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Daily News Blog

03
Nov

High Levels of Pesticides in Produce Linked to Pregnancy Loss

(Beyond Pesticides, November 3, 2017) Eating foods high in pesticide residue is associated with a lower probability of live births and a higher probability of pregnancy loss for women using in vitro fertilization and other techniques in attempts to become pregnant, according to new research published by Harvard University doctors in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Internal Medicine in late October. While eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables remains part of a healthy lifestyle, this new research, the first to evaluate the relationship between dietary pesticide exposure and reproductive success in women, raises serious concerns.

“I was always skeptical that pesticide residues in foods would have any impact on health whatsoever,” says Jorge Chavarro, MD, co-author of the research and professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health to TIME. “So when we started doing this work a couple of years ago, I thought we were not going to find anything. I was surprised to see anything as far as health outcomes are concerned.”

Scientists began with a group of 325 women enrolled in an ongoing research project, called the Environment and Reproductive Health (EARTH) study at a fertility research and teaching hospital. Each woman enrolled in the project filled out an extensive questionnaire on their reproductive history and lifestyle habits. Data were also recorded on each participant’s height, weight, and body mass index.

https://jamanetwork.com/data/Journals/INTEMED/0/ioi170096t1.pngFor the current study, researchers collected additional information on each woman’s typical diet, including how often they consumed certain foods, beverages, and supplements over the past year. To measure the impact of pesticide residues in these foods on reproductive success, scientists used the Pesticide Residue Burden Score (PRBS). Using information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program, which tracks pesticide residue on foods sold in the U.S., fruits and vegetables were categorized into distinct PRBS categories, ranging from one -being the least contaminated, to six -being the most contaminated. (See Table 1 in the study, or to the right for the PRBS of each fruit and vegetable.)

Results show, after adjusting for a range of confounders, that women who eat more conventional fruits and vegetables (more than 2.3 servings per day) with a score of 4 or above on the PRBS had a 18% lower probability of clinical pregnancy and a 26% lower chance of live birth. However, participants in the study who report eating the lowest number of high pesticide residue fruits and vegetables (one or less servings per day) do not have any statistical association concerning successful birth outcomes. Researchers found that as consumption of high PRBS foods increases, the chance of total pregnancy loss increases in lock-step.

Scientists found that replacing just one high pesticide residue fruit or vegetable with low PRBS produce each day improves the odds of clinical pregnancy by 79%, and the odds of live birth by 88%.

While the results are currently only associations and causality has not yet been proven, they are nonetheless dramatic. The outcomes of the study align with what is typically seen in rodent studies on birth outcomes, highlighting both the difficulty and crudeness of the current reliance on translating animal models to human exposure in the federal pesticide registration process. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), when accounting for interspecies differences in exposure levels between animal and human models, usually applies a simple 5X or 10X safety factor, which has the effect of decreasing allowed application rates by roughly a power of 10. Although many may suspect this translation process is more sophisticated, studies like these highlight that the current methodology for evaluating the toxicity of a pesticide is crude.

While inadequate testing of pesticides by EPA continues to lead to contaminated fruits and vegetables, there are still ways to make sure you’re not consuming toxic produce. Take a tiered approach based on your current lifestyle and resources. Try to buy only organic certified produce, which does not permit toxic pesticides to be applied to fruits and vegetables. If possible, grow your own! That way, you can be sure about what was applied to your food. If you simply can not make the economics work, you could consider focusing on replacing with organic the foods that you eat most and high pesticide residue produce, but keep in mind the true cost. Organic produce is slightly higher because it does not significantly harm health or the environment, while conventional production passes those costs along to the consumer through higher health care bills, or the need for taxpayer-funded environmental remediation projects.

The researchers of the study are rethinking their food choices. “I am now more willing to buy organic apples than I was a few months ago,” said Dr Chavarro to TIME. For more information on why organic is the right choice for you and your family, see Beyond Pesticides article, The Real Story on the Affordability of Organic Food.

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

Source: TIME, JAMA Internal Medicine

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02
Nov

November’s PolliNATION Pollinator of the Month: The Baltimore Oriole

(Beyond Pesticides, November 2, 2017) The Baltimore oriole (Icterus galbula) is Maryland’s state bird and the namesake of its professional baseball team. The Baltimore oriole (and all American orioles) are actually members of the blackbird family, and are related to the tricolored blackbird. For a time, the Baltimore oriole was “lumped” together with the Bullock’s oriole to the west under the name “northern oriole.” The “splitters” have won out again, and the two are recognized as separate species, except in the Western prairies, where they hybridize. In fact, the Baltimore oriole shows more genetic similarities to the Altamira oriole (which lives in Mexico, northern Central America, and a tiny part of Texas), and especially to the black-backed oriole (from Mexico).

Fun fact: The Baltimore orioles’ slender beaks allow them to feed in an unusual way. By first piercing soft fruits with their closed bills, the birds open their mouths to cut a strip through the juicy fruit, allowing them to drink the gushing liquid with their brushy-tipped tongues, in a process called “gaping.”

Range

Baltimore orioles are commonly found during spring and summer months in the eastern and central U.S., and in southern Canada. They will migrate in July to warmer habitats in southern U.S. states and Mexico, as well as in South America, where they will winter in open-forest habitat on shade-grown coffee and cacao plantations. Baltimore orioles avoid the dry season, returning to the Northern hemisphere when food and water in southern climes become scarce. The Audubon Society predicts that climate change will move the oriole’s nesting range further north over the coming century, eventually driving it out of Baltimore.

Physiology

The male has brilliant orange plumage with black and white wings. His tail is also black, with orange, flaring edges. He has a sharp-pointed silver-black bill, and a black head and upper back. The female’s bill is also pointed. Her colors, however, are somewhat subdued —her head and back are gray-olive, her breast and tail a lighter yellow-orange, and her wings gray-brown with white accents. Both males and females are medium-sized and have three toes pointing forward and one pointing back, a branch grip that enables the birds to perch. Both male and female sing — a song the Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes as “flute-like,” and “[consisting] of a short series of paired notes, repeated 2–7 times, lasting 1–2 seconds.”

Baltimore orioles are known for their distinctive hanging, pouch-shaped nests, typically anchored in drooping branches of tall shade trees such as the American Elm. Females take one week to build their nests out of flexible materials ranging from Spanish moss and twigs to fishing line and horsehair. Adults lay one clutch of 3–7 eggs per season. In summer, after breeding and before migrating, Baltimore orioles will molt their plumage. The diet of Baltimore oriole adults, while breeding and feeding their young, consists mostly of nutrient-rich insects, but they also consume sugar-rich fruits to store energy prior to and during their long migration.

Ecological Role and Threats to Existence

During the breeding season, Baltimore orioles eat a wide variety of insects, including many so-called “pest” species, such as larvae within plant galls, tent caterpillars, gypsy moth caterpillars, fall webworms, and spiny elm caterpillars, that many other bird species avoid. By foraging through the treetops, leaves, and branches, and feeding on large quantities of larvae and insects, the Baltimore oriole protects trees from suffering extensive damage.

During northern winter months, Baltimore orioles feed on fruit trees and vines in the Neotropics. While enjoying the fruit, many birds may ingest and excrete whole seeds, a symbiosis that feeds the bird while aiding the dispersal of the seeds through the oriole’s flight.

In visiting flowering trees and vines in search of nectar, Baltimore orioles become much-needed pollinators. In the process of reaching for nectar, having a comparatively shorter beak than the hummingbird’s, a Baltimore oriole’s body becomes covered with pollen, dusting the forehead, chin, bill, and feathery breast. As birds move from plant to plant, they carry pollen to nearby and adjoining flowers, pollinating plants wherever they feed.

A Baltimore oriole’s preferred plants have tight clusters of fruit and flowers, as well as sturdy supporting branches to enable a secure perch while feeding. Like the liana Combretum fruticosum of Mexico and South America, plants that attract Baltimore orioles and other strictly perching, or “passerine,” birds, produce very hexose-dominant (low in sucrose) nectars, which makes them poor hummingbird food.

Habitat loss at breeding and wintering grounds, pesticide use on neighboring farm fields and gardens, and collisions with glass are the principal threats to this species. In addition, in the mid-twentieth century, Dutch elm disease infected and killed a majority of American elm trees — favorite nesting trees for Baltimore orioles because of their spreading form and drooping branches.

How to Protect the Species

To deter collisions with frenzied flyers, put startling images or light-reflecting stickers on windows to make the surface more visible. See the American Bird Conservancy’s suggestions.

Protect existing wild spaces and large shade trees. As Baltimore orioles breed in open forest edges and riparian areas, on farms, and in fruit orchards, plant trees and native hedgerows along rivers and lakes. Water saplings regularly, apply mulch before harsher winter months, and monitor the health of maturing trees in your community.

Avoid using pesticides! Many toxic chemicals applied on lawns, farms, and sports fields are toxic not only to birds, but also, to insects. Pesticide spray can similarly poison Baltimore orioles’ much-loved fruit trees.

Backyard feeders are a great way to attract and sustain Baltimore orioles under stress, or during their preparation for southern migration to over-winter. Given orioles’ fondness for fruit and nectar, as well as insects, those interested in creating Baltimore oriole feeders in their backyard or school playground can incorporate orange slices, or even jam as a sugary nectar alternative. Baltimore orioles are especially attracted to dark-colored mulberries, cherries, and grapes.

Contact the American Bird Conservancy for further information.

Citations:

American Bird Conservancy, Baltimore Oriole: https://abcbirds.org/bird/baltimore-oriole/

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/Page.aspx?pid=1478#_ga=2.11276977.429557172.1509474379-1750545177.1508945470

Avian Pollination: ftp://169.158.189.34/pub/Biotropica/1990s/1990/22-3/Biotropica-1990-22-3-p266.pdf

All About Birds, Baltimore Oriole: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Baltimore_Oriole/lifehistory

All About Birds, Baltimore Oriole, Bullock’s Oriole: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/spp_photos.aspx?spp=3&sppid=36&keepThis=true&TB_iframe=true&height=488&width=875

Journey North, Oriole, “From Northern Oriole to Baltimore and Bullock’s
A Split Decision”: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/oriole/Baltimore-BullocksSplit_Rising.html

Audubon Guide to North American Birds, Baltimore Oriole: http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/baltimore-oriole

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01
Nov

Amount of Monsanto’s Glyphosate/Roundup in Human Body Skyrockets

(Beyond Pesticides, November 1, 2017) The explosion of genetic engineering (GE) in agriculture over the past three decades has led to significant increases in the amount of the weedkiller glyphosate being found in the human body, according to new research from University of California, San Diego. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, is the most widely used herbicide in the world, owing that title to its use in “Roundup Ready” GE cropping systems and residential yards. “Our exposure to these chemicals has increased significantly over the years but most people are unaware that they are consuming them through their diet,” said study coauthor and director of Family Medicine and Public Health at UC San Diego, Paul J Mills, PhD.

Scientists conducted their study based on participants in the Rancho Bernardo Study on Aging, a prospective study of over 6,000 adults over 50 years old living in Southern California. Of the 1,000 active participants, 100 had urinary glyphosate residues tested in between 1993 to 1996, and 2014 to 2016.

Glyphosate residues in these individuals increased significantly from the mid-1990s to today. Between 1993 and 1996 average glyphosate residues in urine was recorded to be 0.024 micrograms per liter. By time participants were tested between 2014-2016, average urinary glyphosate levels rose to 0.314 micrograms per liter, an increase of over 1,200%. In the 1990s, 12% of individuals tested contained glyphosate in their bodies above the level of detection. By now, 70% of individuals contain glyphosate levels above detection rates.

Levels of glyphosate’s primary metabolite, aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA), increased at similar rates to its parent compound. Researchers indicate that changes in farming practices are very likely the reason for the dramatic increases. Dr. Mills notes, “What we saw was that prior to the introduction of genetically modified foods, very few people had detectable levels of glyphosate.”

Since its initial registration in 1974, glyphosate use in agriculture has risen 300-fold, and 43-fold in nonagricultural uses, with 2014 recording 276 million lbs of glyphosate applied. Beginning in the mid-1990s, glyphosate was touted as a silver bullet in farming because, when coupled with corn, soy, or cotton seeds genetically engineered to tolerate the chemical, it can kill weeds without risk of failure to the main crop. However, this new form of agriculture, pushed and promoted by agrichemical companies like Monsanto, Bayer, Dow, DuPont, BASF, and Syngenta, fails to take into account important secondary effects from its use. Increased levels of glyphosate on our food and in our bodies is only the beginning. Rampant herbicide use in GE agriculture has been linked to the decline of monarch butterflies, damage to soil health, and widespread weed resistance. Subsequent increases in weed resistance to glyphosate has led to the use of even more toxic and harmful chemicals in GE agriculture, such as 2,4-D and Dicamba.

Earlier this year, California declared glyphosate a carcinogen under Prop 65, following a determination from the World Health Organization that the chemical was carcinogenic based on laboratory studies.

“The public needs to be better informed of the potential risks of the numerous herbicides sprayed onto our food supply so that we can make educated decisions on when we need to reduce or eliminate exposure to potentially harmful compounds,” said Dr. Mills.

In 2013, Beyond Pesticides joined together with 22 other health and environmental groups to urge the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reject increased levels of glyphosate in the food supply. The organization has met with the agency on the adequacy of current protocols for glyphosate testing in food, and continues to advocate measures that would reduce and eliminate consumer exposure to Roundup and other toxic pesticide products.

Consumers wishing to eliminate their exposure to glyphosate can switch to organic products. Not only will you eliminate the chance that you are eating carcinogenic glyphosate, you will also be voting with your food dollars for safer agriculture, and a healthier future. For more information on the connection between increased glyphosate in our bodies and GE agriculture, see our program page on herbicide-tolerant crops.

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

Source: UC San Diego News Center

 

 

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31
Oct

Industry Influence Undermines Protection from Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals

(Beyond Pesticides, October 31, 2017) Scientists warn that inadequate federal testing, disproportionate industry influence, and subverted regulatory oversight threaten decades of progress on protecting people from hormone disrupting chemicals. This from a new paper with findings that regulators face a critical need to fully understand and address the hazards from these dangerous substances.

Hormone disrupting chemicals, also known as endocrine disruptors, are substances that have been shown to interfere with the hormone system, leading to long-term health impacts ranging from cancer to neurological developmental impairments. Even small alterations in hormone concentrations, particularly during “critical windows” of embryonic development and developmental phases of life, can have lasting and significant effects. Mounting science is showing that disruptions to the hormone system can occur at very low doses that are lower than those used in traditional toxicity testing. Now, commentary from scientists at Rutgers University and North Carolina State University, “Endocrine disrupting chemicals and behavior: Re-evaluating the science at a critical turning point,” states that inefficient federal testing and outsized industry influence in Washington threaten decades of progress.

“The significant progress made over the past couple of decades to understand endocrine disrupting chemical-related effects and mitigate exposures is now at serious risk,” write the authors in the upcoming Hormones and Behavior journal.

The scientists write that there remains a significant need to understand how exposures to endocrine disruptors may be contributing to neurodevelopmental disorders, especially behavioral disorders. They warn that deregulation and chemical proliferation could halt years of progress on understanding the insidious ways some everyday products alter human hormones and hurt our health.

According to the paper, “Under the Trump administration the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program is facing elimination. Of additional concern, [Toxic Substances Control Act] TSCA policy is being orchestrated and implemented by individuals with close ties to the chemical industry including the former Senior Director of Regulatory Science Policy in the Division of Regulatory & Technical Affairs at the American Chemistry Council, the main trade association for the chemical industry. With efforts to develop systematic  EDC [endocrine disrupting chemical] screening now under serious threat, it is imperative that a diverse body of researchers continue to advance the science, but also amplify outreach and engagement efforts to educate the public about this significant health issue.”

While estimates vary, there are about 800 chemicals currently produced that are known or suspected endocrine disruptors. EPA has found that of 10,000 chemicals, including pesticides and those found in drinking water, only 174 have been screened and tested for endocrine disruption so far. Some of the more notorious endocrine disruptors, including Bisphenol A (BPA), Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP), and Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), have been phased out, but are being replaced by substitutes, some of which appear to have very similar endocrine disrupting properties and thus pose similar health risks.

Now the Trump Administration is seeking to reduce EPA’s budget by about 31 percent next year. This year, the EPA budget was cut by $81 million, with many staff leaving the agency, reducing oversight and research on these chemicals. With industry representatives being appointed to top posts in the agency, like former senior policy director with the American Chemistry Council, Nancy Beck, Ph.D., as deputy assistant administrator in EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, and Michael Dourson, Ph.D, an industry consultant, as head of the Office, progress is certain to stall and the science undermined.

Earlier this year, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) recommended to EPA a strategy to evaluate the evidence of adverse human health effects from low doses of exposure to endocrine disruptors. NAS believes that EPA’s current process, which utilizes traditional toxicity testing, misses some effects that occur at doses lower then those evaluated by EPA. EPA’s Endocrine Disruption Screening Program (EDSP) is currently screening chemicals for their potential to interact with the endocrine system, but the program is years behind schedule and has been criticized for using outdated methods. In fact, EPA’s methodologies have been criticized over the years for failing to adequately capture impacts at low doses. NAS proposed a strategy that involves systematic reviews, which can be an important component in investigating evidence on low-dose adverse effects, and NAS notes EPA can build on existing systematic reviews that are published in peer reviewed literature, and recommends performing meta-analyses of the animal and human evidence when appropriate. This allows data from several studies to be combined and used to evaluate confidence in the body of evidence, and to characterize the relationship between exposure and effect.

Endocrine disruptors can be found in common household products such as detergents, disinfectants, furniture, plastics, and pesticides, and interfere with the body’s hormone system either by mimicking naturally produced hormones, blocking hormone receptors in cells, or effecting the transport, synthesis, metabolism or excretion of hormones. These impacts can result in devastating effects on one’s health, including behavioral and learning disorders, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), birth defects, obesity, early puberty, infertility, cardiovascular disease, and childhood and adult cancers. In 2013, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals a global health threat. A 2016 report concluded that exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals costs the U.S. more than $340 billion annually in  health care costs and lost wages.

For more information on the effects of pesticides on human health, including endocrine disruption, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Induced Diseases Database.

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

Source: Environmental Health News

 

 

 

 

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30
Oct

Deadline Today: Stop Monsanto from Poisoning Farms and Communities

(Beyond Pesticides, October 30, 2017) Tell the Arkansas State Plant Board to stand up to Monsanto, and protect farmers by banning dicamba’s use in Arkansas agriculture.

Comment period closes today, Monday, October 30, 2017, at 4:30pm (Eastern Time). Your comments are needed to stop the disaster in Arkansas being created by Monsanto’s new genetically engineered (GE) cropping system, which relies on the toxic pesticide dicamba.

If Arkansas bans dicamba, other states should and will follow —given the chemical industry’s takeover of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is allowing this extremely hazardous pesticide use.

This is a problem that has regional and national implications, given the breakdown of the EPA and its pesticide program. We cannot let this failure of protection stand in Arkansas or anywhere in the country.

Promoted by Monsanto as a way to address rampant Roundup (glyphosate) resistance, Monsanto’s new GE soybeans are now able to withstand both glyphosate and dicamba, an older herbicide with a range of documented health effects —from neurotoxicity to reproductive problems.

Dicamba is also highly volatile and, as a result, has drifted across crop fields throughout the region, damaging high value fruit tree and organic operations.

The Arkansas State Plant Board is currently considering whether to ban dicamba. Tell them by Monday at 4:30pm (Eastern time) that banning dicamba is the right decision for the future of agriculture, and farmer and public safety! 

Dicamba drift and damage is pitting farmer against farmer, neighbor against neighbor. Last year, a farmer in Arkansas was shot in a dispute that involved dicamba drift and resulting crop damage. And the University of Arkansas’ agricultural research station saw over 100 acres of soybeans ruined as a result of nearby dicamba use.

Dicamba’s use in GE agriculture perpetuates a toxic, pesticide-dependent system that poisons farmers, farmworkers, and nearby communities, while eliminating habitat for pollinators, contaminating water, and encouraging weed resistance. Because of the success and growth of organic agriculture, there are better ways to grow food without causing crop damage, or putting human health and the environment in harm’s way.

Act now to ban Dicamba is Arkansas. Anyone in any state can provide a public comment – speak up to protect your food from Dicamba contamination!

And please follow up with a phone call to 501-225-1598!

For more information on this issue and Dicamba’s hazards see:
New EPA Restrictions of Herbicide Dicamba, Prone to Drift, Criticized as Not Stopping Major Crop Damage
Crops Damaged by Drift Widespread from Herbicide Dicamba Applied to GE Plants
EPA Registers Dicamba for GE Crops, Adding to Growing Herbicide Resistance Issue
Effects of the herbicide dicamba on nontarget plants and pollinator visitation

 

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27
Oct

Pesticide Residues Difficult to Wash Off Food

(Beyond Pesticides, October 27, 2017) In a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, scientists at University of Massachusetts, Amherst identify a novel approach to reduce toxic pesticide residues on conventional food. The method the authors describe is cumbersome and unlikely to be widely used by consumers. At the same time, study results confirm that eating organic products is the best way for individuals and families to eliminate pesticide residues from their diet.

For the current study, researchers looked at how much of two common pesticides, one, the fungicide thiobendazole, and the other, the insecticide phosmet, remained on apples after submersion for 24 hours. Both pesticides penetrated the skin of the apples, though thiobendazole, a systemic fungicide, made its way deeper into and past the apple’s skin. Thiabendazole penetrated 80 micrometers into the apple while phosmet penetrated 20 micrometers.

Researchers looked at three different methods to reduce the pesticides on apples: tap water, a bleach solution, and baking soda. Compared to the others, baking soda was found to be by far the most effective method to reduce pesticide residue, with 80% of thiabendazole and 95% of phosmet removed. “If factory washing [with bleach] is already effective, then we don’t need to care about washing at home, right? But it turns out that factory-level washing is not effective,” said Lili He, PhD, co-author of the study and food scientist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst to TIME. “At home, the simplest way to wash is with tap water, but we also found that just tap water is not that effective. To reduce further pesticide exposure, we suggest adding a little baking soda.” However, in order to see these results, apples had to be washed in the solution for 12 to 15 minutes; not a common practice for those looking to grab a quick bite.

It is also important to note that in this experiment synthetic pesticides were applied to clean organic apples, and pesticide exposure on conventional apples is likely to have occurred long before they reach the supermarket. Thus, penetration may be much deeper on conventional produce bought at the supermarket compared to those tested for this experiment.

Studies show that despite assurances that levels are below those which cause harm, classical toxicology testing required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for pesticide registration does not adequately capture risk because of data gaps on mixtures, synergistic effects, and certain health endpoints, such as endocrine disruption. Endocrine disruption effects, whereby hormonal (testosterone or estrogen) mimics cause effects at minute doses during critical developmental phases of life, upend the oft-repeated and outdated idea that “dose makes the poison.” Seminal work on endocrine disruption, published in Endocrine Reviews, is available in the open source literature for analysis.

Beyond the deficiencies of the pesticide review process is the fact that not all pesticides will penetrate or wash off food commodities in the same way as those in the study. For a deeper review of how systemic pesticides work their way into the food and environment, see Beyond Pesticides report in Pesticides and You, Cultivating Plants that Poison. Agricultural adjuvants, contained in most conventional pesticide formulations, are also likely to increase pesticide residues on food since many formulations are formulated to help pesticides adhere to plants and fruits.

As far back as 2006, studies have found that switching from a conventional to an organic diet is the most effective method of reducing pesticide exposure in one’s body. An early 2015 study found that, looking at nearly 4,500 people from across the country, those that reported eating organic fruits and vegetables, at least occasionally, has significantly less pesticide residue in their bodies than those who never ate organic. A study published in late 2015 tracked 40 children, moving them from a conventional to an organic diet, and tracking levels of pesticide metabolites in their urine. Overall, among the most frequently detected pesticides, metabolites of organophosphate insecticides decreased by nearly 50 percent when children were put on an organic diet, and levels of 2,4-D fell by 25 percent.

While some may seek to reduce pesticide residues, it is not clear that the reduction reduces risk when their is exposure to carcinogens, neurotoxicants, and endocrine disruptors. Since cost is always an issue, see our factsheet on eating organically affordably. See also, our article The Real Story on the Affordability of Organic Food. Beyond Pesticides strongly encourages consumers to vote with their food dollars and support organic systems that do not require risky amounts of toxic, synthetic pesticides in order to grow food. See our Organic program page for more information.

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

Source: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, TIME

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26
Oct

EPA Curtails Public’s Ability to Make the Agency Obey the Law

(Beyond Pesticides, October 26, 2017) In mid-October, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced another action in his effort to remake the agency by issuing a directive that aims to stop the practice — often referred to as “sue and settle” — of settling lawsuits with outside (often, environmental) groups. It’s the Administrator’s contention that such groups have had undue influence on regulation. He has indicated that his action will not prevent EPA from reaching settlements with “outside litigants,” but that he does want to disallow agreements that would change a discretionary duty to a nondiscretionary duty. However, responding to Administrator Pruitt’s comment about the days of “regulation through litigation” being over, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) notes, “That’s really just a twisted way of saying that the days of holding the EPA accountable are over. The effect won’t just be the EPA wasting taxpayer money as it fights unwinnable lawsuits, but also prolonging delays that allow polluters to keep on polluting.”

The agency’s press release quotes Mr. Pruitt: “‘The days of regulation through litigation are over. . . . We will no longer go behind closed doors and use consent decrees and settlement agreements to resolve lawsuits filed against the Agency by special interest groups where doing so would circumvent the regulatory process set forth by Congress. Additionally, gone are the days of routinely paying tens of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees to these groups with which we swiftly settle.’”

The release adds, “‘Sue and settle’ cases establish Agency obligations without participation by states and/or the regulated community; foreclose meaningful public participation in rulemaking; effectively force the Agency to reach certain regulatory outcomes; and, cost the American taxpayer millions of dollars. . . With today’s directive, Administrator Pruitt is ensuring the Agency increase[s] transparency, improve[s] public engagement, and provide[s] accountability to the American public when considering a settlement agreement or consent decree.” Read the full directive here: https://www.epa.gov/newsroom/directive-promoting-transparency-and-public-participation-consent-decrees-and-settlement.

The directive says it wants to make EPA more transparent by providing more disclosure related to potential settlements: publishing any notice of intent to sue within 15 days of receipt of such notice, notifying states (or other entities) that might be affected, and publishing possible settlements or consent decrees for public comment for 30 days. It also intends to forbid the practice of agreeing to settlements that “exceed the authority of courts,” and to exclude plaintiff’s attorney’s fees and litigation costs in settling suits.

This practice of bringing pressure on the EPA (or other agencies) via lawsuit has been an important tool for the public in ensuring accountability of federal agencies, i.e., making sure the feds follow their own rules. During the last decade or so, when EPA (or other agencies) delayed rulemaking, citizens — typically through non-governmental organizations (NGOs) — would sometimes use litigation to get the agencies to act, and EPA often arrived at settlements or consent decrees to resolve the matters. When, for example, EPA misses a deadline that results in polluters violating regulations that protect public health and the environment, the public has been able to take the agency to court for remedy. According to Reuters coverage of the issue, “Most lawsuits by green groups . . . seek to push the agency to speed up regulation on issues such as climate and air and water pollution.”

This directive is the latest example of how Administrator Pruitt is acting to change the very federal policies he challenged in court as Oklahoma Attorney General. In that role, he sued EPA more than a dozen times and has long criticized the practice of “sue and settle.” Beyond that, this move appears to be part of a larger pattern in the Trump administration to rein in the disbursement of federal funds to external entities in litigation. In June 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo to block payments to third-party, not-for-profit groups as part of environmental settlements. The Washington Post reported his comment: “‘Instead of allowing defendants to fund environmental measures as a way of meeting their obligations for violating the law, such penalties should go directly to the U.S. Treasury,’ Sessions said. ‘The attorney general is “keenly interested and supportive of what we’re doing,’” adding that ‘other agencies are taking notice as well.’”

Ending the practice of “sue and settle” has long been high on the to-do lists of business groups and conservatives. As Reuters reports, “Daren Bakst, a research fellow in agricultural policy at the [conservative] Heritage Foundation think tank, said sue and settle has led to ‘egregious antics’ that have ‘effectively handed over the setting of agency priorities to environmental pressure groups,’ and has led to rushed rulemaking by the agency.”

Environmental groups quickly weighed in on the issuance of the directive. Pat Gallagher, legal director for the Sierra Club, says, “There’s a general hostility to citizen enforcement of environmental laws, and [the directive] reflects the fact that Pruitt doesn’t want these laws enforced.”

Ecowatch says that the directive “will likely result in prolonged violations, delayed protection, and waste of government resources fighting lawsuits against which the EPA has no defense.”

Pat Parenteau, an environmental law professor at the Vermont Law School, said that “Pruitt’s directive would be ‘counterproductive’ and costly because in the end courts could fine the agency if it does not meet compliance dates for issuing regulations. ‘He can fight it if he wants as long as he wants, and spend as much money as he wants,’ Mr. Parenteau said. ‘But in the end if you’ve missed a statutory deadline, you are going to be ordered (by a court) to comply and then you are going to be ordered to pay fees.’”

Government watchdog groups suggest that the directive may not have much impact, given that many environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act, provide “broad latitude to sue the EPA when it is failing to meet statutory deadlines, and the judge handling such cases typically determines the amount of legal fees the government must pay as part of any consent decree. ‘That’s not his decision to make,’ said John Walke, director of the NRDC’s Clean Air Project. . . A judge can impose attorney fees when an agency violates the law and citizens file suit to hold the government accountable.’”

Groups have also noted that a 2014 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the EPA practice of settling with outside groups found that the Impact of such litigation on EPA’s rulemaking process is limited; similarly, a February 2017 GAO report on endangered species–related litigation found that “the settlement agreements did not affect the substantive basis or procedural rule-making requirements the Services were to follow in completing the actions.”

Mr. Walke said,“‘Pruitt’s doing nothing more than posturing about a nonexistent problem and political fiction. His targeting of legal settlements, especially where EPA has no defense to breaking the law, will just allow violations to persist, along with harms to Americans. . . . The irony is that polluters don’t even have to sue Pruitt to get what they want. They just pick up the phone and ask. Make no mistake, the unspoken Trump EPA agenda is to allow more corporations to ignore the law and prolong EPA breaking the law; both will lead to dirtier air, dirtier water, and sicker people.’”

Sources: Reuters, and NRDC.

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25
Oct

Farmers Challenge Oregon County’s Ban on Aerial Pesticide Spraying Adopted by Ballot Initiative

(Beyond Pesticides, October 25, 2017) Oregon is the most recent site of an effort by a locality to establish more-protective pesticide regulations than are provided by the state. Voters in Lincoln County, on the north-central Oregon Coast, approved a ballot measure earlier this year that established a ban on aerial spraying of pesticides in the county. Immediately, county landowners Rex Capri and Wakefield Farms, LLC, both of whom use aerial spraying on their properties, filed a legal challenge to the ordinance created through that vote. The issue is whether the state of Oregon has the legal authority to stop its local political subdivisions from adopting more rigorous than those enacted by the state.

When the state of Maine considered legislation to preempt its local jurisdictions (take away their authority to act) this summer, Beyond Pesticides wrote, “The democratic process is foundational to the culture of Maine and the country. LD 1505 betrays the democratic process. Maine communities want to be able to adopt standards that exceed or are more stringent than state standards as a matter of public health and environmental protection, or quality of life. Why would a town or city want to do use its local authority to adopt a pesticide restriction? It is the simple exercise of the local democratic process that, while meeting state and federal standards, decides that it wants to do more to protect the health of families, children, local waterways, pollinators, and those with pre-existing medical conditions that are exacerbated by pesticide exposure.”

The Oregon case began its hearing in early October before Lincoln County Circuit Court Judge Sheryl Bachart, who says she expects to issue a written ruling soon. The plaintiffs’ attorney, Gregory Chaimov, argues that the county lacks the authority to create such an ordinance, that local statute cannot override state law, and that the ban is barred by state regulations governing use of “pesticides, forestry practices, and the ‘right to farm.’”

Lincoln County Community Rights (LCCR), a nonprofit that intervened as a defendant in the case, counters that people, in this case in the form of the county, have the inherent right to community self-governance, and should be able to protect themselves and their community from “toxic trespass” from aerial pesticide applications. The group says that the state legislature does not have the authority to establish a “ceiling” that would proscribe more-protective local regulations on health and safety than the state sets out. On those grounds, LCCR also argues that any Oregon law that would prevent local governments from regulating pesticides use is unconstitutional. In a local newspaper, LCCR stated, “The [plaintiffs’] preemption complaint boils down to asserting there is a greater legal authority for Capri, Wakefield Farms, and others to aerial spray than for the people of Lincoln County to ban aerial spraying on the grounds of protecting the right not to be toxically trespassed, the right to clean water free from aerial sprayed pesticides, and the rights of the ecosystems not to be exposed to aerial sprayed pesticides.”

Ann Kneeland, LCCR attorney, maintains that the Oregon Constitution places all authority in the people, “‘who may reform or abolish the government. . . . The county’s power to self-govern derives directly from the Oregon Constitution, therefore it supersedes state laws that limit the authority of local governments. These concepts may seem radical or revolutionary to us now but these are concepts in our Constitution.’”

The case points to the legal conundrum that localities face in trying to protect their residents, lands, and resources from the assaults of pesticides, GMOs (genetically modified organisms), factory farms, fracking sites, or a host of other ills that communities may find objectionable because of health, safety, and/or environmental concerns. As communities (in the form of towns, counties, or cities) initiate efforts to establish regulations that may be more protective than prevailing state laws are, states and, very often, corporations persistently challenge those initiatives, arguing that state statutes supersede local authority to regulate. Such deference to state authority and statute is referred to as preemption — the use of state law to nullify the authority of a “lower” level of government, or a specific statute or ordinance, on that preemptive basis.

There are several types of preemption that states employ: (1) express preemption, or the prohibition of local governments from regulating in a specific area; (2) implied preemption, wherein “state laws give the impression that the intent of the state was to occupy the field and exclude local ordinances”; and (3) preemption by conflict, which happens when a local ordinance either prohibits or allows an activity permitted or prohibited, respectively, by state statute. Another definitional note: there are “ceiling preemptions” and “floor preemptions,” the former being federal or state laws that establish a maximum level of protection for people’s safety, health, well-being, and rights, and the latter establishing a minimum level of protection, above which local regulations can create greater protections.

As communities become more aware of and concerned about unsafe, harmful, or objectionable actions in their localities, people’s interest in local control and authority has grown considerably. The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), which advocates for greater local authority over what affects the welfare of communities, has grown alongside this awareness and interest. As noted in the Beyond Pesticides’ factsheet on preemption, “As pesticide pollution and concerns over the effects of GE foods on human and environmental health mount, many are fighting to overturn preemption laws and return the power back to localities, enabling them to adopt more stringent protective standards throughout their communities.”

The notion that communities should be able to protect themselves may seem obvious on the surface, but doing so in the face of inevitable challenges is a legal minefield that involves state constitutions, legal “authority,” precedent, and corporate influence. CELDF approaches these issues from a stance of establishing both the rights, and the legal authority, to protect. The group says, “We assist communities to develop first-in-the-nation, groundbreaking laws to protect rights — including worker, environmental, and democratic rights, and rights of nature. . . . [We do so] because the existing structure of law ensures that people cannot govern their own communities and act as stewards of the environment, while [it protects] corporate ‘rights’ and interests over those of communities and nature.”

The tension between states’ preemptive authority, and the emerging insistence on greater local control to protect its residents, goes to the very heart of not only how governments at state and local levels derive their authority in a democratic system, but also, how that authority is shared — or not. The Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution (Article VI, Clause 2) clearly establishes that the Constitution, federal laws made pursuant to it, and treaties made under its authority, constitute the supreme law of the land. At the state level, things can become a bit less clear. Each state has its own Constitution, of course, its own interpretive history of the document, and its own assignations of authority regarding the host of issues with which governments concern themselves.

In the collage of various state approaches to pesticide regulation, Beyond Pesticides notes that 43 states currently exercise some form of preemption vis a vis local statutes; 14 have no explicit preemption language, but assign the authority for pesticide regulation to an agriculture department, commissioner, or pesticide board; and only seven states have no preemption laws. It is noteworthy that 29 states that set out preemptive provisions use virtually the same language in their statutes. This is evidence of industry influence on legislatures, wherein lobbyists create “model legislation” that corporations want adopted, lobbyists meet with legislators with template laws in hand, and legislators — some of whose bread is considerably buttered by industries — then push for adoption of the legislation.

This is precisely the method for which ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council — a consortium of conservative state legislators and private sector representatives (aka corporate lobbyists) — has become infamous. Ms. Kneeland said that state lawmakers try to limit localities’ constitutional ability to create stronger protections “‘at the behest of well-funded corporate interests. . . . We find ourselves in a legal system where corporations consistently have greater rights than the people.’”

A 2017 National League of Cities report, City Rights in an Era of Preemption: A State-by-State Analysis, points out that. “State legislatures have gotten more aggressive in their use of preemption in recent years. Explanations for this increase include lobbying efforts by special interests, spatial sorting of political preferences between urban and rural areas, and single party dominance in most state governments. . . . This loss of local control means that cities cannot curtail laws to fit their needs.”

A bit of history on preemption in the realm of pesticide regulation: In 1991, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruled in Wisconsin Public Intervenor v. Mortier, that the federal law known as FIFRA — the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act — does not preempt local jurisdictions from creating more-stringent pesticide regulation. Thus, it was ruled that FIFRA nowhere expressly supersedes local regulation. However, and critically, the court left intact the ability of states to preempt such regulations.

The pesticide industry has been very active in seeking federal legislation that preempts the ability of states to adopt more stringent standards, and has tried repeatedly to preempt the rights of states to adopt more-stringent regulations under FIFRA. After the SCOTUS Mortier decision, the Coalition for Sensible Pesticide Policy (comprising pesticide industry lobbyists) formed and drafted model legislation that would restrict municipalities from creating ordinances that would regulate use of pesticides on private property, and advocated for it methodically — and successfully — in many states.

In the face of this preemption hurdle, there have been numerous efforts on the parts of municipalities to enact stronger-than-the-state’s protections from pesticides (including herbicides and fungicides). Early on, in 1979, Mendocino, California tried to prevent aerial application of phenoxy herbicides through local statute; a California Supreme Court upheld it in 1984, and then the legislature passed a law to preempt the action.

In 2013, Kaui County, Hawaii attempted to regulate GMOs and pesticide application by requiring notification before pesticide use and mandating buffer zones. Paul Goeringer writes in his Maryland Risk Management Education blog, “Because state pesticide law enables the state Department of Agriculture to establish regulations regarding pesticides, the court found that the Kuai County effort to regulate ‘touched upon’ the same subject matter as Hawaii’s pesticide law, and therefore, should be preempted; when the county argued that, essentially, there were matters unaddressed by the state law, the court found that the ‘depth’ of the state statute demonstrated that it was comprehensive and thus, functionally ‘impenetrable’ to local control.”

In 2015, Montgomery County, Maryland established an ordinance which could require posted notice of some lawn applications of pesticides, prohibit certain pesticides on lawns and county-owned property, and require the county to adopt integrated pest management (IPM) on certain county-owned properties. This past August, a Montgomery County Circuit Court struck down components of the ordinance, eliminating pesticide use restrictions on private property, but left intact provisions limiting toxic pesticides used on public, county-owned land.

Beyond Pesticides executive director Jay Feldman said of the Maryland case, “The court should have recognized that, in restricting lawn pesticides throughout its jurisdiction, Montgomery County is exercising a local democratic principle under Maryland and federal law to ensure the safety of the community, including children, pets, and the environment, from a known hazard not adequately regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the state. . . . After extensive hearings and study, the county council understands that toxic chemicals are dangerous and not needed to have beautiful lawns and landscapes. Just like big tobacco’s attacks on local smoking restrictions to control secondhand smoke, the chemical industry is attempting to head off a growing movement asking for common-sense measures that protect public health from pesticide exposure.” Montgomery County is appealing the Circuit Court ruling.

In its State Preemption Law factsheet, Beyond Pesticides has further noted that, “Numerous studies by the U.S. Government Accountability Office and scientific studies indicate that federal and state governments alone are not adequately protective of health and the environment. There is no evidence that the prospect of local democratic decision making is a threat to agriculture or other business interest[s] in local communities. In fact, those closely aligned with these interests are well represented in local decision making bodies. Finally, local legislators know that restricting pesticides is no different from other environmental and neighborhood stewardship laws, including restrictions on littering, recycling, noise, picking up after pets, and smoking. These local laws all act on values associated with living in a community where contaminant-free air, water, and land are shared resources.”

Beyond Pesticides has long maintained the importance of the rights of local governments to protect public health and the environment — particularly when federal and state government are not adequately protective. State preemption often denies people their democratic right to better protection when a community decides that minimum standards set by state and federal law are insufficient. Localities across the country continue the work to pass statutes that would better protect residents and resources. A snapshot of the status of local policies on pesticide use is provided by the Beyond Pesticides and Organic Consumers Association in the map of U.S. Pesticide Reform Policies.

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

Source: http://www.capitalpress.com/Oregon/20171009/oregon-countys-aerial-spray-ban-gets-day-in-court

 

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24
Oct

Agricultural Intensification over Last Three Decades Reduces Insect Population by 75%

(Beyond Pesticides, October 24, 2017) Over 75% of insect abundance has declined over the last 27 years, according to new research published by European scientists in PLOS One. The dramatic drop in insect biomass has led to equally dramatic pronunciations from highly respected scientists and entomologists. “We appear to be making vast tracts of land inhospitable to most forms of life, and are currently on course for ecological Armageddon,” study coauthor David Goulson, Ph.D. of Sussex University, UK, told The Guardian. “If we lose the insects then everything is going to collapse.” Looking at the range of mechanisms that could be driving this slow moving catastrophe, researchers could suss out only one plausible large-scale factor: agricultural intensification.

The current study, which looked at 63 nature preserves located in Germany, follows a similar study released in 2013 that was conducted in a singular German nature preserve. That study, originally published only in German, but available translated by Boulder County Beekeepers, found that 75% of insect biomass declined in the Orbroich Bruch Nature Reserve in Krefeld, Germany from 1989 to 2013. That study was limited to a singular nature preserve, and while scientists who worked on the study described their results as “frightening,” because of the small sample size, it was easy for other researchers to brush off the results as an anomaly, or one-off event.

This new study is not so easy to ignore. Researchers used Malaise traps, large, tent-like nets that can trap a range of flying insects. All traps were situated in protected areas, and samples were taken at different sites throughout the course of the study. Most sites were sampled once, though some were sampled two or more times.  During the sampling process, traps were emptied once every 11 days on average from spring to early fall, and catches were stored in solution and weighed to determine insect biomass. Researchers also recorded data on weather, land use, and habitat type.

Researchers found that insect biomass declined significantly in mid-summer, compared to samples in early spring or fall. Despite average temperature increases due to climate change, which scientists indicated would likely increase insect biomass, declines persisted. And despite substantial variation in the abundance of insects trapped between different habitats, with, for example, nutrient-rich grasslands having higher trapped insect biomass than nutrient poor dunes or shrubland, rates of decline were similar across all habitat types.

Given this information, authors indicated that climate change and landscape factors were unlikely to explain the dramatic declines, as they would have expected to see stronger relationships. Only one factor was identified as plausible: agricultural intensification. Scientists note that, typical of fragmented landscapes across Europe, 94% of preserve sites tested were enclosed by agricultural fields. In the authors’ words, “Part of the explanation could therefore be that the protected areas (serving as insect sources) are affected and drained by the agricultural fields in the broader surroundings (serving as sinks or even as ecological traps).”

Massive declines in insect populations is an issue that will affect all life on the planet, from reptiles and birds, to mammals and humans. “As entire ecosystems are dependent on insects for food and as pollinators, it places the decline of insect eating birds and mammals in a new context,” said lead author of the study Hans de Kroon, PhD, of Radboud University.

An international team of scientists, The Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, has identified neonicotinoids and other systemic poisons as culpable not only for declines in insect pollinators, but global biodiversity writ large. In the U.S., increases in herbicide use have been attributed to declines in Monarch butterfly populations.

This trend can be reversed, researchers indicate, by taking simple steps. “We need to do less of the things that we know have a negative impact, such as the use of pesticides and the disappearance of farmland borders full of flowers,”  Dr. de Kroon told The Guardian.  While these changes are simple in practice, they are complicated only because of political cowardice to fully account for the dangers of chemical intensive agriculture. If the negative effects of conventional farming on ecosystem services and biodiversity were fully considered in the price of food, the true cost of the world’s prevailing approach to agriculture would come into sharp focus.

In the meantime, consumers can make the decision to support regenerative, ecologically based farming practices by supporting organic agriculture. Read here why organic is the right place to put your food dollars. And for more information on pesticides and their effect on biodiversity, view our Bee Protective and Wildlife program pages.

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

Source: Phys.org, The Guardian, PLOS One

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23
Oct

Take Action: Your Comments Are Needed, Again, to Save a National Treasure –Willapa Bay

(Beyond Pesticides, October 23, 2017) Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor, with a number of unique ecosystems, and among the most important estuaries in the U.S, are once more in danger of being sprayed with the toxic neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid. A draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) produced by the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) considers two options for spraying imidacloprid and one no-action alternative. Imidacloprid would be sprayed to kill the native burrowing shrimp in beds of commercial Japanese oysters.

Tell Ecology to restore the bays instead of spraying them!

Ecology’ssummary highlights:
⦁    Immediate adverse, unavoidable impacts to juvenile worms, crustaceans, and shellfish in the areas treated with imidacloprid and the nearby areas covered by incoming tides.
⦁    Limited impacts bay-wide, but significant uncertainty about the cumulative impacts and other unknown impacts, including those to other marine invertebrates and lifecycles.
⦁    Little direct risk to fish, birds, marine mammals, and human health.
⦁    Potential indirect impacts to fish and birds if food sources are disrupted.
⦁    Continued knowledge gaps about imidacloprid. Further research is needed.

The SEIS fails to give adequate weight to the “knowledge gaps” it identifies, in some cases indicating that monitoring during use of imidacloprid could be used to reduce uncertainty. In order to protect the bays, facts need to be established before permitting the use of another toxic chemical in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor.

Among the knowledge gaps found by Ecology are uncertainties over whether imidacloprid is effective for its stated purpose. These uncertainties are crucial, since no spraying can be justified if it is not effective.

Tell Ecology to restore the bays instead of spraying them!

The SEIS finds a number of uncertainties concerning the direct effects of spraying imidacloprid, including accumulation in sediments, long-term toxic impacts, impacts on zooplankton, sub-lethal effects, impacts on vegetation, impacts of degradation products, and the area that would be affected.

The SEIS does not evaluate synergistic impacts of imidacloprid combined with other chemicals (“inert” ingredients, other chemicals used in the bays, and other pollutants) or other stressors. Among the organisms known to be at risk is the commercially important Dungeness crab, which has been shown to be susceptible to the effects of imidacloprid, and whose populations experience large natural fluctuations, putting them at risk of extinction.

Given the systemic mode of action of imidacloprid in crop plants, the failure to account for impacts on non-target animals consuming vegetation in treated areas is not acceptable.

Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor have been affected by human activity over the past century that has contributed to problems experience by all who use the bays. Of the three alternatives presented, the “No Action” option is the best. However, what is truly necessary to address these problems is an alternative that was not considered in the SEIS –a plan to restore the habitat by removing stressors from streams flowing into the bays.

Tell Ecology to restore the bays instead of spraying them!

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20
Oct

New EPA Restrictions of Herbicide Dicamba, Prone to Drift, Criticized as Not Stopping Major Crop Damage

(Beyond Pesticides, October 20, 2017) Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that label changes to the herbicide dicamba would be made to try to minimize drift that has left thousands of acres of crops already damaged this season. The label changes include making dicamba “restricted use,” which allows only certified applicators to apply the chemical. Dicamba drift has been damaging farmers’ crops for at least two years due to the approval of new dicamba-tolerant genetically engineered (GE) crops. Advocates says that the new changes do not ensure that drift will be eliminated.

According to EPA, the agency reached an agreement with the makers of dicamba, (Monsanto, BASF and DuPont) to restrict its application. This comes after hundreds of official complaints of crop damage related to dicamba across 17 states this year alone, leading to questions about the new formulation of the chemical used in genetically engineered (GE) crop productioon. New GE crops developed by Monsanto must be paired with specific formulations of dicamba, and thus led to a vast increase in dicamba use over the past couple growing seasons. Dicamba-based herbicide use has climbed dramatically as farmers have adopted, especially, Monsanto’s GE soybean seeds; in the 2017 season, 20 million acres of them were planted with the seed.

Farmers who do not use GE seed have seen dire impacts on their crops in the last two seasons, including stunted growth, and wrinkled, cup-shaped leaves. This happens in large part because the herbicide can easily volatilize after being applied and drift via the wind onto neighboring fields. In 2017, more than 3 million acres of soybeans and other crops suffered damage from the chemical.

Beyond the crop damage, pesticides are widely used without, in many cases, rigorous vetting for safety, health, and environmental impacts when used in combination with other pesticides. For example, Monsanto rolled out another iteration of its GE soybean seed in 2015, which is tolerant of both glyphosate and dicamba. Some farmers now use those seeds and “stack” applications of glyphosate on top of early treatment with dicamba, without adequate evaluation of synergistic impacts of the use of both compounds. This also increases the overall amount of pesticides used, and presents an opportunity for organisms that may develop resistance to both compounds — advancing the entropic trajectory of pesticide use. Further, potential synergistic effects of the combination use of these herbicides on non-target species (including critical pollinators) is not typically evaluated by EPA. However, a study has shown that the combination caused damage to the DNA of a toad species.

Until now, many believed the dicamba drift incidents were the result of illegal formulations of the herbicide being applied to fields. But, the extent of damage now being observed contradicts this theory, raising more questions as to whether the new dicamba formulation is actually the cause of the widespread drift damage.

Those who planted these GE soybeans in 2017 must use one of the newer, “low-volatility” versions of the herbicide and follow application directions, but the 2017 season shows that these newer formulations have not solved the drift problem. University and agricultural extension experts report extreme damage in hundreds of fields in their territories, and say that these new formulations remain sufficiently volatile to cause such damage. Non-GE growers have become increasingly angry and vocal about the effects of the chemical, from nearby sprayed fields, on their own crops.

Impacts have been the most extreme in Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi, and Tennessee, where state agencies have fielded thousands of complaints. A map of dicamba-injured soybean acreage shows the most-affected states; several have either instituted bans or tightened restrictions on the use of dicamba. EPA is more than aware of these issues. It held at least three conference calls this past summer with experts and state regulators on potential steps to prevent such damage in coming years. According to North Dakota State University’s Andrew Thostenson, who was on one of those calls, EPA officials said clearly that such damage is unacceptable, and that there would need to be significant changes to the rules on usage of dicamba if it were to be permitted in 2018 (or beyond). The recent announcement on voluntary labeling and protocols is the EPA response. Previously, Missouri and Arkansas have taken limited action against dicamba use.

Now Monsanto and others, after proposing the label changes themselves, are voluntarily agreeing to make the changes for all “over-the-top” (application to growing plants) dicamba products to be used next year. These include:

  • Classifying products as “restricted use,” permitting only certified applicators with special training, and those under their supervision, to apply them; dicamba-specific training for all certified applicators to reinforce proper use;
  • Requiring farmers to maintain specific records regarding the use of these products to improve compliance with label restrictions;
  • Limiting applications to when maximum wind speeds are below 10 mph (from 15 mph) to reduce potential spray drift;
  • Reducing the times during the day when applications can occur;
  • Including tank clean-out language to prevent cross contamination; and
  • Enhancing susceptible crop language and record keeping with sensitive crop registries to increase awareness of risk to especially sensitive crops nearby.

EPA states it will monitor the success of the label changes “to help inform our decision whether to allow the continued “over the top” use of dicamba beyond the 2018 growing season.” However, the fundamental root of the problem continues to go ignored. Restricting dicamba application to only ‘certified applicators’ and other modest changes to applications will not eliminate drift. Continued dicamba use inevitably leads to dicamba drift and environmental damage.

Meanwhile, the chemical companies blame the crop damage on farmers’ misuse, claiming they do not follow directions on application labels, use contaminated equipment, or buy older formulations of dicamba that are cheaper but more prone to drift. Scott Partridge, Monsanto’s vice president of global strategy, insists that drift is not the problem — that “if the label is followed, the product will not move far, including through volatilization.” Of the EPA’s “restricted use” announcement, he said, “We’re very excited about it. It directly address what we found to be the causes of the off-target movement in 2017, and we think it sets the stage for all growers and applicators to have a positive experience in 2018.”

Larry Steckel, PhD, a row crop weed specialist and plant science professor at the University of Tennessee, and Mark Loux, PhD, a professor of horticulture and crop science at the Ohio State University, both suspect that the products’ volatility is the issue. “When you get three or four farmers spraying thousands of acres and it moves and shows the wide-ranging damages we’ve seen, that suggests volatility,” says Dr. Steckel (and Dr. Loux agrees), saying, “It is volatilizing for sure.”

It is no coincidence that with the deregulation of GE dicamba-tolerant varieties by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) under the Plant Protection Act increased dicamba use, and now increased incidences of drift and damage to other non-tolerant crops. Dicamba has stirred up fights between neighbors in a number of agricultural communities. Bader Farms, which grows over 110,00 peach trees on over 1,000 acres in Missouri, is suing Monsanto after its insurance company issued a refusal to pay for damages caused by off-label dicamba drift from surrounding farms. In June of this year, University of Arkansas’ agricultural research station had over 100 acres of soybeans ruined from nearby dicamba use.  Monsanto has defended its new dicamba product, Xtendimax with VaporGrip Technology, resorting to blaming growers for using older versions of dicamba or not following directions on the new product label.

The rise of GE crops has led not only to the proliferation of hard to control, resistant weeds but also increased pesticide use. Pesticides, like dicamba, are highly volatile and drift for miles affecting vegetable and fruit crops that are not tolerant to dicamba. There are reports that the latest dicamba formulation that is used on GE dicamba-tolerant crops (Xtend, Eugenia) is responsible for some cases of drift, and preliminary tests have found that the new formulation does volatilize enough to drift. Until this reliance on hazardous chemicals for food production, especially a reliance exploited by the failures in GE crop technology, is addressed by EPA, more occurrences of increased pesticide use, drift and subsequent environmental and human damage is expected.

Beyond Pesticides has long advocated a regulatory approach that prohibits hazardous chemical use and requires alternative assessments to identify less toxic practices and products under the unreasonable adverse effects clause of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). An approach that rejects uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations, like acceptable levels of pesticide drift, is needed that instead focuses on safer alternatives that are proven effective, such as organic agriculture, which prohibits the use of toxic chemicals. By strengthening on-farm resources, such as soil fertility, pasture and biodiversity, farmers can minimize and even avoid the production challenges that most GE organisms have been falsely-marketed as solving.

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

Source: EPA News ReleaseWashington Post, The Hannibal Courier-Post (Missouri)

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19
Oct

Atrazine Exposure Leads to More Male, Fewer Female Frogs

(Beyond Pesticides, October 19, 2017) Exposure to the second most commonly used herbicide in the U.S., atrazine, results in a higher proportion of male frogs in populations of Blanchard’s cricket frogs, according to researchers from Ohio’s Miami University. While it may be ostensibly easy to dismiss the results of this study as limited to a single frog species, the Blanchard cricket frog, with its populations concentrated in heavily farmed Midwestern states, is likely an important indicator of broader ecological impacts. Ultimately, only a transition away from toxic herbicides and towards integrated organic systems will successfully address the ongoing effects of industrial agrichemicals on amphibians.

Miami researchers exposed frogs to varying concentrations of atrazine, 0.1, 1, and 10 μg/L, in the laboratory, in order to investigate sex ratios and potential effects on survival of the population. Although no significant effects were seen on survival rate during the course of the study, sex ratios were significantly altered at the 0.1 and 10 μg/L exposure concentrations. At these levels, populations developed 51 and 55% fewer males respectively than control frogs.

Researchers point out that such significant results seen at such low concentrations likely indicates that sex ratios are also skewed in the wild. It is noteworthy that effects seen at 0.1 μg/L, the lowest concentration tested, are lower than the range that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates atrazine will alter sex ratios. EPA indicates that a range between 0.92 and 124 μg/L is likely to skew amphibian sex ratios. This discrepancy, scientists hypothesize, is likely related to the current study’s use of a formulated atrazine product, rather than technical grade atrazine. At the present time, EPA only tests the effects of the active ingredient in a pesticide formulation, and does not consider the impacts of formulations, which often include other active ingredients alongside ‘inert’ ingredients, all of which can increase or decrease the toxicity of the active ingredient. Not only have environmental groups criticized EPA for its repeated failure to test the impacts of pesticide formulations, but earlier this year the agency’s Inspector General called for additional testing of pesticide mixtures.

Skewed sex ratios negatively alter population dynamics, as they influence the maximum rate of population growth and the allocation of ecological resources to either males or females over the course of evolution. The study explains, “EDC [endocrine disrupting chemical]-mediated sex reversal may have important implications for the persistence of wild amphibians, which are facing rapid global declines.”

This is far from the first study showing atrazine’s ability to influence the sex of amphibians. Renowned scientist Tyrone Hayes, PhD, of the University of California Berkeley, has published extensive research documenting a range of impacts to various amphibian species. Results have shown the ability for atrazine not only to skew sex ratios, but also hermaphrodize male frogs, and in some cases make male frogs completely female with the ability to lay eggs.

Scientists, like Dr. Hayes, pushing for the elimination of atrazine in the environment have been attacked by the chemical industry. Syngenta, the main manufacturer of atrazine, has harassed and attempted to discredit his work, as documented in an extensive 2014 report in The New Yorker.

While the adverse effects of this chemical on amphibians are alarming, they are not limited to amphibians. Research on atrazine has found impacts relating to cancer, birth defects, reproductive impacts, kidney/liver damage, and neurotoxicity in humans. A study published just last month found that atrazine hazards affect health across multiple generations, with the grandchildren of rats exposed to atrazine, but never exposed themselves, displaying increased rates of testicular diseases, early onset puberty, and mammary tumors.

Beyond health and the environment, studies show that atrazine use doesn’t even make economic sense. Peer-reviewed research finds that eliminating atrazine in corn production would increase on-farm revenues by 3.2%, resulting in a net benefit of $1.7 billion to farmers. And organic agriculture provides a viable alternative to chemical-intensive food production systems that often employ atrazine or other toxic herbicides. Rather than use hazardous products, organic agriculture focuses on improving soil biology and uses mechanical and cultural weed management, including weed whacking, solarization, cover cropping, and crop rotation to manage weed intrusion.

For more information about the effects of atrazine on amphibian populations, see Dr. Hayes talk to Beyond Pesticides 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, FL. Or read an abridged version of his presentation on atrazine published in Beyond Pesticides’ journal, Pesticides and You.

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

Source: Phys.org

 

 

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18
Oct

Monsanto Banned from Lobbying European Parliament

(Beyond Pesticides, October 18, 2017) Effective immediately, the European Parliament has banned Monsanto lobbyists, excluding the chemical company from access to committee meetings and digital resources, as well as no longer permitting Monsanto lobbyists to meet with any Member of the European Parliament (MEP). This limit to its influence is a serious blow to Monsanto’s advocacy campaign to promote the safety of its weedkiller glyphosate, (Roundup). The decision to ban came amid mounting public pressure to deny European Union re-licensing of glyphosate, one of the world’s most widely used herbicides. (See glyphosate listing in Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticides Gateway, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide.) Glyphosate is classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Monsanto, the world’s largest GE-seed and seventh-largest pesticide company, is eager to suppress IARC’s ranking.

In fact, before being banned, the European Parliament had questioned Monsanto’s funding of counter-studies in order to discredit independent scientists working to limit the public’s exposure to toxic chemicals. In a related development, independent scientists sent a letter to the scientific journal Critical Reviews in Toxicology, calling for the retraction of a 2016 paper that refuted glyphosate’s cancer risks after it was learned that the paper was secretly edited and funded by Monsanto.

As part of its deliberations on the reauthorization of glyphosate before the end of 2017, the European Parliament had scheduled hearings for October 11 in Brussels. Though being invited to address the Parliament, Monsanto Chairman, Hugh Grant, declined to appear and or send another Monsanto official to address questions about the chemical’s safety and the underlying science.

With authorization given to the Secretary-General, the Parliamentary decision was made using new Rules of Procedure regarding the transparency of business “governing the withdrawal or temporary de-activation of long-term access badges.” As outlined in the parliament’s rules, Monsanto has been “disbarred from the transparency register” for having been found “guilty of a serious breach” of parliamentary rules and expectations. Furthermore, Monsanto “without offering a sufficient justification . . .refused to comply with a formal summons,” and refused to “cooperate with a committee of inquiry.”

The decision was backed by the leaders of all major parliamentary blocks, voting unanimously in favor of the ban. Therefore, according to the rules, having heard no “significant arguments to the contrary,” Monsanto’s sphere of influence in the European Parliament has been dealt a serious blow.

In response to the lobby ban, Monsanto’s vice president Philip Miller wrote: “We have observed with increasing alarm the politicization of the. . .renewal of glyphosate. A procedure which should be scientific but which in many respects has been hijacked by populism.”

Uncovered in a series of emails Monsanto was forced to release as part of a number of pending lawsuits, the chemical company had vowed the herbicide’s safety was repeatedly and rigorously examined by its own researchers, who reported no risk of cancer from the use of or exposure to glyphosate. The company had done only “cosmetic editing” that “didn’t change the science,” with nothing “substantive” done to censor the panelists’ conclusions, said Monsanto’s vice president for global strategy, Scott Partridge.

The type of collusion, recognized by the European Parliament, is part of ongoing pattern. Monsanto has been accused of deceiving federal, state and local governments as well as the general public in the U.S. in other cases. According to its self-declaration form in the EU transparency register, Monsanto routinely spends between €300,000-€400,000 on lobbying in Brussels each year.

Describing the struggles she faced in pursuit of her own master’s degree, Beyond Pesticides’ Board Member, Lani Malmberg, told the 32nd National Pesticide Forum how “all the chemical-funded students got everything paid for and $30,000 a year.” Having “first noticed” how corporate-funding corrupts science in academic institutions, Ms. Malmberg, owner of Goats Green, told her audience: “What do you research? You research the question that the industry gives you.” The questions being: “How much [of a pesticide] should we use? Pint to the acre? Quart to the acre? Should we spray it in the spring, or fall, or both?”

Monsanto is fighting the cancer classification of Roundup as it is  attempting a merger worth $66 billion with German chemical-colossus Bayer. Amid consolidation in the chemical industry, advocates maintain that a combined Monsanto and Bayer would mean higher seed costs, higher food prices and a loss of biodiversity.

Its name already synonymous with genetic engineering and pesticide resistance, Monsanto has good reason to wish to demonize independent research and, more pointedly, the public eye unveiled. The chemical company profits from general societal ignorance of real costs of chemical-intensive practices and the cost-effectiveness of organic land management alternatives.

Meanwhile, more than 250 lawsuits are pending against Monsanto in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, in which people claim exposure to Roundup caused them or a family member to contract non-Hodgkins lymphoma  a cancer affecting white blood cells which can develop in the lymph nodes, bone marrow, spleen, thymus and digestive tract.

The plaintiffs claim that Monsanto covered up the health risks associated with glyphosate. The first trial in the Roundup litigation is set for June 18, 2018 in the Superior Court for the County of San Francisco.

To avoid glyphosate, purchase organic food which is not permitted to be treated with glyphosate compounds. Know who grows your food and how your food is grown. Adopt, or personally support organic agriculture and organic lawn care in your community. There are countless experts and instructional videos available to assist in your adoption of organic land management. Continue to raise your voice! Start your own local movement to stop toxic pesticide use around your local school, or sports field. Talk to your neighbors, farmers, and legislators. Contact the elected representatives making decisions that affect your family’s health. And, contact Beyond Pesticides at info@beyondpesticides.org or 202-543-5450 for assistance, or go to the Beyond Pesticides website.

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

Source: The Guardian

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17
Oct

Scientists Urge Retraction of Journal Article on Glyphosate’s Safety, Surreptitiously Written by Monsanto

(Beyond Pesticides, October 17, 2017) In a letter to the scientific journal Critical Reviews in Toxicology, scientists called for the retraction of a 2016 paper that refuted glyphosate’s cancer risks after it was learned that the paper was secretly edited and funded by Monsanto, manufacturer of glyphosate.

The paper in question, “An Independent Review of the Carcinogenic Potential of Glyphosate,” is a review of the 2015 decision by an expert Working Group of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to designate glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s flagship product, Roundup, as “probably carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2A). However, a new report this summer discovered conflict of interests not revealed at publication. Contrary to the journal’s conflict-of-interest disclosure statement, Monsanto directly paid at least two of the scientists who authored the paper, and a Monsanto employee substantially edited and reviewed the article prior to publication, in clear contradiction to the disclosure statement.

The retraction-request letter highlights a range of failures involved in the published review:

  • Failure to disclose that at least two panelists who authored the review worked as consultants for, and were directly paid by, Monsanto for their work on the paper.
  • Failure to disclose that at least one Monsanto employee extensively edited the manuscript and was adamant about retaining inflammatory language critical of the IARC assessment — against some of the authors’ wishes. The disclosure falsely stated that no Monsanto employee reviewed the manuscript.

As a result, readers and reviewers of the cancer studies were led to believe that the paper was independently published, and that Monsanto had no influence on the content of the review. The letter notes, “[T]he false, inaccurate, and misleading statements…served an obvious and critical purpose. In light of the high-profile controversy over the carcinogenicity of glyphosate, driven in large part by Monsanto, the company understood that the scientific community would have legitimate doubts as to the independence of a Monsanto-funded review effort. Assuaging these doubts was critical to the success of Monsanto’s mission to discredit IARC’s determination. This was accomplished in the summary review … by misrepresentation and omission.”

In addition to asking for a retraction of the review article, the scientists have called for an in-depth investigation into the other four articles published in the same issue. Multiple internal emails from Monsanto indicated the pesticide maker’s willingness to ghostwrite or compile information for the authors of the reviews, dictate the scope of one of the reviews, and identify which scientists to engage or list as authors of the reviews.

The retraction and investigation request was sent to the journal’s editor-in-chiefthe managing editor at the publisher, Taylor and Francis, and the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), of which the publisher and the journal are both members.

Monsanto has been embroiled in controversy after its attempts to unduly influence and undermine scientific research that has found its product to be harmful to humans. It was recently revealed that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) copied dozens of pages from a Monsanto study in reaching its conclusion that glyphosate (Roundup) is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans.” EFSA’s recommendation is supposed to provide an independent analysis for European Union (EU) member states, which are deciding whether to reapprove the chemical. In a similar case, the New York Times reported on Monsanto’s internal emails and email traffic between the company and federal regulators, which suggested that Monsanto had ghostwritten research on glyphosate (Roundup) that was later attributed to academics. There is now an investigation by the Inspector General for EPA into whether or not an EPA official engaged in collusion with Monsanto regarding the agency’s safety assessment of glyphosate. The collusion was uncovered in the discovery phase of a lawsuit filed by cancer victims that link their illness to glyphosate exposure.

The best way to avoid glyphosate and other harmful pesticides is to support organic practices in landscapes and agriculture and purchase organic food. Beyond Pesticides has long advocated for organic management practices as a means to foster biodiversity, and research shows that organic land management does a better job of protecting biodiversity than its chemical-intensive counterparts. Instead of prophylactic use of pesticides and crops bioengineered with insecticides, responsible organic practices focus on fostering habitat for pest predators and ecological balance, and only resort to judicious use of least-toxic pesticides when other cultural, structural, mechanical, and biological controls have been attempted and proven ineffective.

As evidence of the hazardous effects of glyphosate continues to mount, environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, are urging localities to ban or restrict the use of the chemical and other toxic synthetic pesticides.

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

Source: Center for Biological Diversity

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16
Oct

Take Action: Tell Your Senators to Vote Against EPA Nominee with Chemical Industry Ties

(Beyond Pesticides, October 16, 2917) Tell your U.S. Senators to oppose the Trump Administration’s nominee for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Michael L. Dourson, Ph.D., who has spent a good deal of his career helping chemical companies resist restrictions on their toxic compounds. The U.S. Senate’s August 20 hearing on Dr. Dourson’s nomination, was abruptly postponed on August 19, with no reason offered, but later held on October 4 under a cloud of controversy.

Write your U.S. Senators now!

Critics, including former EPA officials, Congressional Democrats, and public health scientists say that Dr. Dourson’s close ties to the chemical industry should disqualify him from becoming the country’s chief regulator of toxic chemicals.http://action.beyondpesticides.org/images/money%20dance.jpg

U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said, “Dr. Dourson’s consistent endorsement of chemical safety standards that not only match industry’s views, but are also significantly less protective than EPA and other regulators have recommended, raises serious doubts about his ability to lead those efforts. This is the first time anyone with such clear and extensive ties to the chemical industry has been [nominated] to regulate that industry.”

Dr. Dourson’s professional history provides important context for considering his nomination. He did a turn at EPA from 1980 to 1994, starting as a staff toxicologist, and then leading a pesticide and toxics group that supports EPA’s regulatory work. However, in 1995, Dr. Dourson started the consulting group, Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA), which has done contract work for chemical companies, producing research and reports that often “downplayed the health risks posed by their compounds.”

TERA’s clients have included Dow Chemical Company, Koch Industries Inc., Monsanto, Chevron Corporation, and the industry lobby group, the American Chemistry Council –companies that make pesticides, processed foods, cigarettes, plastics, and other chemical products. The Associated Press reports that Dr. Dourson has, for some time, received payments for his critical assessments of peer-reviewed studies that identified concerns with the safety of his clients’ products. Examples of the kinds of “industry shielding” work TERA did can be reviewed here.

Write your Senators now!

According to the New York TimesAdam Finkel, executive director of the Penn Program on Regulation at University of Pennsylvania Law School, who worked as a partner on a project with Dr. Dourson, said, “Most of what he has done over time is to rush headlong to exonerate chemicals.” Four controversial toxic chemicals –1,4-dioxane1-bromopropanetrichloroethylene and chlorpyrifos– currently under EPA review are manufactured by Dow, a company that Dr. Dourson represented. If confirmed, he would oversee the regulation of these chemicals, which are associated with severe health issues, including cancer, birth defects, and developmental problems in children.

The Associated Press cites the example of Dr. Dourson’s Dow-sponsored review of chlorpyrifos (a neurotoxic pesticide that harms children’s brains, even at very low exposure levels), which claimed flaws in peer-reviewed studies linking delays in fetal development with exposure to the chemical. The credibility of EPA’s regulation of chlorpyrifos is already in question due to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision to overrule the recommendation of agency scientists that would have banned the chemical. Mr. Pruitt claims the science is “unresolved” and has delayed a decision on chlorpyrifos until 2022.

Dr. Dourson is a recent example of the “revolving door” phenomenon –the movement of people between roles as agency regulators or legislators, and positions in the industries that are regulated by those government roles. The door revolves in both directions, with regulators leaving government to join industry, and vice versa. This ready switching of roles creates unavoidable conflicts of interest. Indeed, ethics experts say that, if confirmed, Dr. Dourson’s work on behalf of industry could constitute significant conflicts of interest.

Industry has a long history of using the revolving door. When people are allowed to move from industry to regulatory agency (or the reverse) without constraint, the resultant conflicts of interest not only unduly shape policy or ratchet up industry influence, but cast huge doubt on the individual’s ability to act independent of industry’s interests, and in the best interest of the public and an agency’s charge.

Write your U.S. Senators now!

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13
Oct

Hazardous Illegal Pesticide Imports Not Adequately Tracked by EPA

(Beyond Pesticides, October 13, 2017) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can better reduce risks from illegal pesticides by effectively identifying imports for inspection and sampling. This, according to a report from EPA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released last month. The report finds low rates of inspection and sampling across the U.S. to stop the importation of pesticide products that violate federal laws, and recommends increased training and coordination between U.S. Customs and Border Protection to deter the import of harmful pesticides.

EPA’s OIG conducted the report to determine whether EPA is effectively identifying imported pesticides for inspection and sampling to deter imports of harmful pesticides and protect human health and the environment. The report, published September 28, 2017, finds there is limited assurance that imports in violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which regulates the use and importation of pesticide products, will be identified or prevented entry into the U.S. According to the report, EPA is at risk of not effectively identifying imported pesticides for inspection and sampling. For instance, EPA regions did not meet the voluntary frequency goal of inspecting two percent of all shipments of imported pesticides nationwide in fiscal years 2015 and 2016. In fiscal year 2016, EPA’s ten regions conducted only 73 inspections of 46,280 pesticide shipments —a rate of only 0.002 percent. In two EPA regions, inspections were more likely to be conducted close to the regional office rather than where the greatest number of pesticides entered the region. In the last five years, seven EPA regions reviewed had sampled and tested the integrity of only seven pesticides out of approximately 145,000 shipments of imported pesticides. One of the main reasons leading to such low rates of inspections is that regional resources available to carry out inspections are not considered part of strategic planning, and regional participation in achieving the agency’s inspection frequency goal is voluntary.

OIG made four recommendations that EPA (1) establish national compliance monitoring goals based on regional resources; (2) implement controls to monitor and communicate progress on regional goals; (3) guide and train EPA regions to use the Automated Commercial Enterprise system for regional targeting of importers, manufacturers and pesticide products; (4) and direct each EPA region to develop guidance or protocols for coordinating with local U.S. Customs and Border Protection offices regarding illegally imported pesticides. EPA concurred with OIG’s recommendation to develop protocols for coordinating with local U.S. Customs and Border Protection offices. The remaining three recommendations are unresolved.

Currently, EPA has no guidance or training available on how its regional offices can use information from U.S. Customs and Border Protection Automated Commercial Enterprise system to target future inspections or develop their own targeting strategies. This system allows for automatic processing of import notices that could allow EPA regions more time for targeting and inspections. According to OIG, guidance or protocols for how EPA regions can coordinate with U.S. Customs and Border Protection will help to ensure that EPA is notified of any potentially illegal pesticides not found during the agency’s review of import notices.

Illegal imports of pesticides can present significant human health and environmental risks, and have been linked to poisonings of children and pets. Illegal imports include high-hazard pesticides that can be counterfeit, produced at unregistered establishments, or produced using unauthorized ingredients. EPA is tasked with enforcing the requirements under FIFRA that governs the distribution, sale and use of pesticides. EPA can take enforcement actions to address the (a) distribution or sale of unregistered pesticides, (b) registered pesticides whose composition differs from that submitted at registration, and (c) registered pesticides that are misbranded or adulterated. When a product is found to be in violation of FIFRA requirements, several actions can be taken, including denying entry into the U.S., issuing penalties for illegal distribution, or issuing a Stop Sale, Use or Removal Order (SSURO) prohibiting the sale, use or removal of the product.

One well-documented illegal pesticide product is the ‘Insecticide Chalk,’ an illegal insecticide manufactured to resemble blackboard chalk sold under various trade names—including Pretty Baby Chalk, Chinese Chalk, and Miraculous Insecticide Chalk. These may be sold in a neighborhood stores or on the street for about $1 a box. These products are imported illegally from China, and often bear a label in both English and Chinese. Sometimes the manufacturer claims that the chalk is “harmless to human beings and animals” and “safe to use.” Children can easily mistake insecticide chalk for blackboard chalk or put it in their mouths. EPA has been public about the illegal entry of this product for several years.

Unfortunately, with inspection guidelines being voluntary and set at only two percent —which is still not being met— there will continue to be pesticide products being sold illegally to unsuspecting U.S. customers. These pesticides may contain ingredients banned in the U.S. or applied in ways that can pose risks to human health. To ensure you are not buying an illegal pesticide product check the label for an EPA registration number or visit the website information provided. If you are still unsure, contact Beyond Pesticides for assistance.

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

Source: Office of the Inspector General

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12
Oct

Majority of World’s Honey Contaminated with Bee Killing Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, October 12, 2017) Honey throughout the world is contaminated with neonicotinoid insecticides, chemicals implicated in global decline of pollinator populations. The extent of contamination recorded in the new Science study —with the chemicals detected on every continent except Antarctica, even in honey produced in small isolated islands— is symptomatic of a world awash in toxic pesticides. The results call into question globalized mores that have permitted chemical insecticides to pervade the environment, and signal the need to transform pest management to integrated organic systems that respect nature.

Neonicotinoids are systemic pesticides that are taken up by a plant’s vascular system and transported into the pollen, nectar, and guttation (drops of xylem sap) drops the plant produces. They are mobile in soil, so quantities of the chemical that are not taken up by plants after an application leach through the soil column into local waterways. Pollinators come into contact with these insecticides through their normal course of foraging and pollination.

Out of 198 honey samples collected as part of a global citizen science project and subsequently tested by Swiss scientists, 75% of samples contained a measurable level of neonicotinoids. Broken down by region, North America represented the highest frequency of tainted honey, with 86% containing at least one neonicotinoid. Asia and Europe had slightly slower propositions, at 80% and 79%, while South American samples had the fewest detections, at 57%.

Although few samples were above levels considered toxic to humans, the same cannot be said about pollinators. Lead author of the study, Edward Mitchell, PhD at University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, indicated to The Guardian, “If you look at the minimum concentration for which a significant negative impact on bees has been found, then 48% of our samples exceed this level.” He continues, noting, “The concentrations are often very low, but we are talking about pesticides that are extremely toxic: something like 4,000 to 10,000 times more toxic than DDT [dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane].”

At the toxicity reference value of .1 ng/g used by researchers, exposure has been linked to a range of chronic adverse effects in honey bees and other pollinators, including on memory, foraging success, reproduction, queen survival and fitness, and susceptibility to other diseases.

Renowned neonicotinoid researcher Jean-Marc Bonmatin, PhD, explained to The Guardian, “The use of these pesticides runs contrary to environmentally sustainable agricultural practices. It provides no real benefit to farmers, decreases soil quality, hurts biodiversity and contaminates water, air and food. There is no longer any reason to continue down this path of destruction.”

While the European Union is likely to vote to extend its current moratorium on the use of neonicotinoids in agriculture, very little has been done to stop the use of these chemicals in the U.S. In fact, in early 2017, the agency determined, despite its own evidence gathered to the contrary, that neonicotinoids present “no significant risk” to honey bees. While use at the state and local level continue, advocates say that it is evident that broader action is necessary to address widespread contamination.

Help change pest management practices by changing the way you, your neighbors, and your community approach pest problems. Instead of immediately reaching for a pesticide bottle to address a pest, consider fixing the underlying problems that attracted the pest in the first place through an integrated and organic management strategy. See Beyond Pesticides’ ManageSafe page for assistance for pests both inside the home and in landscapes. When it comes to fixing pest management in agriculture, organic systems already provide a way forward. Support the growth of organic agriculture by buying organic whenever possible. By eliminating the need for toxic pesticide use in our homes, gardens, and in agriculture, we can eliminate the source of contamination in our honey supplies.

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

Source: The Guardian

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11
Oct

Lawsuit Filed to Protect Endangered Species from Neonicotinoid Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, October 11, 2017) Last week, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) registration of neonicotinoid pesticides – acetamiprid, dinotefuran, and imidacloprid, and the agency’s failure to first consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the pesticides’ impact on threatened or endangered species.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, challenges the failure of the federal government to evaluate the impacts of neonicotinoid pesticides (“neonics”) on threatened and endangered species, like the rusty patched bumble bee, the black-capped vireo, and the San Bruno elfin butterfly. The suit cites widespread presence of neonics in the environment which presents serious risks to wildlife across large portions of the country. It contends that they pose significant adverse consequences to threatened and endangered species. According to the lawsuit, because of toxicity and pervasive environmental contamination, NRDC is now challenging EPA’s registrations of pesticide products containing one of three main neonic active ingredients—acetamiprid, dinotefuran, and imidacloprid—and seeks vacatur of those registrations until EPA complies with the law.

“The EPA ignored endangered bees, butterflies, and birds when it approved the widespread use of neonics,” said Rebecca Riley, a senior attorney in NRDC’s Land & Wildlife program. “Massive pollinator die-offs across the country show that these pesticides cause serious harm to wildlife.”

NRDC identified 26 species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that are at risk from neonic pesticides. They include the federally endangered rusty patched bumblebee, Karner blue butterfly, Hines’ emerald dragonfly, black-capped vireo, and pallid sturgeon, as well as the federally threatened vernal pool fairy shrimp.

This lawsuit follows a decision earlier this year by a federal judge in California who ruled that EPA violated the ESA when it issued 59 neonicotinoid insecticide registrations between 2007 and 2012 for pesticide products containing clothianidin and thiamethoxam. That lawsuit, first filed in 2013, focused on the EPA’s failure to protect pollinators from pesticides and challenged EPA’s oversight of the neonic pesticides, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, as well as the agency’s practice of “conditional registration” and labeling deficiencies.

Neonicotinoid pesticides are highly toxic to bees and a growing body of scientific literature has linked them to pollinator decline in general. Neonicotinoids are associated with decreased foraging  and navigational ability, as well as increased vulnerability to pathogens and parasites as a result of suppressed bee immune systems.  In addition to toxicity to bees, neonicotinoids have been shown to also adversely affect birdsaquatic organisms, and contaminate soil and waterways, and overall biodiversity. An overwhelming number of studies have shown that neonicotinoids can impact a wide-rage of non-target species. This summer, the results of a two-year long study conducted at 33 sites in multiple European countries to assess the effects of neonics confirms that these pesticides have a deleterious effect on bee survival.

EPA’s own assessment also finds that neonics like imidacloprid pose risks to aquatic organisms, and has concentrations in U.S. waters that threaten sensitive species. Other preliminary pollinator assessment conducted by the agency for the other neonics- clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran, finds that they present “no significant risks” to honey bees, despite finding multiple instances where bees are at risk of toxic exposure, and overwhelming independent data to the contrary.

In light of the shortcomings of federal action in the U.S. to protect these beneficial organisms, it is left up to us to act. You can pledge to stop using neonicotinoids and other toxic pesticides. Sign the pollinator protection pledge today. Beyond Pesticides also advocates the adoption of organic land management practices and policies by local communities that eliminate the use of toxic pesticides in our environment. For more information on what you can do to protect pollinators in your backyard, see Beyond Pesticides BEE Protective campaign page.

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

Source: NRDC Blog

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10
Oct

Action Needed: Last Chance to Comment on National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) Fall Issues

(Beyond Pesticides, October 10, 2017) The comment period closes Wednesday, October 11 at 11:59 pm EDT for the Fall 2017 National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting.

In addition to the other priorities in our previous alert (hydroponics, marine materials, and “inerts”), we focus attention here on eliminating the incentive to convert native ecosystems into organic crop production, strengthening and clarifying the requirements for the use of organic seed, exempt/uncertified handler and brokers, and the need for a comprehensive review of sanitizers used in organic.

New to Regulations.gov? See our two-minute tutorial.

Comment now!

Beyond Pesticides provides you with our positions, which you can use as the basis for your comments. If you have limited time, you can use the sample comments on priority issues below. If you have more time, please use the information on our website to develop your own comments. If you paste our comments into regulations.gov, please first put a personal note of concern in order to reflect the importance of these issues to you as an organic consumer, farmer, or other concerned party.

Some major issues being considered at the Fall meeting are:

Eliminating the Incentive to Convert Native Ecosystems into Organic Crop Production
The proposal must be revised –it should be sent back to the Compliance, Accreditation & Certification Subcommittee (CACS).

Unfortunately, the legal requirement to avoid the use of prohibited substances for three years before land can be certified organic produces an incentive to convert unfarmed land to organic farms. We support the intention of the subcommittee proposal to incentivize the transition to organic production of lands that have had prohibited materials applied, while minimizing the loss of lands with important habitats from conversion. These lands will be necessary to support declining and rare species today and a hundred years from now, when there will be much less available due to increased human populations and climate change.  We support the following language:

A site supporting a native ecosystem cannot be certified for organic production as provided for under this regulation for a period of 10 years from the date of conversion.

Native ecosystems retain dominant and characteristic species. The composition of species reflects spontaneous natural processes, such as biogeography (e.g. dispersal of plants and animals), the geophysical constraints (e.g. soil type), and natural disturbance regimes (e.g. wind, fire, and water flow). On land with natural vegetation, any past human influences are not readily recognized in the field. For semi-natural vegetation, past human influences may have significantly altered vegetation composition or structure over 50-100 years ago but these have recovered. Sites will tend to have not been previously cultivated, cleared, drained or otherwise irrevocably altered.

Strengthen and Clarify the Requirements for the Use of Organic Seed
A rule change to the seed practice standard is needed to require a demonstrable improvement over time until 100% organic seed use is achieved. Guidance must be strengthened consistent with the existing rule to ensure that plants that have been treated with prohibited substances are not used in organic production.

The National Organic Program’s (NOP) broad exemption allowing the use of conventionally produced seed maintains inconsistency in the enforcement of organic standards. Enforcement must be a first step to strengthening the organic seed requirement –certifiers must enforce consistent and uniform adherence to the present organic seed requirements. We support seeking a rule change to the seed practice standard §205.204 to require a demonstrable improvement over time until 100% organic seed use is achieved, and strengthening the guidance NOP 5029 in ways that are consistent with the existing rule. Plants that have been treated with prohibited substances should not be used in organic production. This includes, for example, plants grown in fumigated soil or from seeds treated with neonicotinoid pesticides.

Exempt/Uncertified Handler and Brokers
The proposal should be revised in view of the fact that highly toxic fumigants used in conventional facilities penetrate packaging materials.

We support the goal of strengthening audit trails of organic products by further clarifying what operations are excluded from certification. However, the assumption that packaged goods will maintain their organic integrity under conventional handling is flawed. Fumigants used in conventional warehouses and other facilities are highly toxic and penetrate packaging materials. Therefore, handlers who handle only packaged organic goods should not be excluded from certification.

Comprehensive Review of Sanitizers
A comprehensive review of sanitizers, disinfectants, and cleansers used in organic production and handling is needed to ensure that the safest and most effective materials are used.

Beyond Pesticides and others have been calling for a comprehensive review of sanitizers used in organic production. The NOSB needs to identify needs for sanitizers, disinfectants, and cleansers, and evaluate the allowed and potentially allowed materials according to OFPA criteria. We support this issue being placed on the Materials Subcommittee work agenda, and we suggest a structure for the comprehensive review.

Comment now at Regulations.gov!

See Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage.

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06
Oct

Study Finds Organic Consumers Commitment to Organic Products Grows Over Time

(Beyond Pesticides, October 6, 2017) Once people go organic, they are increasingly unlikely to go back to conventional foods, according to a study in the Journal of Consumer Research published by Dutch social scientists.  Organic food products are a rapidly growing industry in the U.S., with consumers spending $43 billion in 2016, an increase of $4.2 billion from the previous year. Given its benefits for health, water quality, workers, wildlife, and the wider environment, it is little wonder that more and more people are voting for the future of ecologically and public health-sensitive farming systems with their food dollars and buying organic.

For the study, researchers tracked over 8,700 consumers for 20 months, using the loyalty card for a major Dutch food retailer. They found that most consumers start by consuming organic dairy products first, milk being the primary entry point into organic. Over time people are likely to not only stick with organic certified milk, but expand their purchases into other organic products.

John Thøgersen, PhD, coauthor of the study and professor at the Aarhus University of Business and Social Science in Denmark, explains the process in a press release as follows: “In connection with organic consumption, there has previously been talk of an ‘organic staircase’ in the sense that consumers are generally buying certain organic products before others. But our research shows that in fact, we’re dealing with an escalator where the upward movement is taking place automatically. Once you’ve purchased your first organic product, you’re not likely to stop. You’ll continue, and over time, you’ll increase your organic shopping list. And you’ll even be following a rather predictable consumption pattern.”

The consumption pattern generally goes from dairy products to fruit and vegetables, then eggs and baking ingredients, and eventually all products categories, from tea and coffee to rice, pasta, canned food, cereals, and frozen food are purchased organic.

“What’s interesting is that something is making the organic consumers stick to their guns. Something is making them stand fast. Our study doesn’t tell us anything about why this is the case, but if we include our knowledge from previous research in the area, we’re able to make an educated guess,” Dr. Thøgersen says. Researchers suspect that the cause is a related to how one perceives themselves morally.  “It becomes a way in which we define ourselves,” he continues. “As a result, we build an identity around the notion of buying organic products, and we’re highly unlikely to suddenly change our moral values.”

In social science, this behavior is characterized as the “spillover” effect. It is the idea that once one moral act is performed, more moral acts are likely to stem from it. Luckily for the organic industry, the spillover effect is more prevalent in organic purchasing choices than the “moral licensing” effect. “Moral licensing” theory states that once one performs a moral act, a person will act less moral because they believe their previous moral actions balance it out.

“We’re not questioning that moral licensing exists,” Dr. Thøgersen notes. “But our study shows that in practice, it doesn’t apply to our ethical or pro-environmental behaviour. Once a person has decided to do good, he or she will actually be even more likely to continue to do good.”

Given the rise of organic only natural foods stores and coops, and increasing options within conventional supermarkets, it is easier than ever for consumers to load their grocery cart up on mostly organic products. Beyond Pesticides is interested in knowing your organic shopping strategy. Did your organic “escalator” follow the one the study? What percentage of your purchases are organic? And why is organic important to you? Leave a comment below, or on Facebook or Twitter.

And if you would like to read more about why Beyond Pesticides promotes organic as the best option for the future of agriculture, see our program page on “Why Organic?”

Source: Phys.org

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05
Oct

Moms’ Pesticide Use Increases Risk of Childhood Brain Tumors

(Beyond Pesticides, October 5, 2017) Research published in the International Journal of Cancer links the residential use of pesticides to an increased risk of childhood brain tumors in children. According to the study, mothers who use pesticides in the home while pregnant put their children at 1.4 times the risk of developing a brain tumor under the age of 15. The study findings point to the need to eliminate the residential use of toxic chemicals by increasing education around alternative pest management practices in the home and garden, as well as regulatory action to remove toxic pesticides from the market.

The team of researchers used data drawn from population-based, case-control studies conducted in France, ESCALE and ESTELLE, which investigated the role of infectious, environment, and genetic factors in common cancers (leukemia, lymphoma, neuroblastoma, and brain tumors). From the data, researchers identified 3,102 control mothers, and 437 mothers whose children had developed a brain tumor. These mothers were interviewed via phone over their use of pesticides in and around the home during their pregnancy.

Scientists determined that use of pesticides in the home put children at 40% increased risk of brain tumors, with insecticides being specifically linked to this increase. Because very few women used herbicides or fungicides during pregnancy, researchers were not able to tell whether any significant link existed. “Although such retrospective studies cannot identify specific chemicals used or quantify the exposure, our findings add another reason to advise mothers to limit their exposure to pesticides around the time of pregnancy,” said Nicolas Vidart d’Egurbide Bagazgoïtia, lead author of the study in a press release.

Indeed there is no shortage of reasons to avoid pesticide use when pregnant. A 2013 study published in Cancer Causes and Control found that women that contract for termite pest control applications in their home within a year of pregnancy have twice the risk of their child developing a brain tumor. A meta-analysis conducted in 2010 and published in Environmental Health Perspectives, investigating residential pesticide use and childhood leukemia, found that pesticide exposure during pregnancy increased risk of childhood leukemia by 54%. Another meta-analysis published in 2015 in Pediatrics by researchers at Harvard University found that indoor use of insecticides was associated with a 47% increase in childhood leukemia and 43% increase in childhood lymphoma. Herbicide exposure was associated with a 26% increase in leukemia.

Evidence shows that pesticides are widespread in our environment and in our homes. A 2008 study found that 75% of pregnant women’s homes were contaminated with the widely used insecticide and synergist piperonyl butoxide. Another 2009 study found that most floors in occupied homes in the United States contained measurable levels of pesticide, with insecticides like permethrin found in 89% of homes at detectable levels, but also banned chemicals like DDT found in 42% of homes. Because synthetic pesticides break down so slowly, subsequent applications will increase contamination levels in the home.

There are a range of alternative management techniques that can solve common residential pest problems without needing to resort to pesticides that put children’s lives at risk. Beyond Pesticides has developed a database, ManageSafe, which provides step by step instructions on how to manage pests in the home and garden through nontoxic means. Assistance can be found in identifying a pest, determining the extent of the problem, future preventative techniques, pest monitoring, non-chemical, and biological and least-toxic options as a last resort.  If there is a pest not listed on the ManageSafe page, or if you have other questions about managing pests to ridding toxic chemicals from your community, contact Beyond Pesticides for one-on-one assistance at info@beyondpesticides.org or 202-543-5450.

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

Source: EurekAlert!,

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04
Oct

October’s PolliNATION Pollinator of the Month – The Soldier Beetle

(Beyond Pesticides, October 4, 2017) Beetles in the family Cantharidae are known as soldier beetles, a name that is based on the resemblance of the elyra (wing cover) to certain military uniforms. They superficially resemble fireflies (family Lampyridae), but lack light-emitting organs and the covering obscuring the head of fireflies. Like fireflies, soldier beetles are distasteful to most predators.

Range
There are 16 genera containing 455 species of soldier beetles native to North America, including Chauliognathus marginatus, which is commonly seen on goldenrod in late summer and early fall. Worldwide, there are about 5,100 species in 160 genera, widely distributed in all but polar regions. Most frequently active in summer and early fall, adults can be found on various flowers including sunflowers, tansy, zinnia, marigold, goldenrod, and coneflower. Females lay eggs in clusters in the soil. Larvae are mostly carnivorous, feeding on soil insects. They live through the winter under loose soil, and become active during spring. Larvae normally pupate in early summer and adults first emerge in mid-summer.

Physiology
The soldier beetle’s body is around ½ to ¾ inch long. Adults are black or brown, usually with red to yellow markings, an “aposematic” signal to predators, warning of an unpleasant taste. The elytra are soft wing covers, hence the nickname “leatherwings.”

Adults and mature larvae have chewing mouthparts. After hatching, the larvae are tiny and white. However, 24 hours after their first molt, larvae begin to move and darken. To quote University of Minnesota Extension Entomologist Jeff Hahn, the dark larvae come to “resemble miniature alligators.”

Soldier beetle adults and larvae, when attacked, can emit a spray of dihydromatricaria acid from glands along their bodies, causing the majority to be either rejected or avoided outright by potential predators such as birds, mice, and jumping spiders.

Ecological Role and Threats to Existence
After they hatch in the summer, larval activity increases with each successive molt. Soldier beetle larvae are carnivorous, foraging for aphid eggs, worms, slugs, and snails among assorted plant debris. As they feed, soldier beetle larvae reduce the number of eggs and larvae of other soft-bodied insects, such as aphids, thereby limiting the ability of those insects to damage crops.

Soldier beetle adults feed on the pollen and nectar of flowers, as well as other insects, pollinating the flowers as they move about. Beetle-pollinated flowers are generally open and fragrant, allowing beetles to pollinate the flowers as they scramble across them. The same flowers serve as mating sites for the soldier beetles.

Although harmless to humans, the soldier beetle is among a long litany of “non-target” species who may be poisoned, or whose source of both food and habitat may be poisoned by the use of pesticides.

How to Protect the Species
Swaths of wild flowers, native shrubs and trees, as well as urban green spaces, provide good habitat for adult soldier beetles and other pollinators. Similarly, since the beetles deposit eggs into soil, or loose leaf litter, it is critical to eliminate the use of synthetic fertilizers and toxic pesticides that threaten soil life. Adopting organic land management practices such as planting pollinator habitat conservation strips and cover crops, using mulch for weed control, and adding compost to gardens, lawns and farm fields, helps to build and protect biodiversity. The resulting rise of soil organic matter provides healthy hunting grounds for voracious soldier beetle larvae.

Sources:
University of Minnesota Extension: https://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/insects/find/soldier-beetles/

University of Kentucky Entomology: http://www.uky.edu/Ag/CritterFiles/casefile/insects/beetles/soldier/soldier.htm

Virginia Cooperative Extension: https://pubs.ext.vt.edu/content/dam/pubs_ext_vt_edu/ENTO/ENTO-53/ENTO-53-pdf.pdf

Encyclopedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/animal/soldier-beetle

USDA Forest Service: https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/animals/beetles.shtml

Mother Earth News: https://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/pest-control/soldier-beetle-facts-zw0z1302zkin

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach: https://hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/2009/7-1/soldierbeetle.html

Soldier Beetles – Family Cantharidae http://www.cirrusimage.com/beetles_soldier.htm

Bug Guide: Family Cantharidae – Soldier Beetles http://bugguide.net/node/view/118

R.E. White, 1983. A Field Guide to the Beetles of North America. Peterson Field Guide Series, Houghton-Mifflin Co., Boston, MA.

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03
Oct

The Ever-Revolving Door: Industry and the EPA

(Beyond Pesticides, October 3, 2017) On August 20, the U.S. Senate was to have held a hearing on the Trump Administration’s nominee for Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator for chemical safety, Michael L. Dourson, PhD. The hearing was abruptly postponed on August 19, with no reason offered, and has not yet been rescheduled.

Dr. Dourson has spent a good deal of his career helping companies resist constraints on their use of potentially toxic compounds in consumer products. Critics, including former EPA officials, Congressional Democrats, and public health scientists say that these ties with the chemical industry, in particular, should keep him from becoming the country’s chief regulator of toxic chemicals.

U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) said, “Dr. Dourson’s consistent endorsement of chemical safety standards that not only match industry’s views, but are also significantly less protective than EPA and other regulators have recommended, raises serious doubts about his ability to lead those efforts. This is the first time anyone with such clear and extensive ties to the chemical industry has been [nominated] to regulate that industry.”

Dr. Dourson is perhaps the most recent example of the “revolving door” phenomenon — the movement of people between roles as agency regulators or legislators, and positions in the industries that are affected by laws and regulations promulgated through those government roles. The door revolves in both directions, with folks leaving industry to join government, and vice versa. Critics say that this ready switching of roles creates unavoidable conflicts of interest and that those who do so have dubious ethical standing for undertaking the positions they seek. Indeed, ethics experts say that, if confirmed, Dr. Dourson’s work on behalf of industry could constitute significant conflicts of interest.

Dr. Dourson’s professional history provides important context in which to consider his nomination. He did a turn at EPA from 1980 to 1994, starting as a staff toxicologist. By 1989, he headed a pesticides and toxics group, supervising scientists who support EPA’s regulatory work. In 1995, Dr. Dourson started his consulting group, Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment, or TERA, which has done contract work for chemical companies, producing research and reports that often “downplayed the health risks posed by their compounds.

TERA’s clients have included Dow Chemical Company, Koch Industries Inc., and Chevron Corporation. His research has been underwritten by trade groups for companies that make pesticides, processed foods, cigarettes, and plastics, among others, including the storied American Chemistry Council. The Associated Press has reported that Dr. Dourson has, for some time, received payments for his critical assessments of peer-reviewed studies that identified concerns with the safety of his client companies’ products. Examples of the kinds of “industry shielding” work TERA did can be reviewed here: https://theintercept.com/2017/07/21/trumps-epa-chemical-safety-nominee-was-in-the-business-of-blessing-pollution/.

The New York Times quotes Adam Finkel, executive director of the Penn Program on Regulation at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, who worked as a partner on a project with Mr. Dourson and said he observed a disturbing pattern. “‘Most of what he has done over time is to rush headlong to exonerate chemicals,’ Mr. Finkel said, adding that he stopped working with Dr. Dourson based on these concerns. ‘Pretty much every piece of work he’s ever done, it just so happens that when they are finished with it, the risk is smaller than when they started, the doubt is larger, the concern is less.’ The Times continues, “Four chemicals that are nearly ubiquitous in everyday products — 1,4-dioxane1-bromopropane, trichloroethylene and chlorpyrifos — are now under review by agency regulators to determine whether they pose a threat to public health. If confirmed, [Dr.] Dourson would oversee the review of some chemicals produced by companies that his firm used to represent. . . . Each of the four chemicals has been associated with severe health issues, like cancer, birth defects and developmental problems in children. [Dr.] Dourson’s studies frequently concluded that the risk associated with these substances is much lower or more dubious than what EPA scientists and independent researchers have found.”

The Associated Press reported that, when hired by Dow AgroSciences, which makes chlorpyrifos (a neurotoxic pesticide, commonly sprayed on citrus fruits and apples, that harms children’s brains even at very low exposure levels), Dr.Dourson and his researchers produced three papers claiming flaws in peer-reviewed studies that linked delays in fetal development with chlorpyrifos exposure. (Earlier this year, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt overruled the findings of his agency’s own scientists to reverse an effort to ban chlorpyrifos, claiming the science is “unresolved” and deciding it would push off any finding on the pesticide to 2022.) Beyond Pesticides covered this issue a few months ago in Did Dow Chemical Influence the EPA Administrator’s Decision to Reverse Chlorpyrifos Ban?

As Beyond Pesticides discussed in 2015, industry has a long history of utilizing the revolving door. When people are allowed to move from industry to regulatory agency (or the reverse) without constraint, the resultant conflicts of interest not only unduly shape policy or ratchet up industry influence, but also, cast huge doubt on the individual’s ability to act independent of industry’s interests, and in the best interest of the public and an agency’s charge.

This revolving door is not an artifact only of the current Administration, but among the bevy of people it has put forth for top-level positions in the Cabinet and as agency heads are a remarkable number with deep connections to the industries they are charged with regulating, or, in the case of Mr. Pruitt, for example, with putative animosity toward the mission of the agency. Other recent examples include: former Louisiana Senator David Vitter, who sponsored legislation in 2016 to “reform” the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and subsequently joined a firm that lobbies on behalf of industry, including the American Chemistry Council; and Nancy Beck, formerly a Senior Director at the American Chemistry Council, who in Spring 2017 became a Deputy Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.

Beyond Pesticides called out another example a couple of years ago, noting the case of Nader Elkassabany, PhD, former branch chief of the Risk Assessment and Science Support Branch in the Antimicrobial Division in EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs. Dr. Elkassabany left EPA to join CropLife America as Senior Director of environmental policy, where he would oversee the pesticide trade group’s regulatory strategies on environmental policy, and help manage the company’s Environmental Risk Assessment Committee and its working groups. CropLife America has been an aggressive advocate of chemical-dependent agriculture and an opponent of organic methods.

Critics consider Dr,Dourson’s nomination especially vexing at this moment, when Congress is supposed to be in the early stages of enacting its 2016 overhaul of the law that governs toxic chemicals. Unsurprisingly, industry supports his nomination and confirmation to the position.

The Harvard Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics sums up the situation: “The EPA has a vast mandate — protecting air, water, land and people from pollutants. But year after year, through both Republican and Democratic administrations and Congresses, strong economies and weak ones, the institution fails the American public in many ways. The evidence abounds. Reports by the Government Accountability Office (formerly the General Accounting Office), EPA’s own Inspectors General and the media have long documented EPA’s inability to guard Americans from toxic chemicals, mining waste, leaking Superfund sites, greenhouse gas emissions, contaminated water, air pollution and other hazards. New problems also continue to appear, from the emergence of untested nanoparticles in consumer goods, to pollution from hydraulic fracking. Polls show that public trust in the EPA is down. In 2010, an advisory panel found that many agency staffers themselves believe that EPA has been hobbled by political pressure; has been forced to ignore relevant science, and is slow to act against known hazards, to avoid damaging industry. EPA has many dedicated employees who truly believe in its mission. So, why has the agency fallen short so often, since it opened its doors in 1970? A close examination of the agency shows that EPA has been corrupted by numerous routine practices, among them: the revolving door between EPA and industry [emphasis ours]; the large number of former lawmakers now lobbying to weaken environmental regulations or seek exemptions for clients; pressure from current lawmakers who are beholden to donors or who fear opposition in their next race, and other factors, including the ‘burrowing in’ of political appointees, and the influence of the White House Office of Management and Budget.”

A decade ago there was a legislative attempt to curb this dynamic — the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007. Reviews are mixed, but data are telling. According to POLITICO: “Not only did the lobbying reform bill fail to slow the revolving door, it created an entire class of professional influencers who operate in the shadows, out of the public eye and unaccountable. Of the 352 people who left Congress alive since the law took effect in January 2008, POLITICO found that almost half (47 percent) have joined the influence industry: 84 as registered lobbyists and 80 others as policy advisers, strategic consultants, trade association chiefs, corporate government relations executives, affiliates of agenda-driven research institutes and leaders of political action committees or pressure groups. Taken as a whole, more former lawmakers are influencing policy and public opinion now than before the reform was enacted.”

The impacts of this ongoing revolving door between (especially) EPA and industries that are highly motivated to influence regulations are enormous for public health and the health of the environment, never mind the ethical culture in government. Increasingly, members of the public feel that federal agencies are not serving and protecting the people, and are allied far too closely with corporate interests. What can “regular” folks do? Talk about this issue with local and state officials to take action in the absence of federal protection; learn more from and support organizations working for strong reform (Represent.US and Open Secrets.org are two); and advocate for stronger controls on these activities with your U.S. Representative and Senators. Get involved on a regular basis by participating in Beyond Pesticides’ Action of the Week. Contact Beyond Pesticides at info@beyondpesticides.org to get on our email list.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/19/science/epa-chemical-industry-dourson.html

 

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