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Daily News Blog

11
Feb

Aggressive Cancer in Sea Lions Linked to Ocean Pollution and Herpesvirus Precursor, Implications for Human Health

(Beyond Pesticides, February 11, 2021) California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) are experiencing high rates of urogenital carcinoma (UGC) cancer incidences from the combined effect of toxic “legacy” pesticides like DDT and the viral infection Otarine herpesvirus-1 (OtHV1), according to a new study published in Frontiers in Marine Science. Previous research documents the role herpesvirus infection, genotype, and organochlorine pesticides play in sea lion cancer development. However, synergism (collaboration) between viral infection and toxic chemical exposure increases cancer development odds.

Pollution of the oceans with toxic chemicals lacks adequate regulation, is widespread and only getting worse. More than 80 percent of ocean pollution comes from land-based, anthropological activities. A recent study published in Annals of Public Health finds toxic chemicals from pesticides, heavy metals, plastics, and other sources readily contaminate the ocean, especially near coastal regions where chemical inputs occur in higher concentrations.

Globally, pollution has major disease implications, causing the deaths of over nine million people annually. Therefore, it is essential to understand the co-effects of ocean pollution and diseases to protect human health. Authors of the study state, “This study has implications for human health, as virally associated cancer occurs in humans, and likelihood of cancer development could similarly be increased by exposure to environmental contaminants. Efforts to prevent ecosystem contamination with persistent organic pollutants must be improved to protect both wildlife and human health.”

Scientists in this study assessed cancer incidences among 394 California sea lions for 20 years. Using a stepwise regression model, scientists find herpesvirus condition, exposure to contaminants, and blubber depth aid in UGC cancer development, but not the genotype. The risk of developing UGC is nearly 44 times higher in sea lions with herpesvirus infections. Furthermore, UGC risk increases 1.48-fold per every unit of contaminant concentration within blubber.

The oceans are essential to human health and well-being, feeding billions, supporting millions of jobs, and support medicinal materials. However, environmental contaminants like pesticides have on profound impact on the ecosystem. Pesticides expose terrestrial and marine organisms to toxic compounds known to have harmful biological consequences. A 2014 study finds a 45 percent decline in invertebrate species and a steep decline in various marine bird species from water contamination. Additionally, coastal and offshore aquaculture (farming of aquatic organisms) presents a new, looming threat to marine health. Namely, the use of antibiotics and pesticides on local marine ecosystems (i.e., insecticides to control sea lice in farmed salmon) results in coastal habitat loss and genetic and health risks to wild marine populations. Marine species biodiversity is already rapidly declining due to overfishing, global warming, pathogens, and pollution. This biodiversity loss may result in changes in marine and terrestrial ecosystem function and reduce ecosystem services.

Like marine invertebrates and birds, many marine mammals demonstrate signs of chemical poisonings, especially from persistent organic pollutants (POPs) like DDT and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Studies find dolphins can harbor high concentrations of organochlorine compounds in their brain tissue. However, POPs are not the only chemicals that contaminate marine mammal species. A recent study finds bottlenose dolphins and pygmy sperm whales along the eastern seaboard contain high levels of triclosan, BPA, and low levels of atrazine. All three chemicals display endocrine (hormonal) disrupting properties in a range of animals, including mammals, even at infinitesimally low levels. A 2018 study finds detectable levels of toxic industrial byproducts like “inert” ingredients from pesticide products in bottlenose dolphins inhabiting the Gulf of Mexico. Furthermore, there is growing concern over organophosphorus compounds in flame retardants and pesticides. According to a 2018 study, marine mammals may lack the functioning of a gene that helps terrestrial animals break down certain toxic chemicals. Therefore, manatees, dolphins, and other mammals may display heightened sensitivity to pesticides, particularly neurotoxic organophosphates.

This California-based study finds cancer incidents among sea lions are the highest of all mammals, including humans, with UGC emerging in 18 to 23 percent of California sea lions. Cancer is rare in wild animals. Therefore, it is essential to recognize the drivers of disease progression and fruition. California sea lions inhabit coastal areas prone to more frequent pollution inputs. The Los Angeles coast was a dumping ground for persistent chemicals like DDT, boasting an astounding half a million barrels of DDT waste on the ocean floor. Although officials designated coastal Superfund sites—a federally designated area of hazardous waste—for DDT dumping, some DDT waste disposers took shortcuts by unloading barrels near the coast or puncturing floating barrels. DDT is a stable chemical, taking generations to breakdown, and readily bioaccumulating in sediment and marine organism tissues. Many scientists blame the leaking of DDT into the surrounding waters on the increase in mysterious diseases among marine species. Since humans and sea lions live in similar habitats, using the same contaminated waters for swimming and acquiring food, the prevalence of cancer has implications for human health.

The impact of chemical contamination on sea lion health, notably in conjunction with disease susceptibility, highlights the need to identify ocean pollution sources to establish regulations that mitigate adverse effects. Although now-banned DDT is an ever-persistent ocean pollution issue, other forms of ocean pollution are not as stark as direct chemical contamination. In the report, “Human Health and Ocean Pollution,” scientists find indirect chemical contamination from microplastics and runoff, in addition to the synergy among climate effects and ocean pollution, all threaten marine species’ health and ecosystem function. Microplastics can leach toxic additives into the water and absorb other toxins within the water, poisoning organisms that encounter these substances via ingestion or dermal absorption. Many of these additives have endocrine-disrupting impacts, causing reproductive and neurological dysfunction spanning generations. Pesticide runoff from agriculture or manufacturing plants—due to rain or improper wastewater disposal—can deplete global fish populations as chemicals bioaccumulate up the food chain. Furthermore, this nutrient-rich runoff can increase the frequency and severity of harmful algal blooms known to have neurotoxic effects on humans and animals. However, most concerning is the threat of antimicrobial resistance and bacterial pollution. Sea surface warming from global warming and pollution are beginning to trigger poleward migration of hazardous foodborne pathogens such as Vibrio vulnificus, responsible for 95 percent of seafood-related deaths in the United States.

According to the ocean pollution report, global chemical manufacturing is on the rise, and researchers expect manufacturing to double by 2045. However, health and environmental protections from chemical pollution and waste disposal are often insufficient, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where over 60 percent of modern chemical production resides. Since all oceans connect, and oceanic biogeochemical cycling allows substances to transverse ocean basins, these toxic chemicals will eventually spread throughout the marine environment.

Overall, authors of California sea lion study conclude, “Protecting the planet is a global concern and our collective responsibility. World leaders who recognize the gravity of ocean pollution, acknowledge its growing dangers, engage civil society, and take bold, evidence-based action to stop pollution at source will be essential for preventing ocean pollution and safeguarding our own health.”

Chemical contamination is ubiquitous in terrestrial and marine environments. Therefore, mammals and other animals can act as sentinel species for chemical contamination, detecting risk to humans by exhibiting signs of environmental threat sooner than humans in the same environment. Unless more is done to address chemical pollution, humans will also continue to see similar declines in general health, fitness, and well-being. Furthermore, climate crisis implications like melting glaciers present a new concern over the high levels of chemical concentrations in the oceans from DDT, its metabolites, and other persistent organic pollutants, including PCBs and PBDEs trapped in ice. To protect the nation’s and world’s waterways and reduce the number of pesticides that make their way into drinking water, toxic pesticide use must end. Replacing pesticides with organic, non-toxic alternatives is crucial for safeguarding public health, particularly communities vulnerable to pesticide toxicity. Learn more about the hazards pesticides pose to wildlife and what you can do through Beyond Pesticides’ wildlife program page.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: The Conversation, Frontiers in Marine Science, Annals of Public Health

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10
Feb

Groups Urge Endangered Species Listing for American Bumblebee after 89% Population Decline

(Beyond Pesticides, February 10, 2021) Pollinator advocates are petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to list the American bumblebee (Bombus pensylvanicus) under the Endangered Species Act. The petitioners are the Bombus Pollinator Association of Law Students at Albany Law School and the Center for Biological Diversity. Like many other wild pollinators, the American bumblebee has undergone dramatic reductions in recent decades. According to petitioners, the last 20 years saw an 89% decline in the pollinator’s population.

Declines of the American bumblebee have occurred throughout its range, which encompasses 47 of the lower 48 states. However, there are also particularly hard hit regions. In New York, for instance, the pollinators have experienced a stunning 99% decline in relative abundance. Midwestern populations are also severely affected. Losses have followed in lock step with declines in the rusty patched bumblebee, which was listed as endangered in 2017. While the rusty patched has lost 90% of its midwestern range, the American bumblebee has experienced 83% declines. The petitioners note that the American bumblebee declined across a larger land area, and in several states where it was once the most populous pollinator.

The causes behind these catastrophic declines are familiar to many pollinator advocates. Pesticides, habitat loss, disease, climate change, and competition have all played a role. Most of these factors are human-driven, and can be addressed if given the opportunity.

Pesticides represent one of the lowest hanging fruit in any plan to restore native pollinator populations. Eliminating the use of toxic pesticides, particularly the neonicotinoid class of systemic insecticides, would address a ubiquitous source of exposure putting downward pressure on pollinator populations.  

Failure to address human-made factors impacting pollinators is likely to exacerbate these issues. “Pollinators such as the American bumblebee are essential if we intend to combat climate change successfully,” said Claire Burke, a student at Albany Law School. “Without Bombus pensylvanicus spanning 47 of the lower 48 states, vegetation at the heart of the food chain for animals and humans will be hard pressed to reproduce and survive.”

Pollinators are responsible for one in three bites of food, and pollination services are valued at over $125 billion globally. Within the United States, a 2014 Presidential Memorandum found that pollinators provide $24 billion annually to the US economy.  

“It’s unfortunate that we’re forced to call upon the Endangered Species Act to protect a species so fundamental to human and ecosystem health,” said Keith Hirokawa, a professor of law at Albany Law School. “It is our hope that the Biden administration grasps the gravity of this moment.”

After the Trump Administration delayed in listing the rusty patched bumblebee, failed to implement meaningful protections for monarch butterflies, and attacked foundational aspects of the Endangered Species Act, advocates are urging that the Biden administration will reverse course.

“There’s no question that human activities have pushed this bee toward extinction, so we have the ability to wake up, reverse course, and save it,” said Jess Tyler, a staff scientist at Center for Biological Diversity. “But this late in the game, it’s going to take the powerful tools provided only by the Endangered Species Act to get the job done. Anything short of that and we risk losing this iconic part of the American landscape forever.”

Take action today to urge the Biden administration to implement protections for another endangered pollinator, the monarch butterfly. And for more information on how you can work to protect pollinators in your region and community, see the BEE Protective webpage.

Source: Center for Biological Diversity

 

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09
Feb

Proposed Bayer/Monsanto Settlement for Roundup Victims Offers Payments and Challenges

(Beyond Pesticides, February 9, 2021) Multinational agrichemical corporation Bayer/Monsanto released a proposal last week to provide up to $200,000 per claimant in compensation to future victims of its Roundup weed killer, according to Reuters. The proposed settlement, agreed to with lawyers representing victims, continues Bayer/Monsanto’s attempts to limit the spiraling cost Roundup lawsuits, which have awarded individual victims millions of dollars in damages. The company appears to consider the proposal a good investment, as it has announced no plans to stop sale and production of its carcinogenic weed killer. However, under the current proposal, plaintiffs would not be forced to go through a compensation fund, and could seek additional punitive damages through a separate suit. As the attorney for Roundup victims, Elizabeth Casbraser, of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, told the Wall Street Journal, “It’s really about options, and it’s really about choice. I think it’s a great option that offers predictability and transparency for people who don’t want to wait, who want to be compensated.”

To stop the surge of cancer victims – comprising roughly 125,000 lawsuits – from further damaging the company financially, Bayer/Monsanto last year proposed a $10.9 billion settlement with current litigants. Unresolved future claims were part of this proposal. The company had asked the judge to allow for a panel of experts to review cancer claims and determine whether a causal connection exists. But the judge rejected this idea. Bayer/Monsanto has been in talks with plaintiff lawyers since.

Bayer/Monsanto has fought and lost several rounds of legal battles up until this point. Its first major loss centered around California school groundskeeper Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, who won an initial $289 million jury verdict against Monsanto in 2018 for his development of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) after exposure to Roundup. The first $39 million was awarded for compensation, while $250 million in punitive damages came after a finding that Monsanto acted with “malice or oppression” by suppressing the link between its product and cancer. That amount was later amended by a judge to $78 million. The second case, again in California, found unanimously in favor of the plaintiff, Edwin Hardeman. Mr. Hardeman told the jury he had used Roundup since the 1980s to spray poison oak and weeds around his property, resulting in his NHL diagnosis in 2014. He was awarded $5.27 million, while his punitive damages were ultimately reduced from $75 to $20 million. The third major glyphosate trial concerned the Pilliods, a California couple that had used Roundup for more than 30 years to kill weeds on properties they owned. The couple was originally awarded a staggering $2.055 billion by the jury in 2019, which was ultimately reduced to $87 million.

While the company has been able to cut back large jury awards to victims, it has been ineffective at stopping the claims from winning on the merits. This is because, despite claims from captured regulatory agencies like EPA, there is a strong body of evidence linking glyphosate and its formulated products to cancer. And significant evidence that the company worked to keep that information under wraps. Over the last four years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture have worked to provide cover for Bayer/Monsanto by reregistering Roundup and other glyphosate-based products, intervening in court cases, and coordinating with the company to stop glyphosate bans in other countries.

The current proposal is an outgrowth of these discussions. If accepted, the company would be liable for between $5,000 to $200,000 for each future NHL victim who makes a claim against the company, with awards depending on health conditions, age, prior Roundup use, and other considerations. Compensation would be taken from a $1.33 billion sum of money. Another $750 million would be used to fund NHL cancer monitoring programs, pay lawyer fees (who will provide free legal assistance to future victims), and establish an advisory panel, “whose findings would not be preclusive but can be used as evidence in potential future litigation involving class members,” according to a Bayer press release. Many health advocates note that the cost of NHL cancer treatment can easily be tens of thousands of dollars for every year of treatment, notwithstanding other likely complications.  

Most egregious to the company’s proposal is that it still plans to continue selling Roundup. According to reports, Bayer/Monsanto will ask EPA for permission to place a link to a website providing information on the science behind the safety of glyphosate. If the proposed website is anything like any other piece of information released by Bayer/Monsanto, it is highly unlikely to provide the facts consumers need to make informed choices about their health. Advocates note that Bayer has a long history of spinning the science on pesticide toxicity in a way that favors its bottom line at the expense of public health and the environment.

Based on  history, it is unfathomable that any consumer would take Bayer/Monsanto’s word regarding the safety of its products. The actions of the company are exactly the sort one would expect from a faceless, multi-national corporation focused solely on profits and executive compensation. To fight back against this, concerned US residents must demand new laws, and greater scrutiny from government regulators. While the agrichemical industry has strong footholds in U.S. agencies, public pressure can change the way business is done.

There are many routes advocates can take. Join with Beyond Pesticides in actions pressuring Congress and the new Biden administration to embrace greater oversight on toxic pesticides, and safer ways of managing pests. Take further action at the local level to ban not just glyphosate, but all toxic pesticides that could be used in your community. Purchase organic food whenever possible to decrease demand for toxic pesticides. And read up on the latest science on the hazards of pesticides through Beyond Pesticides Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Reuters, Wall Street Journal

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08
Feb

Tell Agencies—New Executive Order Requires Bold Regulatory Action to Confront Environmental Crises

(Beyond Pesticides, February 8, 2021) Immediately following his inauguration, President Biden issued an Executive Order (EO) directing the heads of all executive departments and agencies to produce recommendations for improving and modernizing regulatory review, with a goal of promoting public health and safety, economic growth, social welfare, racial justice, environmental stewardship, human dignity, equity, and the interests of future generations. This Executive Order, if effective, will  reverse the historical trend of status-quo regulatory reviews required by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that typically support vested economic interests of polluters (e.g., petroleum-based pesticide and fertilizer manufacturers). Instead, the President’s EO, Modernizing Regulatory Review, sets the stage for the adoption of agency policy across government to seriously and with urgency confront the climate crisis, biodiversity collapse, and disproportionate harm to people of color communities (environmental racism).

Key agencies that can have a systemic effect in meeting these existential challenges are the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Interior (DOI), Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Department of Labor/Occupational Safety and Health Administration (DOL/OSHA). But the EO will remain words on a page unless we all across the country exercise our voice and advocate for the changes necessary to end our reliance on hazardous chemicals and immediately embrace the viability of nonpolluting alternatives, like organic agriculture and land management.  No one expects the polluting corporations to shrink in the face of a shift to a green economy—which makes our voice and oversight all that more important.

Tell the heads of EPA, DOI, USDA, and DOL/OSHA to review decisions allowing toxic chemical use based on available alternatives—technologies, practices, and products—that reduce or eliminate hazards.

Ever since the Reagan administration, regulatory review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Office of Management and the Budget (OMB) has prevented agencies from promulgating new regulations based on new science and technologies that are more protective of health and the environment. OIRA acts as a gatekeeper to new regulations and has generally resisted changes to the status quo—even in regulations designed to adapt to new science and technology. An example of such regulations is the sunset process created in the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), which was is designed to review synthetic materials allowed in organic production every five years and remove them if they no longer meet OFPA criteria.

There are many examples of such regulations, and OIRA no longer needs to explicitly deny changes in regulations because agencies restrict their own actions based on the fear of OIRA review. President Biden’s Executive Order offers an opportunity for OIRA/OMB and federal agencies to place new criteria on changes in regulations. Instead of protecting the status quo, the review should be based on the President’s priorities as stated in the Modernizing Regulatory Review EO.

To be meaningful, regulatory reviews, in accordance with the EO, must analyze existing regulatory decisions on registration, allowance, and/or use of toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers in the context of available alternatives—technologies, practices and products—that reduce or eliminate hazards. We urge that all agencies immediately conduct an alternatives assessment that evaluates available organic practices in accordance with 7 CFR 205.600, the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances under the National Organic Program. This is especially important in the context of protecting health and the environment and ensuring racial equity in the application of regulations that currently allow for disproportionate and elevated risk for farmworkers and landscapers, as well as fenceline communities and people of color. These communities currently suffer disproportionate risk due to toxic chemical exposure, comorbidities, and elevated vulnerabilities to diseases and COVID-19 that are ignored under current regulatory reviews.

The tools are available now to end the use of toxic chemicals in current land management practices nationwide, including the management of agricultural land and landscapes, yet regulations allow disproportionate harm to black, brown, and indigenous people that is associated with a chain of poisoning and contamination from production to transportation, application, and disposal. The EO, if it is to be implemented in the spirit that is intended, requires that each agency conduct a full assessment of actions that it can take immediately to eliminate or reduce the current harms being inflicted that are unnecessary, given the availability of organic (as defined in federal law) alternatives.

Tell the heads of EPA, DOI, USDA, and DOL/OSHA to review decisions allowing toxic chemical use based on available alternatives—technologies, practices, and products—that reduce or eliminate hazards.

To the (new) heads of EPA, DOI, USDA, and DOL/OSHA:

Immediately following his inauguration, President Biden issued an Executive Order (EO) directing the heads of all executive departments and agencies to produce recommendations for improving and modernizing regulatory review, with a goal of promoting public health and safety, economic growth, social welfare, racial justice, environmental stewardship, human dignity, equity, and the interests of future generations. This Executive Order, Modernizing Regulatory Review, sets the stage for the adoption of agency policy to seriously and with urgency confront the climate crisis, biodiversity collapse, and disproportionate harm to people of color communities (environmental racism).

I ask your agency to conduct a review, in accordance with the Modernizing Regulatory Review EO, to analyze existing regulatory decisions on registration, allowance, and/or use of toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers in the context of available alternatives—technologies, practices and products— that reduce or eliminate hazards. I urge you to immediately conduct an alternatives assessment—associated with all your regulatory and administrative decisions— that evaluates available organic practices in accordance with 7 CFR 205.600, the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances under the National Organic Program. This is especially important in the context of protecting health and the environment and ensuring racial equity in the application of regulations that currently allow for disproportionate and elevated risk for farmworkers and landscapers, as well as fenceline and people of color communities. These communities currently suffer disproportionate risk due to toxic chemical exposure, comorbidities, and elevated vulnerabilities to diseases and COVID-19 that are ignored under your current regulatory reviews.

The tools are now available to end the use of toxic chemicals in current land management practices, including the management of agricultural land and landscapes, yet the regulations of your agency allow disproportionate harm to black, brown, and indigenous people that is associated with a chain of poisoning and contamination from production to transportation, application, and disposal. The EO, if it is to be implemented in the spirit that is intended, requires that your agency conduct a full assessment of actions that it can take immediately to eliminate or reduce the current harms being inflicted that are unnecessary, given the availability of organic (as defined in federal law) alternatives.

Please know that there is a wealth of information on the efficacy, economic viability, and profitability of organic management practices that replace your agency’s current assumption about the need for, or reasonableness of, toxic chemical dependency. We urge that this information be utilized in all your regulatory and administrative decision-making in order to eliminate the current unnecessary reliance on toxic materials.

I look forward to your agency’s alternative organic analysis full implementation of the Modernizing Regulatory Review EO.

Thank you.

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05
Feb

Biden Executive Orders Set the Stage for Systemic Change, If Words Turn to Action

(Beyond Pesticides, February 5, 2021) The American public has witnessed, in the barely launched tenure of President Joe Biden, a surge of Executive Orders (EOs). Based on the first flurry of orders, much of the Biden “reset” appears gauged to beat back Trump policies that worsened an already inadequate regulatory system, and to reconfigure federal operations and regulations so as to address and solve the biggest threats (beyond COVID) the country faces. Among the high-profile EOs already issued are three that stand out. One recalibrates the operations of the OMB (Office of Management and Budget) to forward health, racial equity, and environmental stewardship. A second and third seek, respectively, to restore scientific integrity and elevate the role of science across the federal government, and to tackle comprehensively the climate crisis with a “whole of government” approach. Beyond Pesticides welcomes these early efforts, and maintains that vigilance and robust advocacy will be necessary to achieve needed paradigmatic change across federal agencies, which exist to protect and support the American people.

EOs are tools the President can wield to manage directly some operations of the federal government. They are seen as muscular and immediate means through which to change course, particularly in the early stage of a new administration; the “check” on EOs is that they can generally be reversed by the next President. Policies are more durable when they emanate from legislation, but EOs can be an important way to undo bad practices relatively immediately, and to signal changed priorities and intentions to federal agencies (which are housed in the Executive Branch), Congress, and the public.

President Biden’s Executive Orders, to date, have all contained strong signals of his priorities (beyond dealing with the COVID crisis): addressing racial inequity, the climate crisis, scientific integrity, and economic retooling for a greener, more-sustainable economy that changes lives. Notably, a different and defining feature of the Biden administration is its promotion and understanding of climate change as both a national security and a foreign policy priority.

The Executive Order on the OMB — “Modernizing Regulatory Review” — has significant potential to shift the cultures and actions of federal agencies. The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs within OMB has, for decades, reviewed significant Executive Branch regulatory actions. The Trump (and other) administrations have advantaged industry interests through these reviews, ensuring that their economic interests often prevail over protection of public health and the environment. Reviews have been conducted so as to block regulation because of presumed “economic dislocation” (impacts such as job losses through plant shutdowns, layoffs, and other industry responses to regulation). Business interests have lobbied for, endorsed, and enjoyed the benefits.

Examples of this include EPA’s nonsensical avoidance of regulating nanotechnology, and industry pushback enabled by USDA (the United States Department of Agriculture) when the NOSB (National Organic Standards Board) has attempted to “delist” certain unacceptable synthetic materials (for use in organic agriculture) from the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. Beyond Pesticides maintains that the Biden revamp of OMB reviews must lead to the challenging of economic “status quo” regulations, and support at EPA, for example, for pesticide alternatives that can deliver their own significant and sustainable economic, health, and environmental benefits. Organic production methods, of course, top that list.

“The EO, if it is to be implemented in the spirit that is intended, requires that all federal agencies, with specific focus on EPA, USDA, DOI (Department of Interior), and FDA, conduct a full assessment of actions that they can take immediately to eliminate or reduce the current harms being inflicted that are not justifiable given the availability of organic (as defined in federal law) alternatives,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

The language of the new OMB order acknowledges that the country “faces serious challenges, including a massive global pandemic; a major economic downturn; systemic racial inequality; and the undeniable reality and accelerating threat of climate change. . . . It is the policy of my Administration to mobilize the power of the Federal Government to rebuild our Nation and address these and other challenges.” The EO then directs the Director of OMB to produce a set of recommendations to modernize and improve its regulatory review process and make concrete suggestions “on how the regulatory review process can promote public health and safety, economic growth, social welfare, racial justice, environmental stewardship, human dignity, equity, and the interests of future generations. The recommendations should also include proposals that would ensure that regulatory review serves as a tool to affirmatively promote regulations that advance these values. These recommendations should be informed by public engagement with relevant stakeholders.”

This EO includes provisions to “ensure that the review process promotes policies that reflect new developments in scientific and economic understanding, fully accounts for regulatory benefits that are difficult or impossible to quantify, and does not have harmful anti-regulatory or deregulatory effects. . . . [and] “ensure that regulatory initiatives appropriately benefit and do not inappropriately burden disadvantaged, vulnerable, or marginalized communities.”

The EO on scientific integrity — “Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking” — has the potential to remake culture and priorities at many federal agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); the departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Energy, Education, and Interior; the Food and Drug Administration, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Federal Communications Commission, National Transportation Safety Board; and a host of others, including national security entities.

The order begins with: “It is the policy of my Administration to make evidence-based decisions guided by the best available science and data. Scientific and technological information, data, and evidence are central to the development and iterative improvement of sound policies, and to the delivery of equitable programs, across every area of government. Scientific findings should never be distorted or influenced by political considerations. . . . Improper political interference in the work of Federal scientists or other scientists who support the work of the Federal Government and in the communication of scientific facts undermines the welfare of the Nation, contributes to systemic inequities and injustices, and violates the trust that the public places in government to best serve its collective interests.”

The order also creates an interagency Task Force on Scientific Integrity charged with reviewing the effectiveness of agency scientific-integrity policies, including specific attention to any improper political interference in research and data gathering, or suppression or distortion of scientific information. The Task Force must also consider whether the independence of communication of scientific information is protected, and whether agency support of researchers and scientists, and delivery of federal programming, are equitable. Beyond review, there are also many action steps identified in the order. Beyond Pesticides has pointed to the corruption of scientific integrity again and again. Given the prior administration’s corrupt conduct, the charge of this task force represents a massive set of tasks.

Relatedly, in late January, a federal judge paused the Trump EPA’s 11th-hour and misleadingly named “secret science” rule, which would have limited the kinds of research that could be used by the agency in developing regulatory rules. The rule, which was made final without a required 30-day notice, was deemed by Montana federal district judge Brian Morris to have been unlawfully rushed by EPA; he called the finalization of the rule so close to the inauguration “arbitrary” and “capricious.” The Biden administration will need to act on this pending rule soon; given the EO on scientific integrity, it is unlikely to survive review intact.

A third, high visibility EO — one of many recently announced initiatives on climate — is the “Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis.” Its language checks a lot of boxes: “It is, therefore, the policy of my Administration to listen to the science; to improve public health and protect our environment; to ensure access to clean air and water; to limit exposure to dangerous chemicals and pesticides; to hold polluters accountable, including those who disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities; to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; to bolster resilience to the impacts of climate change; to restore and expand our national treasures and monuments; and to prioritize both environmental justice and the creation of the well-paying union jobs necessary to deliver on these goals.”

The EO directs all Executive Branch departments to “immediately commence work to confront the climate crisis.” It directs federal agency attention for revised rulemaking to, especially: methane reduction in the fossil fuel sector, ambitious fuel economy standards in transportation, energy efficiency in buildings and appliances, and air pollution from fossil-fuel powered electricity generation. Agency heads must forward any new proposed or amended rules not only to OMB, as is customary, but also, to the National Climate Advisor (Gina McCarthy, currently). In this EO, a line jumps out as emblematic of the turn this administration represents away from the pro-industry loyalty of the last: “In carrying out the actions directed in this section, heads of agencies shall seek input from the public and stakeholders, including State local, Tribal, and territorial officials, scientists, labor unions, environmental advocates, and environmental justice organizations.”

A shift from the Trump administration’s antipathy and an important step in using true cost accounting shines through in this language in the EO: “It is essential that agencies capture the full costs of greenhouse gas emissions as accurately as possible, including by taking global damages into account. . . . The ‘social cost of carbon’ (SCC), ‘social cost of nitrous oxide’ (SCN), and ‘social cost of methane’ (SCM) are estimates of the monetized damages associated with incremental increases in greenhouse gas emissions. They are intended to include changes in net agricultural productivity, human health, property damage from increased flood risk, and the value of ecosystem services. An accurate social cost is essential for agencies to accurately determine the social benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions when conducting cost-benefit analyses of regulatory and other actions.”

The EO further establishes a White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council and a White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council “to prioritize environmental justice and ensure a whole-of-government approach to addressing current and historical environmental injustices.” It is also this EO that revokes the permit for the notorious Keystone XL Pipeline; pauses oil and gas drilling leases on federal lands and water; and launches a review of existing energy leases. The Biden administration has set a goal of conserving at least 30% of federal lands and oceans by 2030.

Finally, the order calls for the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps that would “put a new generation of Americans to work conserving and restoring public lands and waters, increasing reforestation, increasing carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, protecting biodiversity, improving access to recreation, and addressing the changing climate.”

Whew.

President Biden’s recent EOs are aimed at both undoing some of the worst harms of the last administration, and setting a new tone and stage for effective and protective governance. Notably, the themes of racial equity and the climate crisis are woven through many of the new Executive Orders, underscoring the urgent need for attention to systemic inequities, environmental justice, and comprehensive action on climate. Regular Beyond Pesticides readers will be familiar with its coverage of how EPA’s approach to pesticide regulation is by nature racist. For example, risk assessment that calculates “acceptable” risks across population groups does not account for the disproportionate effect that pesticide use has on people in communities of color, and the agency’s failure to consider both occupational and nonoccupational exposures in its cumulative risk assessment contributes to the inequity of “risk” that then becomes codified in regulation.

The attention in the EOs to (and expected action on) the climate crisis — which also disproportionately affects communities of color and low-income communities — has the potential to ameliorate disparate impacts. Not least among those is the intended shift from a petroleum-based economy to one powered by renewable (“green”) energy, à la the Green New Deal or a similar initiative, which can be expected not only to create many new, nontoxic jobs, but also, to phase out the hegemony of the petroleum industry, which dominates in many communities of color.

A significant part of addressing the climate, equity, and toxics crises will be a retooling of agriculture and land management — from the petrochemical-dependent approach that dominates now to an organic and regenerative one. Such a system would protect public health, the environment, and biodiversity; end the poisoning of farmworkers and their families, and landscape workers; ultimately eliminate most petrochemical pesticides and fertilizers; and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester far more carbon than conventional agriculture can. The shift from a petroleum-based economy to a “green” economy represents benefits across many sectors, including fenceline communities that have borne the overwhelming brunt of environmental injustices.

According to advocates, all of the “words on paper” of the various Executive Orders are a very welcome beginning to the redress of the harms of the past four years, and of decades prior, and to a real shift in national priorities. Yet it must be recognized that translating what is written in these orders to an effective paradigm and cultural change across federal agencies is a daunting task. Federal agencies are entrenched in “status quo” thinking and operations, which too often fail to protect the public and allow, for example, use of dangerous pesticides and planet-killing fossil fuels — even when alternative strategies and materials, such as organic and regenerative agriculture, and renewable energy infrastructure, already exist and can be fully realized. This new administration provides a potential watershed in the transition to organics, green energy, and myriad other systems that cause negligible, and less disproportionate, harm.

Getting the charges of these EOs translated into concrete actions across federal agencies, and ultimately, into legislation that is much harder to “undo” by subsequent administrations, will require significant advocacy with agencies and legislators. It is critical that leaders and staff of federal agencies — beleaguered, discouraged, and in some cases, a skeletal version of what they used to be (thanks to the Trump administration) — are supported and encouraged by the administration, and by the public. Critically, the American people need to reach out to agencies, and to elected officials, to say, “Yes! These are the changes we want!” The public can also push forward on this agenda by supporting nongovernmental environmental and public health organizations that advocate for a less toxic, greener, and more-equitable future. Please get engaged in this work; join Beyond Pesticides; sign up for our Action Alerts; and/or contact Beyond Pesticides for more information on how to work for these critical, and hopeful, changes.

Sources: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/01/20/modernizing-regulatory-review/ and https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/01/27/fact-sheet-president-biden-takes-executive-actions-to-tackle-the-climate-crisis-at-home-and-abroad-create-jobs-and-restore-scientific-integrity-across-federal-government/

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

 

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04
Feb

Vulnerability to COVID-19 May Increase with Exposure to Organophosphorus Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, February 4, 2021) A review published in Food and Chemical Toxicology suggests organophosphorus pesticides (OPs) may increase the ability of SARS-CoV-2 to cause COVID-19, especially among vulnerable individuals with underlying medical conditions. Organophosphorus pesticides have a wide range of biological uses that makes these chemicals ubiquitous, significantly contaminating both terrestrial (land) and aquatic (water) environments. However, OPs are highly toxic, originating from the same compounds as World War II nerve agents. Moreover, OPs are one of the leading causes of poisoning globally. Therefore, it is vital to understand how OPs exposure will impact human health in conjunction with other immunologically compromising diseases like COVID-19.

Considering COVID-19 and OP exposure act similarity on the respiratory system, exacerbating adverse inflammatory responses, reviews like these highlight the significance of evaluating synergism between diseases and toxic chemicals to safeguard human health. Researchers in the study note, “To curb SARS-CoV-2 infection, a healthy immune system is obligatory despite potent vaccine to alleviate morbidities in patients. But unintentional exposure to OP compounds from several sources can rupture the antiviral defense against SARS-CoV-2. Moreover, respiratory ailments may also be fueled by OP compounds. Hence, SARS-CoV-2 mediated morbidities and fatalities could be backed by unintentional exposure to OPs in patients.”

Amidst the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), the global demand for pesticides, including disinfectants and sanitizers, has increased substantially as a means of preventing illness in domestic and community settings. Additionally, the increasing pervasiveness of moist environments from severe weather events like hurricanes increases the amount of mold and mosquito pests in some areas, causing higher inputs of fungicides and insecticides to combat the issue. However, exposure to these toxic pesticides can weaken the body’s immune response to illnesses, creating an environment for underlying condition (like respiratory issues such as asthma or endocrine disruption problems like diabetes) to flourish among vulnerable individuals.

In this review, researchers examine the structure, transmission-pattern, and respiratory immune response associated with SARS-CoV-2. Additionally, researchers inspect OP exposure impacts on humans and animals using a combination of in vivo and in vitro studies. Lastly, the review investigates the benefits of antioxidants and co-exposure to SARS-CoV-2 and OP compounds as a means of mitigating disease causes and effects. 

The immune system offers the best defense against coronavirus-infection, as the virus stimulates an innate and adaptive immune response to expel viral particles from the body. Innate immune responses are the first line of defense against viral infections, activating myeloid immunocytes (cells that mediate immune responses against pathogens). These mediating cells create antibodies that the complement system (a network of proteins that eliminate pathogens) enhances. Therefore, review researchers speculate immunocytes and the complement system can restrict coronavirus-infections. However, coronavirus infections can suppress/delay interferon (INF) protein synthesis responsible for defending against viral infections, causing a lapse in the innate defense system. Similarly, an adaptive immune response involves various immune cells and antibodies essential to protect against coronavirus infections. Still, injury to cells responsible for safeguarding against viral infections can induce more severe disease progression, immunocompromising the respiratory system of COVD-19 patients.

OP compounds are immunotoxicants. They modify the structure of lymphoid organs responsible for immunocyte cell production, causing injury and alteration to the cells. Additionally, these compounds lower antibody concentration and reduce autoimmune response to stimuli. The review finds current OPs, including chlorpyrifos and malathion, induce oxidative stress and DNA damage in immune system blood cells, similar to one of the most toxic, restricted OPs, methyl parathion. Furthermore, OPs can disrupt the homeostasis of proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory responses of cytokine proteins like INF responsible for immune protection.

This review demonstrates many immunotoxic similarities between OP exposure poisoning and coronavirus. Both OPs and coronavirus attack the immune system impacting immune cell concentrations (via death or injury), altering immune protein function and response, and dampening autoimmune reaction. Similarly, coronavirus and OP exposure predominantly impact respiratory capacity, causing various ailments that can lead to respiratory failure. Although, coronavirus can induce other adverse immunological outcomes, such as cardiac dysfunction, gastrointestinal issues, kidney damage, and dermal reactions, studies find OP exposure can have similar adverse multi-organ effects. Therefore, co-exposure to OPs and coronavirus can exacerbate disease effects in COVID-19 patients, with additional exposure to OPs intensifying inflammatory response and respiratory issues that can lead to death.

COVID-19 is a systemic (general) disease that overwhelmingly impacts the respiratory system of many patients. The respiratory system is essential to human survival, regulating gas exchange (oxygen-carbon dioxide) in the body to balance acid and base tissue cells for normal function. However, damage to the respiratory system can cause a plethora of issues—from asthma and bronchitis to oxidative stress that triggers the development of extra-respiratory, systemic manifestations like rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, underlying medical conditions (i.e., heart/kidney disease, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, obesity, etc.) heighten risks associated with severe illness from disease, including COVID-19.

Exposure to organophosphate pesticides (i.e., chlorpyrifos, malathion, diazinon, etc.) can heavily influence the respiratory system. Studies link pesticide use and residue to various respiratory illnesses. Organophosphates produce adverse effects on the nervous system, having the same mode-of-action as nerve agents for chemical warfare. Chemical exposure can cause a buildup of acetylcholine (a chemical neurotransmitter responsible for brain and muscle function) can lead to acute impacts, such as uncontrolled, rapid twitching of some muscles, paralyzed breathing, convulsions, and, in extreme cases, death. The compromise of nerve impulse transmission can have broad systemic impacts on the function of multiple body systems. In addition to being highly toxic to terrestrial and aquatic organisms, human exposure to organophosphates can induce endocrine disruption, reproductive dysfunction, fetal defects, neurotoxic damage, and kidney/liver damage.

Although most OP uses in the U.S. are agricultural, toxicity experts recommend a ban on all OP uses as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and World Health Organization (WHO) consider over 40 OPs that are moderately or highly hazardous to human health. States, including Hawaii, California, New York, and Maryland, plan to phase out chlorpyrifos use in agriculture following evidence of neurotoxic effects on children. However, other OPs remain in use despite their notorious toxicity. EPA classifies some commonly used OPs like malathion, a popular mosquito control, and tetrachlorvinphos, a common flea and tick killer in pet collars and shampoos, as probable carcinogens. Therefore, OPs remain a human health risk in conjunction with respiratory distress commencing from diseases like COVID-19, especially to individuals with underlying medical conditions.

This review reinforces evidence that OP exposure can compromise immune function against viral infections. A healthy immune system is vital to overcome coronavirus infections. However, exposure to OPs before, during, and possibly after coronavirus infections may promote adverse respiratory function and inflammatory responses in patients. Moreover, researchers suggest OP-induced immune cell death from oxidative stress may reduce vaccine effectiveness due to the lack of antibodies.

The review researchers conclude that world leaders should investigate potential augmented interactions (synergism) between OPs and deadly viral pathogens like coronavirus to protect human health: “Since direct experimental works dissecting the collaborative impacts of OPs and SARS-CoV-2 are still lacking, this review will attract the scientific community across the planet to concentrate on the proposed hypothesis to unveil the synergism between the two threats to the human race. Serious health problems discussed in the review will also draw attention of global environmental policymakers and concerned government/non-government organizations toward the perilous impacts of OP exposure in humans. Alongside, it will insist them to adopt necessary resolutions and amend policies that could limit human contacts with OPs.”

As the U.S. COVID-19 cases continue to rise, there is an urgent need to evaluate the effect pesticide exposure and uses have on health outcomes of disease. Although some practices and products can prevent coronavirus infections, the continued use of toxic pesticides in the surrounding environment increases disease risk factors. Pesticide use should not allow harm to those disproportionally affected by these chemicals, including people of color, essential workers, and farm/landscape workers who may suffer elevated rates of exposure to the virus. Advocates maintain individuals and government officials alike should assess all risks associated with pesticide use, including the mode of action. However, EPA’s failure to respond to current science is a significant shortcoming of its risk assessment process, especially regarding disease implications.

Beyond Pesticides tracks the most recent health studies related to pesticide exposure through our Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database (PIDD). This database supports the clear need for strategic action to shift away from pesticide dependency. For more information on the multiple harms of pesticide exposure, see PIDD pages on asthma/respiratory effectscancerendocrine disruption, and other diseases. Additionally, learn how to protect yourself from COVID-19 safely by visiting Beyond Pesticides’ webpage on Disinfectants and Sanitizers for more information. 

Beyond Pesticides advocates a precautionary approach to pest management in land management and agriculture by transiting to organic. Learn more about how the lack of adequate pesticide use regulations, including organophosphates, can impact human and environmental health using Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticides and You article “Highly Destructive Pesticide Effects Unregulated.”

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Food and Chemical Toxicology 

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03
Feb

Millions of People Poisoned by Pesticides Each Year, Underscoring Need for Organic Transition

(Beyond Pesticides, February 3, 2021) Hundreds of millions of people are being injured by pesticides every year, according to the first global estimate of unintentional human pesticide poisoning released in three decades. The systematic review, published in BMC Public Health highlights the grave result of modern civilization’s reliance on toxic chemicals to manage weeds and other pests. While international agencies like the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) endorse the phase out of highly hazardous pesticides, advocates say that goal should be the starting point in a broader paradigm shift to global organic production.

To determine the extent of unintentional poisonings, researchers reviewed scientific literature published between 2006 and 2018, including 157 publications and World Health Organization databases. The search ultimately covered 141 countries. Of these, 740,000 cases of unintentional poisoning were found, with roughly 7,500 resulting in death. Extrapolating that data, scientists estimate 385 million unintentional poisonings worldwide, including 11,000 fatalities. That number encompasses an astounding 44% of the entire global farming population of 860 million.

The authors note the importance of understanding the impact of pesticide poisonings that injure, but do not kill. “There is a need to recognize the high burden of non-fatal UAPP, particularly on farmers and farmworkers, and that the current focus solely on fatalities hampers international efforts in risk assessment and prevention of poisoning,” the study reads.

This is a critical aspect of pesticide incidents. If an accidental pesticide poisoning does not kill outright, it can result a range of chronic or long-term health issues. These health burdens further stress agricultural workers and their families. The costs of caretaking, transportation, health care, coupled with loss of income from pesticide injury can be overwhelming.

Individuals can also experience problems unique to their poisoning, with few available resources for treatment. Although there is growing recognition in the medical community of multiple chemical sensitivity or toxicant induced loss of tolerance, many individuals remain housebound due to risks from everyday exposure to chemicals in our environment. Beyond Pesticides receives dozens of calls each year from individuals experiencing the chronic effects of pesticide poisoning.

While eliminating the most acutely toxic pesticides on the market would make a major impact, there is a larger problem with our approach to growing food. Industrial fertilizers and pesticides enabled a rapid increase in production through the 20th century, but the long-term benefit is under serious question. Widespread poisoning of people and the planet, and the pollution of soil, air, water and food have brought considerable suffering. Industrial agriculture has been linked to the decline of pollinators and insects in general, rise in antibiotic resistance, violations of human rights, and a range of chronic disease, among a number of other adverse impacts.

Pesticide dependency is a path the world can choose not to follow. But a transition to safer practices is not simple. It requires education, buy-in, and support from government and consumers. Ultimately, organic agriculture can and must feed the world.  Alternative practices that work with, rather than against nature, such as biological pest management, show historical benefits that rival the green revolution. Organic agriculture addresses the failings of chemical-intensive farming on health and the environment while maintaining good yields at roughly the same cost.

Most importantly, farmers and farmworkers who grow organic food are not exposed to highly hazardous pesticides, as pesticide products compatible with organic production (which are only used as a last resort) must undergo additional, independent review for their impacts on human health.

While unintentional pesticide poisoning is much more frequent in an agricultural setting, it can happen anywhere at any time – from an apartment building contractor, HOA landscaper, neighbor, or even when simply walking one’s dog around the block. If you’ve been poisoned by pesticides, follow the steps on Beyond Pesticides What to Do in a Pesticide Emergency webpage.  After you’ve gone through the process, consider submitting a Pesticide Incident Report so that we have your story on file for regulators. Reach out to [email protected] for assistance.

Read more about diseases linked to pesticide exposure through the Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database, and for more information about why organic is the right choice for our farming future, see Beyond Pesticides organic program page.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: BMC Public Health

 

 

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02
Feb

Court Settlement Requires EPA to Review How Bee-Killing Pesticide Harms Endangered Species

(Beyond Pesticides, February 2, 2021) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will evaluate the effect of the neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid on endangered species, after an agreement was reached between the agency and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Imidacloprid is one of the most commonly used insecticides in the world today and, like other neonicotinoids in its chemical class, has been linked to a range of adverse impacts on wildlife and their habitat. While the agreement to the assess effects on endangered species is important, advocates note that EPA should already have conducted this review, and further, that imidacloprid and other neonicotinoids should already be banned.

NRDC’s successful lawsuit follows a separate legal challenge by the Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides, beekeepers, and other environmental organizations which was settled in 2019. The judge in that case, focused on the neonicotinoids clothianidin and thiamethoxam, did not order EPA to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) (which is required when registering a pesticide in order to mitigate risks to endangered species). Instead, she directed the parties, including the plaintiffs, defendant EPA, and intervenor Bayer CropScience (the manufacturer of neonicotinoids), to move forward with a settlement conference to resolve the disputes. The end result requires EPA to remove 12 products containing neonicotinoid active ingredients.

Under the settlement reached with NRDC, EPA is required to publish a biological evaluation on imidacloprid’s effect on endangered species, and allow time for public comment and review. The agency will then be required, by June 2022, to provide an “effects determination.” Under the endangered species act, further regulation is required on a pesticide that may effect an endangered species or the habitat it relies upon.  An effect determination will therefore guide a regulatory response by the agency.

NRDC remains in discussion with EPA regarding outstanding claims against two remaining neonicotinoids: dinotefuran and acetamiprid.

There is a wide range of evidence linking neonicotinoids, and imidacloprid in particular, to adverse impacts on wildlife. The chemicals have been linked to the decline of pollinators, birds, contamination of aquatic ecosystems, and birth defects and other malformations in mammals. The Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, a group consisting of 242 scientists from across the world, penned in 2018 an open letter to regulators and policymakers calling for restrictions on neonicotinoid insecticides. The scientists indicate that, “The balance of evidence strongly suggests that these chemicals are harming beneficial insects and contributing to the current massive loss of global biodiversity.”

While regulators in the European Union and Canada have made determinations that resulted in meaningful bans against neonicotinoid use, EPA has consistently dragged its feet. Over the last four years, the agency acted consistently sided with the agrichemical industry over the health of the general public and the ecosystems upon which life depends. But troubles with EPA did not start four years ago, compounding the challenge for health and environmental advocates.

Beyond Pesticides is calling on President Biden to reverse course and take EPA and other federal agencies in a new direction focused on systemic change. Join us in calling on the current administration to end the era of corporate deception in pesticide regulation. After taking action at the federal level, focus on grassroots organizing, where real change can take place.

Get involved at the community level to pass policies that protect imperiled pollinators. Right now, without adequate federal protection from toxic pesticides like imidacloprid, endangered monarch butterflies and rusty patched bumblebees need concerned communities throughout the country to step in and makes changes that give these species fighting chance. Use Beyond Pesticides’ resources and educational materials, including our BEE Protective doorknob hangers to get the word out.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: NRDC press release, Center for Food Safety

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01
Feb

TAKE ACTION: Save Monarch Butterflies from Extinction!  

(Beyond Pesticides, February 1, 2021) The yearly winter monarch count along the California coast, overseen each year by the conservation group Xerces Society, was the lowest ever. In 2020, citizen scientists counted only 2,000 butterflies. The findings indicate that many on the planet today are, within their lifetimes, likely to experience a world where western monarchs are extinct.

Tell the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list monarch butterflies on the list of threatened and endangered species. Tell the Environmental Protection Agency to eliminate pollinator poisons.

Western monarchs migrate from the Pacific Northwest to overwintering grounds along the California coast, where they remain in relatively stationary clusters that are easy to count. In the 1980s, roughly 10 million monarchs overwintered along the coast. By the 1990s, that number fell to 1.2 million. Five years ago, counts were at roughly 300,000. By 2019, numbers crashed below 30,000.

This year’s count saw no monarchs at well-known overwintering sites like Pacific Grove. Other locations, like Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove and National Bridges State Park, saw only a few hundred. “These sites normally host thousands of butterflies, and their absence this year was heartbreaking for volunteers and visitors flocking to these locales hoping to catch a glimpse of the awe-inspiring clusters of monarch butterflies,” said Sarina Jepsen, director of endangered species at the Xerces Society.

Decline is driven by human activity. Climate change, habitat destruction, and the use of toxic pesticides are causing “death by a thousand cuts,” says Xerces Society executive director Scott Black.

A changing climate impacts environmental cues that trigger breeding, migration, and hibernation in monarchs. Climate-induced extreme weather events such as wildfires, severe storms, and droughts further stress populations. Habitat destruction has occurred through the displacement of natural land with industrial development, and logging and other damage to monarch overwintering sites. Milkweed plants that monarchs require as larval food have been found to contain pesticides at levels that can kill them—one study found toxic pesticides in every milkweed plant tested. Herbicides, like glyphosate (Roundup), that do not kill monarchs directly are killing milkweed, exacerbating concerns around habitat destruction. Each of these stressors are harmful on its own, but stress is compounded by their combination.

A study published in the journal Biological Conservation in 2017 (while numbers were still ~300,000) determined that western monarchs faced a 72% chance of extinction in 20 years and an 86% chance of extinction within the next 50 years. “This study doesn’t just show that there are fewer monarchs now than 35 years ago,” said study coauthor Cheryl Schultz, PhD, at Washington State University. “It also tells us that, if things stay the same, western monarchs probably won’t be around as we know them in another 35 years.”

Eastern monarchs are also suffering. This population migrates from the U.S. East and Midwest to overwintering grounds in Mexico each year. A 2018 study published by a research team at University of Florida found that this population has declined by 80% since 2005. Two years after that study was published, the 2019/2020 eastern monarch count conducted by citizen scientists found another 53% reduction. Eastern monarchs are counted by the number of acres they occupy. In 2019/20, this number was 7 acres, down from 15 acres the prior year. Scientists have determined that 15 acres is the minimum threshold necessary to prevent total migratory collapse. A report from the World Wildlife Fund estimates that at the current rate of decline, the eastern monarch migration could collapse within 20 years.

Wildlife and conservation groups urged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list monarchs under the Endangered Species Act. Late last December, the Trump Administration announced it was a candidate for listing, but that listing is “precluded by work on higher-priority listing actions.” The Biden administration must follow through with listing and protective actions.

Monarchs may be the most charismatic pollinator to fall in the age of the insect apocalypse. But unless meaningful changes are made, it will not be the last. Recent research published in Biological Conservation show that 41% of insect species are declining and 30% are endangered, with an overall rate of insect decline at 2.5% each year.

Tell the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list monarch butterflies on the list of threatened and endangered species. Tell the Environmental Protection Agency to eliminate pollinator poisons.

Letter to Martha Williams, Principal Deputy Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The yearly winter monarch count along the California coast was the lowest ever. In 2020, citizen scientists counted only 2,000 butterflies. The findings indicate the imminent extinction of western monarchs. Urgent action is required to implement a plan to protect monarchs as an endangered species!

Western monarchs migrate from the Pacific Northwest to overwintering grounds along the California coast, where they remain in relatively stationary clusters that are easy to count.  In the 1980s, roughly 10 million monarchs overwintered along the coast. By the 1990s, the number fell to 1.2 million. Five years ago, counts were at roughly 300,000. By 2019, numbers had crashed below 30,000.

This year’s count saw no monarchs at well-known overwintering sites like Pacific Grove. Other locations, like Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove and National Bridges State Park, saw only a few hundred.

Decline is driven by human activity. Climate change, habitat destruction, and the use of toxic pesticides are combining to threaten the species. The way to initiate action to protect monarchs is to include them on the list of threatened and endangered species.

A changing climate alters environmental cues that trigger monarchs to breed, migrate, and hibernate. Climate-induced extreme weather events such as wildfires, severe storms, and droughts further stress populations. Habitat destruction includes logging, the displacement of natural land by industrial development, and other damage to monarch breeding and overwintering sites. Milkweed plants that monarchs require as larval food have been found to contain pesticides at levels that can kill them– one study found toxic pesticides in every milkweed plant tested. Herbicides, like glyphosate (Roundup), that do not kill monarchs directly kill milkweed, exacerbating habitat destruction. Each of these stressors is harmful on its own, but their combination compounds the damage.

A study published in the journal Biological Conservation in 2017 (while numbers were still ~300,000) determined that western monarchs faced a 72% chance of extinction in 20 years and an 86% chance of extinction within the next 50 years.

Eastern monarchs are also suffering. This population migrates from the US East and Midwest to overwintering grounds in Mexico each year. A 2018 study by researchers at University of Florida found that this population has declined by 80% since 2005. Two years later, the 2019/2020 eastern monarch count conducted by citizen scientists found another 53% reduction. Eastern monarchs are counted by the number of acres they occupy. In 2019/20, this number was 7 acres, down from 15 acres the prior year. Scientists have determined that 15 acres is the minimum threshold necessary to prevent total migratory collapse. A report from the World Wildlife Fund estimates that at the current rate of decline, the eastern monarch migration could collapse within 20 years.

Wildlife and conservation groups urged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the monarch under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Late last December, the Trump Administration announced it was a candidate for listing, but that listing is “precluded by work on higher-priority listing actions.” The presence of other high-priority issues is further evidence of the existence of severe threats to biodiversity, not a reason to avoid action. Protecting biodiversity is the purpose of the ESA. The Biden administration must follow through with listing and protective actions.

Monarchs may be the most charismatic pollinator to fall in the age of the insect apocalypse. But unless meaningful changes are made, it will not be the last. Recent research published in Biological Conservation show that 41% of insect species are declining and 30% are endangered, with an overall rate of insect decline at 2.5% each year.

Please put monarch butterflies on the threatened and endangered species list and require protective actions by other agencies.

Thank you.

Letter to Jane Nishida, Acting Administrator, EPA

The yearly winter monarch count along the California coast was the lowest ever. In 2020, citizen scientists counted only 2,000 butterflies. The findings indicate the imminent extinction of western monarchs. Urgent action is required to protect monarchs as an endangered species!

Western monarchs migrate from the Pacific Northwest to overwintering grounds along the California coast, where they remain in relatively stationary clusters that are easy to count.  In the 1980s, roughly 10 million monarchs overwintered along the coast. By the 1990s, the number fell to 1.2 million. Five years ago, counts were at roughly 300,000. By 2019, numbers had crashed below 30,000. This year’s count saw no monarchs at well-known overwintering sites like Pacific Grove. Other locations, like Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove and National Bridges State Park, saw only a few hundred.

Decline is driven by human activity. Climate change, habitat destruction, and the use of toxic pesticides are combining to threaten the species.

A changing climate alters environmental cues that trigger monarchs to breed, migrate, and hibernate. Climate-induced extreme weather events such as wildfires, severe storms, and droughts further stress populations. Habitat destruction includes logging, the displacement of natural land by industrial development, and other damage to monarch breeding and overwintering sites.

Milkweed plants that monarchs require as larval food have been found to contain pesticides at levels that can kill them– one study found toxic pesticides in every milkweed plant tested. Herbicides, like glyphosate (Roundup), that do not kill monarchs directly kill milkweed, exacerbating habitat destruction. Each of these stressors is harmful on its own, but their combination compounds the damage.

A study published in the journal Biological Conservation in 2017 (while numbers were still ~300,000) determined that western monarchs faced a 72% chance of extinction in 20 years and an 86% chance of extinction within the next 50 years.

Eastern monarchs are also suffering. This population migrates from the U.S. East and Midwest to overwintering grounds in Mexico each year. A 2018 study by researchers at University of Florida found that this population has declined by 80% since 2005. Two years later, the 2019/2020 eastern monarch count conducted by citizen scientists found another 53% reduction. Eastern monarchs are counted by the number of acres they occupy. In 2019/20, this number was 7 acres, down from 15 acres the prior year. Scientists have determined that 15 acres is the minimum threshold necessary to prevent total migratory collapse. A report from the World Wildlife Fund estimates that at the current rate of decline, the eastern monarch migration could collapse within 20 years.

Wildlife and conservation groups urged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the monarch under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Late last December, the Trump Administration announced it was a candidate for listing, but that listing is “precluded by work on higher-priority listing actions.” The presence of so many high-priority issues is further evidence of the existence of severe threats to biodiversity, not a reason to avoid action. It is time for EPA to protect biodiversity from toxic chemical threats.

Monarchs may be the most charismatic pollinator to fall in the age of the insect apocalypse. But unless meaningful changes are made, it will not be the last. Recent research published in Biological Conservation show that 41% of insect species are declining and 30% are endangered, with an overall rate of insect decline at 2.5% each year.

Please include these threats to insect biodiversity in EPA’s pesticide registration decisions. Eliminate pesticides that endanger pollinators and their habitat.

Thank you.

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29
Jan

GAO Report Identifies Need for Improving EPA Protection of Farmworkers

(Beyond Pesticides, January 29, 2021) More oversight is needed to ensure farmworkers are protected from toxic pesticides, according to a report published this month by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) (the federal agency that provides auditing, evaluation, and investigative services for Congress). Revisions to the Worker Protection Standards (WPS) governing farmworker safety were updated by the Obama administration in 2015, but GAO identified a number of shortfalls in EPA’s administration of the changes. GAO focused its review on the implementation of the ‘designated representative’ provision, which grants farmworkers the ability to task an individual they designate to request information on toxic pesticides from their employers. Providing farmworkers with a designated representative allows for the access of pesticide application and hazard information, so that they may take proper precautions or seek medical care. A farmworker may use this provision when they are no longer near the farm they worked on, or if there are language barriers. Without this provision, the information farmworkers receive would be at the whim of employers, and past incidents show that lack of information can lead to hazardous, abusive conditions for workers.

EPA officials, state officials, and stakeholders told GAO there was no evidence of such misuse of obtained pesticide information. GAO recommends that EPA coordinate with states to collect information on use of this process and take particular steps to clarify agency expectation about appropriate use of such pesticide information provided to designated representatives. GAO reports that “EPA agreed, in part, to both recommendations.”

EPA explains that instead of focusing on one particular provision, it focused resources on “collecting information on broader indicators for the WPS,” according to the report. Although it is encouraging that some information is being collected, GAO provided the recommendation that the agency should coordinate with states on data specifically related to the designated representative provision. “By coordinating with states, through its annual cooperative agreement work plans with states or another mechanism, to collect information on the use of the designated representative, EPA would be better positioned to determine if the designated representative provision is serving the intended purpose,” GAO indicates.

GAO also heard that industry groups are concerned about the information received by designated representatives being misused, in order to gain competitive advantage over other producers. Although this corporate paranoia was expressed to GAO, neither stakeholders, state, nor federal officials were able to point to a specific instance of the provision being misused. EPA indicated that it would expect industry groups to relay any potential problems or misuse to the agency. Nonetheless, GAO did accept that EPA guidance does not adequately explain how information obtained by a designated representative should be used. As a result, it was recommended that EPA publish clear guidance on the provision.

The protection of farmworkers from the threats of pesticide exposures has been the subject of multiple recent developments and actions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the federal court for the Southern District Court of New York (SDNY), the General Accountability Office (GAO), advocacy groups, and a coalition of five states, led by the New York State Attorney General (AG). Those actions include, respectively, a finalized rollback of aspects of EPA’s pesticide Application Exclusion Zone (AEZ) rules; a temporary stay on implementation of those rule changes by SDNY; a set of recommendations from GAO (the U.S. General Accountability Office) to EPA; advocacy by Beyond Pesticides and others, including Farmworker Justice and Earthjustice; and litigation against EPA by the five-state coalition for the agency’s retrograde October 2020 rule on AEZs. Beyond Pesticides has called attention to the inadequate state of farmworker protections from pesticides, and advocated for robust regulation to ensure the health of these essential workers, including extra protections during the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the center of this flurry of activity are pesticide AEZs, or Application Exclusion Zones — essentially, buffer zones in which people (other than applicators) are prohibited during pesticide applications because of the health threats of exposures. The Obama administration made revisions, in 2015, to the larger EPA Worker Protection Standard (WPS) for farmworkers, including some expansion of such no-entry buffer zones. Those changes aimed to improve farmworker and farm family protections, including from significant off-site drift of aerially sprayed pesticides.

However, the agrochemical-industry-friendly (and regulation allergic) Trump administration changed that trajectory when, in 2019, EPA proposed, and in October 2020, finalized, a rule change on AEZs that would functionally shrink the buffer zones, thus, putting farmworkers, their families, and farm owner families (and rural residents generally) at heightened risk for exposure to toxic chemicals.

In its coverage of farmworker protections and lack thereof, Beyond Pesticides recently described these changed features of the new rules: “Chemical intensive farms would no longer be required to keep bystanders out of off-site spray areas, and pesticide applications could be restarted when an individual leaves an AEZ. Current rules require farms to keep individuals out of areas where pesticides are applied, both on and off-site, and require set safety requirements about when spraying can start and stop. The [new rules] would also change the way family members living on a farm are treated. While current rules incorporate protections for these family members, the changes would exempt immediate family members ‘from all aspects of the AEZ requirement.’ . . . Family members could remain inside while a pesticide spraying is occurring, ‘rather than compelling them to leave even when they feel safe remaining inside.’ Health advocates indicate that such a proposal amounts to a dereliction of the agency’s duty to inform farmers and the general public about the inherent hazards of pesticide use, as feeling safe and being safe are critically important distinctions when it comes to chemical exposure.” The Pesticide Action Networks expresses the risks to farm families pithily: “If you’re a farm owner or family and you’re inside, you’re not protected.”

EPA’s new AEZ rules were to have gone into effect on December 29, 2020. On December 18, Farmworker Justice, Earthjustice, and other advocacy groups filed an emergency motion to prevent the new regulations from taking effect. Farmworker Justice writes, “The rule limits the AEZ to the boundaries of the agricultural establishment, even though pesticide drift often crosses property boundaries. Other adjustments to the rule allow pesticide application regardless of whether non-employees are on a property if they are subject to easement — in other words, if they have a right to be on the property. . . . These changes increase the risk of pesticide exposure for non-employees as well as nearby homes, schools, hospitals. . . . The EPA ruling willfully prioritizes the convenience of growers while endangering the health of the people who work in the fields. The new regulations do not account for the aerial drift of these pesticides that go beyond arbitrary property lines. The previous regulations must be reinstated for the safety and long-term health of farmworkers.”

The complaint itself says, “The AEZ was enacted by EPA to protect farmworkers and frontline communities from being poisoned by the drift of sprayed pesticides at the time of application. The final rule’s erosion of this protection poses an unreasonable risk of harm to human health, in violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.”

On that same December day, New York AG Letitia James announced a lawsuit brought by a coalition of five states (led by New York), that include California, Illinois, Maryland, and Minnesota, asking that the new rule be vacated and the agency barred from implementing it. The litigation argued that “EPA violated federal law when it adopted a regulation that allows pesticide spraying to continue even if farmworkers or other persons are within the area immediately surrounding the spraying equipment, if that area is outside the farm’s boundaries.”

The states argue that this deviation from the 2015 rule — which required that there be no one (other than trained and equipped handlers or applicators) within a 100-foot buffer area of an AEZ during pesticide application, including affected areas beyond a farm’s boundaries because of the risk of pesticide drift — puts many more people at significant risk of dangerous exposures to pesticides. The suit also charges that through this rule, EPA is “ignoring its obligation to identify and address the disproportionately high and adverse effects of this policy change on minority and low-income populations.”

Ms. James commented, at the time of the announcement, that pesticides are “extremely dangerous to the health of farming communities. . . . Trump’s EPA knowingly increased the risk that farmworkers, their families, and others will be exposed to these dangerous chemicals. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, farming communities have been our front-line workers, underpinning our economy and ensuring we have enough food on our tables. To further endanger their health and safety is as unconscionable as it is illegal, and we will fight back against this latest example of the outgoing administration’s unrelenting assault on science, public health, and the law.”

Then-AG of California, Xavier Becerra, added, “The Trump Administration’s decision to undercut existing public health protections for these workers is not only reprehensible — it’s illegal. We’re going to court to prove it.” (Mr. Becerra is currently President Biden’s nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services.) Another participating AG, Maryland’s Brian Frosh, also weighed in: “It is EPA’s job to protect farmworkers, their families and others who are exposed to pesticides. These regulations prioritize killing bugs over protecting people.” The SDNY issued, a mere 10 days later, a temporary restraining order against EPA, prohibiting the agency from implementing the revised AEZ rules (see more, below).

Although ultimately, GAO’s recommendations could result in more transparency and better information flow, the agency’s attention to such bureaucratic minutiae, and to handholding recalcitrant farmer-owners (so that they will comply with rules about disclosing pesticides in use) pales in comparison to the larger point: EPA fails broadly to protect farmworkers adequately. GAO might do better to evaluate EPA’s poor risk assessment of specific pesticides (see this Daily News item on glyphosate), its ignoring of the science on risk (see this, on chlorpyrifos), or its outrageous March 2020 suspension of the agency’s safety enforcement program at the start of the pandemic.

These failures put agricultural workers and their families, who already endure heightened health risks from acute and chronic pesticide exposures, at ongoing risk of illness and worse. Farmworkers deserve far better protection. With an average farmworker life expectancy of roughly 56 years (compared with an average for all U.S. adults of nearly 79 years), it is morally indefensible that a federal agency should tolerate and perpetuate this level of risk. The situation for farmworkers — and the general public, ecosystems, biodiversity, and irreplaceable natural resources negatively affected by pesticide use — is made even more senseless by the reality that organic, regenerative agriculture eliminates these toxic compounds and exposures, and is a viable, profitable, and protective approach to food production.

The restraining order issued by SDNY, preventing implementation of the revised AEZ rules, now shifts the decision about whether or not to defend EPA’s industry-friendly rule to the new Biden administration. Beyond Pesticides wrote, on January 5, “While maintaining the changes agreed to under the Obama Administration would be an important start, it is evident that further safeguards are needed. A recent incident [in which more than] two dozen Texan farmworkers working in Illinois were repeatedly sprayed with toxic pesticides via aircraft, despite current rules, underscores the importance of strong enforcement to drive compliance.”

NPR (National Public Radio) and many other outlets have reported that the Biden administration is embarking on reviews of all Trump-era policies that “were harmful to public health, damaging to the environment, unsupported by the best available science, or otherwise not in the national interest.” NPR notes that the administration will specifically revisit the revised EPA rules on AEZs. 

Constant pressure and vigilance are needed to protect people, given the influence of corporate interests on federal agencies. Although industry often paints a picture that new rules, such as the designated representative provision, will harm business, this GAO report provides evidence that this is not the case. Mindful that the SDNY restraining order is temporary, Beyond Pesticides strongly encourages the Biden EPA to undo permanently this harmful rule, and generally, to be bold in fighting for systemic change, and ending corporate deception and influence on our public agencies. It is what members of the public — and farmworkers — deserve.

Sources: https://beyondpesticides.org/dailynewsblog/2021/01/federal-court-blocks-epa-from-weakening-farmworker-protections/ and https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/2020/ag-james-sues-stop-epa-weakening-pesticide-poisoning-protections-farmworkers.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

 

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28
Jan

Persistent Organic Pollutants like Organochlorine Pesticides Pose Health Risk to Rare Giant Panda Subspecies

(Beyond Pesticides, January 28, 2021) Persistent organic pollutants (POPs)—including banned pesticides—present a health risk to the endangered Qinling Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca qinlingensis), the rarest subspecies of giant pandas, according to a new Chinese study published in Environmental Pollution. Organochlorine compounds (OCs), such as organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), are well-known persistent organic pollutants. They were banned by the Stockholm Convention treaty in 2001 and are primary pollutants of concern (UNEP, 2009) because of their persistence, toxicity, and adverse effects on environmental and biological health. These pollutants have a global distribution, with evaporation and precipitation facilitating long-range atmospheric transport, deposition, and bioaccumulation of hazardous chemicals in the environment. The U.S. was a signatory to the treaty, but U.S. Senate never ratified it, relegating U.S. officials to observer status.

Although various studies demonstrate the volatile, toxic nature of POPs, much less research evaluates the impact POPs have on biodiversity over time. The globe is currently going through the Holocene Extinction, Earth’s 6th mass extinction, with one million species of plants and animals at risk. With the increasing rate of biodiversity loss, advocates say it is essential for government agencies to research how previous and ongoing use of POPs can impact present-day species. Likewise, collaborative, global monitoring of POPs can help leaders identify the effect on vulnerable species of the chemicals’ long-range transport and the most effective unified global strategy.

Researchers note, “We provide data for health risk assessment that can guide the identification of priority congeners [different forms of the same chemical structure] and recommend a long-term monitoring plan. This study proposes an approach to ecotoxicological threats whereby giant pandas may be used as sentinel species for other threatened or endangered mammals. By highlighting the risks of long-distance transmission of pollutants, the study emphasizes the importance of transboundary cooperation to safeguard biodiversity.”

Researchers in the study assessed organochlorine compound (OC) concentrations by analyzing the distribution of OCs from various sources within the habitat and research center of the Qinling panda. The sources include soil, bamboo, and feces that researchers examined for concentrations of 32 PCBs and 22 OCPs congeners (chemical compounds related to each other by origin, structure, or function). Some OCP compounds encompass widely banned chemicals: dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane and metabolites (DDTs), hexachlorocyclohexanes (HCHs), methoxychlor, mirex, HCB, and cyclodienes (cis- and trans-chlordane, isodrin, endosulfan, aldrin, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor).

This study demonstrates that Quinling Panda species are generally exposed to moderate levels of OC pollution. Higher levels of OCs are present in captive pandas relative to wild pandas. The authors identify PCB and OCP residues as coming from atmospheric transportation. At the same time, the study identifies PCBs as a cancer risk to the pandas, in fact the most notable toxicant with the highest carcinogenic risk index of PCB 126 (the most potent highly toxic industrial byproduct that incites numerous adverse physiological effects).

Long-range atmospheric transport and condensation are significant contributors to the global contamination of environmental pollutants like POPs. Most concerning are the persistent properties of POPs that allow these substances to remain in the environment long after use. Some of these long-lived chemicals include regionally banned pesticides that are all highly toxic to humans and animals: DDT, heptachlor, and lindane. These pesticides cause a range of adverse effects, from respiratory issues, nervous system disorders, and birth deformities, to various common and uncommon cancers. Although some, but not all, manufacturing and use of specific POPs have declined in the U.S., POPs remain a global issue, as much of the developing world still reports usage. Continued manufacturing and use of POPs  increase the probability of long-range transport of these chemicals and their deposition across the globe via precipitation.

Currently, POPs are present in “pristine” polar regions and remote areas seemingly void of pollution inputs. Arctic snowmelt threatens to re-release POPs entrapped in ice, further contributing to the transport of these toxic chemicals and passive pesticide exposure globally. The glacial melting caused by the climate crisis will only add to water source contamination. The release of volatile POPs will enter waterways at the same concentration levels as before ice entrapment, even after several decades. Pesticide contamination is already an issue in the United States. Results from a United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) study demonstrate that pesticides and their degradates are widespread in U.S. streams and groundwater. Furthermore, a recent study discovered the presence of DDT metabolite (DDE’) residues in black women in Chicago  who consume more glasses of tap water per day. 

Exposure concerns about POPs exposure are increasing significantly, especially for adults and children who are more vulnerable to their toxic effects. Moreover, many contaminants are subject to regulatory standards that do not fully evaluate disease implications associated with exposure associated with global transport and releases associated with the climate crisis. Advocates say that addressing the manufacturing and use of pesticides is essential to mitigate risks from chemical exposure to toxic pesticides.

Overall, a combination of long-range atmospheric transport, local climate, topography, and human activity contributes to organochlorine compound accumulation in the Qinling panda habitat. Furthermore, regions at high latitudes and near cities tend to accumulate greater concentrations of OCs than other chemicals in the same area.

Uniquely, the Qinling Panda is primarily a captive species. Past research demonstrates they experience routine exposure to OCs from their bamboo diet, due to atmospheric deposition of environmental contaminants from air pollution into soils. Study researchers suggest OCs may be accumulating in panda tissue as OC concentrations are slightly lower in giant panda feces than in bamboo. Accumulation of these toxic chemicals in tissue can have long-term, severe health consequences that remain latent for years (i.e., cancer, endocrine disruption). Scientists say it is essential to understand how long-banned chemicals impact giant pandas’ health, especially because many endangered mammals are also in captivity. Giant pandas can serve as a sentinel species for threatened/endangered mammal health regarding chemical exposure. 

Study researchers conclude, “We demonstrated that health risk assessments are important for prioritizing congeners of pollutants in Qinling… However, further studies should focus on more refined assessments of daily intake and improvements of exposure parameters. Hence, regular monitoring is needed to ensure that dangerous increases in these pollutants do not go unnoticed. In light of the long-distance transport of pollutants, our study provides an additional strand of evidence for the necessity of trans-boundary, and indeed global, actions to deliver conservation of biodiversity. [These include] such coordinated and cooperative approaches to conservation are urgent, and raise important questions as to how people can achieve the necessary cooperation.”

Lack of adequate persistent pesticide regulations highlights the need for better policies on pesticide production and use. Better pesticide policies are especially relevant when a toxic pesticide banned or highly restricted for use in the U.S. is still in production and exported to other countries.

A switch from chemical-intensive agriculture to regenerative organic agriculture can significantly reduce the threat of the climate crisis. Organic agriculture eliminates toxic, petroleum-based pesticide and synthetic fertilizer use, builds soil health, and sequesters carbon. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finds that agriculture, forestry, and other land use contributes about 23% of total net anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. However, organic production reduces greenhouse gas emissions and sequesters ambient carbon in the soil. Learn about how we can sequester more than 100% of current annual CO2 emissions by switching to organic management practices by reading Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change: A Down-to-Earth Solution to Global Warming. For more information about organic food production, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Keep Organic Strong webpage. Learn more about the adverse health and environmental effects chemical-intensive farming poses for various crops and how eating organic produce reduces pesticide exposure.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Environmental Pollution

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27
Jan

Monarch Butterfly Near Extinction—Calls for Urgent Federal Action

(Beyond Pesticides, January 27, 2021) Lowest ever recorded! That’s the result of a yearly winter monarch count along the California coast, overseen each year by the conservation group Xerces Society. In 2020, citizen scientists counted only 2,000 butterflies. The findings indicate that many on the planet today are likely to experience, within their lifetimes, a world where western monarchs are extinct—unless the federal government acts now.

Western monarchs migrate from the Pacific Northwest to overwintering grounds along the California coast, where they remain in relatively stationary clusters that are easy to count.  In the 1980s, roughly 10 million monarchs overwintered along the coast. By the 1990s, that number fell into the low single digits, roughly 1.2 million. Five years ago counts were at roughly 300,000. By 2019, numbers crashed below 30,000.

This year’s count saw no monarchs at iconic overwintering sites like Pacific Grove. Other locations, like Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove and National Bridges State Park saw only a few hundred. “These sites normally host thousands of butterflies, and their absence this year was heartbreaking for volunteers and visitors flocking to these locales hoping to catch a glimpse of the awe-inspiring clusters of monarch butterflies,” said Sarina Jepsen, director of endangered species at the Xerces Society.

The causes of decline are driven by human activity. Climate change, habitat destruction, and the use of toxic pesticides are causing “death by a thousand cuts,” says Xerces Society executive director Scott Black.

A changing climate impacts environmental cues that trigger breeding, migration, and hibernation in monarchs. Climate-induced extreme weather events such as wildfires, severe storms, and droughts can further stress populations. Habitat destruction has occurred through the displacement of natural land with industrial development, and logging and other damage to monarch overwintering sites. The milkweed plants that monarchs require to lay eggs have been found to contain pesticides at levels that can kill butterflies—one study found toxic pesticides in every milkweed plant tested. Pesticides, like glyphosate (Roundup), that are not contaminating milkweed are killing it off, exacerbating concerns about habitat destruction. Each of these stressors are harmful on their own, yet are compounded by all occurring at the same time.

A study published in the journal Biological Conservation in 2017 (while numbers were still ~300,000) determined that western monarchs faced a 72% chance of extinction in 20 years and an 86% chance of extinction within the next 50 years. “This study doesn’t just show that there are fewer monarchs now than 35 years ago,” said study coauthor Cheryl Schultz, PhD, at Washington State University. “It also tells us that, if things stay the same, western monarchs probably won’t be around as we know them in another 35 years.”

Eastern monarchs are not fairing much better. This population migrates from the eastern and midwestern U.S. to overwintering grounds in Mexico each year. A 2018 study published by a research team at University of Florida found that this population has declined by 80% since 2005. Two years after that study was published, the 2019/20 eastern monarch count conducted by citizen scientists found another 53% reduction. Eastern monarchs are counted by the number of acres they occupy. In 2019/20, this number was 7 acres, down from 15 acres the prior year. Scientists have determined that 15 acres is the minimum threshold necessary to prevent total migratory collapse. A report from the World Wildlife Fund estimates that at the current rate of decline, the eastern monarch migration will likely collapse within 20 years.

Wildlife and conservation groups urged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list monarchs under the Endangered Species Act. Late last December, the Trump Administration announced it was a candidate for listing, but did not commit to an implementation timetable, delaying any meaninful action. Advocates are urging the Biden administration to follow through with listing and protective actions.

Monarchs may be the first iconic, charismatic pollinator to fall in the age of the insect apocalypse. But unless meaningful policy changes are made, it will not be the last. Recent research published in Biological Conservation show that 41% of insect species are declining and 30% are endangered, with an overall rate of insect decline at 2.5% each year.

Our relationship with the natural world must undergo a systemic transformation if we are to continue to enjoy the beauty and grandeur of monarch migration. We must take both individual and collective action to address this problem. Do what you can on your own property to plant pollinator-friendly habitat, and encourage your friends, family, coworkers, and place of work to do the same. For help, see the BEE Protective Habitat Guide and Do-It-Yourself Biodiversity, Managing Landscapes with Pollinators in Mind and Hedgerows for Biodiversity: Habitat is needed to protect pollinators, other beneficial organisms, and healthy ecosystems.

With a crisis this large, we must also work together. Join with like-minded advocates to urge your state and local officials to pass laws that eliminate the use of toxic pesticides and encourage the planting of pollinator habitat. At the federal level, call for the passage of the Saving America’s Pollinators Act, which would eliminate pesticides toxic to pollinators in favor of alternative products and practices.  

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Associated Press, Xerces Society

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26
Jan

Beyond Pesticides Sues Sargento Foods for Mislabeling Antibiotic Use as Threat of Resistance Looms

(Beyond Pesticides, January 26, 2021) As the world moves toward another pandemic associated with antibiotic resistance, Beyond Pesticides sued Sargento Foods, Inc. for misleading its customers with product label claims of “no antibiotics,” which is false according to the complaint. The lawsuit alleges that Sargento’s cheese products are made with milk from cows raised with antibiotics and that antibiotics can be found in some of the company’s finished food.    

The use of antibiotics in agriculture is contributing to a “looming potential pandemic” worldwide, resulting from a “rise in multidrug-resistant bacterial infections that are undetected, underdiagnosed, and increasingly untreatable, [which] threatens the health of people in the USA and globally,” according The Lancet, a prestigious medical journal, in September. The World Health Organization has declared that, “AMR [antimicrobial resistance] is one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity.” The primary contributors to AMR identified in the scientific literature are antibiotic uses in agriculture and overuse in medicine. 

“This lawsuit is motivated by the urgent need to transition away from practices in agriculture that are dependent on antibiotics, advance organic farm management, and avoid new deadly pandemics,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “One way to do this is to ensure truthful labeling so that consumers can make informed and responsible choices in the marketplace,” he said. 

Because toxic chemical dependency and management practices result in ecosystem imbalance in chemical-intensive (or conventional) agriculture, antibiotics become necessary in both livestock and crop production. Antibiotics are used extensively in factory-style dairy production because the treatment and conditions to which cows are subjected impair their health and cause infections. The majority of dairy cows in the United States are confined indoors and do not graze on pasture. Teat trauma caused by milking machines, genetic selection for high milk yields, and unsanitary conditions make cows susceptible to clinical mastitis from pathogenic bacteria, which is the most commonly reported health problem in the dairy industry. 

Antibiotics are also used widely as additives in animal feed to ward off any potential infections and to promote unnaturally rapid growth (the latter of which translates to higher profits), rather than being used to treat bacterial infections. Both of these objectives compensate for the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). However, use of antibiotics is prohibited in all certified organic production, which incentivizes access to pasture, rotational grazing, and soil management. Although the standards of the National Organic Program require the treatment of sick animals, the dairy, meat, and other products from such animals cannot be sold with the certified organic label. Organic certification bans antibiotics in crop production, while its uses continue in conventional fruit production, some vegetables, and citrus (grapefruits, oranges, and tangerines). 

An FDA (Food and Drug Administration) ban on the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in livestock, which went into effect on January 1, 2017, was confounded later that year by USDA’s rejection of World Health Organization guidance on limiting antibiotic use in animal feed. USDA asserted that treating, controlling, and preventing” disease under veterinary supervision constitutes “appropriate use”—undercutting the ban on antibiotics for growth promotion because, when used in feed for disease prevention, antibiotics also promote growth. 

“In addition to direct ingestion of antibiotic residues, resistant bacteria move from farms to families, through the environment to the human population, known as ‘horizontal gene transfer,’ said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. Additionally, he said, “Beyond the threat from antibiotic-resistant infections, the ability of antibiotics to disturb or kill the gut microbiota in humans can lead to or exacerbate autoimmune and other 21st century diseases, including diabetes, obesity, food allergies, heart disease, cancer, asthma, autism, irritable bowel syndrome, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and more.” 

The authors of The Lancet article also indicate that the AMR phenomenon can exacerbate COVID-19 risks. They observe that, across five countries, COVID-19 diagnoses are associated with bacterial infections (with 3.5% diagnosed concurrently and 14.3% post-COVID-19). The prevalence is higher in patients who require intensive care. The authors note that, “72% of COVID-19 patients received antibiotics even when not clinically indicated, which can promote AMR.” 

Beyond Pesticides is represented by Richman Law and Policy, based in Irvington, New York. The action is brought under the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act (“CPPA”), D.C. Code § 28-3901, et seq.

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25
Jan

EPA: Reverse Approval of Highly Toxic Insecticide Aldicarb on Oranges

(Beyond Pesticides. January 25, 2021) First registered in 1970 and voluntarily cancelled in 2010, aldicarb (Temik™) was being manufactured in Bhopal, India in 1984 when a leak of a precursor—methyl isocyanate (MIC)—spread over the city, ultimately killing more than 25,000 people and leaving more than 120,000 people who still suffer from severe health problems as a result of their exposure. In 1989, Union Carbide Corporation—the manufacturer of aldicarb at the time—paid $470 million (equivalent to $860 million in 2019) to settle litigation stemming from the disaster. Aldicarb has been allowed by the outgoing Trump EPA for use on oranges.

>>Tell EPA to Reverse Approval of Highly Toxic Insecticide Aldicarb!

No pesticide epitomizes the “cradle-to-grave” dangers of pesticides better than aldicarb. The disaster in Bhopal was followed by others, including a leak in Institute, WV in 1985 that injured at least 135 people and a 2008 explosion in Institute, WV that killed two and injured at least eight. In use, it has been implicated in poisoning of workers and their children, poisoning deer and other game consuming contaminated seeds, and notably, poisoning food grown in soil treated with the chemical. The effects don’t stop there—aldicarb is also notorious for contaminating groundwater.

EPA has approved aldicarb (an insecticide) in combination with streptomycin (an antibiotic used to fight human disease) to control citrus greening, a disease transmitted by the Asian citrus psyllid. As Nathan Donley, PhD of the Center for Biological Diversity says, “Only the Trump EPA would approve use of a medically important antibiotic and a pesticide banned in over 100 countries on citrus crops.”

Aldicarb is a highly toxic, systemic carbamate insecticide that is a fast-acting cholinesterase inhibitor that permanently binds to the active site of an essential enzyme for normal nerve impulse transmission, acetylcholinesterase (AChE), deactivating the enzyme. In doing this, the chemical causes damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems, interrupting neurological activity. Aldicarb is subject to regulation under the Rotterdam Convention, an international treaty established to reduce the trade of the most globally hazardous chemicals, with over 100 countries—excluding the U.S.—banning its use. Both EPA and the World Health Organization (WHO) classify the chemical in the highest toxicity category. However, the U.S. is one of only a few countries around the world that does not regulate aldicarb via the treaty, but merely strictly restricts its uses.

Aldicarb may persist in groundwater for decades due to its long half-life between 200 to 2000 days and ingestion of aldicarb-contaminated groundwater by residents adversely affects immune system function. Furthermore, aldicarb is a systemic pesticide that plant roots and leaves readily uptake, leading to toxic chemical residues in pollen and sap-like droplets (guttation) easily accessible to vulnerable pollinators, like bees.

In 2010, Bayer CropScience agreed with EPA to voluntarily cancel the production of Temik 15G, the sole aldicarb pesticide on the market, ending distribution by 2017. The chemical poses an unnecessary dietary risk to infants and children, causing neurological harm at very low doses. However, less than a decade after its discontinuation, a new aldicarb product by AgLogic—AgLogic 15G—surfaced, with limited use on a small subset of U.S. crops.

Presently, AgLogic is the only manufacturer of aldicarb pesticide products, and approving it for use on citrus fruit highlights faults within the pesticide regulatory system. Evidence demonstrates that past use of Temik 15G on citrus fruit crops exclusively posed the highest risk to children and infants, ultimately leading to its 2010 cancellation. Furthermore, the Florida Department of Agriculture denied AgLogic’s request to gain “Special Local Needs” approval under Section 24(c) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) for use on Florida citrus in 2017 and 2018. AgLogic was unable to demonstrate that aldicarb is safer at controlling pests than other alternatives. This new AgLogic registration does not “require the submission of comparative efficacy studies,” which accelerated regular Section 3 registration on citrus.

Organic growers know that soil biology and soil health is important to protection from diseases like citrus greening. The use of aldicarb and streptomycin, on the other hand, destroy healthy soil biota.

The approval of AgLogic15G for use on citrus crops (e.g., grapefruit, lemon, orange, lime trees) allows an additional 400,000 acres of crop treatments in areas where pesticides already pose a threat to human, animal, and environmental health. Karen McCormack, a retired employee of the EPA’s pesticide office, states her concern over aldicarb approval: “It’s deeply disappointing to watch the current EPA renege on its agreement to ban this highly toxic and persistent pesticide. After receiving numerous complaints of aldicarb leaching into groundwater and contaminating drinking water supplies in Florida and elsewhere, my colleagues worked tirelessly to reach a voluntary agreement with the aldicarb manufacturer to stop producing this hazardous pesticide. Now it appears all this work may have been in vain.”

The approval of the aldicarb use demonstrates the danger of regulating pesticides through negotiated voluntary cancellations, which do not produce a record on which EPA or the public can depend for future decisions.

It is essential that when EPA weighs the risks and benefits of extending pesticide uses, the agency acknowledges previous harms associated with those chemicals. Harms ultimately associated with contaminant exposure should end through policy reform and the adoption of practices that eliminate toxic pesticide use. With far too many diseases in the U.S. associated with pesticide exposure, prohibiting the use of pesticides with known toxic effects is crucial for safeguarding public health.

>>Tell EPA to Reverse Approval of Highly Toxic Insecticide Aldicarb!

Letter to EPA

It is crucial that the Biden administration add to its list of urgent actions the reversal of EPA’s approval of the highly toxic insecticide aldicarb for use on citrus.

First registered in 1970 and voluntarily cancelled in 2010, aldicarb (Temik™) was being manufactured in Bhopal, India in 1984 when a leak of a precursor—methyl isocyanate (MIC)—spread over the city, ultimately killing more than 25,000 people and leaving more than 120,000 people who still suffer from severe health problems as a result of their exposure. In 1989, Union Carbide Corporation—the manufacturer of aldicarb at the time—paid $470 million (equivalent to $860 million in 2019) to settle litigation stemming from the disaster. Aldicarb, now made by Bayer, has been allowed by the outgoing Trump EPA for use on oranges.

No pesticide epitomizes the “cradle-to-grave” dangers of pesticides better than aldicarb. The disaster in Bhopal was followed by others, including a leak in Institute, WV in 1985 that injured at least 135 people and a 2008 explosion in Institute, WV that killed two and injured at least eight. In use, it has been implicated in poisoning of workers and their children, poisoning deer and other game consuming contaminated seeds, and notably, poisoning food grown in soil treated with the chemical. The effects don’t stop there—aldicarb is also notorious for contaminating groundwater.

EPA has approved aldicarb (an insecticide) in combination with streptomycin (an antibiotic used to fight tuberculosis) to control citrus greening, a disease transmitted by the Asian citrus psyllid. As Nathan Donley, PhD of the Center for Biological Diversity says, “Only the Trump EPA would approve use of a medically important antibiotic and a pesticide banned in over 100 countries on citrus crops.”

Aldicarb is a highly toxic, systemic carbamate insecticide banned by over 100 countries under the Rotterdam Convention. Both EPA and the World Health Organization (WHO) classify the chemical in the highest toxicity category.

Aldicarb may persist in groundwater for decades due to its long half-life between 200 to 2000 days, and ingestion of aldicarb-contaminated groundwater by residents adversely affects immune system function. Furthermore, aldicarb is a systemic pesticide that plant roots and leaves readily uptake, leading to toxic chemical residues in pollen and guttation droplets, poisoning pollinators like bees.

In 2010, Bayer CropScience agreed with EPA to voluntarily cancel the production of Temik 15G, the sole aldicarb pesticide on the market, ending distribution by 2017. However, less than a decade after its discontinuation, a new aldicarb product by AgLogic—AgLogic 15G—surfaced, with limited use on a small subset of U.S. crops.

Evidence demonstrates that past use of Temik 15G on citrus fruit crops exclusively posed the highest risk to children and infants, ultimately leading to its 2010 cancellation. Furthermore, the Florida Department of Agriculture denied AgLogic’s request to gain “Special Local Needs” approval under Section 24(c) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) for use on Florida citrus in 2017 and 2018 because AgLogic was unable to demonstrate that aldicarb is safer at controlling pests than other alternatives.

Organic growers know that soil biology and soil health is important to protection from diseases like citrus greening. The use of aldicarb and streptomycin, on the other hand, destroy healthy soil biota.

The approval of the aldicarb use demonstrates the danger of regulating pesticides through negotiated voluntary cancellations, which do not produce a record on which EPA or the public can depend for future decisions.

Please reverse EPA’s approval of the highly toxic insecticide aldicarb for use on citrus.

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22
Jan

Will Biden Reverse Last Minute Trump EPA Approval of the Deadly Insecticide Aldicarb, Previously Cancelled?

(Beyond Pesticides, January 22, 2021) After the past four devastating years, hopes and expectations of the Biden/Harris administration abound among the environmental and public health communities. The ears and eyes of many advocates, as well as those in the agricultural community, are attuned (among myriad candidates) to the fate of the pesticide aldicarb. Although Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration of this terribly toxic insecticide was cancelled in 2010, various limited-use reapprovals since then have meant that the compound has found its way to increasing levels of use. On January 12, as another parting shot of midnight rulemaking, Trump’s EPA approved expanded uses (see below). The $64,000 question is whether the new administration will use its authority under the Congressional Review Act — which enables Congress to pass a joint resolution (then signed by the President) to overturn a new federal agency rule and prevent its reissuance in the future — to get this pesticide retired for good. Beyond Pesticides urges President Biden’s EPA to do so.

Notably, the Trump administration used the Congressional Review Act to destroy myriad environmental rules when it came into power. This permitting of expanded aldicarb uses fits the pattern. Environmental Health News notes that, as of early January, EPA was also poised to approve “use of up to 650,000 pounds of the medically important antibiotic streptomycin as a pesticide on half a million acres of the same citrus trees that may be treated with aldicarb and several other new and older pesticides. By contrast, only 14,000 pounds of streptomycin’s entire antibiotic class are used for human medicinal purposes each year.” This is in spite of the alarming and urgent issue of antibiotic resistance. Beyond Pesticides has written frequently about this, including on antibiotic use in citrus growing, and the contribution of that sector to the resistance crisis.

The compound has been used, in combination with antibiotics, to combat citrus greening disease (also known as HLB, or citrus huanglongbing disease), a potentially lethal bacterial infection that can be transmitted to citrus trees by the Asian citrus psyllid. Aldicarb is also used on a variety of other crops against aphids, spider mites, thrips, leafminers, tarnished plant bugs, and fleahoppers.

Aldicarb, a carbamate compound (see more on this, below), is noxious in a variety of ways, not least of which are its neurotoxicity, especially to infants and children, its ruinous impacts on pollinators, and its toxicity to mammals, birds, and marine, estuarine, and freshwater organisms. It is a fast-acting cholinesterase inhibitor that deactivates the enzyme acetylcholinesterase by binding to relevant receptor sites, thus disrupting normal nerve impulse transmission. Aldicarb is also an endocrine disruptor that can have negative reproductive impacts. Acute exposure to high doses of the compound can cause vision problems, nausea, improper thermal regulation, headaches, and even death. As icing on the cake, aldicarb can contaminate drinking water (as it has in Florida and other areas where its use continues), particularly in areas with very permeable soils.

Environmental Health News writes, “More than a decade ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that the amount of aldicarb young children and infants could be exposed to in the U.S. was already eight times greater than the amount known to cause harm. That means the use of aldicarb had likely been poisoning young children for years.” The pesticide is banned by more than 100 countries under the regulations of the Rotterdam Convention, an international treaty established to reduce trade in the most globally hazardous chemicals. Both EPA and the World Health Organization (WHO) classify the chemical in the “highest toxicity” category.

Aldicarb, it should be noted, is one of the pesticides in the carbamate family, which has a nasty legacy. Carbamates can have significant impacts — apart from episodes of acute poisoning — on the functioning of multiple bodily systems. Exposures are linked to diabetes and other metabolic anomalies, respiratory diseases, problems with motor function, disturbed sleep patterns, and other health threats. The parent compound from which aldicarb and other carbamates are derived is methyl isocyanate — the chemical that was responsible for the devastating accident in Bhopal, India in December 1984. The Union Carbide pesticide manufacturing plant released the highly toxic gas methyl isocyanate into the air of Bhopal, killing approximately 25,000 people who had direct, acute exposure, and causing chronic illness and/or disability in hundreds of thousands of others.

Indeed, impacts have been ongoing, as reported by the Pulitzer Center: “The toxic wastes from the factory site had been piped into three huge ‘solar evaporation ponds’ and were slowly leaking into the soil and the groundwater. This poisoned groundwater is what families were pumping out every day for washing, cooking, and drinking. Now, in 2019, there are second and third generation children [of] the survivors who escaped with their lives. Children are being born with a range of disabilities not seen anywhere else in India. Cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, Down’s syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, blindness, learning difficulties, and gross motor delay are common and many of the children, now young adults, have multiple conditions.”

In 2011, 26 years after the Bhopal disaster, Bayer CropScience finally announced that it would stop producing the toxic chemical methyl isocyanate. Behind that announcement was a 2010 negotiation by EPA, with manufacturer Bayer CropScience, to voluntarily withdraw aldicarb pursuant to EPA’s toxicity determinations on the compound. But in the intervening years, that 2011 termination of aldicarb has been eroded by various approvals from EPA for use on specific crops. Only months after Bayer’s withdrawal of its aldicarb product, AgLogic (another aldicarb manufacturer) secured approval for use on sweet potatoes, cotton, and sugar beets.

With that functional de-registration (announced in 2011, to be completely enacted by 2018), the uses immediately proscribed were those most likely to cause children’s exposures: those on potatoes and citrus. Yet in 2017, EPA approved emergency use on citrus crops despite its 2010 assertion that, “A new risk assessment conducted by EPA based on recently submitted toxicity data indicates that aldicarb no longer meets our rigorous food safety standards and may pose unacceptable dietary risks, especially to infants and young children.” In early January 2021, AgLogic applied for — and was granted by the Trump EPA — approval of expanded use: on oranges and grapefruit in Florida for three growing seasons, 2021–2023, and on orange, grapefruit, lemon, and lime crops in Texas. These new uses will increase by more than 400,000 acres the extent of application of the toxic compound.

EPA promoted this approval of aldicarb (one week prior to the 2021 Presidential inauguration) as an action “to help protect America’s citrus industry from citrus greening and citrus canker disease.” The announcement adds: “Human health risk assessments . . . are complete and present no risks of concern, including to young children.”

Producers in citrus-growing states have been generally eager to use aldicarb, or whatever is available to protect their crops, often in spite of toxicity issues. They have lobbied hard to secure permission for use of aldicarb (and streptomycin), including meeting with the agricultural advisor to former EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

One interesting exception to this “race to ruin” is the eponymous “Uncle Matt’s Organic,” a fourth-generation family business that grows citrus fruits, and sells organic citrus juices and beverages. Founded in 1999 by Matt McLean (a third-generation family member), it was sold to Dean Foods in 2017. After Dean Foods filed for bankruptcy in 2019, Mr. McLean was able to buy it back. Beyond Pesticides visited Uncle Matt’s in 2015, when the Beyond Pesticides annual National Pesticide Forum was held in Orlando.

Mr. McClean’s dad, Benny McLean, was a conventional citrus grower for 40 years, and in 2015 was production manager for the farm operation. In part through his son Matt, he became educated about organics and the role of soil health and nutrition — the presence of critical microbes and minerals — in preventing and controlling citrus diseases and pests, as well as resisting impacts of freezes. Though he was trained in the 1950s, when the agrochemical industry was exploding and having huge influence on agricultural education (i.e., “better living through chemistry”), he has become an advocate for organic practices to prevent and control the problems most other citrus growers address through chemical pesticides. His presentation to the 2015 forum can be seen here.

A retired employee of EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, Karen McCormack, commented on her concern over the recent aldicarb approval: “It’s deeply disappointing to watch the [then] current EPA renege on its agreement to ban this highly toxic and persistent pesticide. After receiving numerous complaints of aldicarb leaching into groundwater and contaminating drinking water supplies in Florida and elsewhere, my colleagues worked tirelessly to reach a voluntary agreement with the aldicarb manufacturer to stop producing this hazardous pesticide. Now it appears all this work may have been in vain.”

The assessment of the aldicarb approval from Environmental Health News is this: “EPA’s careless approach to both aldicarb and streptomycin are symptoms of a severely broken pesticide regulatory system in the U.S.—one that instead of asking whether it should approve a dangerous pesticide, usually finds a way to greenlight any product proposed by the pesticide industry. It is, of course, possible that a Biden Administration will step in and prevent the broader approval of aldicarb or streptomycin from ever happening. But it’s also possible that, with dozens of other important environmental issues to address, coupled with a CDC overwhelmed with the pandemic and an American public conditioned to trust the EPA’s judgment . . . their approvals will just slide right on through. That is the path of least resistance and business as usual in the EPA’s pesticide office.”

Center for Biological Diversity senior scientist Nathan Donley, PhD weighed in on EPA’s aldicarb decision: “Make no mistake, these reckless approvals will harm children and farmworkers and further hamper our ability to combat major public health crises. The Biden administration must immediately reverse these dangerous, immoral decisions by Trump appointees untethered from science and reality.”

As Beyond Pesticides wrote in December 2020, only a few weeks prior to EPA’s announcement of the aldicarb approval: “It is essential that when EPA weighs the risks and benefits of extending pesticide uses, the agency acknowledge previous harms associated with those chemicals. Harms ultimately associated with contaminant exposure should end through policy reform and the adoption of practices that eliminate toxic pesticide use. With far too many diseases in the U.S. associated with pesticide exposure, prohibiting the use of pesticides with known toxic effects is crucial for safeguarding public health.” Beyond Pesticides advocates for a precautionary approach to pest management in land management and agriculture, with a transition to organic methods. Beyond Pesticides asks the public to contact elected U.S. senators and representatives, and President Biden, to insist on a precautionary and protective direction for EPA’s regulation of pesticides, and on robust support for regenerative and organic agriculture. 

Source: https://www.epa.gov/pesticides/epa-takes-aggressive-actions-against-citrus-greening-while-maintaining-public-health-and and https://www.freshfruitportal.com/news/2021/01/15/epa-approves-aldicarb-to-help-in-florida-citruss-hlb-fight/

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

 

 

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21
Jan

Genetically Weakened Skin Barrier Allows for Easier Absorption of Toxic Chemicals

(Beyond Pesticides, January 21, 2021) A new Swedish study in Environmental Health Perspectives demonstrates individuals with genetically weakened skin barrier protection experience higher rates of toxic chemicals (i.e., pesticides) absorption through the skin. Studies provide evidence that filaggrin genetic mutations can exacerbate the impacts of chemicals upon dermal (skin) exposure, causing various skin diseases like dermatitis and other chemical-related effects like asthma and cancer. Filaggrin is a protein that is critical to skin cell structure or epidermal homeostasis. Just as excessive exposure to UV light can cause skin discoloration and cancer, excessive dermal contact with these toxic chemicals can cause a range of adverse reactions, including dermatitis, allergic sensitization, and cancer. Dermal exposure is the most common pesticide exposure routes, compromising 95 percent of all pesticide exposure incidents. Furthermore, many pesticides contain chemicals that act as sensitizers (allergens). Therefore, it is essential to mitigate direct skin contact with these toxic chemicals and enforce proper application protocol.

Dermal chemical exposure is an increasing concern for occupational (work-related) health. Likewise, people experience dermal exposure to chemicals from everyday products like cleaning supplies, personal care products, agricultural chemicals, fabrics, non-stick cookware, and general airborne pollution. Furthermore, skin disease risks can increase among those with less protection from chemical exposure due to genetics.

The study’s results demonstrate individuals with FLG null mutations and low CNV are more susceptible to increased dermal uptake and absorption of chemicals. Researchers find that pesticide levels are two times higher in individuals with FLG null mutations. Therefore, increased chemical absorption can have implications for human health. It puts those with this mutation at a higher risk of developing latent diseases like cancer and endocrine disruption from higher internal pesticides levels. FLG null mutations are relatively common, especially among people of European descent. Therefore, implementing policies that limit dermal exposure to toxic chemicals can safeguard human health. 

The study highlights the importance of understanding the effect dermal exposure to chemicals has on human health, particularly among genetically vulnerable individuals. Study researchers state, “Protection of individuals with a high dermal absorption is important because dermal uptake is a major route of environmental exposure to chemicals. New chemicals are continuously being added to consumer products all over the world. Still, there is limited research on the role of genetics in dermal chemical exposure and absorption.”

Skin barrier structure and function depend on the filaggrin protein, and “loss-of-function (null) mutations” in the filaggrin gene (FLG) may contribute to an increase in dermal absorption of chemicals. The study aims to explain whether alterations in the gene FLG change the intensity of dermal chemical uptake. 

To determine carriers of the loss-of-function mutation (FLG null) among the general population in Sweden, researchers used quantitative PCR. Subsequently, the researchers exposed 23 FLG null carriers and 31 wildtype (wt) or “normal” FLG carriers to three common environmental organic compounds. The compounds include pyrene (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon), pyrimethanil (fungicide), and oxybenzone (ultraviolet-light absorber in sunscreen). Urinary analysis using liquid-chromatography mass-spectrometry measured the concentration of the three chemicals and their metabolites 48 hours after exposure. Researchers performed a toxicokinetic analysis between FLG null and wildtype carriers to determine the rate chemicals will enter the body and excrete and metabolize once inside. Lastly, researchers used long-range PCR to determine FLG gene copy number variants (CNVs) that contain copies of 10, 11, or 12 repetitive sequences encoding filaggrin monomers (combined compounds that duplicate).

The study finds a significant difference between dermal absorption and uptake of chemicals, with FLG null carriers having lower CNV and shorter lag time for skin absorption than non-carriers. Moreover, individuals with the FLG null variant expel 18 percent and 110 percent more metabolite than non-carriers with low and high CNV, respectively.

The skin responds to numerous external stimuli that can change its morphological (shape/structure), physiological (function), and histological (tissue) properties. Some stimuli responses are typical, including skin exposure to sunlight (UV-light) for tanning or wrinkling in water. However, exposure to excessive stimuli like environmental contaminants can propagate adverse, permanent changes to the skin.

Researchers conclude, “Gaining knowledge about what FLG null mutations and CNV mean for dermal absorption is important to better understand skin barrier function and the preventive and protective measures and guidelines that should be implemented by authorities, caregivers, and employers to decrease skin exposure and skin absorption, such as imposing limit values for dermal exposure to consumer products and occupational chemicals and advising people to reduce their dermal exposure to certain chemicals.”

People encounter toxic chemicals daily. However, frequent misuse of pesticides, including the excessive use of cleansing agents against coronavirus, exacerbate chemical exposure risks. Hence, global leaders and individuals alike must decrease the reliance on toxic chemicals to safeguard against disease. Public health officials should carefully examine chemicals in everyday products to ensure they do not pose any unnecessary health dangers. 

Beyond Pesticides tracks the most recent studies related to pesticide exposure through our Pesticide Induced Diseases Database (PIDD). This database supports the clear need for strategic action to shift away from pesticide dependency. For more information on the multiple harms of pesticides, see PIDD pages on body burdensendocrine disruption, cancer, and other diseases. 

Additionally, replacing pesticides with organic, non-toxic alternatives is crucial for safeguarding public health, particularly communities vulnerable to pesticide toxicity. For more information on how organic is the right choice, see Beyond Pesticides’ webpage, Health Benefits of Organic Agriculture. Furthermore, visit Beyond Pesticides’ webpage on Disinfectants and Sanitizers and Least Toxic Control of Pests In the Home and Garden to learn more about safer, non-toxic pesticide alternatives. 

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Environmental Health Perspectives

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20
Jan

EPA Confirms Widespread PFAS Contamination of Pesticides, Announces “Investigation,” Stops Short of Action to Protect Public

(Beyond Pesticides, January 20, 2021) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has confirmed that PFAS (per and polyfluorinated alykyl substances) ‘forever chemicals’ are contaminating containers that store pesticide products, and subsequently the products themselves. The confirmation comes after preliminary testing from the watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) found PFAS in the widely used mosquito pesticide Anvil 10+10. In response EPA announced further investigation and said, “EPA understands the need to provide guidance to states, tribes, and other users as they prepare to purchase mosquito control products for 2021 and will provide more information as it continues its investigation. EPA will update the following webpage with information as it becomes available: https://www.epa.gov/pesticides/pfas-packaging.”

“EPA’s discovery has opened a Pandora’s Box of health risks,” stated PEER Science Policy Director Kyla Bennett, PhD, whose testing of the insecticide first raised the alarms, according to the EPA statement.  “Shipping containers may be a significant source of PFAS exposure through the entire U.S. agricultural sector.”

According to EPA, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) containers used to store and transport pesticides are commonly treated with fluoride in order to create a “chemical barrier” that will “prevent changes in chemical composition.” The fluorinated container is supposed to be more stable, and “less permeable, reactive, and dissolvable.”

Testing so far has been limited to one pesticide product supplier (likely the company Clarke, maker of Anvil 10+10), but resulted in detection of 9 different PFAS chemicals at levels the agency has not yet released. Earlier testing found PFAS chemicals well above safety limits established by states, as well as EPA’s health advisory.

Although the agency cautions that recent testing is not a direct measure of levels likely to be found in the environment, advocates note that repeated spraying of contaminated products are likely to result in significant non-point source pollution. Because of its nature as a ‘forever chemical,’ PFAS does not break down in the environment, and any pollution becomes cumulative.

There are also indications that fluorinated HDPE containers may have other storage uses, such as food packaging. EPA announced that it is subpoenaing the company that fluorinates HDPE containers under the Toxic Substances Control Act, but has done little else from a regulatory standpoint. States with stocks of Anvil 10+10 in HDPE barrels are being to encouraged to “red tag that inventory and hold for now.”  It is unclear what, if any further actions will be taken by the agency.

“This development only underlines how inadequate and haphazard EPA’s approach to this emerging contaminant has been,” added Dr. Bennett of PEER, pointing to the more substantive regulatory approach being pursued in Europe. “All unnecessary uses of PFAS need to be banned.”

Contamination of a toxic product with other harmful chemicals is glaringly problematic for public health and the environment. Mixtures of different chemicals can result in synergy that may increase or decrease the toxicity of a pesticide, or result in other changes to its characteristic, for example making it easier to penetrate through skin or plant material.

Past contamination scandals have plagued the pesticide manufacturing process. For example, DuPont was subject to a series of lawsuits two decades ago after its Benlate fungicide was contaminated with the toxic herbicide atrazine following quality control problems at its production plant. The Vietnam era chemical Agent Orange was contaminated with the dioxin TCDD (2,3,7,8 tetrachlorodibenzodioxin), produced as a by-product of its manufacture.

Contamination of widely used storage and transportation containers with chemicals that have been linked to cancer, liver damage, birth and developmental problems, reduced fertility, and asthma is a scandal without compare. It is unclear how long such a practice has been commonplace without any regulatory oversight. What is certain is that the next administration will have a massive challenge ahead in getting an adequate handle on the depth and scope of PFAS contamination. President Biden’s pick for EPA Administrator, Michael Regan, has taken action against PFAS in his home state of North Carolina. Advocates are urging that this past experience will inform a stricter regulatory approach against PFAS and other toxic chemicals and pesticides under EPA’s purview.

Join Beyond Pesticides in urging the incoming administration to restore science to its rightful place. In light of serious weakening of the agency over the last four years, and years of corporate influence before that, help call on the agency to halt new pesticide registrations. This will provide time for EPA to review the science supporting existing registrations and confirm to the public it is not manipulated or corrupt. See Beyond Pesticides’ Action of the Week archive for more ways to engage with the incoming administration.

 All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: EPA, PEER

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19
Jan

Take Action: Tell the Biden USDA and Congress to Protect COVID relief for Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and Military Veteran Farmers!

(Beyond Pesticides, January 19, 2021) Inadequate funding proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (also known as the “Section 2501” program) fails to address historic discrimination and inadequate assistance for farmers of color and military veteran farmers. Funding for the Section 2501 program, which for three decades, has been the only farm bill program specifically addressing needs of these underserved populations in agriculture is smaller this year, placing undue stress on already stretched-thin community organizations working to respond to farmers during this unprecedented period of prolonged economic hardship.

Tell the Biden USDA to ensure that the full Section 2501 funding reaches farmers of color and military veteran farmers.

Since 1990, the goal of the Section 2501 program has been to increase historically underserved farmers’ awareness of and access to USDA resources—addressing the historic inequities that farmers of color, or socially disadvantaged farmers, faced in accessing USDA programs, including Farm Service Agency (FSA) loans. Congress added military veterans to the program in 2014 as an additional underserved audience. Section 2501 grants provide funding to community-based organizations and minority-serving academic institutions to conduct critical outreach and technical assistance to communities of color and veterans. 

Unfortunately, USDA has redirected $2 million of this funding, along with $2 million redirected from Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservation technical assistance funds to a separate, administratively created initiative. USDA’s a new Centers for Community Prosperity initiative seeks to address economic development in persistent poverty communities, with a focus on faith-based initiatives. This new program is less focused on socially disadvantaged farmers and much more prescriptive in project design than the Section 2501 program. In total, USDA diverted $4.2 million into this new initiative. 

Congress recently provided an additional $40 million for the Section 2501 grant program in its latest COVID relief bill passed in December 2020. Please urge USDA to ensure this funding goes directly to Section 2501 grantees and reaches socially disadvantaged farmers, and not be used for any other initiative—such as the Centers for Community Prosperity.

Tell the Biden USDA to ensure that the full Section 2501 funding reaches farmers of color and military veteran farmers.

Letter to Congress

As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, farmers across the country are struggling to keep their farms afloat and plan for the uncertainty that the coming year holds. While farmers have suffered from several years of depressed prices, uncertainty in trade markets, and the increasingly severe impacts of climate change, the already tenuous livelihoods of our nation’s most chronically underserved farmers—particularly Black, Indigenous, and people of color farmers–were made worse this year as a result of the pandemic. I am increasingly concerned about the sustainability of our nation’s most underserved farmers who often not only have the fewest resources to draw on but also are most in need of emergency relief and long-term support in these challenging times—as well as the nation’s food security that depends on them.

As you know, Congress recently passed its fourth round of emergency relief to help farmers, small businesses, health care professionals, households and communities across the country combat the worsening impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. As directed in the farm bill, the $80 million in additional  USDA funding is to be divided equally between USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and the Outreach and Technical Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, also known as the Section 2501 Program.

I urge you to make sure that USDA moves expeditiously to grant these additional Section 2501 funds to eligible entities with the skills and experience to reach socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers, including those most impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. It is my expectation, as is shared by Congress, that the additional $40 million in funding to be directed to the Section 2501 grant program will support projects as authorized under the farm bill and will not be diverted to any other administrative initiative or purpose, such as the Centers for Community Prosperity.

In the fact of the future uncertainty of the ultimate impacts of the pandemic on our food system and communities of color, please pressure USDA to distribute the additional Section 2501 grants in a way that ensures organizations have resources over the coming years to respond to their community’s needs. USDA should also use the additional funding to increase the total grant award amount to its statutory level of $250,000 per year. Finally, I share the expectation of Congress that USDA will ensure that any project funded with these additional funds complies with the statutory requirements laid out in the farm bill—that it:

  • Has demonstrated experience in providing agricultural education or other agriculturally related services to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers and veteran farmers and ranchers;
  • Provides documentary evidence of work with, and on behalf of, socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers and veteran farmers and ranchers during the 3-year period preceding the submission of their 2501 application;
  • Will use any 2501 funding to provide outreach and technical assistance exclusively to socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers in order to improve their participation in USDA agricultural program; and
  • Will represent a regional balance of projects that are geographically diverse and serve farmers in all states and regions

Thank you for supporting this critical program—especially during a time of such critical need for Black, Indigenous and people of color communities across the country.

Letter to Biden Transition Team on Agriculture

As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, farmers across the country are struggling to keep their farms afloat and plan for the uncertainty that the coming year holds. While farmers have suffered from several years of depressed prices, uncertainty in trade markets, and the increasingly severe impacts of climate change, the already tenuous livelihoods of our nation’s most chronically underserved farmers—particularly Black, Indigenous, and people of color farmers—were made worse this year as a result of the pandemic. I am increasingly concerned about the sustainability of our nation’s most underserved farmers who often not only have the fewest resources to draw on but also are most in need of emergency relief and long-term support in these challenging times—as well as the nation’s food security that depends on them.

Congress recently passed its fourth round of emergency relief to help farmers, small businesses, health care professionals, households and communities across the country combat the worsening impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. As directed in the farm bill, the $80 million in additional  USDA funding is to be divided equally between USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and the Outreach and Technical Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, also known as the Section 2501 Program.

I urge the Department to move expeditiously to grant these additional Section 2501 funds to eligible entities with the skills and experience to reach socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers, including those most impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. It is my expectation, as is shared by Congress, that the additional $40 million in funding to be directed to the Section 2501 grant program will support projects as authorized under the farm bill and will not be diverted to any other administrative initiative or purpose, such as the Centers for Community Prosperity.

In the face of the future uncertainty of the ultimate impacts of the pandemic on our food system and communities of color, I ask USDA to distribute the additional Section 2501 grants in a way that ensures organizations have resources over the coming years to respond to their community’s needs. USDA should also use the additional funding to increase the total grant award amount to its statutory level of $250,000 per year. Finally, I share the expectation of Congress that USDA will ensure that any project funded with these additional funds complies with the statutory requirements laid out in the farm bill—that it:

  • Has demonstrated experience in providing agricultural education or other agriculturally related services to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers and veteran farmers and ranchers;
  • Provides documentary evidence of work with, and on behalf of, socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers and veteran farmers and ranchers during the 3-year period preceding the submission of their 2501 application;
  • Will use any 2501 funding to provide outreach and technical assistance exclusively to socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers in order to improve their participation in USDA agricultural program; and
  • Will represent a regional balance of projects that are geographically diverse and serve farmers in all states and regions

Thank you for considering these recommendations and for supporting this critical program—especially during a time of such critical need for Black, Indigenous and people of color communities across the country.

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18
Jan

We Honor Martin Luther King Today

(Beyond Pesticides, January 18, 2021) We honor Martin Luther King, Jr. today on Martin Luther King Daya day of national service with volunteer opportunities across the nation. During this day of reflection, consider reading Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” or listening to it here.

At Beyond Pesticides, our vision and work aligns with the vision Dr. King expressed“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” To that end, we seek to eliminate disproportionate risk, with elevated toxic hazards to people of color communities, with higher rates of pesticide-induced diseases among those who live in fenceline communities where chemicals are produced, among farmworkers who harvest the nation’s food, and among landscapers who manage our parks and children’s playing fields. We seek to transform national laws that allow risks under risk assessments that institutionalize environmental racism by allowing for this disproportionate risk. We seek to eliminate toxic pesticides production and use through the adoption of organic land management. To that end, we work with communities across the country to transition their land management to organic practices and we advance organic standards under the Organic Foods Production Act that have integrity and are fully enforced.

Eliminating Toxic Pesticides with Organic Transformation

Beyond Pesticides’ program reflects the thinking that this is not a time to tinker with reforms, thus the call for foundational change to policy and practice. The fact that racial disparities are integral to the way we regulate the production, transportation, use, and disposal of toxic pesticides and other chemicals means the toxic pesticide industry is unsustainable. The standards in the governing laws are fundamentally flawed, resulting in unnecessary use and unacceptable disease outcomes that are high generally, but even greater for people of color. Systemic change does not occur with improved “mitigation measures” that EPA manipulates unscientifically or the banning of some chemicals or some uses. Our strategy only calls out individual chemicals and their effects—like the herbicide dicamba causing crop damage and Roundup (glyphosate) causing non-Hodgkin lymphoma or neonicotinoid insecticides indiscriminately killing pollinators—as indicative of a failed statutory and regulatory system, not just bad actor chemicals.

Advancing Systemic Change

Our work to advance systemic change seeks to identify underlying policies that codify dispropor­tionate harm, such as federal pesticide law that is built on a foundation that allows elevated and disproportionate risk to workers. They are excluded from EPA’s cumulative risk assessment (under the Food Quality Protection Act amendments to the Fed­eral Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act), which aggregates dietary and non-dietary, but explicitly not occupational, exposure to pesticides, while in­cluding a mandate to protect children. With this, the law effectively requires EPA to allow higher rates of harm for workers, particularly farmworkers, land­scapers (workers who are disproportionately people of color), and others occupationally exposed to pes­ticides. In response, Beyond Pesticides is reimagin­ing legislative proposals that effect a transformation to an organic society that eliminates toxic pesticides, respects the complexity of life and the ecosystems that sustain us, and put an end to institutional biases that codify environmental racism. The time for systemic change is now.

Call for Park Pesticide Ban Cites Environmental Racism

Beyond Pesticides is working with grassroots groups across the nation to ban toxic pesticides in city, town, and county parks, playgrounds, and playing fields, as part of an organic transition. We work with groups, like The Black Institute and other grassroots organi­zations, and elected officials to replace toxic pesticides with organic land management practices, recognizing that children and people of color face dispro­portionate harm from pesticide exposure. To make matters worse, the hazards associated with the toxic chemicals inflict multi-generational diseases like diabetes, asthma and respiratory illness, and learning disabilities.

We join New York City Council Members Ben Kallos and Carlina Rivera in supporting organic parks legislation, citing in our press conference and testimony the wide use of the weed killer Roundup by city agencies—“The use of this pesticide poses a health risk for anyone who frequents city parks and playgrounds, as well as city workers, including city parks employees who come into contact with glyphosate containing chemicals while spraying.”

Disproportionate Harm from Coronavirus

As the coronavirus hit, the nation quickly saw dis­parities in who is at highest risk of infection, not just in age groups, but along racial lines. In every state, we see that people of color suffer higher rates of infection, illness, and death than their percentage of the population. Reporting recognized that this is occurring because those with the highest disease and death rates are disproportionately “essential workers,” delivering essential services with daily exposure to the virus. They are among the lowest income workers in society and, as a result, have medi­cal comorbidities that elevate risk factors, and are most likely to have limited, if any, health insurance. For millions of people outside the black and brown community, this has raised a heightened awareness of societal inequities related to race—bringing Into focus the disproportionate effect that pesticide expo­sure has by elevating risk factors for Covid-19.

Beyond Pesticides Statement in Support of Black Lives Matter (June 2020)

In demanding a future that transforms society to ensure equality of opportunity and respect for life, we support the leadership of Black Lives Matter in advancing systemic and institutional change in how we value each other. As an environmental and public health organization, Beyond Pesticides seeks to ensure that we put a stop to disproportionate harm to people of color because of racism and inequality. We strive for a sustainable world that, in a true sense, can only be achieved with foundational change to our social, economic, and environmental norms. In this context, we stand with those demanding an end to systemic racism, white supremacy, and violence in society, and call for a social structure and law enforcement system that honors this goal.

As Martin Luther King said in his speech, “Where Do We Go From Here?,” to the Annual SCLC Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, Autust, 16, 1967: “[W]e must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future.”

 

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15
Jan

Millions of People Drinking Groundwater with Pesticides or Pesticide Degradates

(Beyond Pesticides, January 15, 2021) A study of groundwater that feeds public drinking water supply finds pesticides in 41% of supply wells (and a handful of freshwater springs). Two-thirds of that 41% contain pesticide compounds per se, and one-third contain pesticide degradates — compounds resulting from biotic (or abiotic) transformation of pesticides into other compounds. There is considerable ink (digital and actual) covering the health and environmental impacts of pesticide exposures, and reporting on the issue of pesticide migration into groundwater and waterways. Beyond Pesticides maintains that organic practices in land management, and especially in agriculture, are the solution to the contamination of our waterways and groundwater. Such practices, widely adopted, would have enormous salutary effects on human health and the health of ecosystems and their inhabitants.

Published in Environmental Science & Technology, the study paper reports this research as the “first systematic assessment of raw [untreated] groundwater used for public drinking supply across the United States to include and provide human-health context for a large number of pesticide degradates.” Samples for the research were gathered across 1,204 sites — at or near the wellheads — in 23 principal aquifers whose groundwater is tapped for drinking water supply used by approximately 73 million people. The samples were analyzed for 109 pesticides and 116 degradates.

How do pesticide compounds get into groundwater and drinking supplies? Rain or snow melt can transport pesticides from farm fields, residential properties, and managed turf (e.g., golf courses, parks, athletic fields, etc.) through storm drains, or as runoff that is absorbed into surface soils — especially fairly permeable soils. The water than percolates down, in a process known as “recharge,” into deeper soils. Any aquifers, whether shallow or deep, acquire this water with the pollutants in it.

Wells that draw on such aquifers, whether public or private, can become contaminated with pesticides and their degradates. The paper notes that, “Pesticide degradates are often detected more frequently and at higher concentrations than their parents due to high transformation rates and because long travel times, common from source to the depth zone used for public supply, support environmental transformation.” In addition, aerial pesticide application can land on off-target areas or arrive via drift, contributing to the migration of these compounds through soils and into groundwater.

As context, the paper sets out the magnitude of pesticide use (excluding antimicrobials and biologics) in the U.S. — 400–450 million kg from 2005 through 2012 — and recognizes that “pesticide compounds vary widely with respect to types of human-health effects and potential degree of toxicity.” It identifies the five most common agricultural pesticides in use as of 2017: glyphosate, atrazine, metolachlor-(S), 2,4-D, and acetochlor, and notes results of a 2020 study showing that in the western U.S., atrazine is the most frequently detected pesticide in drinking water supplies (see bullet points, below).

The occurrence of particular pesticide compounds and degradates in groundwater shows variance across different regions of the country. These variances are due to a variety of local factors, including: particular regional agricultural pesticide uses and protocols; proximity to non-agricultural sources of pesticide use (e.g., golf courses or other managed turf); local hydrological dynamics; and the nature of the local/regional soils, among others.

Among the analysis data of the research were these outcomes:

  • nearly 75% of sites with at least one pesticide detected also had degradates present
  • 23% of sites showed the presence of degradates in the absence of any pesticide active ingredients
  • the five compounds with the largest concentrations in samples were degradates of 4-hydroxychlorothalonil (a degradate of chlorothalonil), alachlor, atrazine, and metolachlor
  • 60 pesticide and 68 pesticide degradate compounds were detected in groundwater from at least one aquifer wellhead in the study
  • 10 pesticides (all herbicides) and 11 herbicide degradates were found in at least 2% of samples
  • the four most commonly detected herbicides were atrazine, hexazinone, prometon, and tebuthiuron
  • among the 20 most common mixtures of two or three pesticide compounds detected, 17 comprised only atrazine, atrazine degradates, and/or metolachlor

The research also finds that, though the presence of pesticides in its samples was common, concentrations that “approach [benchmark] levels of potential human-health concern” occurred for a small number of compounds, and none of the samples yielded levels higher than the benchmarks (BQs) used by the study (“of detected pesticide compounds with benchmarks, none had a BQ > 1”). There were, however, six pesticide compounds (and 1.6% of well samples) that showed concentrations “approaching levels of potential concern.” Those pesticides were alachlor, atrazine, and diuron; the degradates included didealkylatrazine/CAAT, 4-hydroxychlorothalonil, and deethylatrazine/DEA.

It is instructive, if disconcerting, to read Beyond Pesticides 2008 coverage of a USGS study that evaluated the presence of pesticides in groundwater samples taken in 1993–1995 and 2001–2003. Among the results, which reinforce the new findings: “The six pesticide compounds detected are the triazine herbicides atrazinesimazine, and prometon; the acetanilide herbicide metolachlor; the urea herbicide tebuthiuron; and an atrazine degradate, deethylatrazine (DEA).

The whole “benchmark” issue re: human health impacts, while complex, is important The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established some MCLs, or maximum contaminant levels (levels lower than threshold levels expected to confer significant health risk) for 18 pesticides, and so-called HHBPs (human-health benchmarks for pesticides) for another 394 that lack MCLs. Another federal agency, the USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) uses an unenforceable system of screening levels (HBSLs, or Health-Based Screening Levels) for 30 pesticides and seven pesticide degradates that lack either MCLs or HHBPs.

These various thresholds point to a variety of problems with the systems that are supposed to evaluate what is and is not dangerous for public health. USGS has been critical of EPA for not setting adequate water quality benchmarks for pesticides. As of a few years ago, USGS’s National Water-Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA) wrote, “Current standards and guidelines do not completely eliminate risks posed by pesticides in waterways because: (1) values are not established for many pesticides, (2) mixtures and breakdown products are not considered, (3) the effects of seasonal exposure to high concentrations have not been evaluated, and (4) some types of potential effects, such as endocrine disruption and unique responses of sensitive individuals, have not yet been assessed.”

In 2012, EPA set guidelines (HHBPs) for 350+ chemicals relative to their chronic and acute effects in sensitive populations. In 2017, the agency updated that guidance on pesticides in drinking water. Yet the HHBP benchmarks are non-regulatory and non-enforceable, and there continue to be no federal MCLs for all but 18 pesticide compounds.

In addition, EPA has made precious little progress on evaluation of health impacts of exposures to multiple, or mixtures of, pesticides. Nor has there been adequate attention to the “inert” or adjuvant ingredients in pesticide formulations. Further, as this research paper notes, the actions of pesticide degradates are both less studied and less predictable than those of pesticide active ingredients. Research (in note 14 of subject paper) from 2013 notes: “It remains difficult to anticipate the extent and pathways of pesticide degradation under specific field conditions.” Thus, the researchers acknowledge one limitation of the study’s conclusions.

Another is that, as the paper authors write: “The laboratory method could not quantify every type of pesticide. Compared with considering only compounds with benchmarks, adding degradates without benchmarks to the screening process for potential human-health concerns resulted in small increases in the final number of individual compounds” that may represent health risks. But the paper concludes with: “Degradates without benchmarks are unlikely to substantially increase the potential for human-health concerns associated with the occurrence of pesticide compounds in groundwater used for public supply.” Beyond Pesticides asserts that, given the inadequacies of EPA evaluation of health impacts of pesticides — as noted above — this narrow conclusion, relevant to this study, ought not be interpreted as particularly reassuring.

What Beyond Pesticides wrote in its Pesticides in My Drinking Water? factsheet endures: “This problem requires individual precautionary measures and preventive, community based action to protect [individual and public health] and ultimately, stop ongoing pesticide use that ends up in drinking water from numerous agricultural, public land, and home and garden uses. Beyond Pesticides urges a solution that keeps pesticides out of the water, rather than trying to clean them up after they enter our waterways and drinking water supply.”

That solution, a just and rapid transition to organic and regenerative agricultural practices, would address a huge proportion of this problem of pesticides contamination of groundwater — and ultimately, of drinking water supplies. To learn more on pesticide impacts on water quality generally, and on individual actions, see the Beyond Pesticides Water Quality factsheet, the website page Threatened Waters: Turning the Tide on Pesticide Contamination, and the Pesticides in My Drinking Water? factsheet.

Source: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.0c05793?utm_source=SendGrid_ealert&utm_medium=ealert&utm_campaign=TOC_esthag_v55_i1&ref=SendGrid_ealert_TOC_esthag_v55_i1_____&

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

 

 

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14
Jan

Study Finds Link Between Pesticide Exposure and Rare Blood Cancer Predecessor (MGUS)

(Beyond Pesticide, January 14, 2021) Long-term exposure to permethrin and legacy organochlorine pesticides (aldrin, dieldrin, and lindane) increase the risk of developing monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), a blood disease that likely precedes multiple myeloma (MM)—a type of blood cancer, according to research in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. Globally, cancer is one of the leading causes of death, with over eight million people succumbing to the disease every year. Notably, the International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC) predicts new cancer cases to rise by 67.4% in 2030.

Although there is a vast amalgamation of research linking cancer risk to genetic and external factors (e.g., cigarette smoke), there is increasing evidence that pesticide exposure augments the risk of developing both common and rare cancers, including MM. This study highlights the importance of understanding how pesticide use can increase the risk of latent diseases, which do not readily develop upon initial exposure. Study researchers state, “Our findings provide important insights regarding exposures to specific pesticides that may contribute to the excess of MM among farmers… [T]he continued widespread residential and other use of permethrin and environmental exposure to organochlorine insecticides due to legacy contamination…could have important public health implications for exposed individuals in the general population.

The National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, and other health agencies intended that research assess the occurrence of MGUS in farmers and gauge any relationships between disease development and various pesticides. Using data from the Agricultural Health Study (AHS), researchers evaluated MGUS incidences among 1,638 male farmers, aged 50 years or older, from a prospective cohort in Iowa and North Carolina. Researchers statically quantified the strength of association between MGUS incidents for recent (≤12 months) and cumulative lifetime use of differing specific pesticides, using an odds ratio (OR).

The study results demonstrate MGUS is significantly more common among AHS study participants than men of a similar demographic in the general population. Researchers find an association between recent permethrin use and MGUS incidence, especially among individuals with a history of past permethrin use. MGUS rates increase with long-term use of organochlorine insecticides aldrin and dieldrin compared to individuals without exposure to both pesticides. Similarly, data demonstrate a positive association between MGUS incidences and petroleum oil/distillates as herbicides.

The presence of abnormal proteins (monoclonal [M] protein) in the blood within bone marrow is a characterization of monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance. Although MGUS is benign (non-cancerous) and largely asymptomatic, it can be premalignant or a precursor for cancer development. Annually, one percent of individuals with MGUS will develop cancers like multiple myeloma, lymphoma, or amyloidosis. However, the cancer risk increases in people whose protein levels are abnormally high, which can occur upon repeated exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, like pesticides. Moreover, multiple myeloma is a rare type of blood cancer of the plasma cells, killing nearly 40 percent of 32,270 people it afflicts in the U.S. annually. Although MM mainly impacts older individuals, the elderly population faces a distinct set of challenges such as age-related immune dysfunction. Since MM causes plasma cells to function abnormally, older people with weak immune function can experience more life-threatening symptoms like renal (kidney) failure.

This study adds to the growing body of research on MGUS and pesticide exposure, becoming the largest to investigate MGUS incidences in farmers and the first to show an association between MGUS and permethrin use (a pyrethroid insecticide). In combination with previous studies demonstrating that exposure to permethrin may elevate MM risk among farmers, these findings provide reliable evidence establishing a link between permethrin and MM development. Considering the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies permethrin as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans,” and experimental studies demonstrate permethrin-induced bone marrow toxicity, further research should assess the mechanisms by which pesticides impact biological pathways to cause MGUS and MM. The researcher in the study note, “Given the continued widespread use of permethrin in various residential and commercial settings, our findings may have important implications for exposed individuals in the general population.”

Although this research finds an inverse association between MGUS and fonofos (organophosphate insecticide) use, EPA classifies the pesticides as an extremely hazardous substance, canceling registration in 1998. Moreover, previous AHS findings associate fonofos exposure with an increase in prostate cancer risk.

Cancer is becoming the leading cause of death worldwide; it is essential to know and understand the implications pesticide use and exposure has on human health. Studies related to pesticides and cancer can help scientists understand the underlying mechanisms that cause the disease. It is vital to understand how exposure to environmental pollutants like pesticides can increase the risk of developing chronic disease, especially if they are rare and disproportionately impact various populations. 

Beyond Pesticides tracks the most recent studies related to pesticide exposure through our Pesticide Induced Diseases Database (PIDD). This database supports the clear need for strategic action to shift away from pesticide dependency. For more information on the multiple harms, pesticides can cause, see PIDD pages on sexual and reproductive dysfunctionendocrine disruption, cancer, and other diseases. 

Furthermore, protect human, animal, and environmental health by telling President-elect Biden and Congress to clean up the corruption of science at EPA and set a moratorium on future pesticide registrations. 

For more information on how organic is the right choice for both consumers and the farmworkers who grow our food, see Beyond Pesticides webpage, Health Benefits of Organic Agriculture

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Environmental Health Perspectives

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13
Jan

Ethanol Plant Processing Pesticide Coated Seeds Contaminates Nebraska Town

(Beyond Pesticides, January 13, 2021) An ethanol processing plant located in the small village of Mead, Nebraska has been using seeds coated in bee-toxic chemicals as part of its production process, according to reporting published in The Guardian earlier this week. The plant, owned by a company called AltEn, may be the only plant in the U.S. producing biofuels with toxic seeds. There is a reason for that, and Mead residents are experiencing the adverse effects of EPA not regulating treated seeds.

The prevalence of the use of seed coatings in chemical agriculture has increased over the last several decades, as the pesticide industry works to increase product sales by exploiting a loophole in federal pesticide law. Under FIFRA (the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act), a clause known as the “treated article exemption” permits seeds to be coated with highly toxic pesticides without any requirement for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to assess environmental or public health effects of their use. This allows hazardous pesticides (primarily insecticides and fungicides) to be used indiscriminately with no effective oversight. Research finds that over 150 million acres of farmland are planted with toxic seeds, including nearly four tons of bee-killing neonicotinoids each year.

The AltEn plant is unique in that it is accepting unused treated seeds for farmers, advertising the site as a “recycling” facility, according to The Guardian. Apart from biofuel production, ethanol plants usually sell their spent, fermented grains to livestock farmers for feed. Processing toxic seeds has made that product too hazardous for cattle, so AltEn has been selling it to farmers as a soil amendment.

The concentration of hazardous pesticides in the production process has resulted in widespread contamination of spent grains. After numerous complaints, the state prohibited AltEn from selling the grains. In response, the company has piled it up around the plant, allowing it to leach into groundwater and spill out of storage ponds into nearby streams. The neonicotinoid clothianidin was found in a waste mound at an astounding 427,000 parts per billion (ppb). A wastewater storage pond found high levels of three neonicotinoids – imidacloprid, cloathianidin, and thimethoxam. Thiamethoxam was discovered at 24,000 ppb, over 300 times higher than its acceptable level in drinking water (70ppb), and roughly 1,300 times higher than the level considered safe for aquatic organisms by EPA (17.5ppb).

“It is a really significant contamination event that is impacting the local ecosystems and community there,” Sarah Hoyle of the invertebrate conservation group Xerces Society told The Guardian. Despite the obvious dangers posed by the plant, local residents in Mead have had difficulty getting their voices heard. “I’ve emailed the EPA, water, parks and conservation people, pretty much anybody I could think of,” said Jody Weible, chairwoman of the Mead planning commission to The Guardian. “They all say there is nothing they think they can do about it.” Reporting indicates that state regulators have yet to conduct testing of soil and water near the plant.  

Expectedly, pollinators near the plant are dying off. Judy Wu-Smart, PhD, bee researcher at University of Nebraska documented a sustained collapse of every beehive used by the university for a research project on a farm within a mile of the AltEn plant. “There is a red flag here. The bees are just a bio-indicator of something seriously going wrong,” Dr. Wu-Smart told the Guardian. She further indicated an “urgent need to examine potential impacts on local communities and wildlife.”

Advocates have challenged the “treated article exemption” used by EPA to forgo regulation of treated seeds, but were rebuffed by the courts in deference to the agency. In response, the Center for Food Safety initiated a formal legal petition requesting EPA regulate the use of toxic seed coatings. The Trump administration has yet to respond to the petition, leaving the determination up to the next administration.

Beyond frustrations over the lack of regulation and inherent hazard treated seeds pose, is the simple fact that they are unnecessary. Multiple studies have found toxic seeds offer “little to zero net benefit in most cases.” Despite the fact that many farmers don’t know exactly what’s on the seeds their planting, pressure on conventional producers to use these products is often intense, and can come from peers, neighboring farms, pesticide dealers, and insurance salesmen.

The actions taken by AltEn, and subsequent hazardous environment the residents of Mead must now endure, would not occur with a functioning regulatory system that refuses to cater to corporate interests. One state regulator with the Nebraska department of environment and energy (NDEE) told The Guardian AltEn officials were “hard-working people trying to make a living.” But making a living by destroying the life around you is ultimately self-defeating.

The Biden administration must take bold steps to correct the shortcomings in pesticide regulation not just of the last four years, but the last several decades. Beyond Pesticides is calling on President-elect Biden to clean up EPA and stop accepting safety data from corporations with a track record of corruption, and urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to embrace organic farming practices.  

For more information on the hazards posed by toxic seeds, see Beyond Pesticides video, Seeds that Poison.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: The Guardian

 

 

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12
Jan

New York State Bans Glyphosate/Roundup on State Land, While Advocates Push for Organic Land Management

(Beyond Pesticides, January 12, 2021) New York State is set to prohibit on December 31, 2021 the use of glyphosate on all state property after Governor Andrew Cuomo signed bill S6502A/A732b late last year. The state legislature passed the legislation in July, 2020. The move is an important recognition by the nation’s fourth most populous state that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not adequately protecting people and the environment from hazardous pesticides (pesticide is an umbrella term that includes insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc). However, the law’s ability to improve these protections will depend significantly upon the management approach that replaces glyphosate use.

 “A transition away from Roundup and other glyphosate-based pesticides must reject the use of regrettable substitutes, and embrace sound organic principles and practices,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. In pest and weed management, regrettable substitutions occur when one toxic chemical is banned or restricted, and another hazardous pesticide is simply used in its place. The substitution may have a different chemical formulation, mode of action, and set of health and environmental impacts, but nonetheless fills the same role as Roundup/glyphosate when it comes to weed management.

When the answer to eliminating glyphosate is to switch to another herbicide like 2,4-D, glufosinate, triclopyr, or dicamba, the message is not getting across, and more education and advocacy is needed, advocates say. A chemical-intensive approach focuses on treating symptoms – pests and weeds, but ultimately undermines a land manager’s capacity to address these problems naturally. This is because synthetic pesticides (and fertilizers) harm soil life, while an organic approach to land management focuses on enhancing soil health by nurturing soil biology.

A natural, organic approach focuses on pest prevention, addressing the root causes of pest problems by promoting soil health. Healthier soil grows healthier plants, which will be more resilient in the face of pest and weed intrusions. In turfgrass, this includes an emphasis on cultural practices, such as mowing high, aeration, overseeding, and use of natural soil amendments like compost. To manage weeds and pests in natural areas, ecological assessments are conducted, and importance is placed on mechanical and biological management. Biological management approaches have the potential to adequately address a number of problematic pests and plant species. Goats have been used throughout the country to manage opportunistic weeds on natural lands and, with their hoof action, urine, and droppings, they can help restore and stabilize soil health.

As more and more states and communities consider restrictions on glyphosate use, they are  considering next steps, and how these laws are implemented. While it is possible for the elimination of one chemical to prompt a change toward natural, organic practices, a more comprehensive approach can remove the guess work. Beyond Pesticides strongly encourages a comprehensive policy approach that eliminates not only glyphosate, but all hazardous pesticides registered by EPA with restrictions that only allow the limited use of organic compatible products as a last resort.

EPA’s failure to act on the dangers posed by glyphosate is one example in a long string of breakdowns by the agency to safeguard public health and the wider environment. Despite strong evidence of glyphosate’s carcinogenicity published by the World Health Organization, and multi-million dollar jury verdicts for those harmed by glyphosate use, the current administration not only defends glyphosate at home, but has acted on behalf of industry to flack the chemical abroad.  

Critics have pointed to the controversy surrounding glyphosate as merely the visible part of a massive iceberg of regulatory failure. Beyond Pesticides is calling on President-elect Biden and Congress to clean up the corruption of science at EPA and place a hard stop on all future pesticide registrations until the agency can ensure the science behind these registrations are sound. Readers can join Beyond Pesticides in sending a letter today.

If the failure to fully regulate glyphosate is symptomatic of the institutional government weaknesses in taking protective action on toxic chemicals, then organic practices and compatible inputs is the only solution. Learn more about the benefits of organic land management on Beyond Pesticides Lawns and Landscapes webpage.

 All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: NY Bill S6502A/A732b

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