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Daily News Blog

Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category


25
Mar

Take Action: Help Stop Pesticide-Treated Seeds from Poisoning the Environment

(Beyond Pesticides, March 25, 2019) EPA is using a regulatory loophole – the “treated articles exemption” – to allow systemic insecticides to be used in mass quantities, without regulating or labeling them as required under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). EPA does not currently assess adverse effects on the environment and public health caused by widespread use of neonicotinoid insecticides delivered through seeds coated with the insecticides, resulting in widespread exposure to one of the most environmentally damaging classes of chemicals on the market. Tell your Congressional delegation that EPA must fully regulate treated seeds to protect the environment and public health. Pesticide-coated seeds are now ubiquitous, yet their far-reaching impacts on wildlife and human health continue to go unregulated. The introduction and spread of seed-delivered pesticides to major field crops, beginning around 2003, caused a massive increase in total neonicotinoid use nationwide. As of 2011, 34 to 44% of soybeans and 79 to 100% of maize acres were planted with coated seeds, accounting for an astounding 35-fold increase in nationwide neonicotinoid use from baseline rates prior to 2003 (Douglas and Tooker, 2015). Alarmingly, because the national pesticide survey conducted by the National Agricultural Statistics Service fails to […]

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22
Mar

Study Finds that Commonly Occurring Levels of Neonicotinoid Insecticide Harm White-tailed Deer

(Beyond Pesticides, March 22, 2019) A two-year study, published March 14,  finds that field-relevant contamination with the neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid causes reduced body weight and metabolism in white-tailed deer, and – in fawns – mortality. Remarkably, researchers uncovered imidacloprid levels in free-ranging deer a full 3.5 times higher, on average, than the levels in the animals treated in their experiment. These new findings add to the mounting evidence of the hazards posed by current patterns of neonicotinoid use, while evidence of benefits remains sparse. The study, published in Nature Scientific Reports, includes two years of data on the physiological and behavioral outcomes of imidacloprid contamination in 80 white-tailed deer housed in a South Dakota State University captive research facility. Notably, researchers were unable to entirely control imidacloprid levels in untreated deer, most likely due to background contamination from corn- and soy-based feed, and surrounding vegetation infiltrated by runoff from nearby agricultural fields. This background contamination altered, but did not compromise, the analysis. Researchers found that imidacloprid levels detected in the spleens of treated and control animals were significantly predictive of reduced thyroid hormone levels, shorter jawbones, lower activity levels, and higher fawn mortality. Lead authors Elise Berheim, Jonathan Jenks, PhD, […]

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21
Mar

General Mills Commits to Large Acreage of Regenerative Agriculture, Short of Organic

(Beyond Pesticides, March 21, 2019) Corporate food giant General Mills has thrown some weight behind regenerative agriculture, committing to converting one million acres of farmland to regenerative practices by 2030. Some – but not all – of the initiative involves organic land management. Regenerative agriculture is a term with a range of interpretations, but the key element is improving soil health through carbon sequestration. Robert Rodale, one of the early proponents of organic agriculture and a major publisher, coined the name to characterize a process that moves beyond sustainable maintenance and into improvement of resources. This methodology is gaining traction in the farming world because it is economically beneficial to farmers and promotes environmental remediation. A 2018 study shows that ecologically-based farming systems have fewer pests and generate higher profits than their conventional counterparts. “Practitioners who have done this the longest point to the fact that in extreme years, their farms will do better than those who do not,” says Jerry Lynch, General Mills’ chief sustainability officer, “After some transition time, depending on their location and cropping system, farmers are saving a lot of money because they’re using fewer inputs.” In their press release, General Mills lays out three foci […]

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20
Mar

A Second Jury Delivers Blow to Bayer/Monsanto’s Claim that Glyphosate/Roundup Is Safe

(Beyond Pesticides, March 20, 2019) In a second verdict against Bayer/Monsanto yesterday, a jury found unanimously that a California man’s non Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) was substantially caused by the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup). The case being heard in federal court in San Francisco now moves to the damages phase. Last August in San Francisco Superior Court, a California groundskeeper was awarded $39 million in compensatory damages, and $250 million in punitive damages in a case that linked his NHL to Monsanto’s glyphosate/Roundup. In October, the judge in the case upheld the verdict, but reduced the award to $78 million. According to the Associated Press, the trial judge, U.S. Judge Vince Chhabira “is overseeing hundreds of Roundup lawsuits and has deemed [this case] and two others ‘bellwether trials.“ The case was brought by Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, CA. He said he had been using Roundup since the 1980’s. During the trial, according to The Guardian, Judge Chhabria, “approved Monsanto’s request to prohibit Hardeman’s attorneys from raising allegations about the corporation’s conduct, saying issues about its influence on science and government were a ‘significant … distraction.’” This set up a limitation that required the plaintiff’s attorneys to focus solely on studies linking the chemical to cancer […]

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19
Mar

Not Just Bumble and Honey: Ground Nesting Bees Impaired by Neonicotinoid Exposure

(Beyond Pesticides, March 19, 2019) Research is beginning to explain how systemic neonicotinoid insecticides affect often overlooked species of ground nesting bees. While much of the current scientific literature has focused on the impacts of pesticides to bumblebees and honey bees, a study, Chronic contact with realistic soil concentrations of imidacloprid affects the mass, immature development speed, and adult longevity of solitary bees, recently published in Scientific Reports, confirms that wild, soil-dwelling bees are at similar risk. As policy makers consider ways to protect pollinators, this research finds that uncontaminated soil is an important aspect of ensuring the health of wild, native bees. “This is an important piece of work because it’s one of the first studies to look at realistic concentrations of pesticides that you would find in the soil as a route of exposure for bees,” said Nick Anderson, co-author of the study. “It’s a very under-explored route, especially for some of the more solitary species that nest in the ground.” In order to study the impact of neonicotinoids on ground nesting bees, researchers used orchard mason bees and leafcutter bees as proxies, as they are easier to gather and rear in the lab, and have a similar ecology […]

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17
Mar

Take Action: What’s In the Bottle, Bag, or Box Is Not Tested Fully for Adverse Effects

(Beyond Pesticides, March 17, 2019) Forget about single-pesticide issues: this affects every single one of them. EPA is allowing massive data gaps to persist for each and every pesticide product it registers by conducting the bulk of its health and environmental risk assessments using active ingredients alone. With its current practices, EPA is failing its federal mandate to protect public health and the environment and misleading the public about what is “safe.” Tell your Congressional delegation that EPA must assess the real risks of pesticide use, not rely on false representations of risk based on tests of isolated ingredients. When pesticides are sprayed on our crops, lawns, and roadsides, and enter into our waterways, groundwater and drinking water, we are exposed to whole formulations, whole tank mixtures, and whole pesticide combinations, not just active ingredients (those that the manufacturer claims are the only ingredients that attack the target pest). It is the whole formulation that makes the poison, and that whole formulation must be regulated. Active ingredients are far from the whole story of pesticide poisoning. Despite their name, “inert” ingredients are very often not chemically, biologically, nor toxicologically inert or innocuous. According to a peer-reviewed study, as of 2006, more […]

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15
Mar

A Pesticide Distributor, an Insurance Company, a Major City, and a Scientific Study Nix Glyphosate (Roundup)

(Beyond Pesticides, March 15, 2019) Beyond Pesticides and others have worked for many years to educate stakeholders and policy makers about the dangers of pesticides, and to transform pest management by eliminating a reliance on toxic pesticides and advancing organic management practices. Considerable focus has been on glyphosate, which is used in several herbicides, most notably in Bayer’s (then Monsanto’s, until its 2018 purchase by Bayer) Roundup. The compound has had a relatively high profile in the pesticide landscape, due in part to the ubiquity of its use, and in part to the tireless work of health and environmental advocates and scientists to expose its risks. With that profile, glyphosate has been a bit of a stand-in for the dangers of pesticides broadly. As journalist Carey Gillam said at Beyond Pesticides’ 36th National Pesticide Forum in 2018, “Glyphosate is the poster child for the bigger pesticide problem. . . . If it goes away tomorrow, we are [still] not okay.” The variety of risks this compound poses is broad, and pushback and risk evidence on its use come from multiple sides. This Daily News Blog focuses on recent developments on several of those fronts, all of which advanced knowledge and momentum, […]

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14
Mar

Study Finds Public Health Threatened by State Laws that Preempt Local Government Authority to Restrict Pesticides Community-wide

(Beyond Pesticides, March 14, 2019) A study, supported by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, finds that state pesticide preemption laws “compromise public health and economic well-being” by preventing localities from enacting pesticide use restrictions on private property that are more restrictive than their state’s regulations. In the words of the authors, “By eliminating the ability of local governments to enact ordinances to safeguard inhabitants from health risks posed by pesticides, state preemption laws denigrate public health protections.” The study, Anti-community state pesticide preemption laws prevent local governments from protecting people from harm, published in the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, reviews scientific and historical evidence of the failure of state and federal pesticide laws to protect localities from pesticide poisoning, and highlights the inability of localities to compensate for that failure under present laws. Communities seeking to protect their residents would typically issue community-wide restrictions to ensure protection of shared community resources, including air, land, and waterways, from pesticide drift, runoff, and other nontarget effects —as is the case with other community decisions on recycling, smoking, and zoning. The study’s authors document how industry influence led to the adoption of state laws that undermine the ability of localities […]

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13
Mar

Pesticide Exposure Alters Gene Expression in Bumblebees

(Beyond Pesticides, March 13, 2019) A study on the impact of two neonicotinoid pesticides shows differential gene expression in bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) after exposure. Considering the current worldwide plight of insects, the authors of point to the cutting edge research as both a reason and a methodology to more carefully examine the effects of pesticides. “Caste- and pesticide-specific effects of neonicotinoid pesticide exposure on gene expression in bumblebees” was published in the journal Molecular Ecology in early March. Researchers fed variable colonies with clothianidin or imidacloprid-laced sucrose. They analyzed gene expression in the heads of worker bumblebees and colony queens using RNA sequencing (RNA-seq), inspired by biomedical techniques. This approach allowed for new insight on what genes and pathways are affected by neonicotinoid exposure. Study author Yannick Wurm, PhD, stated in a press release, “Our work demonstrates that the type of high-resolution molecular approach that has changed the way human diseases are researched and diagnosed, can also be applied to beneficial pollinators. This approach provides an unprecedented view of how bees are being affected by pesticides and works at large scale. It can fundamentally improve how we evaluate the toxicity of chemicals we put into nature.” Clothianidin had a stronger […]

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12
Mar

Deadly Dioxin, An Agent Orange By-Product, Continues to Contaminate Vietnam

(Beyond Pesticides, March 12, 2019) Fifty years after the end of the Vietnam War, the Agent Orange byproduct dioxin continues to contaminate Vietnam’s soils and wildlife, and subsequently affect human health. In their review, scientists at Iowa State and the University of Illinois focus on the locations where hot spots and contaminated sediments have persisted after 130,000 fifty-five gallons drums of toxic herbicides were sprayed over Vietnam’s farm fields and jungle canopies during the war. “Existing Agent Orange and dioxin research is primarily medical in nature, focusing on the details of human exposure primarily through skin contact and long-term health effects on U.S. soldiers,” says Ken Olson, PhD, co-author on the article. “In this paper, we examine the short and long-term environmental effects on the Vietnamese natural resource base and how persistence of dioxin continues to affect soils, water, sediment, fish, aquatic species, the food supply, and Vietnamese health.” While public attention has generally focused on the “rainbow herbicides,” such as Agent Orange, used during the Vietnam war, it is the dioxin TCDD (2,3,7,8 tetrachlorodibenzodioxin), a byproduct of Agent Orange’s manufacturing process, that has caused the most lasting damage within the country. While the breakdown period for Agent Orange herbicides 2,4-D […]

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11
Mar

Take Action: Call for Moratorium on the Release of RNAi Pesticides that Manipulate Genes

(Beyond Pesticides, March 11, 2019)  We must stop the expanded commercialization of genetically engineered pesticides. The failure of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to fully evaluate environmental impacts of gene-manipulating pesticides raises serious concerns in light of the agency’s ongoing failure to predict ecological effects of pesticides, such as the dramatic decline of pollinators. With the release of a 2019 peer-reviewed scientific article, Environmental Fate of RNA Interference Pesticides: Adsorption and Degradation of Double-Stranded RNA Molecules in Agricultural Soils, on the potential impact on soil and non-target microorganisms in soil, the study’s co-author, Kimberly Parker, PhD, remarked, “The ecological risk assessment of these emerging pesticides necessitates an understanding of the fate of dsRNA [double stranded RNA] molecules in receiving environments, among which agricultural soils are most important.” This technology, given that it is systemic to the plant and leaves traces in the soil, can cause widespread indiscriminate poisoning—as has been seen with bees, butterflies, birds, and the larger catastrophic decline of insect populations. Tell your members of Congress that the ecological effects of RNAi gene-manipulating pesticides raise serious questions—they have not been fully studied by EPA and, until they are, the agency should issue a moratorium on their release. Previously, […]

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08
Mar

Study Raises Ecological Concerns about EPA-Approved RNAi Pesticides that Turn Off Genes

(Beyond Pesticides, March 8, 2019) Researchers from the U.S. and Switzerland have published their findings, a beginning assessment of how use of a new category of pesticides — dsRNA (double stranded RNA), which is less a traditional pesticide than a genetically based pesticide “technology” — might impact soils and non-target microorganisms in the soil. The co-authors (Kimberly M. Parker, PhD, et al.) note that, “The ecological risk assessment of these emerging pesticides necessitates an understanding of the fate of dsRNA molecules in receiving environments, among which agricultural soils are most important.” Their research appeared in late January 2019 in Environmental Science & Technology. Previously, technical hurdles in measuring dsRNA had stymied scientists’ ability to quantify the genetic material and its degradation products in soil, but these investigators were able to attach a radioactive atom to the molecule, “tagging” it so it could be followed through a series of simulated soil systems representative of those in the “real” world. Researchers were able to measure the presence of the material at concentrations as low as a few nanograms of dsRNA per gram of soil. The work of these researchers represents the beginning of understanding the ecological risks of these emerging dsRNA pesticides. They demonstrated […]

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07
Mar

Bee-Toxic Neonicotinoid Insecticide Exposure Linked to Hormone-Dependent Breast Cancer

(Beyond Pesticides, March 7, 2019) A publication in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives highlights findings from a recent study showing that environmental concentrations of the neonicotinoid insecticides thiacloprid and imidacloprid increase expression of a gene linked to hormone-dependent breast cancer. Authors of the featured study uncovered a pathway through which neonicotinoids stimulate excess estrogen production, known to occur during the development of progressive hormone-dependent breast cancer. In the words of the authors, “Our findings highlight the need for further research to assess the potential impacts of low-dose and chronic exposure to neonicotinoids on endocrine processes affecting women’s health.” The study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives in April 2018 by researchers at the University of Quebec, is not the first to point to a potential link between neonicotinoid exposure and breast cancer. A 2015 study by the same research group revealed that the neonicotinoids thiacloprid and thiamethoxam, along with the herbicide atrazine, induce similar effects in breast cancer cells. In both studies, exposure to neonicotinoids alter promoter activity to induce heightened production of the enzyme aromatase, which is known to stimulate estrogen production and thereby cancer cell proliferation. The recently published study, authored by Silke Schmidt, PhD, brings greater urgency to […]

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06
Mar

Nutrient Runoff, Aquatic Weed Killers, and Florida’s Red Tide Collide in Public Debate

(Beyond Pesticides, March 6, 2019) After a brief hiatus, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is continuing use of aquatic herbicides, including glyphosate, for invasive species management. Public pressure and feedback caused FWC to take a temporary pause from spraying while the commission collected public comment  through public hearings and emails from late January through February. FWC ultimately decided to resume spraying invasive species, and points to its improved integrated management system as reducing overall herbicide use. Glyphosate, one of the 17 aquatic herbicides that FWC uses regularly has sparked opposition from environmentalists and the general public due to its wide usage and known adverse effects. According to FWC data, 12,263 pounds of glyphosate-based herbicides were used on Florida’s Lake Okeechobee in 2017. About 175,000 people have signed North Palm Beach photographer and wildlife advocate Jim Abernathy’s petition titled “Stop The State-Sanctioned Poisoning of Our Lakes and Rivers!”. The petition decries the use of glyphosate to kill invasive aquatic plants and warns of subsequent nutrient pollution caused by decay. An excess of nutrients (e.g. nitrogen and phosphorus) in water bodies contribute to algal blooms. Eutrophication can eventually result in oxygen depletion and thereby decrease biodiversity. FWC denies that the […]

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05
Mar

Glyphosate Use in Forestry Drifts on Wild, Edible Plants, Leading to Lasting Contamination

(Beyond Pesticides, March 5, 2019) Wild, edible plants subject to drift from the herbicide glyphosate during forestry operations can be contaminated with the chemical an entire year after an initial application, according to a new study published in the Canadian Journal of Forest Research. Glyphosate is often used in forestry to knock down unwanted trees, shrubs, and other plants after clear-cutting to provide room for the regrowth of trees deemed valuable. However, this new research shows that “non-target” species, such as raspberries and blueberries, eaten by wildlife and sometimes wild foraged by humans can retain significant levels of glyphosate contamination due to drift and overspray. Forester Lisa Wood, PhD, from the University of Northern British Columbia began this research based on input and requests from Canadian indigenous First Nations communities. Back in 2013, shrubs foraged by traditional berry-pickers in northeastern British Columbia were sampled and found to contain glyphosate residues, leading to the need for a broader investigation. Dr. Wood sampled the roots and shoots of 10 plant species from an area that had been aerially sprayed with glyphosate a year prior as part of forestry operations to clear aspen and make room for coniferous re-plantings. The 10 plants, which […]

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04
Mar

Take Action: Saving America’s Pollinators Act Reintroduced in Congress

(Beyond Pesticides, March 4, 2019) Last week, U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) reintroduced the Saving America’s Pollinators Act (H.R.1337) to cancel specific bee-toxic pesticides and establish a review and cancellation process for all pesticides that are potentially harmful to pollinators. The specific pesticides targeted in the bill include the systemic insecticides imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, dinotefuran, acetamiprid, sulfoxaflor, flupyradifurone, and fipronil. The bill also establishes requirements for review of other potentially bee-toxic chemicals by an independent pollinator protection board, and requires annual reports on the health and population status of pollinators. The bill creates a sustainable model for pollinator protection in the face of ongoing obstruction by an increasingly industry-influenced EPA. There are 29 cosponsors to date. The current bill is the fifth version of Saving America’s Pollinators Act (SAPA), which was first introduced by U.S. Representative Conyers (D-MI) in 2013. The newest version differs from previous bills in its bold definition of who should have responsibility for assessing harm to pollinators. SAPA 2019 calls for the establishment of a Pollinator Protection Board, to be composed of expert scientists, beekeepers, farmers, members of environmental organizations and other key stakeholders, nearly all of whom must not have any conflict of interest or affiliation […]

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01
Mar

$340 Billion in Annual Disease-Related Costs Associated with Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

(Beyond Pesticides, March 1, 2019) The costs of pesticide use extend far beyond the invoices farmers pay for purchase of the chemicals to use on their crops. The real costs related to pesticide use and exposure include those of health care, lost productivity and income, and environmental damage (loss of environmental services and biodiversity; compromised air, water, and soil quality). There has been relatively little research focused on those real and extensive costs; this Daily News Blog turns its attention to several that have made the attempt. January 2019 saw the publication of a new book, Sicker Fatter Poorer: The Urgent Threat of Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals to Our Health and Future … and What We Can Do About It, by Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, which examines how some chemicals — including organophosphate and organochlorine pesticides — disrupt human endocrine (hormonal) function, and damage health, sometimes irreparably. The book further investigates the economic costs of associated diseases and other health problems to the U.S. economy — on the order of 2.3% of GDP (gross domestic product), or $340 billion, annually. As Dr. Trasande notes, “The reality is that policy predicts exposure, exposure predicts disease and disease ultimately costs our economy.” Dr. Trasande is […]

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28
Feb

Study Confirms Findings on Carcinogenic Glyphosate, Suggests “Compelling Link”

(Beyond Pesticides, February 28, 2019) Earlier this month, a team of U.S. scientists published a meta-analysis of studies on glyphosate-based herbicides (GBH), concluding that the evidence “suggests a compelling link between exposures to GBH and increased risk of NHL [non-Hodgkin lymphoma],” corroborating findings by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The analysis, authored by researchers from University of California, Berkeley, University of Washington, Seattle, and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, is the latest to support the conclusions established by the International Agency for Research on Cancer that products containing glyphosate pose a cancer risk to humans. As research continues to accumulate on the risks posed by this chemical, the case for transitioning to less toxic alternatives to safeguard public health is becoming increasingly urgent. Researchers took every available published human study on NHL and glyphosate, including the most recently updated data from the ongoing U.S. Agricultural Health Study (AHS), in conducting their review. Focus was put on individuals within these studies exposed to the highest amounts of glyphosate. The reasoning, researchers indicate, is that if there is a true association between glyphosate and a health outcome like cancer, exposures to higher amounts for a longer […]

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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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26
Feb

Take Action: Ask the Largest Food Retailer to Lead the Way and Stop Selling Food Grown with Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, February 26, 2019) Breakfast cereal, apples, applesauce and pinto beans made and sold by Kroger contain residues of toxic pesticides linked to a range of series health and environmental problems, according to a residue study by Friends of the Earth. This is alarming. Kid-friendly food like applesauce and Cheerios should not contain dangerous pesticides. Kids are the most vulnerable to these pesticides and shouldn’t be exposed to brain-damaging or cancer-causing pesticides when they eat their breakfast or snacks. The connection between pesticides and cancer, learning disabilities, and other diseases is supported by hundreds of studies in Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database. These new tests, which corroborate numerous residue studies, mean that Kroger customers may be purchasing food with the intent of providing safe and healthy food for their families, but end up unknowingly exposing them to toxic pesticides. Join the national week of action by either delivering a letter to Kroger in person, or sending an email to Kroger Chief Executive Rodney McMullen. The pesticides found in Kroger’s food are harmful to human health and pollinators. Friends of the Earth found residues of cancer-causing glyphosate, brain-damaging organophosphates, and bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides. Organophosphates can cause damage to children’s developing brains, including reduced IQ, loss […]

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25
Feb

New York Bill and Lawsuit Push for Farmworkers’ Right to Organize

(Beyond Pesticides, February 22, 2019) A bill introduced in the New York State Assembly and the Senate this month will break the century-long legal exclusion of agricultural workers from common labor protections. Among other protections, the Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act will give New York farmworkers the right to collective bargaining, making employer intimidation and retaliation against organizing workers illegal. Citing farmworkers’ exposure to toxic chemicals among other occupational risks, former dairy farmworker and worker organizer Crispin Hernandez states, “The legislation would do a lot to end the pervasive climate of fear, intimidation and retaliation that exists on farms today. It would also make farmworkers’ lives safer.” The National Farm Worker Ministry notes that, “A union contract allows workers to report problems on the job without fear of getting fired.” In the case of farmworkers, problems on the job include exposures to toxic pesticides that workers, if organized, could freely report and collectively negotiate to remove from use to ensure their safety. The bill, introduced to the Assembly by Queens Assemblymember Cathy Nolan and to the Senate by freshman Senator Jessica Ramos (D), will amend the New York State Labor Relations Act (NYSLRA) by removing farmworkers from the list of […]

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22
Feb

Fighting for the Environmental Rights of Lake Erie with a Creative Legal Strategy

(Beyond Pesticides, February 22, 2019) Lake Erie, the 11th largest freshwater lake in the world, is once again plagued with pollution, although in this decade it is due primarily to agricultural runoff — as opposed to the raw sewage and industrial effluents that afflicted it in the mid-20th century. Concerned and weary Toledo, Ohio residents are seeking remedies through the adoption of a ballot initiative, “Lake Erie Bill of Rights,” that will go before local voters this month. It asks: should Lake Erie, as an entity, have the legal right “to exist, flourish, and naturally evolve”? The New York Times reported on this unusual ballot question, which asks whether the lake ought to be granted rights more typically ascribed to people. If the measure passes, people would be able to sue polluters on behalf of the lake, using the argument that Lake Erie’s rights had been violated. Fifty years ago, prior to the passage of the 1972 Clean Water Act, U.S. water bodies, including the Great Lakes and their tributaries, were in big trouble. One of Lake Erie’s tributaries — the Cuyahoga River — became infamous for literally catching fire due to the sewage and industrial waste that were freely dumped into it. […]

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21
Feb

EPA Loophole Allows Expanded Use of Bee-Toxic Chemical

(Beyond Pesticides, February 21, 2019) In 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved 16.2 million acres of crops to be sprayed with the bee-toxic insecticide sulfoxaflor under an emergency exemption. Sulfoxaflor was used in 18 different states on cotton and sorghum — plants known to attract bees. In response to a lawsuit headed by beekeepers, the EPA reclassified sulfoxaflor in 2016 and, recognizing its toxicity to bees, prohibited use on crops that draw in these pollinators. However, Section 18 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) gives the EPA authority to permit temporary emergency use of unapproved pesticides. This loophole is used regularly in response to predictable stressors. “Emergency” use was approved 78 times for sulfoxaflor on sorghum and cotton between 2012-2017. Sulfoxaflor is a systemic insecticide that acts similarly to neonicotinoid pesticides. After application, the chemical is absorbed and distributed throughout the plant, including pollen and nectar. These kinds of chemicals are selective agonists of insects’ nicotinic acetylcholine receptors—they bind to the receptor and cause it to activate. The impact on foraging bees is sublethal, but devastating on a population level. Even at low levels, sulfoxaflor impairs reproduction and reduces bumblebee colony size. Sufloxaflor is functionally identical to […]

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