (environmental racism). Key agencies that can have a systemic effect in meeting these existential challenges are the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Interior (DOI), Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Department of Labor/Occupational Safety and Health Administration (DOL/OSHA). But the EO will remain words on a page unless we all across the country exercise our voice and advocate for the changes necessary to end […]

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05
Feb

Biden Executive Orders Set the Stage for Systemic Change, If Words Turn to Action

(Beyond Pesticides, February 5, 2021) The American public has witnessed, in the barely launched tenure of President Joe Biden, a surge of Executive Orders (EOs). Based on the first flurry of orders, much of the Biden “reset” appears gauged to beat back Trump policies that worsened an already inadequate regulatory system, and to reconfigure federal operations and regulations so as to address and solve the biggest threats (beyond COVID) the country faces. Among the high-profile EOs already issued are three that stand out. One recalibrates the operations of the OMB (Office of Management and Budget) to forward health, racial equity, and environmental stewardship. A second and third seek, respectively, to restore scientific integrity and elevate the role of science across the federal government, and to tackle comprehensively the climate crisis with a “whole of government” approach. Beyond Pesticides welcomes these early efforts, and maintains that vigilance and robust advocacy will be necessary to achieve needed paradigmatic change across federal agencies, which exist to protect and support the American people. EOs are tools the President can wield to manage directly some operations of the federal government. They are seen as muscular and immediate means through which to change course, particularly in […]

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02
Feb

Court Settlement Requires EPA to Review How Bee-Killing Pesticide Harms Endangered Species

(Beyond Pesticides, February 2, 2021) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will evaluate the effect of the neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid on endangered species, after an agreement was reached between the agency and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Imidacloprid is one of the most commonly used insecticides in the world today and, like other neonicotinoids in its chemical class, has been linked to a range of adverse impacts on wildlife and their habitat. While the agreement to the assess effects on endangered species is important, advocates note that EPA should already have conducted this review, and further, that imidacloprid and other neonicotinoids should already be banned. NRDC’s successful lawsuit follows a separate legal challenge by the Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides, beekeepers, and other environmental organizations which was settled in 2019. The judge in that case, focused on the neonicotinoids clothianidin and thiamethoxam, did not order EPA to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) (which is required when registering a pesticide in order to mitigate risks to endangered species). Instead, she directed the parties, including the plaintiffs, defendant EPA, and intervenor Bayer CropScience (the manufacturer of neonicotinoids), to move forward […]

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01
Feb

TAKE ACTION: Save Monarch Butterflies from Extinction!  

(Beyond Pesticides, February 1, 2021) The yearly winter monarch count along the California coast, overseen each year by the conservation group Xerces Society, was the lowest ever. In 2020, citizen scientists counted only 2,000 butterflies. The findings indicate that many on the planet today are, within their lifetimes, likely to experience a world where western monarchs are extinct. Tell the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list monarch butterflies on the list of threatened and endangered species. Tell the Environmental Protection Agency to eliminate pollinator poisons. Western monarchs migrate from the Pacific Northwest to overwintering grounds along the California coast, where they remain in relatively stationary clusters that are easy to count. In the 1980s, roughly 10 million monarchs overwintered along the coast. By the 1990s, that number fell to 1.2 million. Five years ago, counts were at roughly 300,000. By 2019, numbers crashed below 30,000. This year’s count saw no monarchs at well-known overwintering sites like Pacific Grove. Other locations, like Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove and National Bridges State Park, saw only a few hundred. “These sites normally host thousands of butterflies, and their absence this year was heartbreaking for volunteers and visitors flocking to these locales hoping […]

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27
Jan

Monarch Butterfly Near Extinction—Calls for Urgent Federal Action

(Beyond Pesticides, January 27, 2021) Lowest ever recorded! That’s the result of a yearly winter monarch count along the California coast, overseen each year by the conservation group Xerces Society. In 2020, citizen scientists counted only 2,000 butterflies. The findings indicate that many on the planet today are likely to experience, within their lifetimes, a world where western monarchs are extinct—unless the federal government acts now. Western monarchs migrate from the Pacific Northwest to overwintering grounds along the California coast, where they remain in relatively stationary clusters that are easy to count.  In the 1980s, roughly 10 million monarchs overwintered along the coast. By the 1990s, that number fell into the low single digits, roughly 1.2 million. Five years ago counts were at roughly 300,000. By 2019, numbers crashed below 30,000. This year’s count saw no monarchs at iconic overwintering sites like Pacific Grove. Other locations, like Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove and National Bridges State Park saw only a few hundred. “These sites normally host thousands of butterflies, and their absence this year was heartbreaking for volunteers and visitors flocking to these locales hoping to catch a glimpse of the awe-inspiring clusters of monarch butterflies,” said Sarina Jepsen, […]

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19
Jan

Take Action: Tell the Biden USDA and Congress to Protect COVID relief for Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and Military Veteran Farmers!

(Beyond Pesticides, January 19, 2021) Inadequate funding proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (also known as the “Section 2501” program) fails to address historic discrimination and inadequate assistance for farmers of color and military veteran farmers. Funding for the Section 2501 program, which for three decades, has been the only farm bill program specifically addressing needs of these underserved populations in agriculture is smaller this year, placing undue stress on already stretched-thin community organizations working to respond to farmers during this unprecedented period of prolonged economic hardship. Tell the Biden USDA to ensure that the full Section 2501 funding reaches farmers of color and military veteran farmers. Since 1990, the goal of the Section 2501 program has been to increase historically underserved farmers’ awareness of and access to USDA resources—addressing the historic inequities that farmers of color, or socially disadvantaged farmers, faced in accessing USDA programs, including Farm Service Agency (FSA) loans. Congress added military veterans to the program in 2014 as an additional underserved audience. Section 2501 grants provide funding to community-based organizations and minority-serving academic institutions to conduct critical outreach and technical […]

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