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Daily News Blog

20
Apr

Mother’s Exposure to Pesticides during Pregnancy Results in Sleep-Related Problems among Daughters

(Beyond Pesticides, April 20, 2022) A University of Michigan study is the first to highlight that maternal pesticide exposure during pregnancy adversely affects sleeping patterns for offspring later in life, specifically for females. Prenatal development is one of the most vulnerable periods of exposure as the fetus is most susceptible to the harmful effects of chemical contaminants. Many studies indicate that prenatal and early-life exposure to environmental toxicants increases susceptibility to diseases, from learning and developmental disabilities to cancer. However, the toxicity of pesticide exposure ad its full impact on the nonagricultural population in the U.S., especially women. Given research links to sleep-related disorders and neurological and cognitive development, studies like this can help government and health officials identify how pesticides’ impact on the brain elevates health concerns. The authors note, “Overall, these results are of public health importance considering the continued widespread agricultural and possibly residential use of pyrethroids and chlorpyrifos [in Mexico]…Thus, our results underline the importance of additional research studies that include both larger samples and assessment of unregulated pesticides, as well as studies that consider the underlying mechanisms explaining sex differences.”

Levels of inadequate sleep patterns are rising among children and adolescents. Reports find variability in sleep duration results in higher rates of depression, anxiety, and fatigue among juveniles. Since sleep is an important factor in normal brain development, disturbance in sleep patterns, such as sleeping too much or too little, can result in long-term associations between sleep and the brain’s white matter integrity (responsible for age-dependent cognitive function).

University of Michigan scientists in this study assess measure urinary concentrations of two pesticides, pyrethroids, and chlorpyrifos, in samples from 137 pregnant women during their third trimester. The scientists followed up with the offspring during adolescence, conducting a sleep study test to determine whether maternal pesticide exposure during pregnancy affected the offspring’s sleep pattern.

The results demonstrate that exposure to chlorpyrifos, but not pyrethroids, during pregnancy have greater associations with longer sleep duration and changes in sleep patterns among offspring. However, these sleep effects only occurred among adolescent girls, demonstrating sex-specific health outcomes. Although longer amounts of sleep may seem desirable, the study authors suggest that longer sleep duration is indicative of difficulties falling or staying asleep.

Pesticides’ presence in the body has implications for human health, especially during vulnerable life stages like childhood, puberty, pregnancy, and old age. Pesticide exposure during pregnancy is of specific concern as health effects for all life stages can be long-lasting. Just as nutrients are transferable between mother and fetus, so are chemical contaminants. Studies find pesticide compounds present in the mother’s blood can transfer to the fetus via the umbilical cord. Furthermore, pregnant women already have over 100 detectable chemicals in blood and umbilical cord samples, including banned persistent organic pollutants (POPs). However, 89 percent of these chemical contaminants are from unidentified sources, lack adequate information, or were not previously detectable in humans. Therefore, pesticide exposure during pregnancy has implications for both mother and child’s health.

Many studies indicate prenatal and early-life exposure to environmental toxicants increases susceptibility to disease. A 2020 study finds the first few weeks of pregnancy are the most vulnerable periods during which prenatal exposure to pesticides can increase the risk of the rare fetal disorder holoprosencephaly. This disorder prevents the embryonic forebrain from developing into two separate hemispheres. Moreover, women living near agricultural areas have an increased risk of birthing a baby with abnormalities, including acute lymphoblastic leukemia and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Regular household pesticide use (e.g., disinfectants) during pregnancy can increase nephroblastoma (kidney cancer) and brain tumor risk among children. 

Environmental contaminants like pesticides are ubiquitous in the environment, with 90 percent of Americans having at least one pesticide compound in their body. These pollutants have a global distribution, with evaporation and precipitation facilitating long-range atmospheric transport, deposition, and bioaccumulation of hazardous chemicals in the environment. Many of these chemical compounds remain in soils, water (solid and liquid), and the surrounding air at levels exceeding U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. The increasing ubiquity of pesticides concerns public health advocates as current measures safeguarding against pesticide use do not adequately detect and assess total environmental chemical contaminants. Therefore, individuals will continuously encounter varying concentrations of pesticides and other toxic chemicals, adding to the body burden of those toxic chemicals currently in use.

This study is the first to examine the links between pesticide exposure during pregnancy and sleep health among adolescent offspring. Pesticides can function as an endocrine disruptor that affects hormone function, including melatonin responsible for sleep. However, this study is not the first to demonstrate a risk to offspring. Although studies find glyphosate exposure has a negligible impact on pregnant rats’ health, incidents of prostate, ovarian, and kidney cancer increase in the two subsequent generations. However, chemical exposure encompasses more than just current-use, toxic pesticides like glyphosate. Many long-banned pesticides still cause adverse effects to human health. Researchers at Drexel University report that higher levels of some organochlorine compounds, like DDT, during pregnancy are associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and intellectual disability (ID).

Although pesticides’ impact on sleep specifically affects female offspring, this study is not the first to demonstrate the sex-specific effect of pesticide exposure. In 2017, scientists presented a study at the 99th meeting of the Endocrine Society, demonstrating instances of early onset puberty in boys after exposure to common pyrethroid insecticides. Furthermore, a 2021 study demonstrates that exposure to current-use pesticides, like organophosphates, poses a greater health risk to women. Women with organophosphate exposure are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, bronchitis, asthma, and various cancers. Proximity to heavy chemical use during a mother’s third trimester increases the risk of childhood autism by 87%. Considering rates of preterm birthsmiscarriages/stillbirthsand birth malformations are increasing, it is necessary to assess chemical exposure effect on mothers and offspring to safeguard future generations’ health.

There is a consensus among pediatricians that pregnant mothers and young children should avoid pesticide exposure during critical periods of development. Various pesticide products act similarly or in conjunction with other chemicals. Individuals can encounter these substances simultaneously, resulting in more severe health outcomes. Therefore, advocates urge that policies enforce stricter pesticide regulations and increase research on the long-term impacts of pesticide exposure. 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 from pesticide dependency. For more information on the multiple harms that pesticides can cause, see PIDD pages on Birth/Fetal EffectsLearning/Developmental DisordersEndocrine Disruption, CancerBody Burdens, and other diseases.

Beyond Pesticides advocates a precautionary approach to pest management in land management and agriculture by transiting to organicBuyinggrowing, and supporting organic can help eliminate the extensive use of pesticides in the environment and from your diet. For more information on how organic is the right choice for consumers and the farmworkers who grow our food, see the Beyond Pesticides webpage, Health Benefits of Organic Agriculture

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

Source: University of Michigan, Environmental Research

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19
Apr

Maine Moves to Ban Pesticides and Fertilizers Contaminated with PFAS

(Beyond Pesticides, April 19, 2022) Both houses of Maine’s legislature have just approved a bill that would, by 2030, ban pesticides that contain PFAS chemicals — the so-called “forever chemicals.” The bill’s next stop is the Appropriations Committee, for approval of $200,000 in annual funding to enact the bill; if successful there, it will move to the desk of Maine Governor Janet Mills for her signature. The legislation is one of a suite of lawmaker efforts in the state to address the growing PFAS problem with which localities across the U.S. are struggling. In this Daily News Blog article, Beyond Pesticides continues its coverage of the scourge of PFAS chemicals, particularly as it relates to pesticide use and the use of fertilizers made from PFAS-contaminated “biosludge” from municipal treatment facilities.

PFAS — “per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances” — are any of a family of more than 9,000 synthetic chemicals, invented in, and widely deployed since, the 1950s in a multitude of industrial and consumer products. PFAS molecules are made up of a chain of linked carbon and fluorine atoms; the carbon–fluorine bond is one of the strongest chemical bonds that exists, which means that these compounds do not break down in the environment. Scientists cannot even estimate the environmental half-life of PFAS (half-life being the amount of time required for 50% of the compound to degrade and “disappear”). Hence, the “forever chemicals” moniker.

NIEHS (the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) notes: “Research on two kinds of PFAS forms the basis of our scientific understanding about this group of chemicals. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) were manufactured for the longest time, are the most widespread in the environment, and are the most well-studied. Although these two compounds are no longer made in the United States, chemical manufacturers have replaced them with alternative PFAS.”

PFAS have emerged during the past decade or so as a serious environmental contaminant and health concern. They represent yet another “chickens come home to roost” scenario characteristic of the poorly regulated use of chemicals in the industrial, military, and commercial materials streams that, ultimately, end up in the environment and human (and other) bodies.

In February 2022, Beyond Pesticides wrote, “There has been precious little activity at the federal level to deal with PFAS. . . . The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in 2019 that a ‘Comprehensive Nationwide PFAS Action Plan’ would be forthcoming. (It has not yet emerged.) Since 1998, EWG [the Environmental Working Group] notes, ‘despite mounting evidence of PFAS’ toxicity and contamination, EPA has inexcusably dragged its feet. The [agency] has failed to set a legal limit for any PFAS in tap water, and its non-enforceable health advisory level for PFOA and PFOS is 70 times higher than what independent studies show is needed. In 2019, EPA announced a toothless “action plan” that would do nothing to reduce ongoing PFAS releases or clean up legacy PFAS pollution.’”

These chemicals are contaminating waterways, water bodies, and drinking water sources; the food supply; wastewater and biosolids; soils; and now, us — PFAS is present in the bloodstreams of 97% of the U.S. population. Exposure to these compounds has been linked to a variety of human health anomalies, including cancers, kidney dysfunction, neurodevelopmental compromise in children, immunosuppression, pre-eclampsia, increased risk of cardiometabolic diseases (via exposure during pregnancy), and respiratory system damage — not to mention that it may increase the risk of Covid infection and severity. As Beyond Pesticides has written, PFAS presents a chronic danger to Americans that demands immediate regulatory action.

Absent such protective federal action on these chemicals, states have been stepping up, particularly in the past five years or so, to deal with the host of problems PFAS represent. Maine has been a particular hotbed of activity; media have helped put the PFAS issue in front of plenty of eyeballs in the state (and elsewhere). A recent (and small) sampling includes The Penobscot Times coverage of PFAS runoff from a Two Rivers Paper Company landfill into the St. John River; the Press Herald’s reporting on PFAS contamination of Maine fish stocks and wild deer; and publication about research by Northeastern University and the Penobscot Nation on PFAS-contaminated leachate from the Juniper Ridge Landfill.

The Penobscot Times article noted that the Two Rivers pollution is not unique: “Every landfill that has produced results so far from the first of five rounds of state-required testing of landfill runoff shows some concentration of the so-called forever chemicals.” The problem extends to PFAS in wastewater and solid waste; a University of Maine Cooperative Extension newsletter, quoting from another Penobscot Times issue, writes: “PFAS is flowing into Maine waters, but no one knows the level of contamination. Treatment plants release millions of gallons of wastewater into Maine’s waterways each day that could contain elevated levels of so-called forever chemicals.” Indeed, from wastewater and solid waste treatment plants, and from septic systems that discharge the PFAS from consumer product use, PFAS is finding its way into myriad water sources.

Recent high-profile cases of PFAS contamination in Maine have no doubt added momentum to the legislature’s pursuit of controls. For several years running, an Arundel dairy farmer testified to Maine legislators about the ruination of his multi-generational dairy operation by the discovery of PFAS in his water and soils, and in his cows’ milk. The farmer attributes the wholesale contamination to the “biosolids” (waste sludge) he had used on his silage crop fields for years through a state program, and/or ash from a nearby paper mill.

Early in 2022, Beyond Pesticides wrote about another Maine farming operation, Songbird Farm in Unity, Maine, which is now facing similar issues. The farmers grow diversified, organic grain and vegetable crops and were stunned to learn that their fields were victims to the legacy use, a quarter century before their tenure on the land (starting in 2014), of contaminated sludge. Now, their water, soil, and produce were all likewise contaminated; their well water has tested at 400 times the state limit.

Because Songbird Farm is a Certified Organic operation, in which trust between farmer and consumer is fundamental, the owner-operators felt they needed to halt sales of their crops. They now await answers from the state and some kind of way forward. One of the farmers said to WBUR Radio, “At least we know and we can stop drinking our water. But who still doesn’t know? Who is drinking water right now that’s as high as ours? Who is about to have a baby? Who is thinking about having a baby? It’s so too late . . . to be telling everybody this.”

Her partner added that the state has to assure farmers and homeowners of some kind of long-term financial support in the face of this calamity. “To leave people in limbo is untenable. It’s not going to be good for the farming community and it is not going to be good for the state to do that. And I know that everyone is scrambling to catch up on this issue. We’re just learning about PFAS contamination in Maine. We’re just acknowledging it. It’s 30 years old, but we’re just recognizing it.”

The Maine legislature has moved more quickly in response than have many other states; in its 2019–2020 session, it passed “An Act To Protect the Environment and Public Health by Further Reducing Toxic Chemicals in Packaging,” which included measures to reduce the use of PFAS in food packaging. In 2021, Maine lawmakers passed “An Act To Stop Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances Pollution,” which bans (in 2023) the sale or distribution of carpets, rugs, or fabric treatments, and in 2030, use of PFAS in all consumer products in the state.

It also passed, as the Press Herald reported last year, “Bills . . . with broad, often-unanimous support . . . set[ing] among the nation’s strictest limits on PFAS pollution in drinking water, prohibit[ing] the uncontrolled testing of PFAS-laced firefighting foam, and provid[ing] millions of dollars to detect and clean up contamination.” The drinking water legislation established a limit of 20 ppt (parts per trillion) for the six most common types of PFAS; this more protective than the federal government’s current “advisory level” of 70 ppt for two PFAS compounds.

Most recently, the legislature has been considering a group of four bills:

  • the subject ban on pesticides containing PFAS, effective in 2030
  • a ban, effective immediately, on the spreading on farmland of fertilizers derived from treated human waste (a practice previously promoted by the state); such waste is nearly always contaminated with PFAS
  • creation of a fund to compensate farmers who, to date, are unable to grow and sell food products because their land has been contaminated with high levels of PFAS; that fund is likely to have a starting appropriation of $60–$100 million
  • launch of a study of the remediation possibilities for PFAS in landfills, which then leak into water supplies

The bill to create a compensation fund was, according to WMTW News, the least controversial of this batch of PFAS bills, while those featuring the ban on pesticides and the ban on spreading of waste biosolids were opposed by the Maine Farm Bureau and some farmers, concerned about the associated costs to farming operations. But many legislators and advocates have been outspoken in their support for the bills that address the PFAS issue. State Senator Craig Hickman responded to critics of the legislation: “Chemical weapons of warfare, that is what we are talking about. We cannot continue to kill ourselves in the name of agriculture.”

The contamination of pesticides with PFAS has been covered by Beyond Pesticides, and confirmed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The source of the contamination may be twofold; storage of pesticide compounds in plastic barrels that leach PFAS into the pesticide is one culprit. But as Beyond Pesticides has noted, “Why would PFAS be found in a pesticide formulation? The chemicals can work well as dispersants, surfactants, anti-foaming agents, or other pesticide adjuvants intended to increase the effect of the active ingredient. EPA includes PFAS chemicals in its “Inert Finder” database, and a PEER [Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility] press release indicates that many companies have patents on file for pesticide formulations containing PFAS.”

The 2030 target date for the state ban on pesticides contaminated with PFAS is too far in the future for some in the health and environmental sector, who would prefer to see the effective date be much sooner. Executive director of the Maine Farm Bureau, Julie Ann Smith, has said, “Even with allowing that ban to not take effect until 2030, you’re going to see over 1,500 different products eliminated from the market, with nothing else available for use.” On that point, advocacy director for Defend Our Health Sarah Woodbury, conceded: “You . . . have to give industry time to switch over and find alternatives.”

Beyond Pesticides would remind both “sides” that alternative management practices and products are available to all producers: organic regenerative agriculture. Transition, of course, requires time and effort, and should be supported by the state (and federal) governments, but getting off the toxic chemical treadmill in agriculture resolves multiple environmental and health problems simultaneously — including that of PFAS in pesticides and fertilizers.

There has been considerable controversy about the bill to ban use of “biosludge” fertilizers on farm fields — precisely what has contributed to the compromise, if not destruction, of multiple farm businesses in the state. Nevertheless, the Press Herald reports, “A group of farmers and wastewater treatment operators that calls itself the Maine Work Boots Alliance . . . warn[ed] lawmakers against a ‘knee-jerk, misguided reaction’ to all sludge recycling and farm use. . . . The group asked lawmakers to narrow the ban at the heart of L.D. 1911 so that it only prohibits the recycling or land application of sludge with unsafe levels of PFAS. ‘No Maine farmer wants to contaminate their land,’ said Courtney Hammond, a third-generation blueberry farmer in Harrington and past president of Maine Farm Bureau. ‘What we are looking for is a science based approach to monitoring for these PFAS levels.’”

But as Ms. Woodbury has pointed out, “The State of Maine set screening standards for PFAS and sludge. Over 95% of that sludge has tested above the screening standards that the DEP put into place a couple of years ago. We don’t want that stuff on our farmland.” According to the Press Herald, sponsor of the “sludge” bill, Representative Bill Pluecker, said that “there is no such thing as farming-safe sludge, at least not yet, because science has yet to determine how much PFAS is acceptable in all crops, meats and fish. State and federal authorities can’t even agree on safe drinking water levels.” Maine Farmland Trust’s Amy Fisher commented, “Now that we know that PFAS chemicals accumulate and are persistent in our soil and water, and that so much of this contamination is directly linked to sludge, we simply can’t afford to continue spreading sludge that contains PFAS.”

Beyond Pesticides adds that biosludge products are not only sold to farmers; they also show up on the shelves of retailers as fertilizers for consumer home and garden use. The organization wrote in 2021 that these products not only often contain PFAS, but also, harbor “hazardous pesticides, heavy metals, antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and a range of other toxicants. . . . None of these risks [is] relayed to consumers on fertilizer packages. With fertilizer regulations failing the American consumer, it becomes more important than ever to seek out certified organic fertilizer products.” Some communities and states have taken action to restrict the use of such fertilizers, including the flurry of activity in Maine. See more on the biosludge issue here and here.

Beyond Pesticides welcomes Maine’s legislative attention to these PFAS issues, and encourages the public to insist that their own states and local jurisdictions take up issues related to PFAS — whether contamination of drinking water (as so many Northeast states and locations near Department of Defense facilities now face); agricultural practices that “invite” PFAS contamination of food, water, and soil through pesticide and/or biosludge use; and/or lack of consumer knowledge about the presence of PFAS in thousands of consumer products, which then end up in groundwater or (post-wastewater treatment) in water bodies/ways.

As we often say, organic practices solve many problems in one fell swoop. Certified organic production and food labeled “USDA Organic” may not be produced with biosolids or fertilizers containing biosolids, and the National Organic Program proscribes the use of toxic pesticides. Please consider working to get your state or locality to act protectively on pesticide use and/or to stop the use of biosolids. Beyond Pesticides can help; contact us at [email protected] or 202.543.5450.

Sources: https://www.pressherald.com/2022/04/11/maine-lawmakers-approve-ban-on-pesticides-with-pfas-by-2030/ and https://www.wmtw.com/article/maine-legislators-move-toward-final-passage-of-bills-restricting-pfas-forever-chemicals/39707206

 

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

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18
Apr

USDA Must Take Steps To Prevent an Avian Flu Pandemic

(Beyond Pesticides, April 18, 2022) Industrial poultry operations—generally indoors and with crowded conditions—provide the perfect incubator for pandemic influenza. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), “These involve the congregation of large numbers of genetically identical animals of the same age (young) and sex, with rapid turnover and ‘all-in, all-out’ systems.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is delaying the adoption of organic rules that would require meaningful outdoor access and prevent indoor crowding.

Influenza pandemics have killed millions of people—between 20 and 40 million people died in the 1918 pandemic, one million in 1957, and one to three million in 1968. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Influenza type A viruses are of most significance to public health due to their potential to cause an influenza pandemic.” There are several subtypes of type A influenza, which originates in birds. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there were 700 human cases of the H5N1 subtype since 2003, and only 40% survived.

Tell USDA to promulgate a strong Organic Livestock and Poultry Standard. Tell USDA to protect against flu pandemics by applying the same rules to all poultry.

Because avian flu poses a risk to domestic poultry as well as humans, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of USDA conducts ongoing surveillance of wild birds, who can carry the virus without becoming sick.

Wild birds provide valuable services to farmers, and pastured poultry is valued for integration with organic farming systems as well as the superior quality of eggs and meat. Yet conventional advice from USDA discourages outdoor access for poultry as well as allowing wildlife on the farm.

The virus thrives on intensive confinement, and the lack of genetic diversity is a contributing factor. If the virus gets into a barn, it will wreak havoc. Hence, USDA and the commercial poultry industry point endlessly to biosecurity, which is integral to conventional industrial production systems, but not as effective as removing the underlying unhealthy conditions that cause the problem. According to the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association,

The virus causes the most damage to intensely confined flocks commonly found in the commercial poultry industry. A relatively small number of backyard birds have also been affected. But backyard is not synonymous with pastured and the commercial flocks, as USDA is reporting them, do not include any pastured flocks.

In the 2014-2015 outbreak the affected sites looked like this:

  • 211 commercial poultry farms killing 50 million chickens and turkeys.
  • 21 backyard flocks killing 10,000 birds. Approximately 5,000 of those backyard birds were on a gamebird farm. 

The outbreak in 2022 is showing similar trends. When you look at the data, there’s a clear risk, and it’s not pastured poultry farms. 

Furthermore, organic poultry is required to have access to the outdoors. However, the National Organic Program lacks regulations to ensure meaningful outdoor access for organic chickens and other animal welfare requirements. After a decade of work by organic stakeholders and the National Organic Standards Board, USDA promulgated the 2017 Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule in the waning days of the Obama administration, then withdrew it in 2018 during the Trump administration. The OLPP contained provisions to ensure outdoor access and prevent indoor crowding, thus reducing the likelihood that organic poultry operations will be incubators for influenza. A remake of the rule (OLPS) is pending.

Tell USDA to promulgate a strong Organic Livestock and Poultry Standard. Tell USDA to protect against flu pandemics by applying the same rules to all poultry.

Letter to USDA (Secretary Tom Vilsack and Deputy Administrator Jenny Tucker):

Industrial poultry operations—generally indoors and with crowded conditions—provide the perfect incubator for pandemic influenza. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), “These involve the congregation of large numbers of genetically identical animals of the same age (young) and sex, with rapid turnover and ‘all-in, all-out’ systems.”

Influenza pandemics have killed millions of people—between 20 and 40 million people died in the 1918 pandemic, one million in 1957, and one to three million in 1968. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Influenza type A viruses are of most significance to public health due to their potential to cause an influenza pandemic.” There are several subtypes of type A influenza, which originates in birds. According to the CDC, there were 700 human cases of the H5N1 subtype since 2003, and only 40% survived.

Because avian flu poses a risk to domestic poultry as well as humans, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) conducts surveillance of wild birds, who can carry the virus without becoming sick.

Wild birds provide valuable services to farmers, and pastured poultry is valued for integration with the organic farm as well as the superior quality of eggs and meat. Yet, conventional advice from USDA discourages outdoor access for poultry as well as allowing wildlife on the farm.

The virus thrives on intensive confinement, and the lack of genetic diversity is a contributing factor. If the virus gets into a barn, it will wreak havoc. Hence USDA and the commercial poultry industry drone on and on about biosecurity, which is their only defense, and not as effective as removing the unhealthy conditions. According to the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association,

The virus causes the most damage to intensely confined flocks commonly found in the commercial poultry industry. A relatively small number of backyard birds have also been affected. But backyard is not synonymous with pastured and the commercial flocks, as USDA is reporting them, do not include any pastured flocks.

In the 2014-2015 outbreak the affected sites looked like this:

* 211 commercial poultry farms killing 50 million chickens and turkeys.

* 21 backyard flocks killing 10,000 birds. Approximately 5,000 of those backyard birds were on a gamebird farm. 

The outbreak in 2022 is showing similar trends. When you look at the data, there’s a clear risk, and it’s not pastured poultry farms. 

Furthermore, organic poultry is required to have access to the outdoors. However, the National Organic Program lacks regulations to ensure meaningful outdoor access for organic chickens and other animal welfare requirements. After a decade of work by organic stakeholders and the National Organic Standards Board, USDA promulgated the 2017 Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule in the waning days of the Obama administration, then withdrew it in 2018 during the Trump administration. The OLPP contained provisions to ensure outdoor access and prevent indoor crowding, thus reducing the likelihood that organic poultry operations will be incubators for influenza. A remake of the rule (OLPS) is pending.

We need not only a strong OLPS for the sake of organic integrity, but also similar requirements for non-organic farms to protect against future pandemics. Please ensure that USDA takes steps to require healthy living conditions for all poultry that will not promote the development of the next flu pandemic. We can prevent it if we take the necessary steps to require meaningful outdoor access and eliminate overcrowding in the management of poultry.

Thank you.

Letter to U.S. Representative and Senators:

Industrial poultry operations—generally indoors and with crowded conditions—provide the perfect incubator for pandemic influenza. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), “These involve the congregation of large numbers of genetically identical animals of the same age (young) and sex, with rapid turnover and ‘all-in, all-out’ systems.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is delaying the adoption of organic rules that would require meaningful outdoor access and prevent indoor crowding.

Influenza pandemics have killed millions of people—between 20 and 40 million people died in the 1918 pandemic, one million in 1957, and one to three million in 1968. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Influenza type A viruses are of most significance to public health due to their potential to cause an influenza pandemic.” There are several subtypes of type A influenza, which originates in birds. According to the CDC, there were 700 human cases of the H5N1 subtype since 2003, and only 40% survived.

Because avian flu poses a risk to domestic poultry as well as humans, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) conducts surveillance of wild birds, who can carry the virus without becoming sick.

Wild birds provide valuable services to farmers, and pastured poultry is valued for integration with the organic farm as well as the superior quality of eggs and meat. Yet, conventional advice from USDA discourages outdoor access for poultry as well as allowing wildlife on the farm.

The virus thrives on intensive confinement, and the lack of genetic diversity is a contributing factor. If the virus gets into a barn, it will wreak havoc. Hence USDA and the commercial poultry industry drone on and on about biosecurity, which is their only defense, and not as effective as removing the unhealthy conditions. According to the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association,

The virus causes the most damage to intensely confined flocks commonly found in the commercial poultry industry. A relatively small number of backyard birds have also been affected. But backyard is not synonymous with pastured and the commercial flocks, as USDA is reporting them, do not include any pastured flocks.

In the 2014-2015 outbreak the affected sites looked like this:

* 211 commercial poultry farms killing 50 million chickens and turkeys.

* 21 backyard flocks killing 10,000 birds. Approximately 5,000 of those backyard birds were on a gamebird farm. 

The outbreak in 2022 is showing similar trends. When you look at the data, there’s a clear risk, and it’s not pastured poultry farms. 

Furthermore, organic poultry is required to have access to the outdoors. However, the National Organic Program lacks regulations to ensure meaningful outdoor access for organic chickens and other animal welfare requirements. After a decade of work by organic stakeholders and the National Organic Standards Board, USDA promulgated the 2017 Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule in the waning days of the Obama administration, then withdrew it in 2018 during the Trump administration. The OLPP contained provisions to ensure outdoor access and prevent indoor crowding, thus reducing the likelihood that organic poultry operations will be incubators for influenza. A remake of the rule (OLPS) is pending.

We need not only a strong OLPS for the sake of organic integrity, but also similar requirements for non-organic farms to protect against future pandemics. Please ask USDA to take steps to require healthy living conditions for all poultry that will not promote the development of the next flu pandemic. We can prevent it if we take the necessary steps to require meaningful outdoor access and eliminate overcrowding in the management of poultry.

Thank you.

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15
Apr

Beyond Pesticides Makes Science-based Case that It Is Imperative to Phase Out Pesticides in a Decade

The organic solutions to problems highlighted in the latest issue of Pesticides and You—based on the importance of healthy ecosystems and public health protection—are within reach, and the data creates an imperative for action now that phases out pesticides within a decade, while ensuring food productivity, resilient land management, and safe food, air, and water.

(Beyond Pesticides, April 15, 2022) The current issue of Pesticides and YouRETROSPECTIVE 2021: A Call to Urgent Action, is a look at a year of science, policy, and advocacy that informs both the existential problems that the U.S. and the world are facing due to toxic pesticide dependency, and solutions that can be adopted now. The information in this issue captures the body of science that empowers action at the local, state, and federal level, and provides a framework for challenging toxic pesticide use and putting alternatives in place. The issue finds that 2021 was a pivotal year in both defining the problem and advancing the solution.

This year in review is divided into nine sections that provide an accounting of scientific findings documenting serious pesticide-induced health and environmental effects, disproportionate risk to people of color and those with preexisting conditions, regulatory failures, at the same time it provides documentation on the viability of organic practices that offer a solution. Dependency on toxic, fossil fuel-based pesticides and fertilizers contributes to the existential crises of human pesticide induced or exacerbated illness, biodiversity collapse, and the climate emergency, and calls for urgent action to eliminate their use.

With the April 4 release of the United Nation’s IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report, the Secretary General of the UN, António Guterres said that the lack of action puts us “firmly on track towards an unlivable world. We are on a fast track to climate disaster.” The science in this issue of Pesticides and You identifies the contribution of fossil fuel-based pesticides and fertilizers to the climate emergency, human and ecosystem health threats, and biodiversity collapse.

According to Beyond Pesticides Executive Director Jay Feldman, “This issue of Pesticides and You is both a jarring documentation of the threats that we face from toxic, fossil fuel-based pesticides and the uplifting opportunities that we have to transition society to sustainable practices. This recounting of one year provides a framework for moving ahead—given existing scientific analyses of the problem, identified regulatory failure to address the seriousness of the threats, and effective action now available to us for a livable future.”

RETROSPECTIVE 2021: A Call to Urgent Action can be accessed here. For more details, see Beyond Pesticides website.

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14
Apr

Winning the “War on Rats” Requires Community-Wide Systemic Change, Says New Study

(Beyond Pesticides, April 14, 2022) Over the last century, cities across the world have engaged in a “war on rats” that has failed to achieve meaningful results, and should consider a new paradigm for rodent management, according to a review of relevant literature published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution last month. As awareness regarding the widespread dangers of commonly used rodenticides increases, and states like California begin to rein in their use, the importance of alternative management approaches has grown. Reviewing over 100 studies on municipal rat management, the authors outline a path forward that embraces a systems approach and calls for a change in public expectations.

Since the early 1900s, municipal rat management has primarily focused on killing rats and removing their food, water and harborage, but data available on the efficacy of this approach is sparse. Successful programs, according to the literature, are often grant funded and time limited, or employ such substantial amounts of rodenticide that it carries significant risks regarding secondary poisoning of people and nontarget species.

Failures consistently note the ephemeral nature of rodent reductions. A 1909 study referenced in the review, from which the authors indicate much of present-day rodent management is based, discusses how Stockholm, Sweden removed over 700,000 rats over 10 years, but the total number of rats removed each year never decreased. “Despite several studies which successfully ‘won’ the war by relying extensively on rodenticide, the realities of management may have relegated much of this war to rat “farming” in which rats were harvested only to “regrow” and require repeat collection,” the study indicates.  

The response to this ephemeral nature of rat reductions, and general ineffectiveness of municipal management campaigns is attributed to various reasons, including lack of interest within government or the public, the complexity of the problem, a dearth of information on cost-effective methodologies at a large scale, and an inability to change behaviors of residents and other members of the public contributing to rat problems.

The authors provide first a way to fix the current integrated pest management paradigm that calls for killing rats and reducing their food, water, and harborage. They suggest the implementation of large scale impact assessments and evaluation measures, and improving reduction strategies that incorporate a greater understanding of rat ecology. For example, the authors reference a study on the ecology of sewer-dwelling rats that determined that winter was the best time to implement control efforts as their population is lowest at that time.

Nonetheless, skeptical of the long-term success and sustainability of our continued “war on rats,” the authors propose a new paradigm for management – one that embraces a systems approach to the overall complexity of the issue. The difference is compared in metaphor to a sinking ship. The current paradigm, “uses a bucket to bail water out of a sinking ship (i.e., remove the rats) but acknowledges that this needs to be combined with methods to patch the holes from which the water entered,” the study says. An alternative approach, the researchers indicate, “considers the complex set of upstream determinants of why the holes were there in the first place might investigate how to effect change over the materials, engineering, and design of the ship, the policies that allowed the ship to be built that way, the behaviors of the crewmates that allowed the ship to fall into disrepair, the decisions of the captain which steered the ship into shallow water, or the policies which encouraged the ship to travel in dangerous weather conditions.”

Applied to rat management, a focus changes from killing rats to one that initially considers the reasons why rats are in an area in the first place. Such an approach would focus on improving the quality of life in low-income areas of degraded housing and other public amenities, rather than placing fines or penalties on rat activity. It also requires accepting that rat problems can be intractable “wicked problems.” Defined by reference in the study, wicked problems are those where a problem is always the symptom of another problem, and a problem that is unique.  Rats are symptoms of other problems because they are always a factor of what the authors call “upstream determinants” like weak building codes or inadequate landscaping practices. Municipal rat problems are also always unique, with different outbreak sources, conditions, and goals, making clear best practices for rat management effectively impossible.

As a result, the authors say that the first step in a new paradigm for rat management is to map out the rat problem in the region, “to highlight, for example, where rats are considered problematic, who is vulnerable, who is resilient, what policies are in place to address them and do they work better in some areas, and which municipal departments and sectors of the urban environment are affected.” This new approach emphasizes the improvement of overall community health, rather than focusing on rats as symptoms of a problem that occurs in a vacuum. The study references work done to eliminate parasite transmission in Kathmandu, Nepal utilizing an ecosystem approach. With this work, community stakeholders came to together to map out the issue and zero in on areas where specific actions could be taken to address the problem. The community was able to successfully break transmission through different intervening actions – such as proper waste disposal, keeping livestock out of water bodies, and alterations to butchering practices.

The new paradigm proposed by researchers recognizes the complex reality of rodent management in large cities as a wicked problem that cannot be solved. “Instead,” as the authors indicate, “The problem can only be managed, making incremental gains in different aspects of the problem over time.”

While individuals can take ad-hoc protective measures to address rodent problems in and around their home, the study underscores  the need for this issue to be dealt with comprehensively at a community-wide scale with an approach that does not focus solely on killing rats, but instead on achieving a set of specific, likely shifting outcomes agreed upon by the community. With advocacy from local residents, large cities will begin to shift toward this new, safer and more sustainable paradigm for rat management.

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

Source: Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution

 

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13
Apr

Ecosystem Services Provided by Birds and Bees Synergize to Increase Farm Yield and Profit

(Beyond Pesticides, April 13, 2022) The combined effects of insect pollination and natural pest control provided by birds synergize to improve yields and income for coffee farmers, finds research published this month in the journal PNAS. Ecosystem services – the positive benefits provided by ecosystems, wildlife, and their natural processes – underpin agricultural production, but are often analyzed in silos, on a case by case basis in the scientific literature. The current research finds that the quantitative benefits of ecosystem services can be greater when considering their interactive effects. “Until now, researchers have typically calculated the benefits of nature separately, and then simply added them up,” says lead author Alejandra Martínez-Salinas, PhD of Costa Rica’s Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE). “But nature is an interacting system, full of important synergies and trade-offs. We show the ecological and economic importance of these interactions, in one of the first experiments at realistic scales in actual farms.”  

Researchers based their experiment in Costa Rica, working with 30 shade grown coffee farms owned by small landholders. Eight coffee plants on each farm were selected for the study. Pest control services provided by birds were assessed using a 20mm mesh screen that excludes birds but allows bees and other insect pollinators to forage. Bee pollination was analyzed by choosing four comparable branches on each of the eight coffee plants, and using nylon mesh bags to exclude bees during flowering on two of the four branches. With this design, scientists were able to evaluate bird activity alone, pollination activity alone, bird and bee activity combined, and no activity from either birds or bees.

The impacts of these services were evaluated on the fruit set, fruit eight, and economic value of a coffee farm’s output. With each of these measurements, ecosynergy, a synergy between ecological services, resulted in the greatest benefit. While bird activity alone did not increase fruit set or weight, bee activity alone did cause a modest average increase of 11% in fruit set and 4.2% in fruit weight. Combined activity of birds and bees show the highest fruit set and weight among all scenarios, with a 24% increase in fruit set and 6.6% increase in fruit weight.

Increases in fruit weight and set meant greater economic benefits for coffee farms. Researchers estimated that farmers generally received roughly $4,300 US dollars per hectare. The results of the experiment show that excluding birds reduces yield by 13.5%, representing a nearly $600 loss per hectare. Losing bees in the landscape reduces yield by 24.5%, a $1,059 per hectare loss. Losing both birds and bees causes the highest yield and economic loss at 24.7%, representing a $1,066 gap.

“These results suggest that past assessments of individual ecological services—including major global efforts like IPBES—may actually underestimate the benefits biodiversity provides to agriculture and human wellbeing,” says Taylor Ricketts of the University of Vermont. “These positive interactions mean ecosystem services are more valuable together than separately.” 

The study underscores the importance of preserving, maintaining, and improving on-farm biodiversity and ecosystem services as a key aspect in considering agricultural yields. These services are critical, yet more vulnerable than one may think. For instance, research published in 2015 by some of the same scientists from the current study found that only a small number of bee species actually provide pollination services, making their continued existence crucial to long term farm sustainability and profitability. A study published in 2016 found that the loss of microbial diversity in the soil hampered ecosystem services associated with decomposition, nutrient cycling, and carbon fixing, all critical roles needed to maintain food production. The 2019 report from the United Nation’s IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services), provides a stark warning to the world about the how the decline of biodiversity impinges on society’s ability to meet basic needs. But as the authors of the present study note, even these dire calls may underestimate the benefits humanity is provided by natural services, those which we often take for granted.

Time and again, research has found that increasing on-farm biodiversity decreases the need for pesticide use (by increasing natural pest management services), and improves overall productivity. That is why organic farming represents the best approach for the future of farming. A core component of organic law is requirement to maintain or improve soil health. From this concept flows and spirit and intent of organic to continuously improve, and promote natural materials and processes over toxic synthetic substances. These practices on the ground, according to Rodale Institute’s long running Farming Systems Trial, result in higher organic matter and improved soil health, yields that are competitive with chemical-intensive practices, farm profits 3-6x higher, and significantly less greenhouse gas emissions and chemical use.  

The benefits of natural systems are difficult to suss out without considerably more investment in the sort of research being conducted under the present study. As the author’s note, the available literature on synergies between ecosystem services is particularly thin, and in need of further time and attention. For a review of the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem services to food production and our current way of life, see the articles “Organic Systems The Path Forward,” and “Biodiversity in Land Management Integral to Sustainability,” published in the Pesticides and You journal.

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

Source: University of Vermont press release, PNAS

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12
Apr

Ocean Health: First Reports of Salmon Lice Resistance in the Pacific Ocean Threatens Local Ecosystems

(Beyond Pesticides, April 12, 2022) A recent study published in Scientific Reports warns that parasitic salmon lice (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) in Pacific Ocean open-net fish farming operations are becoming resistant to emamectin benzoate (EMB), an active ingredient used to control salmon lice population in North America, both in the U.S. and British Columbia, Canada. Previously, researchers believed parasitic salmon lice only had high rates of chemical resistance in the Atlantic region due to the mixing of farmed and wild salmon. However, Pacific salmon lice are exhibiting similar rates of decreased sensitivity to EMB from various sources, including a decrease in the wild Pacific salmon population, overuse of chemical treatments, and reliance on single chemical treatments.

The aquaculture industry (e.g., farmed seafood/fish) repeatedly faces sustainability issues, failing to adhere to environmental regulations and threatening marine health. Extensive use of pesticides to rid the parasite has led to widespread resistance to multiple pesticides, prompting increasing infection rates among North Atlantic salmon populations. These parasites endanger both farmed salmon and wild salmon, in addition to other local species of fish. In this context, pesticide treatments contributes to resistance among lethal pest populations, especially in ecologically vulnerable and interconnected ecosystems like ocean basins. The researchers caution, “Salmon lice in the Pacific Ocean appear to have evolved EMB resistance based on two lines of evidence. First, lice from BA salmon farms experienced decreased sensitivity to EMB in bioassays conducted between 2010 and 2021. Second, the field efficacy of EMB treatments on these farms declined over the same period. […] Whatever the cause, the emergence of resistant salmon lice in the Pacific poses serious challenges for controlling outbreaks to protect wild salmon in the coming years, further exacerbating the negative consequences of lice on salmon predicted in a warming climate.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines aquaculture as any “farming of aquatic organisms, including baitfish, crustaceans, food fish, mollusks, ornamental fish, sport or game fish, and other aquaculture products.” Farmed fish, like salmon, use one of the most high-risk aquaculture practices, open-net pens in coastal and offshore regions. These pens allow easy exchange of waste (i.e., feces), chemicals (i.e., pesticides and pharmaceuticals), and parasites/diseases (i.e., sea lice) between the farm and the surrounding ocean environment. The discharge of waste, chemicals, and parasites/pathogens can have a disastrous impact on marine organisms and plants, disrupting ecosystem services. Generally, these pens are in relatively remote areas, somewhat “hidden” from public view. However, these fish live in very crowded conditions, unlike wild-caught fish. The fish consume food that may contain various pharmaceuticals (e.g., antibiotics) or insecticides to control diseases and pest infestations that frequently occur in these conditions. Furthermore, the farm pens can attract predators, such as marine mammals, that can tangle and drown in fish farm nets.

Emamectin benzoate (EMB), also known by the trade name SLICE® and others, is the most common treatment applied to salmon farms to control fish lice. However, pesticide treatments to control fish lice are causing higher rates of chemical resistance among the species in the Pacific Ocean and around the world.

Researchers used an EMB bioassay (to measure the potency of a chemical) and quantitative measurements of sea louse populations on a farm in Broughton Archipelago (BA), Canada. This region of Canada encompasses many salmon farms in the Pacific, and the results demonstrate a dramatic decrease in pacific louse sensitivity and exponential growth in resistance to EMB treatments between 2010 and 2021. Moreover, the real-world effects of EMB treatments on fish farms declined over the same period. The researchers suggest that substantial EMB resistance among pacific salmon lice evolved recently. Therefore, controlling salmon-louse outbreaks may be difficult in the future.

Aquaculture farming industries routinely use pesticide treatments, such as emamectin benzoate, in fish feed to minimize the impacts on farmed fish living in an enclosed marine environment. Yet, salmon lice are the greatest challenge to aquaculture production and environmental sustainability. These parasites attach to the fish’s skin and feed on their blood and mucus, creating sores that lead to infection or death. Under normal conditions, lice populations decline in the winter with a shift in salmonid population dispersal. However, the crammed, over-treated nature of farm fishing creates an environment for these parasites to persist through regular winter die-offs. Resistant lice appear in farm pens a few years post-treatment and leak via current through the barrier due to their small size. For instance, in 2017, over a quarter-million salmon died from lice infestations at two Gray Group salmon farms in the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Canada.

Although EMB is a growing concern as louse resistance increases, pesticide treatments are just as toxic. For instance, organophosphate and pyrethroid insecticides are pesticide classes commonly used to control parasitic salmon lice. However, laboratory studies find increasing chemical resistance among lice, sometimes resulting in resistance to multiple chemical treatments. Since laboratory studies identify that multi-resistance to both chemical classes can occur via crossbreeding, researchers suggest this same resistance transpires among parasitic salmon lice resulting from reduced sensitivity to chemical compounds in the North Atlantic region. All oceans connect, cycling nutrients, chemicals, and organisms throughout the world. Hence, pesticide-resistant lice can potentially spread their resistance gene across the ocean basin. These mutant parasites have already made their way from Atlantic to Pacific waters, even in areas where farmers never used chemical pesticides.

While this is the first study to identify the evolution of EMB resistance in the Pacific Ocean, the authors suggest that industry and the federal regulator have already known about the emerging issue for some time. There are similar reports about the adverse effects of farmed fish on Scotland’s west coast and Northern Isles. The use of antibiotics and pesticides in local marine ecosystems 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. Thus, further biodiversity loss can change aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem functions and reduce ecosystem services.

The Pacific Ocean was the last sanctuary for salmon as louse were susceptible to chemical treatments. At first, scientists determined the emerging resistance to be isolated incidents of ephemeral (short-lived) reduction in EMB sensitivity among lice. However, 2021 bioassay data demonstrates that salmon-louse population control requires a higher concentration of EMB to kill at least 50 percent (EC50) of the lice population (EMB treatment amount for; males 907 parts per billion (ppb), females 340 ppb. These results demonstrate a fivefold increase in EMB treatment concentrations for males and a 16-fold increase for females between 2010 and 2021. Moreover, researchers did not obtain this bioassay data through industry or federal regulators’ reports, but rather through an Indigenous group, First Nation, who obtained data from salmon-farming companies under a legal obligation.

Similar to this study, other research supports that resistance among parasitic lice is genetic and depends on spatiotemporal (location and time) evolutionary patterns. This pattern means that lice demonstrate simultaneous resistance to parasiticides across North America. Although this study could not perform a genetic diagnostic of salmon lice resistance mechanisms, evidence of emerging resistance from a decade ago points to a change in genes rather than phenotype plasticity (changes in an organism’s behavior, morphology, and physiology in response to a unique environment). The authors conclude, “Our results highlight the need for assessments of the frequency of this rare genotype, ideally with full public reporting and independent verification, as an integral part of EMB bioassays until a full diagnostic test is developed.”

The oceans are essential to human health and well-being, feeding billions, supporting millions of jobs, and supplying medicinal materials. However, environmental contaminants like pesticides and the subsequent effects of exposure, such as pest resistance, have profound impacts on the ecosystem and all its inhabitants. Pesticides are pervasive in all water ecosystems—from rivers, lakes, and oceans to glaciers in the Arctic, exacerbating the ubiquity and distribution of pesticide resistance among sea lice populations across the globe. Therefore, it is essential to understand how parasites may develop resistance to pesticides used to control populations in order to safeguard human, animal, and environmental health. Toxic pesticide use must end to protect the nation’s and world’s waterways and reduce the number of pesticides and resistant parasites found in our food, water, and wildlife resources. Learn more about how pesticides are hazardous to wildlife and what you can do through Beyond Pesticides’ wildlife program page.

There are many resources individuals can use to help gain knowledge and apply practices to avoid pesticide use and its adverse effects. These include news stories, local organizations, school pesticide policies, regulatory contacts, and least-toxic pest control operators. Organic practices can successfully eliminate toxic pesticide use. Replacing pesticides with organic, non-toxic alternatives is crucial for safeguarding public health and ecosystems from pesticide toxicity. Buyinggrowing, and supporting organic helps to eliminate the extensive use of pesticides in the environment and from your diet. For more information on why organic is the right choice for consumers and the farmworkers who grow our food, see the Beyond Pesticides webpage, Health Benefits of Organic Agriculture

Source: Narwhal, Scientific Reports

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11
Apr

International Aid Needed To Support Traditional and Organic, Not Chemical-Intensive, Agriculture

(Beyond Pesticides, April 11, 2022) As the U.S. encourages the spread of chemical-intensive, industrialized agriculture, local farmers are increasingly pressured into giving up traditional agricultural practices in favor of monocultures to increase the demand  for agrichemical pesticides and fertilizers worldwide. This policy is promoted by the industry with vested economic interests as good for the U.S. economy, but it is not good for either planetary health or global food security. Instead, U.S. foreign aid agencies, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other agencies, should be supporting traditional practices and organic agriculture.

Tell Congress and U.S. AID to support aid that promotes traditional and organic agriculture. 

Industrial agriculture depends on monoculture—growing single crops that can be easily planted, fertilized, treated with pesticides, and harvested—especially on large-scale, mechanized farms. In spite of the perceived advantages of monoculture, however, it is a significant contributor to biodiversity loss and pollinator decline. Loss of biodiversity feeds the pesticide treadmill by removing predators and parasites who keep crop-feeding insects below damaging levels. The vast majority of crop plants depend on pollinators.


Traditional agriculture, like organic agriculture, depends on interacting species. Most organic agriculture resembles monoculture piecewise, but integrates cover crops, hedgerows and other natural areas, and crop diversity. Traditional agriculture frequently involves plant polycultures—such as the corn-beans-squash polyculture of Native Americans—but also integrates animals. A traditional rice paddy that incorporates fish or other aquatic animals is an example of the latter. Research shows that such systems not only protect global ecosystems, but can also yield more food.

Traditional and organic agriculture do not depend on the petroleum-based pesticides that keep industrial agriculture running. Nor do they depend on synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, a source of nitrous oxide, or NOx — another potent greenhouse gas that also pollutes the air and feeds the development of ozone. NOx is roughly 300 times as potent in trapping heat as CO2. They do not depend on synthetic pesticides that poison our soil, air, water, and ecosystems, as well as people.

The U.S. government’s international aid must aggressively and urgently support traditional agricultural systems that meet organic standards. Instead, USAID has used an “Invitation for Applications” in its Feed the Future program (Bangladesh Rice and Diversified Crops Activity) that describes “farm production challenges” for rice production that may allow for the introduction of practices and materials (pesticides and fertilizers) that undermine traditional and organic practices. The USAID states the following:

      Farm Production Challenges

     Farmers have limited availability of quality commercial rice inputs such as short duration
     and high yielding varieties, climate resilient varieties, pest and disease resistance varieties 
     seeds, fertilizers (macro & micro), crop protection products (especially for insect, disease &
     weed control).

     Inadequate information and knowledge for farmers on the benefits of quality seeds, new
     varieties, modern cultivation practices (appropriate age of seedling, judicious use of
     fertilizer
& pesticides) and post-harvest practices, and rice-based cropping system.

     Farmers lack of linkages with product buyers (small to large) and processing plants (small
     engleberg friction, semi-auto, and auto rice millers).

Embracing a sustainable future requires an honoring of traditional agricultural methods and organic practices that work in sync with nature and advances food security worldwide.

Tell Congress and U.S. AID to support aid that promotes traditional and organic agriculture. 

Letter to U.S. Representative and Senators:

As the U.S. encourages the spread of chemical-intensive, industrialized agriculture, local farmers are increasingly pressured into giving up traditional agricultural practices in favor of monocultures to that increase agrichemical use worldwide. This policy is promoted by the industry with vested economic interests as good for the U.S. economy, but it is not good for either planetary health or global food security. Instead, U.S. foreign aid agencies should be supporting traditional practices. It is time for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other agencies to aggressively and urgently support traditional agricultural systems that meet organic standards.

Meanwhile, studies are showing that local economies in developing countries are best served by traditional agricultural practices. Research shows that such systems not only protect global ecosystems, but can also yield more food. An article, “Using aquatic animals as partners in increase yield and maintain soil nitrogen in the paddy ecosystems,” published eLife, shows a yield increase in rice production with co-cultures.

Industrial agriculture depends on monoculture—growing single crops that can be easily planted, fertilized, treated with pesticides, and harvested—especially on large-scale, mechanized farms. In spite of the perceived advantages of monoculture, however, it is a significant contributor to biodiversity loss and pollinator decline. Loss of biodiversity feeds the pesticide treadmill by removing predators and parasites who keep crop-feeding insects below damaging levels. The vast majority of crop plants depend on pollinators.

Traditional agriculture and organic agriculture, depend on interacting species. Most organic agriculture resembles monoculture piecewise, but integrates cover crops, hedgerows and other natural areas, and crop diversity. Traditional agriculture frequently involves plant polycultures—such as the corn-beans-squash polyculture of Native Americans—but also integrates animals. A traditional rice paddy that incorporates fish or other aquatic animals is an example of the latter.

Traditional and organic agriculture do not depend on the petroleum-based pesticides that keep industrial agriculture running. Nor do they depend on synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, a source of nitrous oxide, or NOx — another potent greenhouse gas that also pollutes the air and feeds the development of ozone. NOx is roughly 300 times as potent in trapping heat as CO2. They do not depend on synthetic pesticides that poison our soil, air, water, and ecosystems, as well as people.

Please urge USAID to promote traditional and organic agriculture in its funding and support programs. Embracing a sustainable future requires an honoring of traditional agricultural methods and organic practices that work in sync with nature and advance food security worldwide.

Thank you.

Letter to U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID):

As the U.S. encourages the spread of chemical-intensive, industrialized agriculture, local farmers are increasingly pressured into giving up traditional agricultural practices in favor of monocultures to that increase agrichemical use worldwide. This policy is promoted by the industry with vested economic interests as good for the U.S. economy, but it is not good for either planetary health or global food security. Instead, U.S. foreign aid agencies should be supporting traditional practices. It is time for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other agencies to aggressively and urgently support traditional agricultural systems that meet organic standards.

Meanwhile, studies are showing that local economies in developing countries are best served by traditional agricultural practices. Research shows that such systems not only protect global ecosystems, but can also yield more food. An article, “Using aquatic animals as partners in increase yield and maintain soil nitrogen in the paddy ecosystems,” published eLife, shows a yield increase in rice production with co-cultures.

Industrial agriculture depends on monoculture—growing single crops that can be easily planted, fertilized, treated with pesticides, and harvested—especially on large-scale, mechanized farms. In spite of the perceived advantages of monoculture, however, it is a significant contributor to biodiversity loss and pollinator decline. Loss of biodiversity feeds the pesticide treadmill by removing predators and parasites who keep crop-feeding insects below damaging levels. The vast majority of crop plants depend on pollinators.

Traditional agriculture and organic agriculture, depend on interacting species. Most organic agriculture resembles monoculture piecewise, but integrates cover crops, hedgerows and other natural areas, and crop diversity. Traditional agriculture frequently involves plant polycultures—such as the corn-beans-squash polyculture of Native Americans—but also integrates animals. A traditional rice paddy that incorporates fish or other aquatic animals is an example of the latter.

Traditional and organic agriculture do not depend on the petroleum-based pesticides that keep industrial agriculture running. Nor do they depend on synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, a source of nitrous oxide, or NOx — another potent greenhouse gas that also pollutes the air and feeds the development of ozone. NOx is roughly 300 times as potent in trapping heat as CO2. They do not depend on synthetic pesticides that poison our soil, air, water, and ecosystems, as well as people.

I urge USAID to promote traditional and organic agriculture in its funding and support programs. Embracing a sustainable future requires an honoring of traditional agricultural methods and organic practices that work in sync with nature and advance food security worldwide.

Thank you.

 

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08
Apr

Broken Promises, Empty Pledges Leading to Irreversible Climate Disaster: UN Says It’s Now or Never

(Beyond Pesticides, April 8, 2022) “The jury has reached a verdict. And it is damning. This report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a litany of broken climate promises. It is a file of shame, cataloguing the empty pledges that put us firmly on track towards an unlivable world. We are on a fast track to climate disaster.” These words came from United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in a statement responding to the latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report released on April 4. As a Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog headline virtually shouted in October 2021, “Climate Crisis, Soil, Pesticides, Fertilizers: Red alert! This is Not a Drill!”

This IPCC report — Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change — is the third and final part of the panel’s latest review of climate science. It is informed by the work of thousands of scientists, and follows on the first two of the trio of reports that comprise the comprehensive Sixth Assessment Report. The first, Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis, from the IPCC Working Group I, was released on August 9, 2021. The second, Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, from Working Group II, was issued on February 28, 2022. (Readers: please note that these reports are very long, but that there are, for each, multiple [and perhaps more-digestible] downloadable documents that address specific aspects or sections.)

As The Guardian reports, “IPCC reports take about seven years to compile, making this [third report] potentially the last warning before the world is set irrevocably on a path to climate breakdown.” The co-chair of Working Group III, which generated this final report, is Jim Skea, PhD, a professor at Imperial College London. His comment to The Guardian was this: “It’s now or never if we want to limit global warming to 1.5C. Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible.”

The report itself indicates that the planet is nearly inevitably going to crash through that 1.5°C barrier — the degree of temperature increase (above pre-industrial levels) above which many impacts of climate breakdown will likely become irreversible. The report adds that it might be possible to bring temperatures down below that mark by the end of this century, but that achieving this could require carbon-removal (or “carbon capture”) technologies that are currently unproven and, in any case, cannot be a substitute for immediate and large emissions reductions.

According to The Guardian’s reporting, Secretary-General Gutteres expanded on his charges of broken promises and empty pledges in saying that some governments and corporations, which may claim to be “on track” to meet goals that would help limit temperature increase to the 1.5°C mark (agreed to in 2015’s Paris Agreement) are outright lying. “Some government and business leaders are saying one thing — but doing another. Simply put, they are lying. And the results will be catastrophic. This is a climate emergency.”

The Secretary-General’s statement also noted that participating countries left 2021’s COP26 (the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) in Glasgow with new promises and commitments, but continued to ignore the elephant in the global living room. That behemoth is “the enormous, growing emissions gap. . . . The science is clear: to keep the 1.5°C limit . . . we need to cut global emissions by 45 per cent this decade. . . . But, current climate pledges would mean a 14 percent increase in emissions. And most major emitters are not taking the steps needed to fulfil even these inadequate promises. Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals. But the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels. Investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness.”

Among the findings in this third report, which focuses on cutting greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), are these:

  • coal must be effectively and rapidly phased out if the world is to stay within 1.5C°
  • currently planned new fossil fuel infrastructure would push the average global temperature increase past that 1.5°C limit
  • methane emissions must be reduced by one-third
  • growing forests and preserving soils’ carbon holding capacity is necessary, but planting more trees will be inadequate to compensate for continued fossil fuel emissions
  • globally, investment in the transition to a low-carbon world is a mere one-sixth of what it needs to be
  • all sectors of the global economy (energy generation, transportation, buildings [which use energy for heating and cooling], and food production) must change dramatically and rapidly
  • new technologies, such as hydrogen fuels and so-called “carbon capture” and storage will be needed

Secretary-General Guterres elaborated on the scientists’ findings in his statement, asserting that (1) the world must triple the speed of the transition to use of renewable energy, (2) governments must stop subsidizing fossil fuels, and (3) regular folks across the planet must demand renewable energy “at speed and at scale.”

During climate talks and conferences of the past several years, a schism has emerged between the so-called “developed” countries, which have used fossil fuels for a century and a half to develop their economies and build wealth, and the so-called “developing” countries, which are less well-resourced and have undertaken such activity on a more-recent timetable. Part of the discussion has been the insistence by some less-wealthy countries that they, too, are entitled to develop — even through use of fossil fuels, as the more well-resourced countries have done for decades.

Many of these smaller and poorer countries are also on the frontlines of current and coming, and often devastating, climate impacts. These equity arguments run right up against the physics of climate change and where things stand: the planet cannot afford any more fossil fuel use. The commonsense solution, according to many environmental and justice advocates, is for wealthier nations to cough up the funds to finance sustainable energy infrastructure and capacity (and other relevant socioeconomic initiatives) in poorer countries.

To date, this has not been hugely palatable to some wealthy countries, and even some of those who have pledged such funds have failed to deliver on their promises. Indeed, the publication of this third report was delayed (though only by a matter of hours) as eleventh-hour arguments ensued between scientists, who lead the writing of IPCC reports, and government representatives, who have “input” on final messaging in the policymaker summary. The Guardian reports that some governments, including China, India, and Saudi Arabia challenged messaging on phasing out fossil fuels, and on financing emissions-reduction initiatives in less well-resourced countries. Ultimately, all 195 governments involved concurred on the final policymaker summary.

Chair of the “least developed” countries group at the UN climate talks, Madeleine Diouf Sarr, said: “There can be no new fossil fuel infrastructure. The emissions from existing and planned infrastructure alone are higher than scenarios consistent with limiting warming to 1.5C with no or limited overshoot. We cannot afford to lock in the use of fossil fuels.” Rounding out the equity point, Exeter University’s professor emerita of energy policy, Catherine Mitchell, said that the needs of the poorest countries must be prioritized: “Unless we have social justice, there are not going to be more accelerated greenhouse gas reductions. These issues are tied together.”

The production of food through agriculture and livestock husbandry is a significant part of the climate picture. The IPCC report’s Summary for Policymakers notes that in 2019, 22% of total net anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions could be attributed to agriculture, forestry, and other land uses (referred to as “AFOLU”). It goes on to say, in Section C (System Transformations to Limit Global Warming), that mitigation options in the AFOLU sector “can deliver large-scale GHG emission reductions and enhanced removals, but cannot fully compensate for delayed action in other sectors.” The summary also notes that sustainably sourced agricultural products (such as those permitted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program) can be used instead of more GHG intensive products, such as synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.

It also calls out the importance, on the “demand” side in agriculture, of “sustainable healthy diets” that “promote all dimensions of individuals’ health and wellbeing; have low environmental pressure and impact; [and] are accessible, affordable, safe, and equitable.” Those diets are defined as those featuring “plant-based foods, such as those based on coarse grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and animal-sourced food produced in resilient, sustainable, and low-GHG emission systems.”

Such foods and such systems characterize the organic approaches that Beyond Pesticides promotes because they are safer than conventional agriculture and its products for both health and environment; they enhance soil health, with all the co-benefits that attend that, including increased carbon storage capacity; they do not rely on petrochemical inputs that have embedded GHGs; and they do not contaminate organisms (e.g., pollinators) and natural resources.

A critical aspect of the transition in food production must be the shift off of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and to organic regenerative production. Beyond Pesticides wrote, in October 2021, “All of the work done by Beyond Pesticides and others — on the importance of moving agriculture and land management systems away from conventional, chemical-intensive approaches (via synthetic pesticides and fertilizers) and to organic practices — happens within the meta-context of the climate emergency, and is not unrelated.”

The article discusses the “contributions” of conventional agriculture’s use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, and of factory farms and CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) — which send large amounts of methane into the atmosphere — to the climate emergency. It also points, yet again, to the urgent need to eliminate fossil fuel–based pesticides and fertilizers in agriculture and land management, and put in place an urgent and strategic transition to organic practices.

On all fronts, across all sectors, and in every country on Earth: there is zero time to waste in making the transition off of fossil fuels. Secretary-General Guterres said it forcefully: “Choices made by countries now will make or break the commitment to 1.5°C. A shift to renewables will mend our broken global energy mix and offer hope to millions of people suffering climate impacts today. Climate promises and plans must be turned into reality and action, now. It is time to stop burning our planet and start investing in the abundant renewable energy all around us.”

Sources: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/apr/04/ipcc-report-now-or-never-if-world-stave-off-climate-disaster and https://www.un.org/press/en/2022/sgsm21228.doc.htm

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

 

 

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07
Apr

Industry, Money, and Politics Drive Legislation to Squelch Local Pesticide Restrictions

(Beyond Pesticides, April 7, 2022) Legislation introduced by U.S. Representative Rodney Davis (R-IL) last week would roll back, preempt, and prohibit local jurisdictions from enacting policies that protect resident health and a community’s unique local environments from hazardous pesticides. The bill, H.R.7266, is a direct attack on the scores of local communities that have enacted common sense safeguards from toxic pesticides, and represents the pesticide industry’s response to the growing momentum of the pesticide reform movement. Health and environmental advocates are expecting Rep. Davis and his partners in the agrichemical industry to attempt to work the provisions of the legislation into the upcoming 2023 farm bill. The industry had previously attempted to work federal preemption into the 2018 farm bill, an effort that ultimately failed after massive pushback from health advocates, local officials, and Congressional allies.

Rep. Davis’ press release for the bill, in which he was joined with quotes from a range of agrichemical industry leaders, is titled “Davis Introduces Legislation to Prevent Liberal Local Governments from Banning or Restricting Pesticide Use,” striking a partisan tone. Caring about public and environmental health is typically not viewed as a liberal or conservative, Democratic or Republican issue. Those monitoring local governments that enact pesticide restrictions do not see partisan motivations; these laws are borne out of concern for children’s health, pregnant women, workers at disproportionate risk, and the immunocompromised, many of whom come to local government meetings to share their stories of pesticide poisoning. Conversations in local communities focus on the potential contamination of drinking water, local recreational swimming areas in waterways, the parks in which residents walk their beloved pets, and stories of locals witnessing a steep decline in pollinators.

The decision to enact a local pesticide policy is one that comes from local community discussion. Yet, Rep. Davis’ bill could stop communities from exercising basic local governance to protect people and the environment. 

The bill would amend federal pesticide law by adding the following provision:

“(d) LOCAL REGULATION PROHIBITED – A political subdivision of a State shall not impose, or continue in effect, any requirement relating to the sale, distribution, labeling, application, or use of any pesticide or device subject to regulation by a State pursuant to this section or by the Administrator under this Act.”

This language is considerably more restrictive than the amendment Rep. Davis and the industry proposed under the 2018 farm bill. Under this new language, by prohibiting a community to “continue in effect” any requirement relating to pesticide use, the bill would overturn any existing restrictions already passed in local communities. With uncertainty over how broadly this bill would be interpreted, all local jurisdictions with pesticide reform policies, including those only applying to public properties, could be reversed with this legislation.  

While traditionally anathema to ideology of Rep. Davis and his colleagues, advocates warn this bill represents a massive federal “big government” overreach into local communities.

The impacts for public health and ecological stability would be devastating. Only state agencies and the federal government would be able to regulate pesticide use. With the vast majority of state agencies effectively acting as rubber stamps for pesticide approvals by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), local jurisdictions would be forced to follow the rulemaking of an agency that has been documented to be captured by industry interests.

Time and time again, EPA has shown itself to be willing to override its namesake mission to protect health and the environment at the behest of agrichemical industry interests. As dozens of local communities act to protect declining pollinator populations by limiting the use of bee toxic neonicotinoid insecticides, EPA is set to reregister them for another 15 years. While local communities across the country are eliminating the use of glyphosate due cancer concerns and legal liability over its health impacts, EPA has denied the chemical’s cancer links and worked hand in glove with agrichemical industry groups to defend its use and stop other countries from enacting bans or restrictions.

With new evidence continuing to emerge on the depths of agrichemical industry corruption within EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, it is little wonder that a large and growing swath of communities are enacting laws that eliminate nearly all synthetic pesticides registered by EPA in favor of organic and minimum risk products.

Scientific research backs up the assertion that preemption laws harm public welfare. The study, Anti-community state pesticide preemption laws prevent local governments from protecting people from harm, published in the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability and supported by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, finds that state pesticide preemption laws “compromise public health and economic well-being” by preventing localities from enacting pesticide use restrictions on private property that are more restrictive than their state’s regulations. In the words of the authors, “By eliminating the ability of local governments to enact ordinances to safeguard inhabitants from health risks posed by pesticides, state preemption laws denigrate public health protections.”

The most frequent justification stated by preemption proponents is the desire for “economies of scale” to prevent a “patchwork” of legislation, which would centralize control and create a “predictable regulatory environment.” Rep. Davis’ press release is littered with similar statements. Based on evidence of industry influence over state policies, however, study authors hold the position that these justifications are a ploy for more perverse economic motivations. Namely, advocates say these motivations are to sell their toxic products, increase their stock, and award their highly paid executives.

According to OpenSecrets, the agricultural services/products industry represented one of the top five industries donating to Rep. Davis between 2019-2020, totaling $160,625 for that period.

As the pesticide and agrichemical industry begin their effort to roll back and preempt critical conversations in local communities around health and environmental protection, it is imperative that local advocates stand up for sensible pesticide reform. Should Congress pass legislation amending federal pesticide law, two bills, the Saving America’s Pollinators Act (SAPA) and Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act (PACTPA) represent a stark contrast to the approach taken by Rep. Davis and his colleagues. SAPA would shift decision-making over allowance of bee-toxic pesticides to a group of independent experts without pesticide industry conflicts of interest. PACTPA would enact long-overdue structural changes to pesticide law, and critically, assert the rights of localities to enact local laws pertaining to pesticide use. Even more protective legislation is needed, however, to strike at the toxic core of federal pesticide law.

While the industry attempts to trample on the rights of local communities, we urge advocates at all levels of government to push back. Ask your elected Representative in Congress to support pollinators by cosponsoring Saving America’s Pollinators Act (SAPA), and urge your Senators to co-sponsor PACTPA and reforms to the toxic core of FIFRA. Consider following up with a phone call directly to your elected officials to let them know why local rights over pesticide reform is important to you.

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

Source: Rep Rodney Davis press release, H.R.7266

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06
Apr

Conventional Apples Found to Be Coated in Fungicides and Drug-Resistant Fungi

(Beyond Pesticides, April 6, 2022) Conventional apples sold at market and sprayed with synthetic fungicides may not only contain drug-resistant fungi, but function as a transmission reservoir and route to spread these dangerous pathogens, finds research published in mBio late last month by a team of researchers from India and Canada. As reports of fungal resistance rise, particularly in hospitals and among the immunocompromised, there is an urgent need to understand and address the root causes of these emerging disease threats. “When we look at human pathogens, we tend to look at what’s immediate to us,” said study coauthor Jianping Xu, PhD. “But we have to look at it more broadly. Everything is connected, the whole system. Fruit is just 1 example.”  

Researchers set out their research with the suspicion that stored fruits sprayed with synthetic fungicides were acting as a source and route of transmission for the deadly fungi Candida auris. This yeast is considered an “emerging fungal pathogen” by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and has increased its rate of infection significantly since its initial identification in the mid 1990s. The fungi has been found in every continent save Antarctica. It has proven to be particularly dangerous to the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, and can spread rapidly through hospital settings, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities.

To test their suspicions, researchers purchased 62 apples –10 from an orchard using conventional practices, 10 from an organic orchard, and the rest from a market. Only Red Delicious or Royal Gala apples were purchased for the study. Overall, eight (13%) of apples had the presence of C. auris on its surface. All of the isolates were found in stored fruits purchased at market, while those purchased directly from the orchards contained no pathogenic fungi.

Fungicides were found to be present on every apple that also contained C. auris, and included a range of different classes with varying modes of action. This included triazole fungicides (such as tebuconazole, difenoconazole, sulfentrazone, and flusilazole), methyl benzimidazole carbamates (such as carbendazim and thiabendazole), phthalimides like captan, pyridinecarboxamides like boscalid, aromatic amines like diphenylamine, the phenolpyrrole fludoxonil, and quinone outside inhibitors (like kresoxim-methyl and pyraclostrobin). (See Beyond Pesticides Pesticide Gateway for more information about each active ingredient). However, the presence of fungicides was generally evenly distributed between those found with and without drug-resistant pathogenic C. auris. Fresh fruit from neither conventional nor organic orchards contained C. auris, but only organic apples were free of any fungicide residue, while conventional apples were contaminated with two or three fungicides on each fruit. Further isolation and culture of C. auris apples found them to have reduced sensitivity to commonly found triazole fungicides.

“Fungicides used in agriculture may inadvertently select the drug-resistant fungi,” said study author Anuradha Chowdhary. Based on their results, the scientists conclude that stored apples sprayed with fungicides are acting as a reservoir and source of transfer for C. auris. Because the fungi was only found on stored apples, it is likely that there are multiple routes for C. auris contamination,  including the potential that pickers or packers within the supply chain handling the fruits transfer the fungus from their hands to the fruit. As the study also notes, “It is plausible that multiple practices, like cryopreservation and wax coating with additional fungicides during the storage of apples, may alter the myco-flora of apples’ surfaces.”

The rise of drug resistant human pathogenic fungus presents a serious threat to human health on a  global scale. However, a Freedom of Information Act request shows officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture working to downplay the role of synthetic fungicide use in chemical agriculture as a factor in the rise of drug-resistant fungal infections worldwide. Not only did USDA work to deny the truth on the ground, but efforts were also made to halt protective actions. Emails showed top level officials at industry trade group CropLife America urging USDA officials to “make certain” that the United Nation’s (UN) Codex Alimentarius, a set of international guidelines and standards established to protect consumer health, made no mention of how fungicides contribute to antibiotic resistance.

As the New York Times reported in 2019, “…the very existence of resistant infections is often cloaked in secrecy. With bacter[ial] and fung[al infections] alike, hospitals and local governments are reluctant to disclose outbreaks for fear of being seen as infection hubs. Even the CDC, under its agreement with states, is not allowed to make public the location or name of hospitals involved in outbreaks. State governments have in many cases declined to publicly share information beyond acknowledging that they have had cases.” In the context of the present study, the source of a pathogen resistant fungal outbreak in a hospital could conceivably be caused by the fruit served in the hospital cafeteria sourced through a global supply chain. Yet as the specter of a massive health threat looms large, officials in the U.S. appear to be working to keep residents in the dark.

Most disturbingly, it is not unheard of for pathogenic fungi to reach epidemic levels in mammals. Over the last ten years 90% of northern long-eared, little brown and tri-colored bat populations have been killed due to White Nose syndrome, caused by exposure to a pathogenic fungi known as Pseudogymnoascus destructans.

As prior research on the development of resistance in agriculture has discovered, the most straightforward solution is the most effective; the only true way to eliminate resistance is to stop using the material causing resistance to occur in the first place. Organically produced apples, purchased directly from the orchard, the study confirms, were the only fruit not to pose a risk from either pesticide exposure or pathogenic fungi. Whenever possible, shop with an eye toward the gold standard for food purchases–local and organic. By buying organic whenever possible, you’ll help support the agricultural system we must continue to adopt for the future of our health and the planet.

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

Source: American Society for Microbiology press release, mBio

 

 

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05
Apr

Health Implications: Common Herbicide 2,4-D Threatens Most Species Health, Especially Vertebrates

(Beyond Pesticides, April 5, 2022) A meta-analysis by the Federal University of Technology – Paraná finds the herbicide 2,4-D causes indiscriminate harm, increasing the mortality rate among exposed animals. The severity of chemical exposure relies on species sensitivity, exposure rate, and lifecycle stage. However, commercial formulations of 2,4-D, commonly used in the environment, prompt a higher species mortality rate than technical (pure) 2,4-D alone. Like many other common herbicides such as glyphosate, 2,4-D has global uses that allow the chemical to accumulate in the environment, including soils, waterways, and tissues of non-target species. Therefore, meta-analyses like this help local and government officials make holistic decisions regarding environmental contaminants that incorporate conclusions from various studies.

Using the Web of Science and Scopus databases, researchers compiled various studies (or meta-analyses) on the lethality of 2,4-D in different animal species (e.g., vertebrates, invertebrates). Researchers evaluated each study regarding the mortality rate of control and experimental groups, animal sensitivity to chemical exposure during a specific life stage, chemical formulation (e.g., commercial or technical), and exposure routes causing mortality. The analysis demonstrates that vertebrates experience higher mortality rates from 2,4-D exposure, with fish and birds presenting the highest mortality rate. Regarding life stages, larval and adult animals exposed to 2,4-D are more susceptible to development/behavior changes resulting in mortality. Although oral and dermal (skin) chemical exposure negatively affects species’ health, exposure to 2,4-D from immersion in a contamination source (e.g., water) results in much more severe health outcomes. 

Current research describes a range of unacceptable hazards from 2,4-D exposure, including the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) finding that the chemical is a possible human carcinogen (e.g., soft tissue sarcoma and nonHodgkin lymphoma). Moreover, exposure to 2,4-D can cause neurotoxicities like the development of ALS and loss of smell, kidney/liver damage, and endocrine disruption. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finds babies born near areas of high 2,4-D use, such as farming communities, have higher rates of birth abnormalities, respiratory and cardiovascular issues, and developmental defects. Although glyphosate replaced much 2,4-D herbicide use during the late 1990s early 2000s, increasing glyphosate resistance is shifting the market back to heavy 2,4-D use. However, 2,4-D has striking similarities to glyphosate with growing weed resistance to the chemical and its contribution to the growth of antibiotic resistance in human pathogenic bacteria. Scientists even noted 2,4-D’s similarities to glyphosate as the commercial formulation presented more severe health outcomes than the technical grade or pure chemical alone. Moreover, products containing both glyphosate and 2,4-D to combat growing herbicide resistance are becoming increasingly popular, as 2,4-D, like glyphosate, has become integral to genetically engineered crops. Considering the agricultural industry is now speeding toward multi-herbicide tolerant cropping systems, public and environmental health is a greater risk from chemical input threats from this cropping system.

This analysis is the first of its kind to evaluate 2,4-D’s mortality rate, rather than sublethal exposure rate, among various species. The difference in lethality between vertebrate and invertebrate species mainly stems from variances in life stages (e.g., larvae, adult) and exposure route (e.g., oral, dermal, immersion). Aquatic animals experience higher mortality rates from 2,4-D exposure as the chemical readily contaminates waterways (e.g., leaching and runoff). The commercial formula of 2,4-D has higher active substance absorption (water solubility), thus is highly soluble due to solvents in the formula increasing chemical mobility. Moreover, commercial 2,4-D decreases dissolved oxygen levels in waterways, causing asphyxia. Considering surfactants, solvents, and oils in the commercial formula can be lethal to various animal species, the combined impact of direct and indirect toxicity from exposure creates an environment that cannot sustain ecological development. Therefore, the chemical residues in waterways penetrate sensitive body parts like mucosal membranes and gills, especially in aquatic vertebrates (e.g., fish).

It is essential to understand the impacts of interactions with other environmental pollutants, especially in contaminated ecosystems like waterways. Beyond Pesticides has long advocated for federal regulation that considers potential synergistic and additive threats to ecosystems and organisms. Government and health officials must address chemical pollution before similar declines in human general health, fitness, and well-being. Furthermore, climate crisis implications like melting glaciers present a new concern over the levels of chemical concentrations in waterways from DDT, its metabolites, and other persistent organic pollutants trapped in ice. Toxic pesticide use must end to protect the nation’s and world’s waterways and reduce the number of pesticides that make their way into drinking water. Replacing pesticides with organic, non-toxic alternatives is crucial for safeguarding public health, particularly in communities vulnerable to pesticide toxicity. Learn more about the hazards pesticides pose to wildlife and what you can do by visiting Beyond Pesticides’ wildlife program page. For more information about pesticide contamination in water, see the Threatened Waters program page and Beyond Pesticides’ article Pesticides in My Drinking Water? Individual Precautionary Measures and Community Action.

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

Source: Environmental Pollution

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04
Apr

EPA Considers Future of Bee-Toxic Neonic Insecticides as Scientific Evidence Supports Ban

(Beyond Pesticides, April 4, 2022) Recent actions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) highlight the urgent need to prevent pesticides from further endangering crucial pollinators, including birds, bees, and bats.

Tell EPA To Ban Neonics and Protect Against Other Threats to Pollinators. Tell Congress To Insist that EPA Does Its Job.

Despite EPA’s own findings of evidence of serious threats posed by neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides to pollinators, aquatic invertebrates, and other wildlife, it issued interim decisions on these neonics in January 2020 that disregard the science on the pesticides’ impacts and it appears that the agency is prepared to finalize these registrations late in 2022. This would, barring further action, extend the use of these harmful compounds for 15 years. Now is the time to let EPA know that continued use of neonicotinoids is unacceptable.

Furthermore, building on a history of unenforceable and impractical pesticide label restrictions resulting in EPA findings of ludicrously small or no risk, the agency spun its approval of the continued use of the deadly organophosphate insecticide malathion as “protecting threatened and endangered species.” As the nation and world sit on the brink of biodiversity collapse and deadly pesticide-induced diseases, EPA actions continue to protect pesticide manufacturers instead of fulfilling its mission “to protect human health and the environment,” and to ensure that “national efforts to reduce environmental risks are based on the best available scientific information.”

EPA appears to discount threats like the insect apocalypse, evidenced by a 75% decline in insect abundance, which threatens not only global ecosystems, but also food production that depends on animal pollination. As pesticides move through the food web, birds are also at risk. Bird numbers are down 29% since Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring in 1962. Malathion poses a threat to 97 percent of species listed under the Endangered Species Act, including Kirtland’s Warbler and Black-capped Vireo. Bats, who are valuable pollinators, insectivores, and seed dispersers, are at high risk from pesticide exposure.

To help avert ecosystem collapse, EPA must ban pesticides, including neonicotinoids and organophosphates, shown to imperil populations of insects and other pollinators.

Tell EPA To Ban Neonics and Protect Against Other Threats to Pollinators. Tell Congress To Insist that EPA Does Its Job.

Letter to EPA

Recent actions by EPA highlight the agency’s failure to prevent pesticides from imperiling crucial pollinators, including birds, bees, and bats.

Despite EPA’s own findings of evidence of serious threats posed by neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides to pollinators, aquatic invertebrates, and other wildlife, it issued interim decisions on these neonics in January 2020 that disregard the science on the pesticides’ impacts and it appears that the agency is prepared to finalize these registrations late in 2022. This would, barring further action, extend the use of these harmful compounds for 15 years. This is a crucial time to take action to stop neonicotinoid use.

Furthermore, building on a history of unenforceable and impractical pesticide label restrictions resulting in EPA findings of ludicrously small or no risk, the agency spun its approval of the continued use of the deadly organophosphate insecticide malathion as “protecting threatened and endangered species.” As the nation and world sit on the brink of biodiversity collapse and deadly pesticide-induced diseases, EPA actions continue to protect pesticide manufacturers instead of fulfilling its mission “to protect human health and the environment,” and to ensure that “national efforts to reduce environmental risks are based on the best available scientific information.”

EPA appears to discount threats like the insect apocalypse, evidenced by a 75% decline in insect abundance, which threatens not only global ecosystems, but also food production that depends on insect pollination. As pesticides move through the food web, birds are also at risk. Bird numbers are down 29% since Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring in 1962. Malathion poses a threat to 97 percent of species listed under the Endangered Species Act, including Kirtland’s Warbler and Black-capped Vireo. Bats, who are valuable pollinators, insectivores, and seed dispersers, are at high risk from pesticide exposure.

To help avert ecosystem collapse, I urge you to ban, this year, neonicotinoids shown to imperil populations of insects and other pollinators.

Thank you.

Letter to U.S. Representative and Senators

Recent actions by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) highlight the urgent need to prevent pesticides from further endangering crucial pollinators, including birds, bees, and bats. I am writing to urge you to exert pressure on EPA to act in accordance with its mission to protect the environment and public health.

Despite EPA’s own findings of evidence of serious threats posed by neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides to pollinators, aquatic invertebrates, and other wildlife, it issued interim decisions on these neonics in January 2020 that disregard the science on the pesticides’ impacts and it appears that the agency is prepared to finalize these registrations late in 2022. This would, barring further action, extend the use of these harmful compounds for 15 years. Now is the time to let EPA know that continued use of neonicotinoids is unacceptable.

Furthermore, building on a history of unenforceable and impractical pesticide label restrictions resulting in EPA findings of ludicrously small or no risk, the agency spun its approval of the continued use of the deadly organophosphate insecticide malathion as “protecting threatened and endangered species.” As the nation and world sit on the brink of biodiversity collapse and deadly pesticide-induced diseases, EPA actions continue to protect pesticide manufacturers instead of fulfilling its mission “to protect human health and the environment,” and to ensure that “national efforts to reduce environmental risks are based on the best available scientific information.”

EPA appears to discount threats like the insect apocalypse, evidenced by a 75% decline in insect abundance, which threatens not only global ecosystems, but also food production that depends on animal pollination. As pesticides move through the food web, birds are also at risk. Bird numbers are down 29% since Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring in 1962. Malathion poses a threat to 97 percent of species listed under the Endangered Species Act, including Kirtland’s Warbler and Black-capped Vireo. Bats, who are valuable pollinators, insectivores, and seed dispersers, are at high risk from pesticide exposure.

To help avert ecosystem collapse, please let EPA know that it must, this year, ban neonicotinoids shown to imperil populations of insects and other pollinators.

Thank you.

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01
Apr

Coverup of Dog Deaths at EPA, According to Internal Emails on Seresto Flea and Tick Collars

(Beyond Pesticides, April 1, 2022) According to reporting by E&E’s Greenwire, internal emails at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that career scientists at the agency expressed worry about pesticide-laced pet collars, such as the notorious Seresto flea and tick collars, but that EPA managers “instructed them to avoid documenting those worries in publicly accessible records.” The emails were released pursuant to a 2021 FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) lawsuit, brought by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), that sought records of internal communications. The documents evidence staff concern about the collars that has not been a part of EPA’s public communications on the subject. EPA staff, in the emails, expressed a range of degrees of outrage at managers’ behavior and at the very registration of the product, given the significant harms.

Seresto collars are plastic pet collars embedded with pesticides designed to kill fleas, ticks, and lice; they contain the active ingredients flumethrin and imidacloprid. Flumethrin, a chemical in the pyrethroid class of synthetic neurotoxic insecticides, has been linked repeatedly to neurological issues, such as seizures and learning disabilities in children, to gastrointestinal distress, and to damage to nontarget invertebrates, according to EPA’s own analysis.

Imidacloprid is a commonly used pesticide linked to serious health and environmental decline. A neurotoxicant, endocrine disruptor, and immunosuppressant, the compound can have harmful reproductive impacts and is linked to cancer. It is toxic to birds, bees, and aquatic organisms, and persists in aquatic environments. Banned for outdoor use across the European Union, it is nevertheless allowed by EPA in in pet collars and other treatments. Consistent with EPA’s track record, the potential synergistic impacts of exposures to flumethrin and imidacloprid via the Seresto collars have not been evaluated. In 2020, Beyond Pesticides added to the litany of harms with its coverage of additional problems with pet flea treatments — the contamination of waterways in both England and the U.S.

In Spring 2021, Beyond Pesticides wrote about the collar’s link to nearly 1,700 pet deaths, as well as injuries to tens of thousands of animals and hundreds of people, and noted: “Numerous flea and tick prevention products (e.g., collars, topical treatments, sprays, and dusts) include pesticides such as tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP)propoxur, synthetic pyrethroids, and fipronil. A common trait among these pesticides is their toxicity, not just to dogs and nontarget organisms, but to humans, as well.” Advocates have warned about the toxicity of the pesticides embedded in such collars (and other pet treatments), which are a health threat not only to pets, but to humans and, especially, to children.

CBD notes that EPA has received more than 75,000 complaints about the collars, associating their use with problems ranging from skin irritation to death. Gizmodo puts the current count of complaints to EPA about Seresto, since 2012, at more than 86,000 — with 2,340 of those relating to pet deaths. CBD’s environmental health director, Lori Ann Burd, commented that — given EPA’s estimate of the ratio of pesticide incidents “in the real world” to complaints filed with EPA as roughly 5:1 — a sensible extrapolation is that many more pets wearing Seresto collars have been hurt or have died than are represented by reports filed with the agency.

EPA has, according to Greenwire, dragged its feet for years on action on various pet collars (and related products). The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has brought multiple suits related to these collars, starting in 2007, because of their harms to children and pets. In addition to the controversy surrounding the Seresto collar, EENews reports, TCVP — used in collars manufactured and sold by the Hartz Mountain Corporation — has been a concern. In April 2020, a federal appeals court judge ordered EPA to act on an NRDC suit to ban the use of TCVP after EPA had denied previous NRDC petitions that sought the same.

An NRDC statement simultaneously marked the legal victory and called out the agency for its failure to act on the science: “In 2016, EPA scientists finally acknowledged the danger this toxic chemical poses to children, but the agency then failed to remove the dangerous pet products from the market. It’s especially gratifying, on Earth Day, to have the court hold EPA accountable to its ‘core mission’ to ‘protect human health and the environment.” Yet this toxic compound is still allowed for use by EPA. As NRDC asserts, despite six other dangerous organophosphates once used in pet products having been removed from the market, “use of TCVP in pet flea collars is the last remaining residential use of this toxic family of chemicals.”       

CBD has filed a legal petition to ban the Seresto collar. CBD argues that the Seresto product should be cancelled because of its unreasonable risks to pets, human health, and the environment. CBD notes that, “No other pesticide product has been the subject of this many incident reports, according to a former pesticide researcher and policy analyst for the EPA.”

CBD attorney Hannah Connor remarked in July 2021 that if EPA “wants to show that it has truly recommitted to its mission of using the best available science to protect human health and the environment, then it must take swift action to cancel its approval of this troubling product.” In July 2021, EPA announced the opening of a 60-day comment period on that petition, which period ended in September 2021. EPA has said that it will respond to the petition after reviewing its evaluation of the product, but there has been no word as yet from the agency on the status of that evaluation.

Greenwire notes that EPA has been “vague” in its response to consumer concern about the Seresto collar. The agency said in a July 2021 statement that, “EPA understands and shares the public’s concerns about reported incidents with Seresto pet collars. The agency is working to gather information about these incidents and will use this information to determine whether these pet collars still meet the legally required safety standard for registration under FIFRA.” The sanguine tone of that announcement apparently belies what has gone on behind the scenes at EPA.

The released internal EPA emails demonstrate that career scientists and staffers inside the agency have pushed back internally with their concern and frustration about EPA’s handling of the complaints about Seresto and harms to pets, and about the very registration of the product. Among the discoveries in the documents were these:

  • In response to a query (from a staffer at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife) about use of Seresto collars on kit foxes in the southwest U.S., which asked who at EPA would be the best person to consult about it, an EPA scientist responded: “It depends if you want the real answer or just some talking points to cover our ass for doing nothing.”
    One EPA staff member wrote, “Why is Seresto even registered? At the very least Seresto should not be used on the endangered San [Joaquin] kit fox” — to which a manager at EPA replied, “It would be inappropriate for you to respond in your official capacity and express your personal opinions.” The staffer fired back, noting that manager’s (and others’) previous directives to staff “not to express [their] concerns about Seresto in emails.”
  • Another EPA staff member wrote, after seeing media articles that investigated the Seresto collar, “I hope this time someone can blow the lid off this travesty.”

Ms. Burd of CBD called the email exchanges “disturbing,” and said they raise further concerns about EPA’s scientific integrity and transparency. She commented, “You’d think the EPA would spring to action in response to these troubling reports. But these emails tell the story of an agency focused more on saving face than saving animals. . . . The heartbreaking tragedy is that behind each and every incident report is a story of very real pet suffering, from violent seizures, rashes, and hair loss to gastrointestinal problems and even deaths.”

In addition, Ms. Burd has pointed to a systemic issue with EPA’s pesticide incident reporting system — the lack of any mandate for follow-up action. Although there are, she says, tens of thousands of incident complaints on record, “There’s no automatic trigger for any action. It’s just like, okay, you told us, thank you so much, and that’s it. . . . Every time there’s an incident, it’s going into a black box.” This represents to her a bigger worry about EPA failure to report adverse pesticide impacts generally.

These internal email revelations are further and unfortunate evidence of the state of EPA function in carrying out its fundamental mission “to protect human health and the environment” — which for EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, would mean protection from the broadly damaging impacts of synthetic pesticides. Beyond Pesticides has chronicled EPA’s “capture” by industry influence and the corruption that has marked both agrichemical industry behavior and, occasionally, internal EPA actions, as well as specific instances of EPA failures, such as those (like the pesticide pet collars) that put children at risk, and those that continue to allow devastation of critical species (such as pollinators), critical ecosystems, and fragile habitats.

The public can learn more about keeping pets healthy through alternative management of pests with Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Our Companions Safe web page, which offers multiple strategies. One suggestion that stands out, for those who may want to continue having pets treated with flea and tick products, is to have that done at the veterinarian’s office, thus, not needing to keep and dispense them in the home, and then monitoring pets for any adverse reactions.

For more on EPA functioning and how to influence critical reforms to how the agency does — or does not — enact its mission, see Beyond Pesticides’ advocacy piece from November 2021, “EPA and Congress Must Act to Correct a Failed Pesticide Program.” Please consider taking to heart the reforms suggested, and contacting your U.S. Senators and Representative, as well as EPA directly, with your endorsement of them.

Sources: https://www.eenews.net/articles/fiery-emails-show-epa-turmoil-over-pet-collars-tied-to-deaths/ and https://gizmodo.com/seresto-flea-collars-linked-to-dog-and-cat-deaths-have-1848714360

 

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

 

 

 

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31
Mar

Traditionally-Produced Compost Improves Soil, Outperforms Synthetic Chemical Fertilizers

(Beyond Pesticides, March 31, 2022) Composts produced using traditional ecological knowledge create healthier, more fertile soil than industrial, chemical-based fertilizers, according to the findings of a recent study published in PLOS Sustainability and Transformation. As the dangers posed by industrial agriculture become increasingly apparent, organic and traditional practices show a time-tested path toward a sustainable farming future. According to study author Seema Sharma, PhD, “The research was already there because the ancient people did their research long ago,” she said to EOS. “But when it comes to the scientific community, you need research that is in a peer-reviewed journal and then finally verified.”

The study focuses its comparison within the Kachchh district, a semi-arid farming area of Western India that experiences erratic rainfall and has higher salt levels in its soils than much of the rest of the country. Twenty farms were chosen based on their fertilizer management practices, split between farmers employing traditional composting techniques and those using chemical fertilizers. For the chemical farms, an initial application of animal-based manure was applied, and synthetic sources of nitrogen (urea) and phosphorus (ammonium phosphate) were then spread as a top dressing at a rate of roughly 60kg (132lbs)/ha approximately 20 days after sowing. Traditional farms utilized a compost known as Jivamrit-S (Jeevamrutha), comprised of cow manure, cow urine, jaggery (an unrefined cane sugar), gram flower, and soil that is then fermented in a compost pit. This material was applied once a week for the two weeks after planting, and subsequently watered in. Over the course of three years, farm soils were tested before, during, and after harvest.

The study measured five variables of the soils on the twenty farms, including water holding capacity, bulk density (an indication of how compact the soil is), electrical conductivity (a measure of salts in soil), soil organic matter, and pH. The maximum water holding capacity of traditional farms was on average higher (at 47.5%) than soils amended with chemical-based fertilizers (at 38%).  Bulk density recorded lower values in traditionally managed soils (1.04 grams per cubic centimeter) than those chemically treated (at 1.31 grams per cubic centimeter). Most unsurprisingly, traditional soils had lower levels of electrical conductivity (at 0.55 deciSiemens per meter) compared to those that applied salt-based, synthetic chemicals (at 0.69 deciSiemens per meter). Soil organic matter was higher in traditional soils (at 0.75% organic matter) than chemical amended soils (at 0.46% organic matter). pH tended to increase in soils that were chemically treated (averaging 8.1), while those amended with traditional composts recorded relatively stable soil pHs (averaging 7.3).

The study notes that traditional soils maintained their advantages over chemically treated throughout the course of the experiment, and even during a drought period in the middle of study period. “In the present scenario—where chemical fertilizers had already shown detrimental effects in the form of long-term soil fertility depletion, health concerns occurring due to chemical inputs to both the growers and consumers, environmental deterioration—ecologically sustainable agri-management systems are not a choice but a necessity,” the study reads.

A similar recent review of cropping practices in Chinese rice paddy farms also found a range of benefits conferred by traditional practices that were not seen under an industrialized, monoculture farming approach. By utilizing traditional techniques that integrate animals into rice farms, nutrient cycling improved, the animals reduced on-farm weed pressure, and total economic output increased by up to 7x in certain conditions. This study represented an “enhanced” version of the traditional approach utilized in this region, adding additional nutrients in the form of vegetable manures.

It is critical that more research be done on the current value of traditional cropping systems, so that modern scientific methods can be applied to further improve these approaches, say health and environmental advocates. They say this approach should form the foundation for future farming practices that are truly sustainable, providing an off-ramp from over-promised “silver bullet” solutions of the agrichemical industry—be they synthetic fertilizers, genetic engineering, toxic pesticide use, or the industry’s new focus on RNAi.

Dr. Sharma plans to conduct further research comparing the yields between farming utilizing traditional practices and those employing industrial approaches. “The farmers that I work with are now telling me that we have yields that are on par with the common system of chemical farming,” she told EOS. “But that study has to be done.”

For more information on the benefits of time-tested, traditional and organic practices, see Beyond Pesticides organic program page. Consider taking action today to ensure that organic maintains its separation from industrialized agriculture and continues its trajectory of continuous improvement.

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

Source: EOS, PLOS Sustainability and Transformation

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30
Mar

Animals in Wildlife Sanctuaries at Greater Risk of Pesticide Exposure from Internal Agricultural Practices

(Beyond Pesticides, March 30, 2022) An article by the Audubon Society covers ongoing advocacy to end pesticide spraying in wildlife refuges. Wildlife refuges act as a sanctuary, providing habitat and protection essential for the survival and recovery of species nationwide. However, portions of the wildlife sanctuary can have agricultural uses, allowing farmers to cultivate crops on various acres, subsequently applying pesticides. Pesticide spraying in or around wildlife refuges threatens the survivability and recovery of species that inhabit the area. Moreover, many of these pesticides are highly toxic to human and animal health. Analyses like these are significant, especially since 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 enforce policies that eliminate pesticide use in wildlife refuges. Ending pesticide applications in sanctuaries can protect the well-being of animals, humans, and the ecosystem. Hannah Connor, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), notes, “It’s not a huge economic driver of the refuge system, and it is truly problematic in terms of fulfilling its mission and goals[…]. That just means it should be a no-brainer to be able to look at what significant harms could befall wildlife from these practices on wildlife refuges and say: No more.”

To support the end of pesticide use in wildlife refuges, advocates refer to results from the Center for Biological (CBD) 2018 report, No Refuge. Pesticide use data obtained from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) public records via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) finds a 34 percent increase in pesticide use in commercial agriculture on national wildlife refuges. Many of these pesticides are highly toxic, with farmland in wildlife refuges experiencing an over 70% higher level of dangerous pesticide inputs. These pesticides include dicamba2,4-Dglyphosate, and paraquat, which are highly toxic to fish, amphibians, crustaceans, and other animals—causing everything from birth and reproductive defects to cancer.

The U.S. has 568 national wildlife refuges—from forests and wetlands to various waterways—all of which protect thousands of species, including over 200 endangered species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) oversees refuge management and permits private farming on refuges to help prepare seedbeds to increase seed germination for native habitats and provide food for migratory birds and other species. However, the recent rise of industrial-scale commercial farming is now commonplace in wildlife refuges, exposing these sensitive habitats and their wildlife dependents to highly toxic pesticides that jeopardize abiding health.

The impact of pesticides on wildlife—including mammals, bees and other pollinators, fish and other aquatic organisms, birds, and the biota within the soil—is extensive. Several studies document how exposure to these toxic chemicals can decrease health and survivability in a wide range of species. There are policies in place to protect wildlife from harm, such as the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973, which protects ecosystems on which threatened and endangered species depend. However, a 2013 report by the National Academy of Sciences detected shortcomings in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) evaluation and analysis of pesticides on endangered species, with the agency regularly disregarding the ESA’s requirement to confer with federal wildlife agencies on how to take precaution to protect threatened and endangered species from pesticide harms. Therefore, EPA, and other federal government agencies, including FWS, reformed the pesticide review process to meet the pesticide approval requirements for the ESA. 

Another concern for wildlife refuges involves crops genetically engineered (GE) to tolerate pesticide exposure. In 2012, Beyond Pesticides and other environmental groups, led by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and Center for Food Safety (CFS), won a court battle to halt genetically engineered crops and related herbicide-tolerant herbicides on wildlife refuges in the southeast. This led to a grassroots campaign and public pressure from advocates and environmental groups, resulting in FWS’s decision to adopt a national phase-out of GE crops and ban neonicotinoid (neonic) insecticide use on national wildlife refuges. However, in 2018, FWS reversed the prohibition via a memorandum, which allows the refuge system to make decisions on GE crop and pesticide use on a case-by-case basis. GE crops perpetuate the use of harmful pesticides as many of these crops are resistant to the pesticides used on them, forcing farmers to use more chemicals to treat persistent pest issues.

This article highlights previous concerns of improper pesticide practices on farms in wildlife refuges. Specific to Key Cave, refuge biologist William Gates claimed farming within the refuge violated refuge-management law. Moreover, pesticides approved for use in wildlife sanctuaries lack proper buffers, including strips of vegetation to mitigate run-off into groundwater. Groundwater contamination in Key Cave is a major issue, threatening fauna, from birds to fish. Additionally, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) routinely finds widespread pesticide contamination of surface waters throughout the U.S. waterways (i.e., river, streams, surface/groundwater. Scientists warn that pesticides pose a direct threat to both insect and non-insect wildlife that may absorb chemical vapors through respiration, dermal (skin contact),or orally via food.

However, Key Cave is not the only refuge area of concern as farmers spray over 363,000 refuge acres with pesticides, many of which are highly toxic. The five national wildlife refuges complexes with the most contamination from agricultural pesticide applications include the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex (California and Oregon), Central Arkansas Refuges Complex (Arkansas), Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge Complex (Mississippi), West Tennessee Refuge Complex (Tennessee), and Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge Complex (Tennessee). Although the FWS allows private farmers to use refuge areas for crops, 20 percent must remain unharvested. However, pesticide residues can remain on these crops, exposing migrating birds, pollinators, and other wildlife to chemical effects. Pesticide use in wildlife refuges is an ongoing issue as a federal judge dismissed an environmental lawsuit seeking to reinstate an FWS rule banning the use of neonicotinoid insecticides, genetically engineered (GE) crops, and adopted a precautionary approach to pest management.

According to a former refuge manager interviewed by Audubon, refuge officials knew little about pesticide application and the number of chemicals used in sanctuaries. Many farmers failed to implement various requirements, like buffers, to prevent waterway contamination. Thus, the anonymous refuge manager cautions, “The regional biologist told me that it was highly unusual for people to take this process very seriously[…]. There were many, many holes in the system.”

Environmental organizations CFS and CBD express concerns as, “[t]he use of harmful agricultural pesticides to grow commercial row crops such as corn and soybeans on national wildlife refuges—the only public lands where wildlife must come first—defeats the objectives of the Refuge System and poses a significant threat to the species that rely on these refuges and the habitats that they provide.”

Pesticide use should be phased out and ultimately eliminated to protect the nation’s and world’s wildlife and reduce the number of dangerous pesticides exposed to species in wildlife refuges. Beyond Pesticides has long fought against GE crops and pesticide use on refuges and advocated for federal regulations that consider all potential impacts of pesticides to ecosystems and organisms. There are blind spots that limit our ability to adopt widespread change that improves ecosystem health. Thus, it is vital to understand how pesticides can exacerbate biodiversity loss in wildlife sanctuaries, especially due to the increasing amount of dangerous pesticide use in these areas. However, advocating for local and state pesticide reform policies can protect wildlife from pesticide contamination. For more information on pesticide impacts on wildlife, visit Beyond Pesticides’ wildlife page.

Furthermore, buyinggrowing, and supporting organic can help eliminate the extensive use of pesticides on crops located in wildlife refuges. Organic agriculture has many health and environmental benefits that eliminate the need for chemical-intensive agricultural practices in these sanctuaries. For more information on how organic is the right choice, see Beyond Pesticides webpage, Health Benefits of Organic Agriculture.  

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

Source: Audubon Society

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29
Mar

Producers Warned by EPA that PFAS Is Contaminating Pesticides and Food

(Beyond Pesticides, March 29, 2022) Plastic storage barrels contaminated with polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) may be in violation of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), according to an open letter released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last month. Manufacturers, producers, processors, distributors, users, and those that dispose of fluorinated High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) containers or other similar plastics that form PFAS as a byproduct were notified in the letter of requirements under federal law. The notice comes two years after EPA was first alerted to the presence of PFAS in a mosquito pesticide used by the state of Massachusetts known as Anvil 10+10. “Today’s action will help ensure that responsible parties are held accountable for any future PFAS contamination affecting communities,” said Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff, PhD.

While the agency believes its letter represents progress, health advocates note that there has been no meaningful regulatory action from the agency on this issue. In January 2021, a year after receiving notice from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) on the presence of PFAS on Anvil 10+10, EPA confirmed the finding. At the time the agency did nothing, while acknowledging, “the need to provide guidance…” Even with the specific confirmation, EPA merely encouraged states with Anvil 10+10 stocks to “red tag that inventory and hold for now.”

EPA’s latest actions indicate that these barrels may violate TSCA, but provide a possible roadmap for manufacturers to achieve compliance. The agency indicates that its long-chain perfluoroalkyl carboxylate (LCPFAC) Significant New Use Rule (SNUR), released in 2020, does not provide an exemption for PFAS produced as a byproduct of plastic manufacturing. EPA indicates, “This means that the uses require notice to EPA via a Significant New Use Notice (SNUN), EPA review of potential risks of this use under TSCA section 5, and a determination of whether (and under what conditions) such uses can continue.”

In August 2021, federal agencies acknowledged that the plastic HDPE storage barrels contaminating pesticides may also be used to store food products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent a letter to plastic manufacturers warning them to stop fluorinating packaging after it has been molded or in the presence of water. It indicated that only certain gasses—fluorine and nitrogen—could be used during the fluorination process, and others like argon and oxygen could attach to carbon atoms and form PFAS.  

While both EPA and FDA appear to be strongly discouraging companies from continuing manufacturing processes that create PFAS contamination, the agency’s action has effectively no teeth as these contaminated products remain on the market. Federal agencies instead have continued along their post-cautionary approach to regulating, as Assistant Administrator Freedhoff noted, their effort is to have “responsible parties…held accountable for any future PFAS contamination affecting communities.” Health advocates note that it is not helpful to have a mechanism for recourse in the future when the contamination and poisoning is occurring today.

It is evident that EPA and other federal regulators have been well behind the curve on the dangers posed by PFAS compounds. Despite evidence on the dangers of PFAS stretching as far back as the 1950s, federal agencies sat by the sidelines as the plastics industry continued adding the material to new products. A study published in 2020 in Environmental Science: Processes and Impacts identified PFAS is hundreds of common products Americans are exposed to daily. “In addition to well-known categories such as textile impregnation, fire-fighting foam, and electroplating, the identified use categories also include many categories not described in the scientific literature, including PFAS in ammunition, climbing ropes, guitar strings, artificial turf, and soil remediation.” Downstream from these consumer uses, PFAS has made its way into our environment and our bodies. It has been found to be widespread in farm fields due to its presence sewage sludge, and has contaminated water bodies throughout the U.S.. After a three year legal effort by PEER,  EPA publicly released data on the range of sources and concentrations of PFAS in our environment, with PEER providing a startling interactive map with the data available for review.

These myriad sources of exposure have important implications for our health. A study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that 98% of Americans have some level of PFAS in their blood stream. With health risks including developmental, metabolic, cardiovascular, and reproductive harm, cancer, damage to the liver, kidneys and respiratory system,  as well as the potential to increase the chance of covid infection and severity, PFAS presents a chronic danger to Americans that demands immediate regulatory action.

In light of EPA’s insufficient response, at least 32 states are considering 210 potential laws to restrict PFAS in some way. Advocates are encouraged to contact their elected representatives and urge them to take meaningful action to eliminate sources of PFAS in food, farming, and our environment. For more information, see Beyond Pesticides’ previous articles on PFAS contamination in our Daily News Blog.

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

Source: EPA press release, E&E news
Photo credit: Richard Hurd

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28
Mar

Public Voice Keeps Organic Strong, Comment by April 1

(Beyond Pesticides, March 28, 2022) Last Chance This Spring To Tell the NOSB To Uphold Organic Integrity. Comments are due 11:59 pm EDT April 1 (No Fooling!)

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is receiving written comments from the public through April 1. April 1 is also the deadline for registering for the upcoming public comment webinar on April 19 and 21, which precedes the online meeting April 26-28—in which the NOSB deliberates on issues concerning how organic food is produced. Written comments must be submitted through Regulations.gov.

As always, there are many important issues on the NOSB agenda this Spring. For a complete discussion, see Keeping Organic Strong (KOS) and the Spring 2022 issues page, where you can find Beyond Pesticides’ comments on all issues facing the NOSB at this meeting. In the spirit of “continuous improvement,” we urge you to submit comments (please feel free to use our comments on the KOS page or use language below) that contribute to an increasingly improved organic production system. Here are some high priority issues for us:

  • The NOSB must insist that the National Organic Program (NOP), which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) follow through with NOSB recommendations. The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) established the NOSB to advise the Secretary of Agriculture on implementation of the act, with special attention to the National List of approved and prohibited substances. NOP has fallen behind in implementing the recommendations of the NOSB, which threatens organic integrity.
    • Organic consumers expect that organic farms will not destroy native ecosystems, so NOP must implement NOSB’s recommendation to change the current perverse regulation that incentivizes the immediate destruction of native ecosystems and conversion to organic production as a cheaper and faster option than transitioning existing conventional farmland over a three-year period.
    • Organic consumers expect that organic meat and dairy products will be produced without synthetic hormones, so NOP must—as recommended by the NOSB—take oxytocin off the list of allowed synthetics.
    • Now NOP has come to the organic community with a request for input concerning the priorities to be assigned to recommendations it has failed to complete. This is totally unacceptable. The organic community has spoken on these issues, but NOP has not done its job. It is improper—indeed, outrageous—for NOP to now pit segments of the organic community against one another. NOP must give higher priority to completing NOSB recommendations. It is NOP’s responsibility to just get it done.
  • Cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC) is a quaternary ammonium compound (quat or QAC) that is being petitioned for use on raw organic poultry. The class of QACs includes several toxic sanitizers and disinfectants as well as the highly toxic herbicides paraquat and diquat. CPC is highly toxic, and poses a particular hazard to workers. CPC residues have been discovered on treated surfaces and poultry skin, exposing consumers to unlabeled pesticide residues. It is unnecessary in organic production, and the petition should be denied.
  • The NOSB is considering a proposal limiting the use of highly soluble nitrogen fertilizers in organic production. This follows on recommendations by the NOSB in Fall 2021, prohibiting the use of stripped ammonia and concentrated ammonia as fertilizers in organic crop production. In recognition of the fact that their high solubility makes them inconsistent with organic production, which “feeds the soil, not the plant,” the Crops Subcommittee proposes to generalize the prohibition unless use is restricted to no more than 20 percent of the crop’s total nitrogen requirement. USDA has stated that it will not implement the prohibition of stripped ammonia and concentrated ammonia unless this proposal passes. The NOSB should pass this proposal to protect organic integrity.
  • Biodegradable Biobased (Bioplastic) Mulch Film (BBMF) is under consideration for sunset this year. Although the NOSB will not vote on BBMF until the Fall 2022 meeting, this is part of a larger issue of the use of plastic in organic production and handling. Awareness is growing about the impacts of plastic—and the microplastic particles to which it degrades—on human health and the environment. BBMF should not be relisted. Moreover, the NOSB should initiate action to eliminate all uses of plastic in organic production and handling—including packaging.

Submit Comments Now.

Need help in submitting comments? Regulations.gov requires more than a single click, but it is not difficult. Please feel free to cut-and-paste language from the comments above into Regulations.gov and add or adjust the text to personalize it. See this instructional video. (Regulations.gov has changed its look since this video was made.)

Thank you for keeping organic strong!

 

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25
Mar

Environmentalists Outraged at Probability that EPA Will Allow Continued Use of Deadly Pesticides, the Neonicotinoids

(Beyond Pesticides, March 25, 2022) Recent coverage by The Guardian of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) plan — to extend the registration of several demonstrably harmful neonicotinoid insecticides — compels Beyond Pesticides to identify, once again, the agency’s failures to enact its core mission. That mission is “to protect human health and the environment,” and to ensure that “national efforts to reduce environmental risks are based on the best available scientific information.” EPA has undertaken a review of the registration of several members of the neonicotinoid (neonic) family of pesticides and, despite the agency’s own findings of evidence of serious threats to pollinators, aquatic invertebrates, and other wildlife, it issued interim decisions on these neonics in January 2020 that disregard the science on the pesticides’ impacts. EPA appears to be prepared to finalize these registrations late in 2022; this would, barring further action, extend the use of these harmful compounds for 15 years.

Neonics are used widely in the U.S., both on crops to kill sucking insects, and as seed treatments with the same goal for the developing plant. These insecticides are systemic compounds, meaning that once applied, they travel to all parts of a plant through the vascular system, and are then present in pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets. Non-target organisms — such as bees, butterflies, birds, bats, and other insects — feed and drink from those sources and are thus readily and indiscriminately poisoned. The compounds are highly mobile, seeping into groundwater and soils, where they persist, causing additional insect exposure to them, as well as soil and water contamination. Specific impacts of neonics have been covered extensively by Beyond Pesticides in recent years; some examples include reproductive harm to pollinators, negative effects on aquatic wildlife populations, and neonic lethality for bumblebees.

The specific members of the neonicotinoid family of compounds up for EPA review (and likely re-registration) are imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, clothianidin, dinotefuran, and acetamiprid. This class of chemicals targets acetylcholine (ACh) receptors in insects, and act as ACh agonists — triggering oxidative stress, reducing energy levels, and causing neurodegeneration, even at low levels of exposure. These impacts can impair cognition (including learning), behavior, vision, cellular energy supply, and sensory and motor functions, and can be lethal. This class of pesticides is broadly seen as a significant cause of bee losses (in both managed and wild populations), and broad pollinator decline and die-off.

Meanwhile, as Beyond Pesticides wrote in February 2020 in response to EPA’s January 2020 interim decisions, “With widespread pollinator declines linked to neonicotinoid insecticides since the mid-2000s, a growing understanding of the role these systemic insecticides play in the insect apocalypse, and similar declines in bird populations, the agency, according to advocates, has embraced not protection, but the destruction of the shared environment. While U.S. regulators continue to embrace chemical-dependency, Canada and the European Union acted decisively to eliminate neonicotinoids.”

In May 2020 comments to EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP), Beyond Pesticides added that in addition to the concerns about neonic impacts on pollinators, insects, aquatic life, and other organisms, “With emerging human health concerns being documented, we reiterate our appeal for the agency to adhere to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act’s (FIFRA) statutory mandate and withdraw the registration of these pesticides that clearly pose unreasonable adverse health and environmental effects.”

FIFRA is the federal statute that governs the registration, distribution, sale, and use of pesticides; it stipulates requirements for the registration of any pesticide. Among those is the requirement that “using the pesticide according to specifications ‘will not generally cause unreasonable adverse effects on the environment,’” with such effects defined as “any unreasonable risk to man or the environment, taking into account the economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits of the use of any pesticide.” During the past couple of decades, with increasing industry influence on EPA (most dramatic, perhaps, during the Trump years), the agency’s priorities have increasingly “drifted” from the “unreasonable risk to man [sic] or the environment” portion of that FIFRA requirement, and toward consideration of the “economic costs” portion. Beyond Pesticides has covered this shift at EPA (and OPP in particular), which emanates from its reluctance to hinder corporate interests; learn more here, here, here, and here.

EPA released draft Biological Evaluations (BEs) for clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam in August 2021. (A BE is an EPA analysis of potential harmful impacts of a registered pesticide on any species federally listed, per the Endangered Species Act, as endangered or threatened, or on their critical habitats.) That BE found that “each of these chemicals is likely to adversely affect certain listed species or their designated critical habitats.” Beyond Pesticides wrote, of that BE, that “each neonic was found to adversely affect over 1,000 endangered species out of 1,821 listed under the law. Specifically, the neonics were found to adversely affect nontarget endangered species: imidacloprid impacted 1,445 species, clothianidin, 1,225, and thiamethoxam, 1,396. Harmful effects were not limited to a specific subgroup – dozens of species were affected within all groups, including mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish, plants, and aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates.”

A reminder that rounds out the inanity of the neonic pesticide picture: there is evidence that neonics do not necessarily achieve the results that manufacturers promise. Research on soybean production, for example, has shown that neonic-treated soybean seeds provide negligible yield and economic benefit to the producer. John Tooker, an entomologist at Penn State University, offered this assessment: “These insecticides are not helping the productivity of crops on fields — it seems an amazing effort to blanket all these acres with something that doesn’t have a return on investment.”

Indeed, the actual utility of pesticides to achieve their purported goals is an under-recognized failing of EPA’s review of pesticide compounds for use; EPA ought to include a role for efficacy in the agency’s evaluation of pesticides. Beyond Pesticides further notes that EPA should recognize that the “putative benefits listed in its benefit assessments do not outweigh the ecological harm and existential threat these compounds pose to pollinators,” and that the additive harmful effects on aquatic life, wildlife, and human health should “further diminish the ratio of benefits in comparison to the extensive threats.”

EPA’s reluctance to take the necessary action — deregistration of these toxic and destructive compounds — shows up in many of its pesticide policies and decisions. In 2017, EPA proffered this punt on the need to protect pollinators, recommending that: “states and tribes develop pollinator protection plans and best management practices.” The agency’s 2020 interim decisions on the neonics listed above include proposals for what it calls “Actions to Protect Pollinators.” Those are:

  • management measures to help keep pesticides on the intended target and reduce the amount used on crops associated with potential ecological risks
  • requiring the use of additional personal protective equipment to address potential occupational risks
  • restrictions on when pesticides can be applied to blooming crops in order to limit exposure to bees
  • language on the label that advises homeowners not to use neonicotinoid products
  • cancelling spray uses of imidacloprid on residential turf due to health concerns

Considered in the context of all the pollinator and insect devastation caused, and continuing to be caused, by use of these neonic compounds, these “protective actions” EPA proposes are remarkably insufficient. Largely, they rely on producer and operator compliance with vague “management measures” and timing of applications, and a recommendation for use of more personal protective equipment, as well as on homeowners’ voluntary decisions not to use these products.

These weak proposals are further evidence, in the view of Beyond Pesticides, of EPA’s abdication of its responsibility to enact its protective charge. As Beyond Pesticides wrote early in 2021, “While regulators in both Canada and the European Union have eliminated nearly all uses of neonicotinoids, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has done little but shuffle around language on a pesticide label. . . . EPA . . . is unwilling to take the regulatory actions needed to protect all pollinators across the country.”

Nathan Donley of the Center for Biological Diversity notes that, although some states (such as Maryland, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts) have enacted some constraints on the use of neonics, EPA continues to “bend to pressure from farming groups and pesticide makers to perpetuate their use nationally.” He adds, in The Guardian’s reporting, “We are already seeing crashes in insect numbers and we don’t have another 15 years to waste. It’s frustrating to see the EPA go down this path. We really are at a crossroads — we can follow the science and the rest of the world or we can go out on our own and appease the chemical industry.”

After EPA’s August 2021 release of its Biological Evaluations on three neonics, environmental advocates were robust in their responses. The Center for Food Safety’s legal director, George Kimbrell, said that the analyses “confirm what scientists have told EPA and industry for over a decade: These extremely toxic pesticides are causing drastic ecological harm, both the collapse of bee populations [and] putting literally hundreds of endangered species at extinction risk across the country.”

The Center for Biological Diversity’s health director, Lori Ann Burd, issued extensive commentary after the BEs emerged: “Now the EPA can’t ignore the fact that these popular insecticides are wiping out our country’s most endangered plants and animals. Neonicotinoids are used so widely, and in such large quantities, that even the EPA’s industry-friendly pesticide office had to conclude that few endangered species can escape their toxic effects. . . . The EPA doesn’t need any more proof. It should ban neonicotinoids right now. We’re in a heartbreaking extinction crisis, and neonicotinoids are playing an outsized role in driving it. Pollinator populations are declining nationwide. . . . What will it take for the EPA to act on this information and ban these deadly chemicals?”

Demands to act on the neonic-induced catastrophe are rising. As Beyond Pesticides notes, “In 2018, more than two hundred scientists co-authored a ‘Call to restrict neonicotinoids’ on the basis of the bulk of evidence implicating neonicotinoids in mass pollinator and beneficial insect declines.” Advocates, including the Center for Food Safety and Pesticide Action Network North America, have filed lawsuits to get EPA to act protectively for pollinators.

As can happen, such pending decisions at EPA can have a stalling effect on action at the state level. State legislators and/or regulators who may be considering action on these toxic compounds may opt to “wait and see” what happens at the federal level. Beyond Pesticides encourages states to proceed with all haste to take action on neonicotinoids, particularly given the real possibility of their reregistration by EPA at some point in 2022. Every day these compounds are deployed means more death and destruction of pollinators and other organisms, and fragile habitats. As a part of a ban or restriction strategy, Beyond Pesticides advances a holistic strategy for land management that utilizes only organic-compatible materials.

Beyond Pesticides’ take on the registration of these neonics, and on the approach of EPA generally to pesticides, is this: “Ultimately, any action taken by the administration to limit one chemical or chemical class without a broad-scale reorganization of how EPA conducts its pesticide reviews is insufficient. Real reform is necessary to stop industry influence over American’s health, environmental safety, and the dwindling species whose protection are critical for our long-term welfare.” Neonicotinoids should be deregistered.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/mar/08/us-epa-toxic-pesticides-paralyse-bees-insects

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

 

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24
Mar

Certain Essential Oils Found To Be Highly Effective at Killing Mosquito Larvae and Adults

(Beyond Pesticides, March 24, 2022) A range of essential oils can provide high levels of larvicidal and adulticidal activity against a commonly found species of mosquito, according to research published last week in Scientific Reports. The use of essential oils in mosquito management has generally been limited to personal protection, with synthetic pesticides often the first choice for vector control activities. This research highlights the potential role of these natural compounds to replace hazardous synthetics in managing larval sources and killing adult mosquitoes under last-resort scenarios.

The team of Egyptian-based scientists conducting the study purchased 32 different essential oils from a regional retailer in order to test them on both the larval and adult stages of Culex pipiens. C. pipiens, often referred to as the common house mosquito, is the most abundant mosquito in the Northern U.S., and is known to vector West Nile virus and Saint Louis encephalitis, among other diseases.

Larval efficacy was tested on the fourth instar larvae of C. pipiens, delivered through a mixture of the essential oil, water, and the solvent Tween-20, which contains the surfactant Polysorbate-20, used to emulsify the mixture. All oils tested had some level of larvicidal activity (between 60-100%). Researchers classified the oils into three different groups: highly, moderately, and least effective. Highly effective oils achieved 95-100% mortality over a 48-hour period, and included garlic (Allium sativum), dill (Anethum graveolens), tea plant (Camellia sinensis), fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), fennel flower (Nigella sativa), sage (Salvia officinalis), garden thyme (T. vulgaris), and sweet violet (Viola odorata). In the moderately effective group, Salai guggul (B. serrata), cumin (C. cyminum), wild tumeric (C. aromatic), garden cress (L. sativum), tea tree (M. alternifolia), black pepper (P. nigrum), and magnolia berry (S. chinensis) recorded 81-92% mortality over 48 hours. Of the 17 least effective oils remaining, sesame (S. indicum) and cannabis (C. sativus) exhibited the lowest mortality rates, at roughly 60% over a 48-hour period.

Researchers then tested the high larval efficacy group on adult mosquitoes, utilizing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s bottle bioassay testing protocol. In a solution of 10% essential oil, mortality rates post treatment were 49% for garlic (Allium sativum), 88% for dill (Anethum graveolens),  64% for the tea plant (Camellia sinensis), 51% for fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), 93% for fennel flower (Nigella sativa), 44% for sage (Salvia officinalis), 72% for garden thyme (T. vulgaris), and 100% for sweet violet (Viola odorata).

In sum, the researchers note, “Camellia sinensis [tea plant] and F. vulgare [fennel] were the most potent larvicides whereas V. odorata [sweet violet], T. vulgaris [garden thyme], An. Graveolens [dill] and N. sativa [fennel flower] were the best adulticides and they could be used for integrated mosquito control… EOs could serve as suitable alternatives to synthetic insecticides because they are relatively safe, available, and biodegradable.”

The results of the study line up with research on the efficacy of essential oil-based sprays for adulticide applications. A 2019 study in the Florida Journal of Mosquito Control found the product Nature-Cide, containing .5% clove and .5% cottonseed oil to be more effective at managing adult mosquitoes that three of the most commonly used synthetic pyrethroid-based mosquito sprays.

A model approach to mosquito management is a science-based, and prioritizes preventive measures first and foremost. These measures include surveillance, monitoring, public education on eliminating breeding sites and personal protective actions, consideration of local ecology and habitat manipulation. While moving from hazardous synthetics to less toxic, natural and more readily biodegradable products like essential oils present a range of benefits, even these products should only be used based upon monitoring data. Applying any product with insecticidal activity presents risks to nontarget animals and plants in the environment. The use of larvicides should be governed by actions levels established based on prior monitoring data. Some communities, like the City of Boulder, Colorado, are working to limit their use of biological larvicides like bacillus thuringiensis by embracing ecological mosquito management — hiring wetland ecologists to analyze ecosystem health and its capacity to naturally address overabundant mosquito populations.

In the case of adulticides, even least-toxic products should only be considered as a last resort, under strict thresholds, and when the spread of mosquito-borne disease places public and animal health at imminent risk. Aerially applied mosquito adulticides in any form are excessively risky in exposures to people and nontarget organisms, are relatively ineffective in relation to those risks, and should never be considered as part of a sustainable mosquito management program.

For more information on safer mosquito management, see Beyond Pesticides program page. Specific recommendations for least-toxic repellents can be found here, and residents working to change their community mosquito management approach are encouraged to reach out to [email protected].

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

Source: Scientific Reports

 

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23
Mar

Climate-Induced Melting of Arctic Ice Threatens the Reemergence of Toxic Chemicals

(Beyond Pesticides, March 23, 2022) A study published in Nature Reviews Earth & Environment warns that thawing of permafrost (a ground that remains completely frozen for two or more years) in the Arctic region can prompt the reemergence of greenhouse gases (e.g., methane and carbon dioxide), microbes, and chemicals (e.g., banned pesticides like DDT). Past research finds gases, microbes, and chemicals drift near the poles, becoming entrapped in ice under the accumulating snowfall. As the global climate continues to rise and the climate crisis worsens, studies like this show significant effects, as ice encapsulating these toxic chemicals is melting. Upon melting, some chemicals can volatilize back into the atmosphere, releasing toxicants into the air and aquatic systems, with the ensuing consequences. Microbes frozen for thousands to millions of years can also emerge from thawing permafrost, with unknown implications on human, animal, and ecosystem health. The melting permafrost is already beginning to impact infrastructure, creating sinkholes that damage roads, trees, and utility poles. Moreover, mixtures of chemicals, microbes, and greenhouse gases (GHGs) in permafrost are difficult to assess. Therefore, studies like this highlight the need to evaluate the health and ecological effects of melting arctic permafrost (and glaciers) from anthropogenic (human)-induced climate change. [For related pieces, see Silent Snow: The unimaginable impact of toxic chemical use and DDT in Glacial Melt Puts Alaskan Communities at Risk.]

Approximately 1,700 billion metric tons of carbon, including GHGs like carbon dioxide and methane, are present in permafrost, over 51 times more than the amount of carbon released from 2019 fossil fuel emissions. The remaining organic matter, frozen in permafrost, will decay after thawing, further increasing atmospheric carbon emissions. Although current models predict an increase in carbon released from permafrost in the coming decades to hundreds of years, scientists lack knowledge on how much, how long, and the specific carbon source. Therefore, researchers in this study used ground, air, and satellite data to evaluate the effects of subsequent permafrost melting.

Using ground measurements, researchers can monitor changes in specific areas, while airborne and space-based (satellite) measurements monitor changes over broader areas. Airborne and ground measurements represent time-specific monitoring data, and satellite measurements monitor data continuously. Moreover, ground measurements mainly focus on microbial communities in thawing permafrost. Airborne measurements focus on GHG emission with satellite and airborne data mapping GHG hotspots. The combination of data forms a holistic (complete) overview of changes in the arctic region.

The study determines that Earth’s polar regions are warming the fastest, approximately two to four times faster than average, and these changes can have a cascading adverse impact on lower and higher latitudes. The scientists note that the polar regions (Arctic and Antarctic) stabilize Earth’s climate and drive heat transfer, powering jet streams and other fluxes/currents. Researchers cannot identify specific microbes encased in permafrost, nor whether GHGs emissions will be gradual or rapid. Thus, polar warming has future consequences that threaten regular weather, climate, and chemical exposure patterns.

Many scientists consider Arctic environments “pristine,” void of direct chemical inputs from chemicals used in more temperate and industrial climates. However, the Arctic has become a sink for these toxic chemicals, as studies find evidence that airborne Arctic chemical concentrations are comparable to that of industrialized regions in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Additional investigations find the presence of chemicals and microbes in soil and ice samples taken from Arctic regions. The Arctic is highly susceptible to global pollution, as warmer air contaminated with industrial and agricultural chemicals from manufacturing regions move poleward toward cooler air. Environmental pollutants can condense into snowflakes high in the atmosphere and deposit onto the Arctic surface. Although deposition of these chemicals via long-range atmospheric transport and condensation are significant contributors to Arctic contamination, the chemical properties allowing these substances to persist in the environment so long are concerning. Some of these long-lived chemicals include regionally banned pesticides like DDT, heptachlor, and lindane, which are highly toxic to humans and animals, causing a range of adverse effects, from respiratory issues to nervous system disorders and birth deformities to various common and uncommon cancers. Although banned chemicals remain a global issue, as much of the developing world still report usage, banned/past-use compounds are not the only contaminants in the Arctic. Current-use chemicals like chlorpyrifosdacthal (DCPA), and trans-nonachlor (a component of the banned insecticide chlordane) readily contaminate the arctic, and continued use will result in an increased probability of atmospheric transportation and deposition of chemicals on Arctic glacier tops via precipitation. According to Brettania Walker, Ph.D., toxics officer at World Wildlife Fund’s Arctic Program, “Not only is chemical contamination increasing in the Arctic but also modern chemicals are now appearing in many Arctic species alongside older chemicals, some of them banned for over [30] years.”

The climate crisis adds another level of concern, especially regarding passive pesticide and microbial exposure from snowmelt. Pesticide contamination is already an issue in the U.S., as results of the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) and National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) show that pesticides and their breakdown products are present in all U.S. streams and widespread in groundwater throughout the country. For instance, a Chicago-based 2020 study shows black women who consume more tap water per day have higher bodily residues of the DDT metabolite (DDE). Permafrost and glacial melting will only add to water source contamination as volatile chemicals can enter waterways at the same concentration levels as before ice entrapment, even after several decades. Moreover, several banned chemicals are not soluble in water (e.g., DDT, lindane, chlordane) but bioaccumulate in the fatty tissue of many Arctic species, such as polar bears, seals, whales, and some fatty fish like salmon, herring, and catfish. The level of DDT in Arctic penguins’ blubber is similar to levels during initial banning more than 30 years ago. Unfortunately, some indigenous tribes in Arctic regions rely on these very mammals and fish for sustenance, and ingesting these pollutants is inevitable, putting their health at risk. Higher bodily concentrations of chemicals are evident in those who consume contaminated meat with associated health risks, including immune system disorder, increased susceptibility to disease, central nervous system disorders, learning disabilities among children, reproductive issues, and cancer. Studies find that adults and children who regularly consume fish from contaminated streams are at increased risk of cancer from dietary and cumulative exposure, in many cases above EPA thresholds.

This study adds to the growing body of literature demonstrating disproportionate warming in arctic regions. Arctic thawing has implications for carbon release and landscape changes that are difficult to predict, including alternations in arctic vegetation and density. The combination of data measurements (e.g., ground, airborne, satellite) can aid in monitoring the carbon system, from microbial decay of organic matter to volatilization of chemicals from permafrost and glacier ice. As global warming progresses, exposure concerns will increase significantly, especially for children who are more vulnerable to the toxic effects of chemical exposure. To mitigate the risks associated with chemical exposure from toxic pesticides, advocates say the manufacturing and use of pesticides need addressing, first and foremost. It falls to global leaders to curtail the continued manufacturing of chemical pollutants that readily contaminate polar regions. Recently, agrochemicals like pesticides and fertilizers overtook the fossil fuel industry as the leading contributor to environmental sulfur emissions. If pesticide use and manufacturing are amplifying the impacts of the climate crisis, advocates argue that it is essential to incite change by enhancing pesticide policy and regulation that eliminates use. The study concluded, “Scientific cooperation across diverse fields has already increased the modeling accuracy and data integration for carbon transport, permafrost thaw, and climate scenarios. However, further international collaboration, monitoring, and exploration is needed to determine the areas of greatest change. All efforts to quantify carbon release expand scientific understanding of complex, changing and emergent dynamics of a warming Arctic.”

Lack of adequate persistent pesticide regulations highlights the need for better policies surrounding pesticide use, especially when a toxic pesticide is banned for use in the U.S., but not for production and export to other countries. A switch from chemical-intensive agriculture to regenerative organic agriculture can significantly reduce the threat of the climate crisis by eliminating toxic, petroleum-based pesticide use, building soil health, and sequestering 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, while organic production reduces greenhouse gas emissions and sequesters carbon in the soil. Learn more about how it is possible to 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 the 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: Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, NASA

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22
Mar

Cockroaches Exhibit Resistance to Pesticides at 10x Label Application Rates

(Beyond Pesticides, March 22, 2022) German cockroaches collected from U.S. residential homes have evolved resistance mechanisms so strong that many can consume ten times the pesticide required to kill a laboratory-susceptible strain and still not die. These are the findings of recent research published in the Journal of Economic Entomology, which focused on determining cockroach resistance levels to commonly used gel bait insecticides in infested Southern California homes. The findings underscore the importance of an integrated approach to cockroach management that recognizes and responds to pest ecology, rather than search for an ever-elusive silver bullet.

Researchers collected five different strains of German cockroaches from various locations around Southern California, two from public housing and three from apartment dwellers. All sites had long-standing cockroach infestations, with varying treatment histories that generally included significant use of common gel bait insecticides. Tests were conducted on male cockroaches as they are gregarious foragers and thus more susceptible to baited food; it was indicated that if an insecticide cannot kill a male, it is highly unlikely to kill a juvenile or female roach. A separate group of cockroaches reared in the laboratory and never exposed to insecticides was used as a baseline for comparison.

This never-exposed laboratory strain of roaches were then exposed to varying levels of commonly used bait insecticides, including fipronil, clothianidin, indoxacarb, abamectin, hydramethylnon, and deltamethrin. Researchers determined lethal doses (LD) that killed 50% of the laboratory strain, as well as the dose that killed 95%.

Scientists then exposed the residential strains to commercial products containing the insecticides listed above. Mortality was recorded 14 days after exposure. Responses varied significantly between different residential strains, and while all baits completed killed off the laboratory strain, no pesticide was able to achieve 100% knockdown across the board.

Referred to as “diagnostic doses,” each cockroach strain was then directly treated with three times the lethal dose that killed 95% (LD95) of the laboratory strain. With the synthetic pyrethroid deltamethrin, no cockroaches died at that dose. While a mere 0-3% of fipronil, 13-27% of clothianidin, and 13-63% of indoxacarb exposed roaches died at the 3 x LD95 rate. Only abamectin and hydramethylnon recorded high mortality rates from this exposure. Scientists then took it a step further and exposed the cockroaches to ten times the LD95. At this rate, upwards of 80% of deltamethrin-exposed roaches still lived, while with fipronil that rate killed off 20-70%. The clothianidin and indoxacarb exposed roaches exhibited a significant negative correlation between survival time after exposure to 10 x LD95 and mortality, while with those exposed to fipronil and hydramethylnon the correlation was insignificant. Scientists say this indicates that resistance is more physiological for the former products, while the insignificant correlation may indicate the development of cockroach aversion to the latter two baits.

Only abamectin exhibits a knockdown that would suggest a level of effectiveness in a cockroach infestation. However, researchers add caution to that finding by referencing a 2019 study that found rapid increases in abamectin resistance in field settings. In that study, roughly 10% of cockroaches in a certain site were resistant to abamectin. But after an application, the 10% that did not die were able to rapidly repopulate. These scenarios drive home the flaws in a product-centric approach to cockroach management.

In order to be successful, bait insecticides must consistently achieve knockdown rates near 100%. But as the present study shows, even doses ten times higher than what should successfully kill a cockroach can leave a breeding population to repopulate.  

In the 2019 study, researchers tested one active ingredient that was not tested in the present study: boric acid. No evidence was found that cockroaches have developed widespread resistance to boric acid, likely to due its mode of action.

In its powder form, boric acid can be placed along cracks and crevices that cockroaches walk on. It can dry out and desiccate insects, but is generally most effective once consumed, as it acts as an acute stomach poison. The product is found in some commercial pest products, formulated with a food attractant. The powdered form, however, can be more effective when used in proper context. Cockroaches are social animals that regularly groom themselves and each other. Leaving a thin line of boric acid for cockroaches to crawl over will get the boric acid on their feet, which they will subsequently groom off. Cockroaches groom by running their legs and antennae through their mouths, resulting in ingestion of the boric acid stuck to their feet. Young cockroaches feed off the waste material of older cockroaches, providing an add-on route of exposure to the original boric acid meal, and cockroaches generally eat other dead cockroaches, providing yet another route once the target cockroach is dead, making it an effective source-sink.

But even a product as effective as boric acid is unlikely to eliminate an infestation unless other approaches are also integrated. An approach that responds to pest ecology recognizes that pests, like all life, need food, water, and shelter to survive. Make sure food and water is never left out, and all surfaces are regularly clean/vacuumed. Cracks, crevices, and other entryways into one’s home or apartment should be completely sealed; consider products like doorsweeps and fine-meshed screens to further impede movement. Throughout the process, monitor populations with traps to gauge areas of activity, and the intensity of the infestation. Once you have done everything you can to deny food, water, and shelter, boric acid gels and dusts can be applied to manage the remaining infestation.

Think about this impact of these actions from the cockroach’s perspective. By monitoring with traps you’ve identified problem areas and the major sites of infestation in your home. By sealing up entryways, you’ve cut off the infestation from reinforcements. By impeding movement you’ve slowed down the ability of the remaining cockroaches to find new mates. By applying thin dusts of boric acid near where you’ve located the infestation, every movement is potentially deadly. By denying access to food and water, you’ve created a situation where the only food available will be boric acid bait poisons. Such as approach requires a bit more forethought, but is significantly more effective than one that focuses solely on chemical use while ignoring pest ecology.

For a step-by-step checklist and guide to take care of a German cockroach problem, see Beyond Pesticides ManageSafe entry on this atrocious pest.

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

Source: Journal of Economic Entomology

 

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21
Mar

Government Inaction Threatens Endangered Species, Calls for Action

(Beyond Pesticides, March 21, 2022) With a history of unenforceable and impractical pesticide label restrictions resulting in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) findings of ludicrously small or no risk, the agency is at it again with its latest announcement that spins its approval of the continued use of the deadly organophosphate insecticide malathion as “protecting threatened and endangered species.” This just the latest example of an irresponsible federal agency falling far short, as the nation and world sit on the brink of biodiversity collapse and deadly pesticide-induced diseases.

Tell EPA to protect endangered species. Tell Congress to make sure the Biden administration protects endangered species. 

The announcement follows the release of a final biological opinion by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which, according to the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), “relies on scientifically unfounded assessment methods imposed during the Trump administration [and] stands in sharp contrast to the agency’s 2017 conclusion that 1,284 species would likely be jeopardized by malathion.” Meanwhile, the National Marine Fisheries Service, a sister agency to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, released an updated biological opinion that determined malathion and two other toxic organophosphate pesticides are causing jeopardy to virtually every endangered U.S. salmon, sturgeon, and steelhead species, as well as to Puget Sound orcas.

The current decision by EPA is a result of corporate and political intervention following the 2017 biological opinion by FWS. Dow AgroSciences—now called Corteva—asked the Administration to suspend the assessments. Then-acting Department of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt complied after becoming aware of the fact that the Service’s analysis had determined that malathion jeopardized the continued existence of 1,284 protected species.

Agency decisions like this call into question the Biden administration’s commitment to protecting the environment and human health. As stated by CBD’s Lori Ann Burd, “The Biden administration has squandered a historic opportunity to rein in the dangerous use of one of the world’s worst neurotoxic pesticides. By ignoring the best available science and choosing to rely on unenforceable promises of good behavior by the pesticide makers rather than real, on-the- ground conservation measures, the Biden administration is condemning wildlife to extinction with a wink and a nod. This decision to cave to powerful special interest groups will do far-reaching harm to our most endangered wildlife.”

The insistence that labeling restrictions can prevent harm to endangered species flies in the face of past experience, which has produced an insect apocalypse and extinction crisis. EPA must protect endangered species by banning the use of hazardous pesticides like malathion and other organophosphates.

Tell EPA to protect endangered species. Tell Congress to make sure the Biden administration protects endangered species. 

Letter to EPA Administrator and OPP

With a history of unenforceable and impractical pesticide label restrictions resulting in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) findings of ludicrously small or no risk, the agency is at

it again with its latest announcement that spins its approval of the continued use of the deadly organophosphate insecticide malathion as “protecting threatened and endangered species.” This just the latest example of an irresponsible federal agency falling far short, as the nation and world sit on the brink of biodiversity collapse and deadly pesticide-induced diseases.

The recent final biological opinion on malathion by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) relies on scientifically unfounded assessment methods imposed during the Trump administration and stands in sharp contrast to the agency’s 2017 conclusion that 1,284 species would likely be jeopardized by malathion. Meanwhile, the National Marine Fisheries Service has released an updated biological opinion that determined malathion and two other toxic organophosphate pesticides are causing jeopardy to virtually every endangered U.S. salmon, sturgeon, and steelhead species, as well as to Puget Sound orcas.

The current decision by EPA is a result of corporate and political intervention following the 2017 biological opinion by FWS. Dow AgroSciences—now called Corteva—asked the administration to suspend the assessments. Then-acting Department of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt complied after becoming aware of the fact that the Service’s analysis had determined that malathion jeopardized the continued existence of 1,284 protected species.

Agency decisions like this call into question the Biden administration’s commitment toprotecting the environment and human health. As stated by Lori Ann Burd of the Center for Biological Diversity, “The Biden administration has squandered a historic opportunity to rein in the dangerous use of one of the world’s worst neurotoxic pesticides. By ignoring the best available science and choosing to rely on unenforceable promises of good behavior by the pesticide makers rather than real, on-the-ground conservation measures, the Biden administration is condemning wildlife to extinction with a wink and a nod. This decision to cave to powerful special interest groups will do far-reaching harm to our most endangered wildlife.”

The insistence that labeling restrictions can prevent harm to endangered species flies in the face of past experience, which has produced an insect apocalypse and extinction crisis. EPA must protect endangered species by banning the use of hazardous pesticides like malathion and other organophosphates.

Thank you.

Letter to U.S. Representative and Senators

Please ensure that the Biden administration protects endangered species.

With a history of unenforceable and impractical pesticide label restrictions resulting in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) findings of ludicrously small or no risk, the agency is at it again with its latest announcement that spins its approval of the continued use of the deadly organophosphate insecticide malathion as “protecting threatened and endangered species.” This just the latest example of an irresponsible federal agency falling far short, as the nation and world sit on the brink of biodiversity collapse and deadly pesticide-induced diseases.

The recent final biological opinion on malathion by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) relies on scientifically unfounded assessment methods imposed during the Trump administration and stands in sharp contrast to the agency’s 2017 conclusion that 1,284 species would likely be jeopardized by malathion. Meanwhile, the National Marine Fisheries Service has released an updated biological opinion that determined malathion and two other toxic organophosphate pesticides are causing jeopardy to virtually every endangered U.S. salmon, sturgeon, and steelhead species, as well as to Puget Sound orcas.

The current decision by EPA is a result of corporate and political intervention following the 2017 biological opinion by FWS. Dow AgroSciences—now called Corteva—asked the administration to suspend the assessments. Then-acting Department of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt complied after becoming aware of the fact that the Service’s analysis had determined that malathion jeopardized the continued existence of 1,284 protected species.

Agency decisions like this call into question the Biden administration’s commitment to protecting the environment and human health. As stated by Lori Ann Burd of the Center for Biological Diversity, “The Biden administration has squandered a historic opportunity to rein in the dangerous use of one of the world’s worst neurotoxic pesticides. By ignoring the best available science and choosing to rely on unenforceable promises of good behavior by the pesticide makers rather than real, on-the-ground conservation measures, the Biden administration is condemning wildlife to extinction with a wink and a nod. This decision to cave to powerful special interest groups will do far-reaching harm to our most endangered wildlife.”

The insistence that labeling restrictions can prevent harm to endangered species flies in the face of past experience, which has produced an insect apocalypse and extinction crisis. EPA must protect endangered species by banning the use of hazardous pesticides like malathion and other organophosphates.

Thank you.

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