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Daily News Blog

Archive for the 'US Department of Agriculture (USDA)' Category


16
Sep

Take Action: Support Strong Organic Standards, Submit Your Comments to the Fall 2019 National Organic Standards Board Meeting

(Beyond Pesticides, September 16, 2019) The Fall 2019 National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting dates have been announced and public comments are due by October 3, 2019. Your comments and participation are critical to the integrity of the organic label. Written comments may be submitted through Regulations.gov until 11:59 pm ET October 3, 2010. Reservations for in-person and webinar comments close at the same time. The proposals of the NOSB, as a part of its ongoing review of practices and materials, are published for public comment.  Beyond Pesticides/OrganicEye is providing the public with a listing and analysis of the issues under consideration by the Board when it meets in Pittsburgh, PA on October 23 – 25, 2019. You can view USDA’s announcement of the NOSB’s meeting and proposals here. Issues before the NOSB include materials allowed in organic production as well as some policy issues. Materials are either being considered for initial use in organics or the subject of a five-year Sunset Review. To be allowed, materials must have evidence demonstrating that they meet Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) requirements of essentiality, no adverse effects on humans and the environment, and compatibility with organic practices. Major issues before the NOSB at the […]

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09
Sep

Take Action: Push Back on Rules that Would Weaken Farmworker Protections

(Beyond Pesticides, September 9, 2019) New rules proposed by the Department of Labor (DOL) will weaken protections for both foreign and domestic farmworkers who grow and harvest the nation’s food. The changes would affect the H-2A guestworker program, which permits U.S. farms to temporarily hire foreign workers. Despite rapid increases in foreign agricultural workers over the past several years, the new rules would expand the program and make it easier for agrichemical companies to exploit foreign labor, driving down working conditions and pay for all farmworkers. Tell Congress to stop DOL from weakening farmworker protections. DOL’s proposed rules would eliminate the obligation for growers to provide priority to U.S. farmworkers during the first half of a work contract, and extend the ability for growers to bring in foreign labor throughout the growing season. Growers would also be able to change job terms and work locations in the middle of a growing season. This would increase job insecurity for U.S. farmworkers, who are already facing tough economic conditions. As described by Farmworker Justice, “The Trump Administration seeks to guarantee agribusiness unlimited access to a captive workforce that is deprived of economic bargaining power and the right to vote. The proposal epitomizes the […]

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05
Sep

Veteran Policy Experts Form Organic Industry Watchdog Agency

(Beyond Pesticides, September 5, 2019) USDA Failures Necessitate Independent Corporate and Governmental Oversight WASHINGTON, DC, Beyond Pesticides, a Washington, DC-based public interest organization founded in 1981 to advocate for healthy air, water, land, and food by eliminating the use of toxic pesticides and advancing organic practices, has announced the formation of its new investigative arm, OrganicEye. The watchdog agency will focus on defending the time-honored philosophy and legal definition of organic farming and food production. “Trusted certified organic production must continue to offer a healthier marketplace alternative and critical environmental protection,” stated Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides and former National Organic Standards Board member. As organic agriculture and food marketing has grown into an over $50 billion industry, corporate agribusiness has influenced USDA to shift primary organic production from family-scale farms to large livestock factories, and allow massive hydroponic/soilless greenhouses and fraudulent imports – all devastating to ethical farmers, businesses, and consumers. “We are happy to announce the hiring of Mark Kastel to serve as the Director of OrganicEye,” Mr. Feldman said. Mr. Kastel, one of the founders of The Cornucopia Institute, a venerable organic farm-policy research group, brings over 30 years of diverse involvement in the organic […]

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29
Aug

USDA “People’s Garden” Turned Over to Agrichemical Corporations to Promote Pesticides and GE Crops

(Beyond Pesticides, August 29, 2019) The Peoples Garden, located on the grounds on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on the national mall, has been renamed and remodeled to highlight genetically engineered (GE) crops and farming techniques that directly counter the organic movement. The new exhibit, entitled “Voice of the Farmer,” is part of the “Trust in Food” initiative of Farm Journal magazine. This marks a continuation of trends in the Trump administration: pushing for GE/GMOs and pesticides. Since 2009, the USDA Peoples Garden has highlighted organic agriculture. It was originally envisioned by the Obama administration as a place where visitors could learn about what differentiates organic from conventional chemical-intensive food production, and the practices used in organic land management. The garden had several different exhibits: the Three Sisters Garden, the People’s Garden Apiary, three green roofs, a certified organic vegetable garden, a tool shed with a rain barrel and green roof, wildlife and pollinator friendly landscaping, and a bat house. With an emphasis on sustainable gardening practices such as cover cropping, storm water collection, and composting, the garden served as a headquarters for numerous Peoples Gardens founded between 2009 and 2016. The People’s Garden and other projects of the […]

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26
Aug

Take Action: Help Organic Farmers Save the Planet—Support the Climate Stewardship Act

(Beyond Pesticides, August 26, 2019) U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) recently released draft legislation that will – among other initiatives – promote carbon-sequestering practices in agriculture. The draft Climate Stewardship Act includes farmers as a critical component in the response to the climate crisis by encouraging “carbon farming” through incentives, training, and research. U.S. Representative Deb Haaland (D-NM) is championing companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill will likely be introduced in September when Congress reconvenes. Ask your U.S. Representative and Senators to Co-sponsor the Climate Stewardship Act and Help Farmers Save the Planet. July of 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth. The last time atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were this high (over 415 ppm) was during the Pliocene period – between 5.3 and 2.6 million years ago. The best time to have addressed global warming was 20 years ago, but the second-best time is now. Organic, regenerative agricultural practices help mend the earth from the ground up. In addition to incentivizing soil health practices that organic farmers already employ, the bill adds $75,000,000 to the organic research and extension initiative (OREI). The bill contains a requirement that no less than 50% of these funds apply to reducing […]

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05
Aug

Remind USDA that Genetic Engineering Is NOT Acceptable in Organic

(Beyond Pesticides, August 5, 2019) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) appears to have forgotten the lesson learned 20 years ago when it was forced to ban genetic engineering (GE) in organic regulations. At a July 17 hearing called by the U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research on “Assessing the Effectiveness of the National Organic Program,” Greg Ibach, the USDA’s Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, stated, “There is the opportunity to open the discussion to consider whether it is appropriate for some of these new technologies, including gene editing, to be eligible to be used to enhance organic production.” In 1997, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a draft rule that would have allowed GE, irradiation, and sewage sludge (the “Big Three”) in organic production, which was met by the second largest number of comments the agency had ever received—well before the days of internet advocacy—overwhelmingly opposing the inclusion of the “Big Three.”  The prohibition of gene editing falls under the “excluded methods” provision of the organic regulations. The law prohibits “a variety of methods used to genetically modify organisms or influence their growth and development by means that are not possible under natural conditions […]

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16
Jul

Take Action: USDA Must Offer Basic Protection from Genetically Engineered Organisms

(Beyond Pesticides, July 16, 2019) USDA’s proposed new rules on genetically engineered (GE) crops exempt almost all GE crops from regulation and allow the company that makes them to decide whether they are safe. The rules proposed by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) benefit companies like Monsanto/Bayer and Dow, but fail to protect farmers, consumers, and the environment. Please tell APHIS to abandon its proposal and support a regulatory system that is consistent with modern science. Tell USDA not to allow companies to approve their own GE crops. The rules would govern USDA’s role in the outdated and fatally flawed “Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology.” The Framework fails to account for the unique risks of genetic engineering, using existing laws like the Plant Protection Act to address issues for which they were not designed. This proposal weakens the APHIS regulations even more. All genetically engineered (GE) organisms—plants, animals, or microorganisms—should be subjected to systematic assessments of human and environmental effects and indirect economic effects (such as contamination of organic or non-GE crops leading to rejection in foreign markets, spread of resistant pests, etc.) before being allowed on the market. These assessments must be made available to the public […]

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12
Jul

USDA Shuts Down Data Collection on Honey Bees

(Beyond Pesticides, July 12, 2019) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced, on Saturday, July 6 that it would suspend indefinitely the data collection for its Honey Bee Colonies survey and report. The move came, tellingly, less than three weeks after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) once again approved “emergency” uses of the pesticide sulfoxaflor, a bee-killing compound similar to the notorious neonicotinoids, insecticides that contribute significantly to the phenomena of pollinator collapse (“colony collapse disorder”) and massive insect loss (“insect apocalypse”) that are underway worldwide. Sulfoxaflor is one of the many toxic pesticides that threaten honey bees, which are critical pollinators responsible for one-third of the food we humans consume. Permitting its use and then ceasing to collect and report data on the status of honey bees that are likely to be impacted is not only a recipe for kneecapping the study of bee decline and imperiling the food supply, but also, another example of the corruption for which this administration is infamous. As The Huffington Post reported, “Critics say the USDA’s move is the latest evidence of the Trump administration’s war on science, and its goal of suppressing information about serious environmental harms increasing under Donald Trump’s presidency.” Union […]

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05
Jun

Responding to Pressure from Advocates, USDA’s National Organic Program Announces Stricter Enforcement for Organic Container Systems

(Beyond Pesticides, June 5, 2019) Earlier this week, the National Organic Program (NOP) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture published a memo that will put a stop to the practice of allowing organic certification for container systems produced on land managed with substances, such as the herbicide glyphosate, which are not permitted in organic production. The decision comes after broad opposition to this NOP allowance was vociferously expressed by a cross section of commenters at the April meeting of the National Organic Standards Board. The head of NOP, Jenny Tucker, in response to questions, attempted to clarify her previous comment to farmers indicating that the practice met organic standards, but instead incited outrage at the NOSB meeting by refusing to reject the use glyphosate in container growing operations. The NOP decision is not retroactive for operations earlier allowed to use the chemicals. The NOP memo clarifies and establishes stricter adherence to a pre-existing rule written into the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990. While this clarification represents a victory for those fighting to keep organic strong, the certification of hydroponic and other container systems as organic continues to present a major challenge for the integrity of a system whose […]

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02
May

Neonicotinoid Insecticide Residues in Food and Water on the Rise, According to USDA Data

(Beyond Pesticides, May 2, 2019) Researchers have documented an increase in food and drinking water residues of neonicotinoids, insecticides linked to breast cancer. Using the Pesticide Data Program (PDP), 1999-2015, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the researchers identified near-peak detection frequencies in 2015, after a decline from 2008-2013. Imidacloprid remains the most common neonicotinoid detected across imported commodities, while the neonicotinoids clothianidin, thiamethoxam, acetamiprid, and flonicamid are replacing imidacloprid in domestic production. Authors note that these newer neonicotinoids are potentially more toxic than imidacloprid, raising concerns for understudied human health and environmental impacts. The study, Trends in neonicotinoid pesticide residues in food and water in the United States, 1999–2015, published in the journal Environmental Health, finds the highest detection frequencies for neonicotinoids in drinking water, with 30% of treated drinking water turning out positive for imidacloprid in 2011. Certain fruits and vegetables are also frequently contaminated by neonicotinoids, with detection frequencies ranging from 20% to as high as 57% in the case of imidacloprid on cauliflower. While the study points to specific fruits and vegetables as posing higher risk, the main message reaches beyond individual commodity or individual neonicotinoid results. Authors uncover a systematic increase in detection of neonicotinoid […]

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29
Apr

Protect Organic Family Farmers Who Safeguard the Earth and Our Health

(Beyond Pesticides, April 29, 2019) It Is Time to Stop the Attack on Organic and Protect the Family Farmers Who Safeguard the Earth and Our Health. Listening to and talking with dairy farmers at the National Organic Standards Board meeting in Seattle last week, it is clear that organic consumers and farmers everywhere need to rise up to protect the standards of organic. This is the only way we can ensure a livable future—clean air, water, air, and a reversal of the climate crisis and the insect apocalypse. While there are numerous problems with the current administration’s attack on organic across the board—and we are focused on the range of problems, dairy is a good place where we must join together before more organic family farmers literally go out of business. Organic dairy is the first place families look to protect their children. Tell USDA and your members of Congress to protect organic family farmers who safeguard the environment and animal welfare. As a result of abuses in government management of organic, we are seeing an attack on organic that can be corrected with the adoption of proposed rules that have been waiting to be adopted—the Origin of Livestock and the Access to […]

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27
Feb

Glyphosate Residue Found in 95% of Tested Beers and Wines

(Beyond Pesticides, February 27, 2019) U.S. PIRG tested 20 common beers and wines and found glyphosate residues in all but one. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is the most commonly used agrichemical in the world. Though it is linked to many health and environmental issues, there is no current EPA limit for glyphosate residues in beer or wine. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not regularly test for glyphosate on either food or beverages. Researchers used an enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to detect glyphosate levels. Sutter Home Merlot had the highest level of glyphosate residues at 51 ppb (parts per billion). Barefoot Cabernet Sauvignon and Beringer Estates Moscato had slightly lower levels: 36.3 ppb and 42.6 ppb, respectively. Organic wines results were ~5 ppb. The beer samples had just slightly lower average levels of residues, the highest being Tsingtao beer with 49 ppb. Miller Lite, Corona, and Budweiser ranged from 25-30 ppb. Samuel Smith’s Organic Lager had a 5.7 ppb glyphosate concentration, and Peak Beer Organic IPA was the only sample with no detectable level of glyphosate. By U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates, nearly 300 million pounds of glyphosate are annually applied to U.S. crops. Vineyards spray […]

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31
Jan

USDA Challenged for Flood of “Organic” Hydroponics

(Beyond Pesticides, January 31, 2019) On January 16, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a new rulemaking petition demanding that USDA explicitly prohibit hydroponics from the organic label and revoke all existing organic certifications on hydroponic operations. CFS and more than a dozen co-signing organizations grounded their demands in the failure of hydroponic production to increase soil fertility, conserve biodiversity, and build soil organic matter, all legally required to achieve certification under the Organic Food Production Act (OFPA). Hydroponic plants are grown without soil and fed entirely through manufactured nutrient solutions. Hydroponic operations rely on nutrient inputs that do not return to the system. Whether or not these inputs are organic products, the hydroponic practices themselves, CFS notes, fulfill zero out of the three core requirements that define “organic production” in OFPA: to “foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.” The central principle of the legal argument is that soil is integral to organic production. Citing OFPA, to be called organic, producers must engage in practices that actively support the rich, living biodiversity of the soil that sustains future production. The prohibition of hydroponics from organic certification has been the position of organic regulators and the […]

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25
Jan

Government Shutdown Puts Food Safety at Risk

(Beyond Pesticides, January 25, 2019) The partial government shutdown–now in its second month–is disrupting federal oversight of food safety for various pathogens and pesticides. Labs are shuttered, many government agency employees are furloughed, and those still working are doing so without pay. The ongoing obstruction to government assessment of the food supply puts U.S. consumers at risk. Workers from the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) have expressed concerns about the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) AMS Pesticide Data Program. This program samples, tests, and reports about pesticide residues in U.S. agricultural commodities, with a focus on chemicals that could cause problems for infants and children. Peter Kyriacopoulos, senior director of public policy at APHL, stated that only one of the ten public health laboratories is planning on continuing testing samples during the shutdown without compensation. Additionally, APHA has reported issues regarding DNA analysis of food samples involved in foodborne outbreaks. DNA samples from sick patients are used to trace back the source of outbreaks and lead to assessment of food production facilities. While outbreak investigations are headed by the currently fully-operational Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), interdepartmental research involving the USDA and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is […]

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08
Jan

USDA Capitulates to the Agrichemical Industry with Final GE Labeling Rule

(Beyond Pesticides, January 8, 2019) At the end of December, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) finalized its rule regarding the disclosure of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients in consumer foods. After years of local, state and federal pressure to implement a clear, concise labeling requirement for GE foods, advocates say USDA’s rule is a failure, and a capitulation to agrichemical corporations that promote GE farming systems. According to U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME), speaking with the Portland Press Herald, the new rule is “an insult to consumers.” She said, “These labels should give people the facts of whether ingredients in their food have been genetically altered, plain and simple.” Rather than the plain and simple language urged by Rep Pingree and other GE labeling advocates, USDA determined to move forward with muddled verbiage that is certain to confuse consumers. GE products will not defined by a term Americans are familiar with, such as GE or GMO. Instead, the term USDA will require on product labels is “bioengineered.” USDA is allowing companies to choose one of the following methods to alert consumers to the presence of GE ingredients in their foods: Inclusion of a “bioengineered” or “derived from bioengineering” symbol alongside […]

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18
Dec

Tell USDA All Ingredients Used in Organic Must Be Reviewed

(Beyond Pesticides, December 18, 2018) The ingredients not listed on a pesticide product are not fully reviewed for their adverse effects may be the most toxic chemicals in the formulation. Recent research, Toxicity of formulants and heavy metals in glyphosate-based herbicides and other pesticides (Toxicology Reports 5, 2018), by Defarge, de VendĂ´mois, and SĂ©ralini demonstrates the need to disclose and test all ingredients in pesticide products, as well as the full formulation that includes “inert” or nondisclosed ingredients. While glyphosate/Roundup is obviously not allowed to be used in organic production, this research reaffirms the need to evaluate full formulations of substances allowed for use in organic. The research on glyphosate tested the toxicity of the herbicide glyphosate, “inerts” in glyphosate-based herbicides (GBH), and the pesticide formulations–looking at toxicity to target organisms, toxicity to human cells, and endocrine-disrupting activity. In addition to the GBH products, the researchers studied a number of other pesticides. Tell NOP and USDA that “inerts” used in organic production must receive full review by the NOSB. “Inert” ingredients are allowed in pesticides used in organic production as well as those used in chemical-intensive production. The National Organic Program (NOP) allows “inerts,” permitted in conventional production and formerly listed […]

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10
Dec

Take Action: Tell Your U.S. Senators to Reject Dow’s Hutchins as USDA Chief Scientist

(Beyond Pesticides, December 10, 2018) The Senate Agriculture Committee has cleared the way for the whole U.S. Senate to vote on the confirmation of Scott Hutchins, PhD, recently retired from research and management at what is now the agricultural division of DowDuPont, as chief scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). If confirmed, he will become the third member of Dow’s pesticide and seed division to hold a high-level position in the Trump administration’s USDA.  Tell your U.S. Senators to Reject Dow’s Hutchins as USDA Chief Scientist. Dr. Hutchins has a history of defending toxic pesticides like Dow’s chlorpyrifos, which makes him unsuitable for leading USDA’s research on the future of the U.S. food system. The chief scientist at USDA can determine the direction of USDA research–which should be shaped by an organic, rather than a chemical-intensive, vision. USDA needs a chief scientist who will help farmers get off the pesticide treadmill and adopt organic practices that address critical issues of protecting farmer and farmworker health, water resources, biodiversity, and soil health, while reducing the escalating crisis in global climate change. USDA’s research mission must be focused on sustainability and protect farmers, families, and the environment. Since 1987, Dr. Hutchins […]

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26
Nov

Take Action: Tell the National Organic Program to Outlaw Fracking Wastewater in Organic Production

(Beyond Pesticides, November 26, 2018) Organic consumers expect that the organic products they buy are grown without toxic chemical inputs. However, oil and gas wastewater (including fracking wastewater) is currently used to irrigate crops. Among the chemicals known to be present in oil and gas wastewater are heavy metals and other chemicals with carcinogenic, reproductive, developmental, endocrine-disrupting, and other toxic effects. When the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) was passed, and regulations adopted, there was no agricultural use of oil and gas wastewater, so the regulations did not address these hazards.  Tell USDA to Outlaw Fracking Wastewater in Organic Production!  The Cornucopia Institute has filed a petition for rulemaking, asking that oil and gas wastewater be ruled a prohibited substance in organic production. This issue should be put on the work agenda of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), which advises the Secretary about issues concerning NOP. The petition from the Cornucopia Institute contains information that will serve as support for the work agenda item. Over the past several years, the NOSB has received many comments requesting them to address this issue Among the comments have been suggestions for guidance to farmers faced with contamination from oil and gas activities. The […]

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01
Nov

Bumblebees Shown to Suffer Reproductive Failure after Pesticide Exposure

(Beyond Pesticides, November 1, 2018) A new study offers fresh evidence that wild bumblebee pollinators are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of neonicotinoid (neonic) insecticides, finding that exposure to these compounds interferes with mating success and population stability. Researchers from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, measuring real-world harms of neonicotinoids, indicate that the impacts they found to bumblebee “reproducers,” namely queen and drone (male) bees, does not bode well for the array of plant species that relies on them. Though advocates warn that destabilizing managed pollinators could threaten U.S. food production and exports, with food prices increasing as cost of bringing pollinators to farms increases, the study’s authors and advocates insist that the impacts of such widespread poisoning of wild bees could be felt well beyond agriculture. Researchers in the lab compare behavioral and psychological responses of virgin queens, workers, and male Bombus impatiens from multiple colonies to field-realistic doses of the neonicotinoid clothianidin. While every bee was given a replenishing supply of pollen based on body weight and energy demands, four distinct concentrations of diluted analytical-grade (pure) clothianidin (including a control with no pesticide added) were mixed into a nectar-like solution and fed to the bumblebees orally for 5 […]

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24
Sep

Take Action: Stop the Gutting and Politicizing of USDA Research

Beyond Pesticides, September 24, 2018) In a move that critics fear may be a pretext for gutting federal agricultural research, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has proposed overhauling two federal offices overseeing food and agriculture research and moving them out of the Washington, DC area. A plan announced in August to relocate one of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) top research office — the Economic Research Service — into the Office of the Secretary, a political branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is raising alarm from scientists. Concerned researchers see the move as a way to cut funding to important projects on climate change and nutrition, among others, consistent with other Administration moves to reduce input of scientists into public policy. The plan by the Trump administration to overhaul two federal offices overseeing food and agriculture research, the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and move them out of Washington by the end of 2019 is being cited by leading agricultural scientists and economists as a ploy to stifle important federal research. Tell your U.S. Representative and Senators to urge Agriculture Secretary Perdue to keep the research programs of USDA in […]

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17
Sep

Take Action: Comment by October 4 to Protect Organic Integrity!

(Beyond Pesticides, September 17, 2018) The Fall 2018 NOSB meeting dates have been announced and public comments are due by October 4, 2018. Your comments and participation are critical to the integrity of the organic label. Written comments may be submitted through Regulations.gov  until 11:59 pm ET October 4, 2018. Reservations for in-person and webinar comments close at the same time. The proposals of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), as a part of its ongoing review of practices and materials, are published for public comment. On our Keeping Organic Strong page, Beyond Pesticides will be providing the public with a listing and analysis of the issues under consideration of the Board when it meets in Saint Paul, MN on October 24 – 26, 2018. You can view USDA’s announcement of the NOSB’s meeting and proposals here. Issues before the NOSB include materials allowed in organic production as well as some policy issues. Materials are either the subject of petitions or the subject of sunset review (concerning whether to be allowed for another 5 years). To be allowed, materials must have evidence summarized in the proposals that they meet the OFPA requirements of essentiality, no adverse effects on humans and the […]

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30
Aug

Concerns Rise Over Plan to Overhaul USDA Research

(Beyond Pesticides, August 30, 2018) A plan announced earlier this month by Agriculture Secretary, Sonny Perdue, to relocate one of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) top research office — the Economic Research Service — into the Office of the Secretary, a political branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is raising alarm from some scientists. Concerned researchers see the move as a way to cut funding to important projects around climate change and nutrition, among others. The plan by the Trump administration to overhaul two federal offices overseeing food and agriculture research, the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and move them out of Washington by the end of 2019 is being cited by leading agricultural scientists and economists as a ploy to stifle important federal research. Further, no economic or other analysis has been provided to show that such a move would be beneficial. The Trump administration has targeted ERS for severe funding cuts and says streamlining USDA’s operations would save taxpayer money and help the agency recruit and retain top staff, but the move will only serve to isolate the agency from key colleagues and resources concentrated in the capital. This can […]

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13
Aug

Take Action: Tell USDA that Purposeful Mutagenesis Is Genetic Engineering

(Beyond Pesticides, August 13, 2018) Tell USDA to Follow the EU in Classifying New Mutagenesis Techniques as GMO. The Court of Justice of the European Union has highlighted the fact that failing to classify mutagenesis (purposeful changes in DNA) as genetic engineering is a backdoor way of allowing GMOs (genetically modified organisms) without labeling them as such. The court issued an opinion on July 25, saying, “Organisms obtained by mutagenesis are GMOs [genetically engineered organisms] and are, in principle, subject to the obligations laid down by the GMO directive.” Although the opinion does not apply to techniques that “have been conventionally used in a number of applications and have a long safety record,” the court says that member states may subject even those organisms to the obligations of the GMO or other directives. The court finds that the risks of new mutagenesis techniques, may yield results –and risks— similar to those of transgenesis (introducing genes from other organisms), and should thus be regulated as genetically engineered organisms. Tell USDA to classify mutagenesis techniques as GMO. This issue is one on which the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture requested comment during an informal comment period that ended July […]

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