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Daily News Blog

Archive for the 'Minnesota' Category


21
May

Minnesota Passes Bill to Label Garden Plants for Pollinators

(Beyond Pesticides, May 21, 2014) In response to recent public concern over the use of bee-killing systemic insecticides in treated nursery plants, Minnesota has just passed labeling legislation, HF 2798, which will inform consumers which plants are bee-friendly. The move follows a commitment by two Minnesota state agencies to study the impact of neonicotinoid pesticides, which ””given mounting research implicating neonicotinoids in bee declines”” beekeepers claim do not go far enough. Although the bill does not address agricultural neonicotinoid use, it is the first of its kind to ensure that nurseries keep tabs on the insecticides used on garden plants. Under the bill passed by Minnesota’s House and Senate last week, plants may not be labeled as beneficial to pollinators if they have been treated with detectible levels of systemic insecticides. Specifically, “A person may not label or advertise an annual plant, bedding plant, or other plant, plant material, or nursery stock as beneficial to pollinators if the annual plant, bedding plant, plant material, or nursery stock has been treated with and has a detectable level of systemic insecticide that: (1) has a pollinator protection box on the label; or (2) has a pollinator, bee, or honey bee precautionary statement […]

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07
Mar

Minnesota Beekeepers Call on Agency to Suspend Bee-Killing Pesticide

(Beyond Pesticides, March 7, 2014) Forty Minnesota beekeepers have called on the state’s Department of Agriculture to suspend the use of corn seeds treated with bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides, now one of the most ubiquitously used insecticides nationwide. Their move follows a commitment by two Minnesota state agencies to study the impact of neonicotinoid pesticides, which””given mounting research implicating neonicotinoids in bee declines””beekeepers claim do not go far enough. Minnesota beekeeper Steve Ellis, owner of Old Mill Honey Co., expressed the petition’s rationale to MPRNews, “Beekeepers in Minnesota last year and in years previous have been reporting mortality events at corn seeding time,” said Mr. Ellis, who has about 2,500 hives in Barrett, Minn. “Apparently the dust is getting off of the corn seeding and going off site and causing poisoning of honey bees on flowers and around their hives.” The petitioners represented more than 10 percent of managed honey bees in the state with a total of 40,000 hives. But many, like Mr. Ellis, are contracted to provide pollinator services to crops around the nation, not just in Minnesota. These crops include cherries, blueberries, pumpkins, apples, and almonds. In California, the $3-billion almond industry spends $239 million annually to rent […]

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04
Mar

USDA Seeks to Increase Pollinator Habitat without Focus on Pesticides and GE

(Beyond Pesticides, March 4, 2014) The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently committed to providing financial assistance to farmers and ranchers in five Midwestern states to improve and create bee-friendly habitat. This project comes as American beekeepers have continued to experience rapid colony declines with losses over the winter over 30 percent per year. The creation of pollinator-friendly habitat is an important step to slowing pollinator losses, however this project does not challenge the expansion of agriculture into current pollinator habitat, the use of systemic pesticides that are linked to pollinator decline, or the widespread adoption of genetically engineered crops with elevated use of herbicides that kill habitat. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will provide $3 million in technical and financial assistance to farmers and ranchers to create and improve bee friendly habitat in five Midwestern states. Ranchers can qualify for assistance to reseed pastures with alfalfa, clover and other plants that bees forage.  NRCS will also assist ranchers in building fences, installing water tanks and other changes to better move cattle between pastures so as not to wear down vegetation. Farmers can also qualify for funds to plant cover crops, and bee friendly forage in boarders and […]

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21
Jan

Minnesota Takes Steps to Protect Bees, Beekeepers Demand Stronger Action

(Beyond Pesticides, January 21, 2013) Two Minnesota state agencies are creating plans they say will  address declining pollinator populations in the state. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is developing best management practices for managing and increasing pollinator habitat and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is developing a plan to study the impacts of neonicotinoid pesticides on pollinators. Critics of the state’s plan say that there is no more need to study the effects of neonicotinoids because the negative impacts they have on pollinators has been already studied extensively.   The DNR is developing guidelines to improve habitat for pollinator insects. Recent reports show that  the planting of herbicide-resistant genetically engineered (GE) crops is responsible for habitat loss and the decline of native pollinators like the Monarch butterfly. The expansion of glyphosate tolerant GE corn and soybean cropland has allowed farmers to kill milkweed, the primary source of food for Monarchs, which historically grew between crop rows in the Midwest. A rapid expansion of farmland ””more than 25 million new acres in the U.S. since 2007”” has also eaten away grasslands and conservation reserves that supplied the Monarchs with milkweed. DNR officials have indicated this guide could change […]

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10
Oct

Report Finds Pesticides as the Cause of Bee-Kills in Minnesota

(Beyond Pesticides, October 10, 2013) A recent investigation into the death of thousands of bees last month in Minnesota revealed that fipronil, a widely used insecticide, was to blame. In mid-September, three colonies of bees in Minneapolis were found twitching and dying on the ground. Local apiarist Mark Lucas paints a grim picture of the poisoning event, which he witnessed, recalling that bees inside the hive came “spilling out of the hive as if they were drunk.” University of Minnesota Bee Lab, the University’s Bee Squad, and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) carried out the  investigation, taking samples from hives to confirm pesticide poisoning. Indeed, MDA tests found that all three of the affected hives tested positive for the presence of fipronil. Although neonicotinoid pesticides such as clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and imidacloprid have been widely implicated in the phenomenon of colony collapse disorder (CCD), other pesticides are known to adversely affect honey bee health. Fipronil has also been heavily implicated in elevated bee toxicity and decline. Indeed, the European Union (EU) recently put forth a proposal to restrict the use of the pesticide in recognition of the high acute risks it poses to bees. The chemical is widely used for […]

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19
Apr

States Urge Farmers to Map Crops in Attempt to Protect Against Pesticide Drift

(Beyond Pesticides, April 19, 2013) The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is encouraging farmers to use a new mapping system in order to protect organic crops from pesticide drift, though few legal protections exist to actually stop drift from contaminating organic farmers’ fields. The system, DriftWatch, is meant to facilitate communication between growers and pesticide applicators by helping farmers identify locations of sensitive crops and pastures using Google Maps. Commercial fertilizer and pesticide applicators can then check the database to see where organic land and other sensitive crops/forages are in order to avoid applying chemicals in the vicinity of these crops. Though the aims registry project are to promote awareness and stewardship activities to help prevent and manage drift effects from spray operations, as a voluntary program it does not provide much incentive for pesticide applicators to actually cut back on pesticide use. Furthermore, the Minnesota Supreme Court reversed a ruling last summer that initially considered pesticide drift from an adjacent property onto an organic farm a trespassing violation. While organic farmers may still seek relief from crops damaged by pesticide drift, the burden of proof required makes it  more difficult to take these cases to trial, thus making it […]

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12
Mar

Whole Foods Says It Will Label GE Food in Stores within Five Years, as States Continue Push

(Beyond Pesticides, March 12, 2013) Despite the loss of Proposition 37 in California last November, GMO labeling efforts are moving forward throughout the United States. Late last week Whole Foods Market announced its own plan to label food with genetically engineered (GE) ingredients sold in its stores, making it the  first grocery chain in the nation to do so. In addition to the recent introduction of a National GE labeling bill in Congress by Representative Jared Polis (D-CO), Hawaii, Vermont, and Minnesota join the ranks of numerous other states with pending GMO labeling legislation. Whole Foods’ plan  requires a label for all GE food sold in its stores within the next  five years. The retailer notes that the move was made in response to customers’ increased demand for labeled products. “Some of our manufacturers say they’ve seen a 15 percent increase in sales of products they have labeled [as non–GMO],” explains A.C. Gallo, Whole Foods president. The chain’s labeling requirements include all of its North American stores, as its European supermarkets already require this label. The Grocery Manufacturer’s Association (GMA), an industry trade group that represents a number of major food retailers including Pepsico Inc., The Coca Cola Company, Kelloggs, […]

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06
Mar

Minnesota State Agencies Will No Longer Purchase Products Containing Triclosan

(Beyond Pesticides, March 6, 2013) The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced on March 3rd that state agencies have been ordered by Governor Mark Dayton to stop buying products that contain triclosan, a synthetic, broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent that has become ubiquitous in consumer products ranging from face-washes to fabrics. This ban, which will go into effect in June, comes as the debate over the efficacy and necessity of triclosan intensifies in the Minnesota State legislature. A bill banning triclosan’s use outside of medical settings is expected to be introduced this week, and the legislature conducted a hearing Tuesday on the possible human health and environmental consequences of the chemical. The state government, about 100 school districts, and local governments together currently buy about $1 million worth of cleaning products annually through joint purchasing contracts. Many of these products contain triclosan, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration concluded in 2010 that products containing triclosan are no more effective than plain old-fashioned soap and water. “There are alternatives, and they are at the same price,” said Cathy Moeger, sustainability manager for the Minnesota’s Pollution Control Agency. “If it has an environmental benefit, why not do it?” Triclosan has been used for over […]

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29
Jan

Triclosan and Its Toxic Breakdown Products Found Polluting Freshwater Lakes

(Beyond Pesticides, January 29, 2013) A new study has discovered the anti-bacterial chemical triclosan and several of its toxic derivatives in sediment samples taken from freshwater lakes. Research published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology reveals the chemical to be present in increasing concentrations since it was first invented in the 1960’s. The results of this study put increased pressure on lawmakers and cosmetic companies to remove this chemical from consumer products. Beyond Pesticides and other groups, which have petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to remove triclosan from a vast array of consumer products, continues to urge cosmetic companies to take action on the chemical in the face of inadequate regulation to protect human health and the environment. Scientists tested  eight sediment samples from freshwater lakes across Minnesota, including Lake Superior. Bill Arnold, Ph.D.,  co-author of the study and professor at University of Minnesota notes, “We found that in all the lakes there’s triclosan in the sediment, and in general, the concentration increased from when triclosan was invented in 1964 to present day. And we also found there are seven other compounds that are derivatives or degradation products of […]

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06
Aug

MN Court Rejects Organic Farmers’ Lawsuit Charging Pesticide Drift Is Trespass

(Beyond Pesticides, August 6, 2012) The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed a ruling that gave organic farmers clear redress and decided that pesticide drift from one farm to another is not trespass, but instead must, in litigation, be found to be negligence or a nuisance. The ruling, while still giving farmers a legal channel to sue on pesticide drift, creates a higher standard for organic farmers to seek relief if their crops are damaged by pesticide drift. The ruling overturns a decision last summer by the state Court of Appeals that said pesticide drifting from its intended farm onto an adjacent organic farm could be considered a trespassing violation. In reversing a 2011 appeals court ruling, the Supreme Court said Minnesota does not recognize trespassing by “particulate matter.” The high court said the earlier appeals court ruling that found otherwise went “beyond our precedent.” The case is that of organic farmers Oluf and Debra Johnson, who sued the Paynesville Farmers Union Cooperative Oil Company in 2009. The Johnsons alleged that the co-op repeatedly sprayed pesticides that drifted onto their fields, preventing them from selling their crops as organic. The Johnsons transitioned their farm to organic in the 1990s to take advantage […]

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19
Mar

Overuse of Genetically Engineered Bt Corn Tied to Accelerated Resistance

(Beyond Pesticides, March 19, 2012) A group of 22 prominent entomologists has submitted formal comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) casting doubt on the future viability of certain varieties of genetically engineered (GE) corn. The entomologists, including researchers from land grant institutions in the Corn Belt and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, cite increasing evidence that the western corn rootworm is developing resistance to a toxin derived from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which is inserted into seeds. Bt is a naturally occurring soil bacterium that when used in non-genetically engineered forms is an important biological pesticide for organic and sustainable farmers. The entomologists identify significant flaws in current practices for managing insect resistance to Bt corn and caution that failure to implement a series of alternative measures based on an integrated pest management (IPM) approach would result in all forms of Bt losing its effectiveness. The entomologists’ comments were cited recently in published research documenting the first field-evolved resistance of the western corn rootworm to certain Bt strains. They draw a connection between this research and field reports of greater than expected rootworm damage (an indication of emerging resistance) first observed in 2009. Detections of greater […]

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13
Apr

While Demand for Farm-to-School Program Doubles in Minnesota, Organic Focus is Lost

(Beyond Pesticides, April 13, 2010) While the number of Minnesota school districts purchasing fresh food from local farms has more than doubled in the last 15 months, according to a survey released last week by the Minnesota School Nutrition Association (MSNA) and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), there is no mention of organically produced food as a priority to protect children, local health or the local environment from the pollution and contamination caused by pesticide use. Communities, such as Olympia, Washington have turned to local organic food in their school lunch program. According to the Rodale Institute, “[W]hile it’s true that food produced locally generally has a smaller carbon footprint than food transported across the country (or from another continent), the carbon emitted by transporting food is smaller than that released by growing it with chemical means. In fact, PepsiCo recently documented that, for its Tropicana orange juice, transporting the product accounted for only 22% of its carbon footprint.” Rodale suggests local organic food as the gold standard because it eliminates petroleum-based fertilizers and reduces fossil fuel use in the farming operation. Rodale suggests the following priority for food purchasing: 1. Local certified organic food, 2. Local […]

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23
Sep

Gender-Bending Herbicide Contaminates Lakes Far from Use Sites

(Beyond Pesticides, September 23, 2008) According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s 2007 Water Quality Monitoring Report, released in August 2008, the endocrine disrupting herbicide atrazine is detected in pristine lakes in northern Minnesota far from the agricultural fields where it is applied. Metolachlor, acetochlor and dimethenamid are also frequent contaminants, according to the statewide sampling. The report, which uses data collected by a collaborative program between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, analyzed samples from 55 of the state’s lakes. Atrazine was detected in approximately 87% of the 2007 samples, an increase from 2006. The presence of atrazine in such a large percentage of the lakes, many of which are located in non-agricultural areas of northern Minnesota, suggests widespread atmospheric deposition of this chemical (movement through wind and rain). “To some people, it is a bit of a surprise, but the concentrations are low, very low,” Steven Heiskary, a research scientist with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) told the Star Tribune. Unfortunately, this is not very reassuring, given the fact that many of the developmental impacts linked to atrazine are seen at very low levels, sometimes at just […]

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05
Mar

New State Bill Would Require Pesticide Disclosure

(Beyond Pesticides, March 5, 2008) The state of Minnesota will this week make a decision on a bill that would create a public database of all pesticides applied in the state. The bill would also require farmers and commercial applicators to notify neighbors before using restricted pesticides that are volatile. Democratic Rep. Ken Tschumper of La Crescent, author of the bill, Pesticide Right to Know, believes that the public has a right to know what chemicals are being used in their neighborhoods. The bill will require pesticide applicators to give 48 hours advance notification to an area where pesticides will be sprayed, both in urban and rural areas, and what kind of pesticide would be used. The legislation also calls for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to create an Internet database indicating the time and location of pesticide application. Under the measure, pesticide applicators would have to report to the Agriculture Department every 30 days. “The bill is not that onerous. Pesticide applicators have to keep track of every application of pesticide they do,” Rep. Tschumper said. “All we’re simply saying is that data, that information, needs to be made public.” Using volatile chemicals such as atrazine, which is widely […]

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03
Jul

Atrazine Whistleblower Takes His Case To Court

(Beyond Pesticides, July 3, 2007) A scientist at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has filed a whistleblower lawsuit in federal court, arguing that he was first not allowed to share his research with a legislative panel, and then fired for it. Hydrologist Paul Wotzka, who worked for the state Agriculture Department for sixteen years before leaving to join MPCA in October, had been slated to testify about the rise in atrazine levels in Whitewater State Park, which have exceeded recommended levels for several area species. Atrazine, which has been linked to cancer, birth defects, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption and a variety of other health and environmental effects and has been banned by the European Union, is a widely used agricultural herbicide.. Mr. Wotzka said in his lawsuit, as well as publicly, that this rise in atrazine in Minnesota waterways was due to increased row-crop agriculture in the region and the the Agriculture Department’s support of corn for ethanol. In his lawsuit, Mr. Wotzka is asking for $75,000 and to return to his position with MPCA. He claims that he was put on investigative leave, “related to missing data that is property of the State of Minnesota.” The investigative leave led […]

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