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Neonicotinoid Insecticides Trigger Neurodegeneration and Can Blind Insects at Low Doses

Wednesday, September 30th, 2020

(Beyond Pesticides, September 30, 2020) Low doses of neonicotinoid (neonic) insecticides are known to disrupt insect learning and behavior, but new science is providing a better understanding of how these effects manifest at a cellular level. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, this study finds that the neonic imidacloprid binds to brain receptors, triggering oxidative stress, reducing energy levels, and causing neurodegeneration. “Although many studies have shown that low doses of insecticides can affect insect behavior, they have not uncovered whether insecticides trigger changes at the cellular and molecular levels,” said lead author Felipe Martelli, PhD, of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. “The goal of this work was to have a better understanding of the effects of low doses of the common insecticide imidacloprid at the cellular, physiological and behavioral levels.” Researchers used the fruit fly Drosophilia melanogaster, a common experimental organism, as it contains a number of nicotinic acetylchloline receptors, the primary site of action for imidaclorpid. The neonic binds to these receptors, which regulate a number of physiological processes, such muscle contraction. Binding closes these channels, leading to the range of harm researchers observed through their study. Larval fuit flies were exposed to imidacloprid […]

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Where Do Pesticides Banned in Europe Go? Mostly to Poorer Countries, While Two-Thirds of Those Sent to Richer Counties Head for the U.S.

Friday, September 25th, 2020

(Beyond Pesticides, September 25, 2020) An investigation has revealed that companies in the United Kingdom (UK), as well as in some European Union (EU) countries, are exporting massive amounts of pesticides — banned in their own jurisdictions — to poorer countries. More than 89,000 (U.S.) tons of such pesticides were exported in 2018, largely to countries where toxic pesticide use poses the greatest risks. The UK has been the largest exporter (15,000+ tons, or 40% of the total in 2018); other significant exporters include the Netherlands, France, Spain, German, Switzerland, and Belgium. Among the countries receiving the bulk of these dangerous pesticides are Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, Indonesia, and Ukraine. Despite a flurry of attention to this problem in the U.S. in the early 2000s, little has changed, worldwide, to stop this practice of selling domestically banned pesticide products to parts of the world that continue to allow their use. This is an unethical practice that compounds the risks to workers in developing countries, who already endure heighted threats to health and local ecosystems. The investigation was conducted by Unearthed, a Greenpeace UK journalism arm, and Public Eye, a Swiss NGO (non-governmental organization) that investigates human rights abuses by Swiss companies. The collaborators […]

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Fashion Killer: Report Finds that the Apparel Industry is a Major Contributor to Biodiversity Loss

Thursday, September 17th, 2020

(Beyond Pesticides, September 17, 2020) The apparel industry becomes the latest contributor to global biodiversity loss, directly linking soil degradation, natural ecosystems destruction, and environmental pollution with apparel supply chains, according to the report, “Biodiversity: The next frontier in sustainable fashion,” by McKinsey & Company. Although there are many studies on the fashion industry’s impact on climate change, much less research discusses the impact the industry has on biodiversity. The globe is currently going through the Holocene Extinction, Earth’s 6th mass extinction, with one million species of plants and animals at risk of extinction. With the increasing rate of biodiversity loss, advocates say it is essential for government agencies to hold the fashion industry accountable for the direct (i.e., excessive agrochemical use, water consumption) and indirect (i.e., water pollution from run-off) impacts on the environment, not only to protect the well-being of animals, but humans, as well. Researchers in the study note, “We expect biodiversity to become an even greater concern for consumers and investors in the coming years. Covid-19, instead of slowing the trend, has accelerated it—perhaps because people now understand more deeply that human and animal ecosystems are interdependent. It’s time for the apparel industry, which to date has contributed heavily […]

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Primates, Both Wild and Captive, Are Being Exposed to Toxic Pesticides and Flame Retardants

Tuesday, September 15th, 2020

(Beyond Pesticides, September 15, 2020) Both wild and captive primates are being exposed to hazardous pesticides and flame retardants, according to research published this month in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. This is the first study to look at the threat anthropogenic (man-made) chemicals may present for this important order of animals. “We think a lot about habitat disturbance, logging, and hunting as threats to these species, while pollution has been overlooked,” study co-author Michael Wasserman, told Environmental Health News (EHN). Scientists conducted their research by first obtaining fecal samples from three distinct primate populations: captive baboons from an Indiana zoo, wild howler monkeys from a research station in Costa Rica, and wild chimpanzees, red-tailed monkeys, and red colobus monkeys from a Ugandan national park. Samples were then tested for a range of chemicals, including 50 pesticides, and nearly 70 flame retardants. Scientists discovered legacy pesticides (such as heptachlor, DDT, hexachlorohexane, chlordane, and related compounds) in every species tested, with the highest levels found in red colobus and red-tailed monkeys. In particular, DDT and its related compounds (DDD and DDE) were found to be widespread, with red colobus monkeys registering a median of 260 ppb DDE in its waste. […]

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Neonicotinoids Harm Shrimp and Oyster Health, Decrease Nutritional Value

Wednesday, August 26th, 2020

(Beyond Pesticides, August 26, 2020) Neonicotinoid insecticides damage the health of shrimp and oysters, according to two (1, 2) new studies published by Australian researchers. Although this class of chemicals is best known for its hazardous impacts on pollinator populations, it is becoming increasingly clear that the entire food chain is at risk from continued neonicotinoid use. This study builds on an already established body of literature showing these systemic chemicals poison waterways. Researchers began by collecting samples of shrimp and oysters from growers along the coast, and acclimating the species to laboratory conditions. Both collections were separated into different test groups. Oysters where exposed in their tanks to various concentrations of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid. Shrimp were exposed to imidacloprid through two methods: in their feed, and in their tanks. Each separate test group was further separated into high and low exposures. A control group that did not receive any pesticide exposure was also established in each experiment. For the oyster populations, scientists found a range of negative effects. Imidacloprid inhibits the proper functioning of the enzyme acetylcholinesterase, a well-known impact of many pesticides that results in damage to the nervous system. Detoxification mechanisms are activated, and changes are observed […]

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The Insect Apocalypse Moves Up the Food Chain: American Bird Populations in Rapid Decline Due to Pesticide Use

Tuesday, August 18th, 2020

(Beyond Pesticides, August 18, 2020) Ongoing declines in bird population and diversity are being accelerated by the use of neonicotinoid insecticides, according to research published in Nature Sustainability earlier this month. The paper comes on the heels of a groundbreaking study released last year, finding that the United States has lost 3 billion birds since 1970, a roughly 30% decrease from that time. This new research adds further detail to losses that have occurred within the last decade, as farming patterns have shifted increasingly to the use of pesticide-coated seeds that poison. Researchers used an extensive dataset from the North American Breeding Bird Survey, a project maintained by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The project takes regular counts of bird species along 2,953 survey routes established throughout North America, accounting for dozens of both grassland and insectivorous birds, and over 630 non-grassland species. Pesticides were weighted for their toxicity to birds, and researchers produced an empirical analysis using regression models in order to establish a casual relationship between neonicotinoid use and bird populations. Using these models, researchers determined that for every 100kg (220 lbs) increase in the use of any neonicotinoid within a US county, grassland bird populations subsequently […]

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Take Action: Tell Congress to Save Our Oceans from Trump’s Executive Order

Monday, June 15th, 2020

(Beyond Pesticides, June 15, 2020)  On May 7, President Trump issued an executive order (EO) purporting to “promote American seafood competitiveness and economic growth,” while, in fact, permitting offshore aquaculture in federal waters with reduced environmental safeguards. Instead, we need stronger federal regulation in order to protect the environment and public health. This EO adds to the Trump Administration’s shameful record of dismantling environmental protections, failing to enforce those that do exist, undermining science, and weighing agrochemical and other industry interests over those of the public and the environment. The EO will further erode regulations that have governed the operation of so-called “fish farms” and open enormous marine areas to exploitation by this industry. Tell Congress to save our oceans. U.S. aquaculture is a $1.5 billion industry, with almost 3,000 operations. Regulation of aquaculture is shared by a number of federal, state, and local agencies. Much of the regulation is at the state and local level because each state and locality may regulate permitting based on zoning, water use, waste discharge, wildlife management, processing, and other aspects of aquaculture operations.  Trump’s EO reduces federal regulation by designating the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as the lead agency in the […]

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Presidential Executive Order Loosens Environmental Restrictions on Fish Farms, Adds to Degradation of Waterways

Monday, June 1st, 2020

(Beyond Pesticides, June 1, 2020) The President issued another executive order, on May 7, that continues his administration’s dissembling on matters that affect the well-being of everyday Americans. This EO (executive order) purports to “promote American seafood competitiveness and economic growth.” The reality, as the Center for American Progress reports, is that the “bulk of the Trump administration’s new executive order sets up a structure for permitting of offshore aquaculture in federal waters with short timelines and few environmental safeguards.” This EO will further erode regulations that have governed the operation of so-called “fish farms,” and open enormous marine areas to exploitation by this industry. Beyond Pesticides has argued for more-protective regulation of the aquaculture industry, considering the variety of pesticides and chemical inputs it uses, and the impacts on local ecosystems. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines aquaculture as any “farming of aquatic organisms, including baitfish, crustaceans, food fish, mollusks, ornamental fish, sport or game fish, and other aquaculture products. Farming involves some form of intervention in the rearing process, such as seeding, stocking, feeding, protection from predators, etc. Fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and other aquatic products caught or harvested by the public from non-controlled waters or beds are considered […]

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Threat of Pesticides to Endangered Species Continues

Friday, November 15th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, November 15, 2019) The Endangered Species Coalition has released its newest annual report on the 10 U.S. species most threatened by pesticide use, Poisoned: 10 American species imperiled by pesticides. Produced with seven of its member groups, the coalition introduces the report by noting, “Our world is awash in chemicals. We’re particularly addicted to pesticides.” It points to well-known harms, and identifies the exacerbating factors of both climate change and the Trump administration, the latter of which “denies the reality of climate change and has dramatically changed how the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is implemented, leaving vulnerable species at far greater risk.” The introduction ends on a somewhat encouraging tone, saying that previous administrations have supported record growth in organic farming — the solution to pesticides harms that Beyond Pesticides has long endorsed — and that “any administration has the power to get us back on track and away from pesticides.” Impacts on wildlife linked to pesticide exposures — including mammals, bees and other pollinators, fish and other aquatic organisms, birds, and the biota within soil — have been well documented by Beyond Pesticides, and include reproductive, neurological, renal, hepatic, endocrine disruptive, and developmental anomalies, as well as […]

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

Tuesday, March 12th, 2019

(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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Pesticides Contribute to Bird Declines, Threatening Forests, Crops, and Ecological Balance

Monday, August 27th, 2018

(Beyond Pesticides, August 27, 2018) Beyond the visual and audial charms of some bird species, insect-eating birds play a significant role in controlling pests that can ruin crops or ravage forests. A meta-study by Martin Nyffeler, Ph.D. of the University of Basel in Switzerland finds that globally, birds annually consume 400-plus million metric tons of various insects, including moths, aphids, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, and other arthropods (invertebrate organisms with exoskeletons, paired and jointed appendages, and segmented bodies, such as insects, crustaceans, and spiders). This research reviews 103 studies that examine the volume of insects consumed by various birds in seven of the world’s major biomes. In consuming such volumes of insects that can inflict damage on crops, trees, and other plants on which organisms may feed or otherwise depend, birds provide significant services to ecosystems, to denizens of habitats, and to human food system and economic interests; they also keep local ecosystems in balance. Threats to birds — and thus, to those ecosystem services — include those from pesticide use. Of the 10,700 known bird species distributed across the planet, more than 6,000 are primarily insectivorous. The study indicates that forest-dwelling birds consume the majority of insects (approximately 300 million metric […]

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Chipotle Removes Genetically Engineered Food from Its Menu

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

(Beyond Pesticides, April 28, 2015) Beginning this week, Chipotle Mexican Grill will stop serving food containing genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. The restaurant’s announcement is the first of any major fast food chain, and fits with the company’s long-held mission of providing its customers “food with integrity.” In 2013, Chipotle also became the first major restaurant chain to label foods it sold that contained GE ingredients, and in 2010 the company announced its support for organic production practices by increasing the percentage of organic ingredients it serves, and committing to eventually transition the entire menu to organic. “Just because food is served fast doesn’t mean it has to be made with cheap raw ingredients, highly processed with preservatives and fillers and stabilizers and artificial colors and flavors,” said Steve Ells, Chipotle’s founder and co-chief executive to The New York Times. Although the meat and dairy served at the chain will still come from animals fed GE grain, the company indicates it will continue to work on the issue. Over 90% of corn and soybeans grown in the United States are GE, making sourcing difficult for larger restaurants. More and more retailers, from restaurants to the grocery aisle, are eliminating foods produced […]

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Agency Seeks Comments on Biological Opinion of its Proposed General Permit

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

(Beyond Pesticides, July 14, 2011) In its draft Biological Opinion, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) finds that the issuance of the proposed Pesticides General Permit by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of endangered and threatened species and cause the destruction or modification of critical habitat of the species without the implementation of a reasonable and prudent alternative (RPA). The agency is seeking public comment on the implementation of the proposed RPA and possible alternatives that would avoid the likelihood of jeopardizing the threatened or endangered species. Comments will be accepted until July 25, 2011. Essentially, the proposed Pesticides General Permit grants blanket approval to all pesticide applicators operating near waterways by issuing a single permit which would apply to all such potential applications, and largely removes the opportunity for environmental oversight of specific applications. The findings in this Biological Opinion are particularly relevant in light of current efforts by Congress to strip protections from the Clean Water Act (CWA) by prohibiting discharge permits for pesticides in waterways. Under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), federal agencies have an obligation to insure, in consultation with NMFS and the U.S. Fish […]

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Synthetic Additives in Processed Organic Food Criticized

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

(Beyond Pesticides, March 23, 2011) According to the Cornucopia Institute, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has confirmed that it will allow products containing unapproved synthetic additives in processed food labeled “organic” for an indefinite grace period. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is slated to take up the issue at its upcoming meeting in April, when it will determine whether the use of these synthetic materials meets the standards of the Organic Foods Production Act nad its standards of health and environmental protection. Consumers are urged to make their voices heard with comments to the NOSB before the April 10 deadline (see below). The Cornucopia Institute has filed legal complaints against infant formula manufacturers and Dean Foods, manufacturer of Horizon dairy products, for adding unapproved additives: Martek Biosciences Corporation’s omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (DHA/ARA), derived chemically from fermented algae and fungus, to foods with the organic label. The Cornucopia Institute maintains, and the USDA reiterated in a compliance letter issued March 16, that these additives are illegal in organics. But USDA also stated it would not take enforcement action at this time. The USDA’s compliance letter suggested that it would allow companies to continue adding the additives […]

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Utility Company Sued Over Pollution from Toxic Wood Poles

Monday, September 21st, 2009

(Beyond Pesticides, September 21, 2009) In a federal lawsuit filed in San Francisco earlier this month, the environmental watchdog group Ecological Rights Foundation (ERF) claims that dioxin is being discharged from Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) utility poles into the San Francisco Bay, violating both the Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Dioxin is a contaminant in the wood preservative pesticide pentachlorophenol (penta), the chemical used to treat more than one million PG&E utility poles in Northern California. Dioxin is a known human carcinogen. It also causes birth defects at extremely low levels. The ERF suit asks the court to stop PG&E from discharging dioxin from its utility poles, a move that could eventually lead to wide scale replacement of the ubiquitous penta-treated wood poles. “These are the common, I guess you could say ‘classic,’ brown wood poles you see holding up wires on practically every street,” says ERF attorney Bill Verick. Pentachlorophenol (penta) is a chlorinated aromatic hydrocarbon, closely related to other chlorophenols, hexachlorobenzene, polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and furans, all of which are found in commercial grade penta, along with secret “inert” ingredients. It was 1978 when EPA began its review of wood preservatives, including […]

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EU To Limit Chemicals in Surface Waters

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

(Beyond Pesticides, June 18, 2008) On June 17, 2008,  the European Union (EU) voted and approved limits for chemical contaminants in surface waters. This measure would expand the EU’s campaign to protect the environment and also reduce the cost of producing drinking water.This new measure will set limits for 33 chemicals, including pesticides and heavy metals, in lakes, rivers and coastal waters that may endanger the survival of ecosystems and, via the food chain, human health. EU member states, which approved this legislation, will have until 2018 to meet these water standards. States will have to reduce pollution from “priority substances,” cease or phase out emissions, discharges and losses of “priority hazardous substances” in order to achieve good surface water chemical status and to be in compliance with the objectives set by the water quality standards.“This directive will guarantee a higher level of the protection of water by principally applying the principal of polluter-pays and corrects,” said rapporteur Anne Laperrouze of France, after the vote. Member states will have to establish an inventory, including maps, if available, of emissions, discharges and losses of all priority substances and pollutants for each river basin district or part of a river basin district […]

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House Farm Bill Gets Mixed Review

Monday, August 6th, 2007

(Beyond Pesticides, August 6, 2007) On July 20, 2007 the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Farm, Nutrition and Energy Act of 2007 (H.R. 2419), commonly known as the Farm Bill, on a vote of 231-191, with 10 Representatives not voting. The vote fell generally along party lines with 19 Republicans (just six from the Agriculture Committee) voting for the bill, despite opposition from Republican leadership, the threat of a Presidential veto, and 14 Democrats voting against it. Organic and sustainable agriculture groups are giving the 2007 Farm Bill a mixed review. While taking several steps forward by increasing funding for programs that support the next generation of farmers and new marketing options for organic, sustainable producers, the bill as a whole moves in reverse with substantial weakening of current commodity and conservation payment limitations and a 30 percent funding cut for the Conservation Security Program. The National Organic Coalition (NOC), which includes the Rural Advancement Fund International, Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides and others, developed a list of priorities for the Farm Bill. View a full analysis of the NOC requests adopted and rejected by the House Agriculture Committee. The Sustainable Agriculture Coalition reports that the Farm Bill […]

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