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Daily News Blog

Archive for the 'soil health' Category


29
May

Antibiotic-Resistance Genes Rise with Pesticide Application, as Study Adds to a Plethora of Findings

(Beyond Pesticides, May 29, 2024) A study from the Academy of Biology and Biotechnologies and the Federal Rostov Agricultural Research Centre adds to the body of science linking pesticide use with negative impacts on soil health and bacterial communities. Antibiotic-resistance genes (ARGs), considered a class of pollutants, are found in certain types of bacteria and can spread through the environment and subsequently to humans and animals. This study, performed by researchers and soil experts, found an increase in specific bacterial families that host ARGs with exposure to pesticides.Ā  The study aims to identify the role of agricultural soils in ARG transfer and to assess the presence and prevalence of bacterial families with and without exposure to fertilizers and pesticides. Since soil serves as a habitat for a wide range of bacteria, including many that are resistant to antibiotics, analyzing the organisms within soil samples is an indicator of overall environmental health. Agricultural soils are essential in food production, and as this study states, ā€œ[I]ntensive exploitation of such soils implies the widespread use of various chemical plant protection products (insecticides, herbicides, fungicides) and mineral fertilizers, which contribute to pollution and a decrease in soil quality.ā€Ā Ā  Within this field study, there is […]

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15
May

Pesticide Use Again Linked to Inflammatory Bowel Disease, This Time Among Applicators and Their Spouses

(Beyond Pesticides, May 15, 2024) A study published recently in the journal Environmental Research finds a significant correlation between exposure to certain pesticides and an elevated risk of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a chronic autoimmune condition of the gastrointestinal tract. The study, adding to the body of science on this subject, evaluates self-reported data from licensed pesticide applicators and their spouses exposed to pesticides for over 20 years. In addition, while some of the chemicals found to be most closely associated with incidents of IBD have been banned from use, they are ā€œforeverā€ chemicals that persist in the environment for generations. These findings demonstrate once again the failings of the current regulatory process to identify hazards before they are put into the environment. The study found evidence that exposure to several organochlorine insecticides (dieldrin, DDT, and toxaphene), as well as organophosphate insecticides (parathion, terbufos, and phorate) and herbicides (2,4,5-T, 2,4,5-TP, and metolachlor), is associated with elevated IBD risk. IBD is a generic term for diseases that result in chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, such as Crohnā€™s disease and ulcerative colitis. It is estimated that 6.8 million patients globally suffered from IBD in 2017. IBD may result from an imbalance […]

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17
Apr

ā€œForever Chemicalā€ PFAS Drinking Water Rules Issued, Urgency to Shift from Petrochemicals Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, April 17, 2024) With headlines drawing public attention to the contamination of drinking water after years of federal government neglect, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on April 10 new standards to reduce public exposure to PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly referred to as ā€œforever chemicalsā€ because of their persistence. EPA has finalized a National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR) for six PFAS, including PFOA and PFOS, which EPA has recognized have no safe level of exposure, regulating new chemicals for the first time since the 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). PFAS persistence and bioaccumulation in humans, wildlife, and the environment is due to the strength of a resulting fluorineā€“carbon atom bond. PFAS contamination of drinking water, surface and groundwater, waterways, soils, and the food supplyā€”among other resourcesā€”is ubiquitous worldwide. PFAS is used in everyday products, including cookware, clothes, carpets, as an anti-sticking and anti-stain agent, in plastics, machinery, and as a pesticide. The action was welcomed by environmentalists and public health advocates as an important step but left many concerned that any level of exposure to these chemicals is unacceptable and critical of EPAā€™s ongoing failure to act despite years […]

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03
Apr

Study Bolsters the Case for Essential Oils (EO) in Organic Pest Management for Tomato Production

New research highlights the beneficial effects of rose essential oil (REO) on tomato plants as a plant defense potentiator (a substance or treatment enhancing natural defense mechanisms against pests, diseases, and other stressors by activating the plant’s own defense responses) for organic agriculture and horticulture. As reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, REO, particularly its component Ī²-citronellol, activates defense genes in tomato plants, enhances their natural defense mechanisms, and dramatically reducesĀ leaf damage by 45.5%. Additionally, REO attracts beneficial insects that prey on herbivore pests. This study, ā€œNovel Potential of Rose Essential Oil as a Powerful Plant Defense Potentiator,ā€ adds to a growing area of scientific literature on essential oil (EO), largely unexplored as plant defense potentiators. Beyond Pesticides advocates for accelerating the switch from chemical-intensive agriculture to organic agriculture, which remains the only viable solution, in the long run, to address todayā€™s existential crises by prioritizing natural pest control methods, soil health, and biodiversity conservation to protect farmworkers and consumers from the detrimental effects of petrochemical pesticide exposure.Ā Ā  Ā  Study Methods and ResultsĀ  The researchers applied highly diluted solutions of EOs to the soil of potted tomato plants and assessed the expression levels of defense genes in […]

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02
Apr

Private Capital Invests in “Regenerative Organic” Agriculture

(Beyond Pesticides, April 2, 2024) There is a nascent capital investment effort in the transition to certified organic agriculture beginning to take hold across the U.S., something advocates say is critically needed to meet the current and escalating existential health threats, biodiversity decline, and climate emergency. Mad Agriculture has received early commitments from the Rockefeller Foundation, Builders Vision, and nearly a dozen other investors to contribute to the $50 million Perennial Fund II (PFII), to advance the growth of ā€œregenerative organicā€ agriculture. Forbes is reporting that PFIIā€™s primary objective is to jumpstart the organic land transition, given that this slice of U.S. agriculture makes up less than one percent of total farmland in the country relative to the European Unionā€™s nearly 10 percent of total farmland. ā€œWe commend the work of Mad Agriculture in harnessing the spirit of organic agriculture and mobilizing the private sector to invest in farmers who engage in regenerative organic agricultural practices,ā€ said Max Sano, organic program associate at Beyond Pesticides. In Rockefeller Foundationā€™s press release announcing their early commitment, Mad Capital co-founder Brandon Welch spoke on their vision: ā€œWe are aiming to build a bridge between two distant worlds that need one another to transition […]

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27
Mar

Synthetic Turf Fields, Forever Chemicals and the Safer Alternative: Organic Grass

(Beyond Pesticides, March 27, 2024) A preliminary experiment conducted by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) reveals concerning levels of toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) on the skin of soccer players and coaches after playing on artificial turf fields. The Washington Post reported on March 12 on the PEER test results, which found PFAS levels increased on the skin in three out of four participants following soccer matches on artificial turf. In contrast, no similar increase was observed after games on natural grass fields. The presence of PFAS is alarming due to their association with several serious health issues, including cancer, birth defects, and developmental and immune deficiencies, among others. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) writes that PFAS exposure risks are particularly concerning for young children, who are more susceptible due to their developing bodies and at risk for higher levels of exposure than adults. Known as “forever chemicals” for their persistence in the environment, PFAS continue to accumulate in the human body, posing long-term health risks. Kyla Bennett, PhD, science policy director at PEER and a former scientist and lawyer with EPA, emphasized the need for further research. “Although this study is preliminary, it highlights the potential […]

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14
Mar

Petrochemical Pesticides, Fertilizers, and Plastics Linked to Dire Health Effects while Alternatives Are Available

Ā (Beyond Pesticides, March 14, 2024)Ā  A recent review in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) highlights the urgent need to address the widespread chemical pollution stemming from the petrochemical industry, underscoring the dire implications for public health. Tracey Woodruff, PhD, author and professor at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), emphatically states in an email comment to Beyond Pesticides, “We need to recognize the very real harm that petrochemicals are having on peopleā€™s health. Many of these fossil-fuel-based chemicals are endocrine disruptors, meaning they interfere with hormonal systems, and they are part of the disturbing rise in disease.” Beyond Pesticides echoes this concern, noting that endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) include many pesticides and are linked to a plethora of health issues such as infertility, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, early puberty, as well as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Parkinsonā€™s, Alzheimerā€™s, and childhood and adult cancers.Ā  (See Beyond Pesticidesā€™ Disease database here and news coverage here). The review further calls on the clinical community to advocate for policy changes aimed at mitigating the health threats posed by petrochemical-derived EDCs and climate change. Beyond Pesticides urgently calls for the elimination of petrochemical pesticides and fertilizers and advocates for a systemic […]

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07
Mar

ā€œRegenerativeā€ Agriculture Still Misses the Mark in Defining a Path to a Livable Future

(Beyond Pesticides, March 7, 2024) As the threats to health, biodiversity, and climate converge in agricultural policy and practices, the question of defining the fundamental changes necessary to reverse these existential crises takes on life-sustaining importance. Despite the existence of an organic community with governing stakeholders (farmers, consumers, conservationists, retailers, processors, inspectors, and scientists) that has evolved over at least seven decades and is codified in the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990, the term ā€œregenerativeā€ is now increasingly being advanced as a loosely defined alternative to the organic standard and label, which is transparent, defined, certified, enforced, and subject to public input. The publication AgFunderNews (AFN) last month published its updated ā€œ2024 list of agrifood corporates making regenerative agriculture commitments,ā€ a whoā€™s who of the largest food and agribusiness corporations worldwide. The list includes companies such as ADM, Cargill, Danone, General Mills, Tyson, Unilever, Walmart, and more with commitments to millions of acres in their supply chain practicing ā€œregenerativeā€ agriculture with target dates ranging from 2024 to 2050. The AFN author reporting on the ā€œregenerativeā€ trend states, ā€œ[O]ne big challenge is that ā€˜regenerative agricultureā€™ still has no set definition. While that still holds true, the bigger observation in […]

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22
Jan

Comment Period Ends Today: Advocates Say USDA Needs Organic Certifier Information on Soil Fertility

(Beyond Pesticides, January 22, 2024) Today, Monday, January 22, is the last day for public comment on a three-year extension of U.S. Department of Agricultureā€™s (through its Agricultural Marketing Serviceā€™s National Organic Program (NOP)) authority to collect information from certifiers entrusted with ensuring compliance with organic standards. Beyond Pesticides, along with allied organizations and organic advocates, is urging USDA to use this process to clarify the need for USDA to collect key information needed to verify compliance with key language in OFPA (Section 6513(b))ā€”a provision that requires farming practices that ā€œfoster soil fertility.ā€ Advocates maintain that information on organic farmersā€™ practices to foster soil fertility, required in the law, is critical to organic integrity, public trust in the organic label, and certifier responsibility. As USDA states, ā€œThe Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA), as amended (7 U.S.C. 6501ā€“6524), authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to establish the National Organic Program (NOP) and accredit certifying agents to certify that farms and businesses meet national organic standards. Under OFPA, the purpose of the NOP is to: (1) establish national standards governing the marketing of certain agricultural products as organically produced products; (2) assure consumers that organically produced products meet a consistent standard; […]

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19
Dec

Groups Petition EPA to Remove from the Market the Weed Killer Glyphosate

(Beyond Pesticides, December 19, 2023) Last week, farmworker organizations and Beyond Pesticides, represented by the Center for Food Safety, filed a petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urging that the weed killer glyphosate be removed from the market. The petition cites 200 studies, which represent a fraction of the independent scientific literature on the hazards of glyphosate and formulation ingredients of glyphosate products. This action follows previous litigation in 2022 in which a federal court of appeals struck down EPAā€™s human health assessment, finding that the agency wrongfully dismissed glyphosateā€™s cancer risk. The farmworker groups petitioning include Farmworker Association of Florida, OrganizaciĆ³n en California de Lideres Campesinas, Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, and the Rural Coalition. Ā  Meanwhile, verdicts against glyphosateā€™s manufacturer, Bayer, continue to pile up with a December jury verdict in Pennsylvania awarding $3.5 million and a November jury in Missouri ordering $1.56 billion to be paid to four plaintiffs. All link their cancer to use of the Roundup. Bayer has lost almost all of the cases filed against it for compensation and punitive damages associated with plaintiffsā€™ charge that its product (previously manufactured by Monsanto) caused them harm.Ā  The petition summarizes its purpose and justification as […]

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11
Dec

USDA Supports Expansion of ā€œOrganicā€ Hydroponically-Grown Food, Threatening Real Organic

Update: This Daily News is updated to address the organic status of the company cited in the piece, Merchantā€™s Garden. The article now indicates that the company is certified as organic under a different name (Merchantā€™s Garden Agrotech) than the name used in the USDA press release.Ā  As a result, their name did not appear in USDA’s Organic Integrity Database (OID) at the time of the original Daily News and Action of the Week posting. USDA updated OID on December 8, 2023, the same day that it received a complaint on this matter from former National Organic Standard Board chair Jim Riddle. The critical focus of the piece remains the same: It is not disclosed to consumers on food products labeled “organic” when that food or ingredients are grown hydroponically. Beyond Pesticides, as indicated in the article, views hydroponic as a conventional growing practice that does not meet the spirit and intent of the organic system, as defined in the Organic Foods Production Act.Ā  (Beyond Pesticides, December 11, 2023) U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on November 27, 2023 funding that appears to be supporting the expansion of ā€œorganicā€ hydroponic, an approach to food production that has […]

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01
Nov

NFL Players Association Calls for Stadiums to End Synthetic Turf Use

(Beyond Pesticides, November 1, 2023) As communities consider maintenance and renovation of their playing fields, it is not uncommon for synthetic (or artificial) turf to come up as an alternative to natural grass. Promoters of synthetic turf argue that it provides a solution to climate change, reduces water use and maintenance costs, and allows for year-round play. But is this true? Is synthetic turf an environmentally responsible alternative to its organic grass counterpart? An established and growing body of scientific evidence is demonstrating environmental and health risks with synthetic turf. In addition, there is growing concern for the safety of those playing on artificial grass, which has led to a call from the National Football Leagueā€™s (NFL) Players Association to utilize natural grass on all 30 NFL stadiums after New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a season-ending Achilles tear in September and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce’s mid-game ankle injury. Synthetic turf playing fields are reliant on polluting plastic (can contain perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances-PFAS) and toxic pesticides for managing bacteria, mold and fungus, create contaminated water runoff, and cover over the natural environment, which is critical to preserving health and biodiversity, and averting climate disasters. Artificial […]

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14
Jul

Soil Amended with Insect Exoskeleton Is Effective Alternative to Harmful Chemical Fertilizers

(Beyond Pesticides, June 14, 2023) The exoskeleton of the black soldier fly (BSF; Hermetica illucens) has the potential to be an effective organic fertilizer. A study in the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment highlights the positive impacts on plant size, flower count, seed production, appeal to pollinators, and resilience to herbivory that the flyā€™s molted exoskeleton (or exuviae) can have when used as a soil supplement. The use of insect exuviae as an organic alternative to harmful synthetic fertilizers is an important step toward an environment free from chemical contaminants, and BSF are uniquely equipped to contribute to a regenerative organic agricultural system. The study set out to determine the impacts of BSF exuviae on plant growth, resilience to herbivory, and pollination. The scientists divided black mustard plants into four different treatment groups: 1) grown in soil amended with BSF powdered exuviae; 2) control group planted in chemically-treated (conventional) soil; 3) grown in amended soil and subjected to increased herbivory from caterpillars (Pieris brassicae) and aphids (Brevicoryne brassicae); and 4) planted in conventional soil and subjected to increased pest exposure. Scientists measured plant growth, flowering status, seed production, herbivore abundance, and pollinator activity. After three weeks, the supplemented soil grew […]

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23
Jan

EPA, USDA and Interior Challenged to Incorporate in All Decisions Impact on Climate Crisis, from Soil to Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, January 23, 2023)Ā There is no doubt that the climate crisis is upon us. And the consequences are undeniably grave. So, we must incorporate our understanding of the grave health and environmental effects into the deliberations on all policy decisions regarding petrochemical pesticide registrations and synthetic fertilizer use in agriculture and nonagricultural land management. Of critical importance, in this context, is the effect of policy decisions on soil healthā€”in particular, soil organic carbon, which sequesters atmospheric carbon and reduces its damaging atmospheric effects. Tell USDA, EPA, and Congress to incorporate in ALL its policy decisions an analysis of impact on the climate crisis, with particular attention to the protection of soil health. Although the soil is commonly recognized as a sink for atmospheric carbon, there is a false narrative that says carbon can be sequestered in the soil through chemical-intensive no-till agriculture. Now the Rodale Instituteā€™s 40-Year Report on their ā€œFarming Systems Trialā€ should end the myth of the toxic, petrochemical-based, GMO-herbicide, no-till systems. Rodaleā€™s scientific trials clearly show that these degenerative no-till systems are inferior to Regenerative Organic Agriculture on every key criterion. The highest yields of corn in the tilled organic manure system and the best increases […]

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02
Dec

Climate-Friendly Organic Systems are More Profitable for Farmers than Chemical-Intensive Agriculture

(Beyond Pesticides, December 2, 2022) The longest-running ā€” four-decade ā€” investigation comparing organic and conventional grain-cropping approaches in North America is reporting impressive results for organic. Recently announced in the Rodale Instituteā€™s Farming Systems Trial ā€” 40-Year Report are these outcomes: (1) organic systems achieve 3ā€“6 times the profit of conventional production; (2) yields for the organic approach are competitive with those of conventional systems (after a five-year transition period); (3) organic yields during stressful drought periods are 40% higher than conventional yields; (4, 5, and 6) organic systems leach no toxic compounds into nearby waterways (unlike pesticide-intensive conventional farming), use 45% less energy than conventional, and emit 40% less carbon into the atmosphere. Beyond Pesticides reported in 2019 on similar results, from the instituteā€™s 30-year project mark, which have been borne out by another three years of the trials. The current report builds on results from the FST that were shared in the RIā€™s 2020 white paper, Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change: A Down-to-Earth Solution to Global Warming,ā€ which integrated the newest research data and offered action steps for consumers, policymakers, farmers, and others. That report asserted that a global switch to a regenerative food system could not […]

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27
Nov

Tackling Climate Crisis with Elimination of Toxic Pesticides and Fertilizers, Webinar Nov. 29ā€”What Is Practical Now

(Beyond Pesticides, November 27, 2022) On Tuesday, November 29 (at 1:00-2:30pmEST), two preeminent researchers will present their research and worldwide collaborative work to fully characterize the effects of the climate crisis and the viable solutions associated with land management. The Forum headliners are (i) Rachel Bezner Kerr, PhD, Cornell University professor just back from COP 27 [27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] and co-author of the definitive United Nations (UN) report on climate and food production and (ii) Andrew Smith, PhD, chief operating officer of the Rodale Institute and coauthor of several landmark reports on soil biology and carbon sequestration, including the just released Farming Systems Trialā€”40-Year Report. With livability of the planet on the brink, the speakers at the upcoming Forum make the case to immediately reverse the increase of greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane to stop the changes on the horizon that destroy lifeā€”from floods, fires, and associated climate-induced hazards to food production. The good news, according to the scientists, is that there are solutions available now in the agricultural and land management sectors that can reverse the threat if dramatic changes are made. Dr. Bezner Kerr, […]

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11
Nov

Weed Killer Use Destroys Soil Life and Ecosystems, Paper Finds

(Beyond Pesticides, November 11, 2022)Ā A paper published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution in late October sounds an unnerving alarm about the globally ubiquitous use of herbicides and the ecological destruction being caused. It asserts that widespread environmental contamination with these herbicide compounds is influencing soil, plant, and animal microbiomes in ways that are not only not well understood, but also, can have significant impacts on the functioning of organisms and their ecosystems ā€” with evolutionary implications. Impacts of herbicides on microbiota in soils include, for example, those on nutrient cycling, and altered organism and plant performance, which can affect pollination and animal consumption of plants. This research reinforces what Beyond Pesticides wrote in covering a 2021 study: ā€œThe popular herbicide glyphosate negatively affects microbial communities, indirectly influencing plant, animal, and human health. Exposure to sublethal concentrations of glyphosate shifts microbial community composition, destroying beneficial microorganisms while preserving pathogenic organisms.ā€ Herbicides are a category of pesticide used to control weeds in agriculture and commercial forests, on managed landscapes, byways, gardens, and lawns, and directly on surface waters to control aquatic weeds. They are designed to kill ā€œtargetā€ plant species considered undesirable in any of those circumstances. Herbicide use has exploded […]

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