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Daily News Blog

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


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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24
Jul

Trump Taps Former Pesticide Company Executive as Chief Scientist at USDA

(Beyond Pesticides, July 24, 2018) The White House named Scott Hutchins, PhD, former Dow Chemical Company executive, as Undersecretary of Agriculture for Research, Education and Economics for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Dr. Hutchins is now the third Dow alumnus to be hired by the Trump Administration. As a scientist who oversaw Dow’s pesticide research and development, his appointment, if confirmed, has troubling consequences to USDA’s research programs. Described as a “global leader of integrated field sciences,” Dr. Hutchins worked at Corteva—the newly created agricultural (pesticide and seed) division of the DowDuPont entity that focuses on “chemical solutions to pest management.” Dr. Hutchins has been with Dow since 1987 and worked in regional research and development management and global development of pesticide products. He is also a former president of the Entomological Society of America, serving in that role in parts of 2006 and 2007, and is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Nebraska. The lead science position directs the Agricultural Research Service, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (ARS), the Economic Research Service and the National Agricultural Statistics Service, and sets the agenda for USDA’s research budget. Dow Chemical, now merged with Dupont as DowDupont, […]

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27
Jun

Clean Up the Farm Bill, Protect Organic

(Beyond Pesticides, June 27, 2018) Farm Bill Headed for a Showdown on Key Environmental, Public Health, and Organic Issues With a flawed bipartisan Farm Bill expected to sail through the U.S. Senate this week, we need to turn our attention to the upcoming House-Senate Conference Committee that will attempt to resolve differences between the Republican House bill (with no support from Democrats) and the Senate bill. Despite some advances in the Senate Farm Bill for the organic market, including boosts to organic research funding, some provisions to address fraudulent imports, some enhanced conservation programs, and maintaining certification cost-share programs, the Senate bill contains troubling language affecting organic standard setting that could open the door to more damaging provisions in the House bill. It’s like fixing up a house while allowing the foundation to crumble. Tell your U.S. Senators and Representative to protect organic in the Farm Bill, remove any changes to the organic standard setting process, and uphold environmental protections. Beyond Pesticides opposes any provisions in the Farm Bill that amend the standard setting procedures of the federal organic law and believes that no improvements are worth the damage that can be done to the standard setting process and public […]

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04
Jun

Take Action: Tell USDA We Need Honest, Transparent, Informative GE/GMO Labeling

(Beyond Pesticides, June 4, 2018) As the deadline approaches for regulations on labeling genetically engineered (GE or GMO —genetically modified organism) food, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed a rule that fails in every important respect: It allows information to be conveyed by QR codes, whose use requires a cell phone (with camera function) and a reliable broadband connection. It allows GE food to be identified as “bioengineered” OR by a smiley-faced symbol containing the letters “be.” It does not cover highly processed GE foods, like vegetable oils or sugar, and does not include newer genetic engineering techniques, such as CRISPR (a gene editing tool). Implementation is delayed. USDA is accepting comments through Regulations.gov. For quick copy and paste, use the text below to comment at regulations.gov. Add a personal message at the beginning about why this is important to you, if possible. Tell USDA We Need Honest, Transparent, Informative GE/GMO Labeling Suggested Comments: As a consumer, I have a right to know whether my food is produced using genetic engineering. As USDA finalizes labeling regulations, please ensure that labels are honest, transparent, and informative by adopting the following policies: Reject package labeling with unreliable “QR codes” and other […]

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29
May

Take Action: Help Defeat the Farm Bill –Unless Dramatic Changes Are Made

(Beyond Pesticides, May 29, 2018) The Farm Bill is beginning to move in the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, and your voice is critically needed to help stop provisions that are harmful to health and the environment. Tell your U.S. Senators and Representative that they should vote against the Farm Bill unless harmful provisions to health and the environment are removed. In addition to sending this urgent action on the Farm Bill, consider reaching out to your U.S. Senators and Representative when they return to your state for the Memorial Day holiday. If you’re part of a group, ask for a meeting. If you see them at an event or in town, let them know how important it is to keep the dangerous provisions listed below out of the Farm Bill. The Farm Bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 2, reported favorably out of the House Agriculture Committee, is stalled, after being defeated on the floor over unrelated immigration legislation. The House bill is a direct attack on organic standard setting, the authority of local governments to restrict toxic pesticides, and the protection of farmworkers, endangered species, and the environment. Without public outcry, it is likely […]

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22
May

Two Hundred Million Pounds of Toxic Pesticides Used in California, According to 2016 Annual Data

(Beyond Pesticides, May 22, 2018)  A staggering 209 million pounds of pesticides were used in California in 2016, according to the latest data released by the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR). This figure refers only to applied “active” pesticide ingredients and not “inerts,” which often account for 80 to 99 percent of pesticide products and can be equally hazardous to human health and the environment. Even though pesticide use in the state has dropped by 1.4 percent from the previous year, pesticide use in 2016 was still the third highest in recorded history, since the inception of DPR’s comprehensive data collection program in 1990. In fact, the total pesticide use was only six million pounds shy of the highest amount ever recorded – 215 million pounds in 1998. The land area treated with carcinogens is as large as the size of New Jersey and Connecticut combined. Nearly 102 million cumulative acres of land were treated with pesticides in the state, ranging in toxicity from low to high risk. Each time an acre is pesticide-treated in a given year, DPR adds the acre to its cumulative list, even if the treatment is repeated on the same land. The 2016 figure represents an […]

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16
Mar

USDA Continues Attack on Integrity of Organic Food Label, Sparks Alternative Add-On Labels

(Beyond Pesticides, March 16, 2018) In a pattern of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) actions that hurt the integrity of the organic label on food products, the agency has decided to withdraw final organic animal welfare regulations that would have provided standardized and measurable criteria for managing the health and welfare of organic livestock and poultry. USDA’s latest decision is another in a series of actions aimed at lowering the bar of organic integrity in order to serve the needs of large organic producers. In November of 2017, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), backed by the National Organic Program (NOP), rolled back decades of agreement that organic agriculture is soil-dependent, by allowing soil-less hydroponic operations to be certified organic. This has sparked stakeholders to collaborate on the development of an add-on label to certified organic food, with standards that meet the intent and letter of organic law. Despite widespread stakeholder disagreement and evidence to the contrary, USDA has concluded that the organic animal husbandry practice standards do not need to be improved  because existing regulations are “robust” and “effective,” despite widespread stakeholder disagreement. USDA justified withdrawing the regulations, by stating that they could “have a negative effect on participation […]

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09
Mar

Study Finds Grass-Fed and Organic Milk to Be Healthier than Conventional

(Beyond Pesticides, March 9, 2018) Milk from 100% grass-fed cows has higher levels of beneficial fatty acids than conventional and even organic milk, according to a study published by an international team of scientists in the journal Food Science and Nutrition. The research follows up on data published in 2013, which compared only conventional and organic milk, finding organic milk contained 62 percent more omega-3 fatty acids and 25 percent fewer omega-6s. “Grassmilk farmers have long been telling us that they believed the nutrition of this milk was higher than that of the milk they were producing when they were still feeding grain,” said Logan Peterman, agricultural research and analytics manager at Organic Valley to Wisconsin Public Radio. “We kind of set about to test that question and really make sure that the signal was there, that we could be certain of it, that we were following the correct methods and also that it was sort of refereed by an outside party.” The study compared the composition of several fatty acids within the three types of milk tested (conventional, organic, and grass-fed). Of primary concern was the ratio of omega-6 to omega 3 fatty acids. Although omega-6s are not necessarily […]

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11
Dec

Take Action: Tell the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to Support Monarch Habitat

(Beyond Pesticides, December 11, 2017) Tell the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to substantially increase the amount of funding spent on the conservation of monarch butterflies and the restoration of their habitat, and to ensure that restored habitat is not poisoned with hazardous pesticides. Although the agency has taken some steps to protect monarchs –including the implementation of the Monarch Butterfly Habitat Development Project and support for the Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund— last year’s NRCS expenditure of $4 million was insufficient to prevent the monarchs’ decline, and could not even begin stemming the loss of milkweed habitat. Restoring the monarch butterfly and its habitat will require a substantial contribution from the agricultural sector and strong leadership from the NRCS. Agricultural lands encompass 77% of all prospective monarch habitat, and thus are indispensable to reaching these goals. Monarch populations have fallen more than 80 percent over the last 20 years, and it is estimated that there is a 60 percent chance the multigenerational migration of these butterflies would completely collapse in the next 20 years. Milkweed, the only forage for monarch caterpillars, has decreased by 21 percent, especially in the Midwest, where agricultural fields and pesticide use have expanded. Scientists estimate […]

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06
Dec

Groups Urge Trump Administration to Protect Monarch Butterflies

(Beyond Pesticides, December 6, 2017) Last week over 100 conservation and environmental groups urged the federal government to increase funding to protect and conserve monarch butterflies. These iconic butterflies, native to North America, have seen drastic declines in their populations. Surveys report over 80 percent reductions in populations over the last 20 years. Pesticide use, habitat loss, and climate change have all been identified as stressors to these butterflies. The groups, led by the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Humane Society, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to do more to help the imperiled butterfly. The letter requests the agency increase the allotment of conservation funds from $4 million- spent last year- to $100 million. The increase in funds is needed for efforts to increase milkweed habitat. In contrast, the government spent over $500 million on sage grouse initiatives to prevent that animal’s listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), even though the Trump Administration is seeking to overturn these initiatives. Currently, the agency has taken some steps to protect monarchs. These include the implementation of the Monarch Butterfly Habitat Development Project and support of the Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund. But, according […]

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27
Nov

Take Action: Ask Your Congressional Delegation to Support the Food and Farm Act!

(Beyond Pesticides, November 27, 2017) Congress is working on the 2018 Farm Bill, which will determine how $956 billion of our tax money will be spent over the coming years in shaping our food system. This year, U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has introduced a bill that, if passed, will implement many of the food policy reforms that sustainable agriculture policy advocates have long supported. Ask Your Congressional Delegation to Support the Food and Farm Act! The bill, which is co-sponsored by Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Don Beyer (D-VA), is a result of a two-year conversation, “Sing Your Own Farm Bill,” in which the U.S. Representative engaged a diverse group of farmers, ranchers, fiscal hawks, food and agriculture policy experts, environmentalists, animal welfare advocates, and others to brainstorm ideas for shaping future farm and food policy. According to Farm Forward, factory farms receive approximately $4 billion in annual benefits under the current Farm Bill –which result in many negative impacts, such as: •    Diet-Related Disease – A diet high in food commodities subsidized by the Farm Bill is linked to a greater probability of diabetes, heart disease and stroke. •    Climate Change –The top five factory-farm mega-corporations […]

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06
Nov

Take Action: Tell Your U.S. Representative to Support Organic in the Next Farm Bill

(Beyond Pesticides, November 6, 2017) The next Farm Bill will be up for negotiation soon. Bi-partisan legislation to address two issues that are important for organic agriculture –increasing funding for organic research and strengthening enforcement of the organic standards: The Organic Agriculture Research Act (H.R. 2436) will provide $50 million in funding annually for the USDA’s flagship organic research program, the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI).  The Organic Farmer and Consumer Protection Act of 2017 will improve oversight of organic imports. This action will allow you to send messages to your U.S. Representative requesting that they co-sponsor the bills or thanking the member if she/he is already a co-sponsor. Ask your U.S. Representative to support organic in the next Farm Bill by co-sponsoring these two bills. If your Representative is already a co-sponsor, send a thank you. Organic is one of the fastest growing sectors in U.S. agriculture. The bi-partisan Organic Agriculture Research Act (H.R. 2436) introduced by U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) will help more farmers transition to organic production in response to growing demand in the marketplace. Organic research helps farmers become more productive, efficient, and profitable and leads to the development of new agricultural practices that can […]

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10
Oct

Action Needed: Last Chance to Comment on National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) Fall Issues

(Beyond Pesticides, October 10, 2017) The comment period closes Wednesday, October 11 at 11:59 pm EDT for the Fall 2017 National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting. In addition to the other priorities in our previous alert (hydroponics, marine materials, and “inerts”), we focus attention here on eliminating the incentive to convert native ecosystems into organic crop production, strengthening and clarifying the requirements for the use of organic seed, exempt/uncertified handler and brokers, and the need for a comprehensive review of sanitizers used in organic. New to Regulations.gov? See our two-minute tutorial. Comment now! Beyond Pesticides provides you with our positions, which you can use as the basis for your comments. If you have limited time, you can use the sample comments on priority issues below. If you have more time, please use the information on our website to develop your own comments. If you paste our comments into regulations.gov, please first put a personal note of concern in order to reflect the importance of these issues to you as an organic consumer, farmer, or other concerned party. Some major issues being considered at the Fall meeting are: Eliminating the Incentive to Convert Native Ecosystems into Organic Crop Production The proposal must […]

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31
Jul

Take Action: Stop Fraudulent Organic Food Imports

(Beyond Pesticides, July 31, 2017)  At a time when the U.S. market demands more organic corn and soybeans than are supplied by domestic organic growers, those same growers are threatened by the flooding of the market with cheaper fraudulent grains. The resulting impacts of eliminating market opportunities while at the same time threatening the value of the organic label hurt organic farmers in this country. The National Organic Program (NOP) must take action to protect the organic label. According to the Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM), the U.S. currently produces only about 60% of the organic corn and 10-30% of the organic soybeans the market demands, while demand is increasing by about 14% per year. Meanwhile, the U.S. market is being flooded with fraudulent “organic” corn and soybeans. In May, the Washington Post documented three large shipments –totaling 7 percent of annual organic corn imports and 4 percent of organic soybean imports— originating from questionable overseas certification and fraud. >>>Act now to tell NOP Deputy Administrator Miles McEvoy, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, and your Congressional delegation to protect the organic label for the sake of farmers and consumers! OFARM says, “For over two years, organic grain producers […]

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26
Jul

Campbell’s Soup Parts with Grocery Manufacturers Association over GE Labeling

(Beyond Pesticides, July 26, 2017) Campbell Soup Co. announced that it will leave the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) by the end of the year over concerns that the trade association no longer represents its views concerning labeling of genetically engineered (GE) food. Campbell’s President and CEO Denise Morrison said that while the company does not question the safety of GE food, it recognizes that most consumers want to see GE ingredients on the label. Meanwhile, Campbell’s has supported the GMA digital disclosure and lists ingredients that “may be derived from crops grown from genetically engineered seeds” on its website. The move by Campbell Soup comes as USDA is pondering possible disclosure options under the “compromise” bill on labeling genetically engineered food passed last year by the U.S. Congress. The company says, “While this legislation offers a range of disclosure options for manufacturers, we will introduce an on-pack statement as we know that’s what the overwhelming majority of Americans support. We’re working on language that provides specific ingredient information and supports the science that GMOs are safe.” A number of other companies have also announced their intention to label GE ingredients, while similarly maintaining their safety. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has extended to August […]

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18
Jul

Take Action: Comment to Stop U.S. Senate from Undermining Value of USDA Organic Food Label

(Beyond Pesticides, July 18, 2018) The value of the organic label is under attack in the U.S. Congress. If proposed changes are adopted, the public will not be able to rely on the label to identify the stark differences between current organic and chemical-intensive food production practices. Beyond Pesticides has long advanced organic agriculture as a means of protecting  farmers, farmworkers, consumers, biodiversity, and the environment. The U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee is accepting comments now on Farm Bill proposals that will erode the meaning of organic. Although there are about 400 days to go before 2012 Farm Bill funding ends, U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R, KS) is taking the opportunity of Senate hearings to attack those institutions that make organic agriculture standards clear, transparent, and subject to Congressionally mandated public oversight. In particular, Sen. Roberts and others are attacking the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), which is an impediment to organic factory farms. Organic production is subject to rigorous oversight through a certification and inspection process, not found in conventional agriculture, but needing continual improvement to keep pace with the tremendous growth of the organic sector. We want to protect and strengthen these standards, not reduce and weaken them. Part One […]

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14
Jul

What Should Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food Look Like? USDA Seeks Your Input

(Beyond Pesticides, July 14, 2017) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking input into draft regulations that will determine whether genetically engineered (GE) ingredients [or genetically modified organisms (GMO)] are identified on products labels, or hidden behind high tech codes. Let USDA know by Monday, July 17 what you think and how important clear and meaningful labeling is. A “compromise” bill on labeling genetically engineered food was passed last year by the U.S. Congress, leaving it to USDA to decide which foods would be labeled, and how they would be labeled. In preparation for drafting regulations, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has posed 30 questions regarding the implementation of the law. AMS is accepting input until Monday, July 17. Commenting provides a chance to help shape USDA’s proposal. The law includes labeling options other than on-package labeling, such as QR codes and websites, which would only serve to hide the information this law was passed to provide. It also allows USDA to decide which GE ingredients must be disclosed. Beyond Pesticides is telling USDA the following: The definition of “bioengineering” must include all forms of genetic engineering including newer forms like CRISPR and RNA interference (RNAi). Definitions should be compatible […]

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