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Long-Term Pesticide Exposure Linked to Hearing Loss in Farmworkers

Thursday, July 30th, 2020

(Beyond Pesticides, July 30, 2020) Simultaneous exposure to pesticides and noise from agricultural machinery increases farmworkers, risk of hearing loss, according to the study, “Hearing Loss in Agricultural Workers Exposed to Pesticides and Noise,” published in the journal Annals of Work Exposures and Health. Hearing loss is the 3rd most common health issue in the U.S., affecting eight million Americans. Although specific conditions like age, illness, and genetics, can mediate hearing loss, research suggests other factors can induce auricle (ear) damage, including medications, exposure to toxic chemicals (including pesticides), and loud, ongoing noise. Past studies find an association between hearing loss and pesticide exposure or noise exposure, alone. However, this study is one of the first to associate hearing loss with the additive effect to concurrent, persistent pesticide exposure, and noise. This research is significant as human senses are integral to everyday human activities, and it is vital to understand how chronic pesticide exposure can limit the body’s ability to function normally, for farmers and everyone alike. Researchers in the study note, “[I]t is necessary to understand what work-related factors are contributing to this high prevalence of hearing loss in [Thai] agricultural workers in order to develop effective interventions and […]

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Unregulated, “Shocking” and Destructive Levels of Pesticide Mixtures Found in Waterways

Friday, July 17th, 2020

(Beyond Pesticides, July 17, 2020) Researchers have discovered that the rivers and creeks that discharge into the lagoon of the Great Barrier Reef are riddled with mixtures of pesticides. The University of Queensland team expected to find some such mixtures in their sampling, but was shocked to find that 99.8% of their samples contained up to 20 different pesticides. Michael Warne, PhD, lead researcher and associate professor at the University of Queensland’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, says, “The issue with having mixtures of pesticides is that as the number of pesticides increases the impact to aquatic ecosystems generally increases.” Beyond Pesticides has covered waterway pesticide contamination in Europe and the U.S. The organization has long advocated for protective federal regulation that considers potential synergistic and additive threats, to ecosystems and organisms, from admixtures of pesticides — whether in formulated products, or “de facto” in the environment, as this study addresses. The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) Lagoon is the open water of the Coral sea that lies between the reef and the Queensland, Australia coast. The GBR is the world’s largest coral reef system, comprising more than 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands, and extending across an area of approximately 133,000 square miles. It […]

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Health and Behavioral Development of Beneficial Black Garden Ants Stunted by Low Levels of Pesticide Exposure in Soils

Thursday, July 16th, 2020

(Beyond Pesticides, July 16, 2020) Long-term exposure to sublethal (low-level) concentrations of the neonicotinoid in soil negatively affects the health and behavioral development of black garden ants (Lasius niger) colonies, according to a study published in Communications Biology by scientists at the University of Bern, Switzerland. Ants are one of the most biologically significant insects in the soil ecosystem, acting as ecosystem engineers. Their burrowing behavior aerates the soil, allowing oxygen and water to penetrate down to plant roots. Additionally, ants increase soil nutrient levels by importing and accumulating organic material like food and feces, thus enhancing nutrient cycling. Like many other insects, ants are unfortunate victims of the global insect apocalypse or population decline, and much research attributes the recent decline to several, including pesticide exposure. Broad-spectrum pesticides, like neonicotinoids, indiscriminately kill pests and nontarget organisms alike, as their ubiquitous use contaminates soils, even in untreated areas. This study highlights the necessity of rethinking chemical pest management, developing sustainable agricultural practices that reduce the use of agrochemicals, like pesticides, to prevent permanent environmental ecosystem damage. Researchers in the study note, “To prevent irreparable damages to functioning ecosystems, [we] suggest to either fully incorporate long-term effects in risk assessment schemes, or to make a shift […]

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Insecticides the Pesticide Industry Said Were “Safer for Bees” Found to Stress and Kill Honey Bees

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020

(Beyond Pesticides, June 23, 2020) Next-generation systemic insecticides, billed by the agrichemical industry as “safer for bees” than neonicotinoids, have been found to stress and kill honey bees. As reported, a study by researchers at Oregon State University in the journal PLOS One, sulfoxaflor and flupyradifurone (in the products Transform and Sivanto, respectively) were found to increase apoptosis (cell death) and increase oxidative stress in exposed honey bees. The study indicates that, “With the recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval for use of both flupyradifurone and sulfoxaflor, and with the growing concern regarding pollinator health, it is important to better understand any potential negative impacts (especially sub-lethal) of these pesticides on bees.” However, this statement begs the question ‘why these two new bee-toxic pesticide were approved by EPA in the first place.’ This process is familiar and frustrating to those who continue to fight against the decline of pollinators: the chemical industry introduces and EPA approves new toxic pesticides marketed as “safer” to the specific problem caused by its older products, only to find out through independent and academic research that the problem is not solved in the least. Researchers conducted two exposure assessments: one six-hour long study, and another […]

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Court Victory on Three Dicamba Weed Killers Underscores the Need to Reform Pesticide Law

Wednesday, June 17th, 2020

(Beyond Pesticides, June 17, 2020) The June 3 decision in a high-profile “dicamba case” — against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and for the plaintiffs, a coalition of conservation groups — was huge news in environmental advocacy, agriculture, and agrochemical circles. The federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated EPA’s 2018 conditional registration of three dicamba weed killer products for use on an estimated 60 million acres of DT (dicamba-tolerant through genetic modification/engineering) soybeans and cotton. There is, however, a related issue that accompanies this and many other pesticide cases. When EPA decides to cancel or otherwise proscribe use of a pesticide (usually as a result of its demonstrated toxicity and/or damage during litigation), the agency will often allow pesticide manufacturers to continue to sell off “existing stocks” of a pesticide, or growers and applicators to continue to use whatever stock they have or can procure. Beyond Pesticides has opposed, covered, and litigated against this practice. To greenlight predictable harm is a violation of any recognized moral code, never mind of the agency’s mission — “to protect human health and the environment.” According to Beyond Pesticides, EPA should never permit continued use of a dangerous pesticide once that compound’s […]

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Proposed Legislation To Allow Massachusetts to Blanket State with Mosquito Pesticides that Attack the Immune and Respiratory Systems, During a Pandemic that Attacks the Same Systems

Friday, May 8th, 2020

(Beyond Pesticides, May 8, 2020) At the height of Covid-19 impacts in the Northeast U.S., Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R) and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito (R) filed emergency legislation at the Boston State House that would, according to their April 16 press release, “help the Commonwealth more effectively combat diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, including arboviruses like Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile Virus (WNV), by authorizing a coordinated, proactive, statewide approach to mosquito control activities.” Protecting the public from such diseases is an important public health mission. However, the Governor’s bill, H.4650, represents an alarming “over-reach” that would give unitary authority to the State Reclamation and Mosquito Control Board (SRMCB) to conduct mosquito control activities, including ineffective and toxic spraying, with virtually no effective oversight or transparency. Beyond Pesticides opposes this bill, whose passage would enable use of pesticides that can have respiratory and immune impacts — increasing health risks for everyone, but especially for the many people already at higher risk from Covid-19, despite the availability of ecological management approaches that eliminate the need for toxic chemicals. H.4650, An Act to mitigate arbovirus in the Commonwealth — was promulgated in response to a Massachusetts Department of Public Health […]

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One Quarter of Global Insect Population Lost Since 1990

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020

(Beyond Pesticides, April 28, 2020) Roughly a quarter of the global insect population has been wiped out since 1990, according to new research published in the journal Science. Billed as one of the most comprehensive assessments to date, the study finds significant overall insect declines, but notes of some specific bright spots. While variation in the ongoing crisis is to be expected, ultimately the trends in the data show the need for immediate policy and regulatory action to protect the insect world as the foundation of global food webs. The team of European scientists behind the research analyzed 166 studies spread out over 41 countries, and consisting of over 1,600 sites, with data beginning in the mid-1920s. Overall trends found declines in terrestrial insect biomass to be nearly 1% each year (~9% each decade). However, contrasting this data was a bright spot – freshwater insects were found to be increasing at an annual rate just over 1% (~11% each decade). The authors caution, however, that because fresh water covers only 2.4% of the earth’s surface, the increase may not be a good spatial representative of broader trends. While North America appeared to show more significant declines when compared to Europe, […]

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Farmland Birds’ Exposure to Neonicotinoid-Treated Seeds (during Winter Seeding) Confirmed by Blood Plasma Tests

Thursday, April 16th, 2020

(Beyond Pesticides, April 16, 2020) Pesticide exposure in farmland birds is a concomitant of pesticide-treated muesli (cereal) seed commonly planted during winter months, according to research published in Science of the Total Environment by United Kingdom (UK) scientists. Not only do pesticide-treated seeds pose the highest dietary risk to birds, but pesticide-treated seeds also go underreported as farmers often lack knowledge of what pesticides are on the seeds they plant. This study emphasizes the global effects of treated seeds, and their corresponding pesticide exposure, on bird species. Future risk assessments for bird should address these implications when implementing agricultural pesticide policies.  Farmers use of treated seeds exposes farmland birds to pesticides like neonicotinoids (neonics), including clothianidin (CLO). Pesticide residues then accumulate in the birds’ blood. UK scientists examined pesticides in farmland bird blood samples to connect the field-based use of treated seeds to clothianidin exposure patterns. At the time of this study, CLO was the most widely used pesticide on treated winter cereal seeds in the UK. Scientists recorded the presence of neonicotinoid-treated seed in 39 fields of 25 farms after seeding. Camera traps monitored farmland birds’ seed consumption. To measure CLO concentration in treated seed and seedling, scientists used liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry to identify inorganic, organic, […]

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With Wildlife Extinction on the Rise, Trump Administration Reduces Protections for Endangered Species, Allows Greater Harm from Pesticides

Friday, April 3rd, 2020

(Beyond Pesticides, April 3, 2020) In mid-March, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rolled out new rules for “biological evaluations” — assessments of pesticide risks to endangered plant and animal species that are supposed to be protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The agency’s press release announcing the change is misleadingly titled: “Trump Administration Takes Major Step to Improve Implementation of the Endangered Species Act.” But as the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) reports, the “revised methods for assessing pesticide risks . . . will allow widespread harm to most of the nation’s most endangered plants and animals.” Beyond Pesticides reviewed the status of pesticide threats to endangered species in November 2019 and provides ongoing coverage of the issue. ESA requires EPA to conduct biological evaluations (BEs) of pesticides to assess their impacts on listed (endangered and threatened) species and their critical habitats. EPA’s new “Revised Method” ignores many of the ways that protected species are commonly hurt or killed by pesticides, and allows the continued marketing and use of pesticides without sensible constraints that would protect those species. CBD cites two examples of ignored impacts: downstream impacts of pesticide runoff into waterways from treated farmland, and the loss of […]

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Take Action Today: Tell EPA to Ban Atrazine

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

(Beyond Pesticides, March 2, 2020) Deadline today! Tell EPA to Ban Atrazine; Protect Children and Frogs from this Endocrine Disrupting Pesticide. Atrazine, the second most-used herbicide in the U.S., is an insidious poison. Atrazine is known for producing developmental abnormalities in frogs. It also affects the endocrine system and reproductive biology of humans. In addition to its agricultural uses on corn, sorghum, and sugar cane, atrazine is also used on home lawns, school grounds, and parks, where exposure to children is common. Nontoxic alternatives are available for all of these uses. Act today, March 2. Sign the petition demanding that EPA ban atrazine and its cousins simazine and propazine. Act today! Beyond Pesticides will submit comments: Docket: EPA-HQ-OPP-2017-0750 (FRL-10002-92) Petition to EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs: We have serious concerns with the proposed interim decisions on reregistration of three triazine pesticides: atrazine, simazine, and propazine. These triazines are highly mobile and persistent in the environment and have been linked to numerous adverse health and environmental effects which have motivated numerous public interest campaigns to ban their use in the U.S. as well as in Europe. The Draft Ecological Risk Assessments for the Registration Review of Atrazine, Simazine, and Propazine dated October 5, 2016 […]

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EPA Fails to Follow Congressional Mandate to Protect Children from Pesticide Exposure

Thursday, February 13th, 2020

(Beyond Pesticides, February 13, 2020) Congress unanimously passed the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) in 1996 to increase protections for children from pesticide exposure. Unfortunately, according to a new study published in Environmental Health, the law is not being employed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to its full capacity. For most of the 59 pesticides reviewed by the study, EPA did not apply an additional FQPA safety factor and thereby missed an opportunity to protect children’s health. In fact, FQPA solidified EPA’s reliance on risk assessment calculations and mitigation measures that consistently fall short of adequate levels of protection because of serious data gaps, a failure to consider exposure to mixtures and synergistic effects, and a bias against consideration of alternatives (alternatives assessment)  that show toxic pesticides to be unnecessary.  FQPA establishes a safety standard applied to all food commodities that considers specific risks for infants and children. The law requires EPA to assess the “aggregate risk” (considering exposure from multiple sources) and “cumulative exposure” to pesticides that have a “common mechanism of toxicity.” FQPA mandates “an additional tenfold margin of safety for the pesticide chemical residue and other sources of exposure shall be applied for infants and children […]

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EPA Set to Reapprove Cancer-Causing Glyphosate and Bee-Toxic Neonicotinoids

Tuesday, February 4th, 2020

(Beyond Pesticides, February 4, 2020) It was a good day for Bayer/Monsanto. The chemical company’s weed killer glyphosate and its neonicotinoid insecticides are set for reapproval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to interim decisions published last week. EPA reapproval of human carcinogens and chemicals contributing to the pollinator crisis is disappointing for health and environmental advocates, but not surprising to those watchdogging the agency during the current administration. “This is how a captured agency behaves,” said Beyond Pesticides community resource and policy director Drew Toher. “When EPA’s decision making repeatedly reflects the exact wishes of the chemical industry, public trust erodes, and we must look to new policy mechanisms that support the protection of health and the environment.”   On Glyphosate EPA’s glyphosate decision document glosses over the hazards of the chemical and is requiring very few new safety measures when using the herbicide. These measures are focused on agriculture, including minor label changes around drift, guidelines on resistance management, and a label advisory indicating the chemical is toxic to plants and may adversely impact pollinator foraging. The restrictions fail to match those proposed by Health Canada in 2015, which included buffer zones and restricted entry intervals. […]

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Trump Administration Hands Over Clean Water Standards to Agrichemical, Construction, and Mining Industry

Friday, January 31st, 2020

(Beyond Pesticides, January 31, 2020) In the latest of a long litany of destructive decisions by the Trump administration, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced on January 23 the establishment of a new weaker federal rule on protection of U.S. waterways, which replaces the 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule that the agency repealed in September 2019. In an obeisant gesture to industrial interests — the agrichemical, construction, and mining sectors — Mr. Wheeler chose to announce the replacement rule, the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, at a Las Vegas National Association of Home Builders International Builders’ Show. This decision will significantly weaken protections by drastically reducing the number of U.S. waterways and acreage of wetlands protected, and by jettisoning proscriptions on activities that threaten waterways from a variety of pollution harms. President Obama’s WOTUS, aka Clean Water Rule, has provided protections from pesticide runoff and other pollutants to millions of acres of wetlands and thousands of miles of streams. According to Administrator Wheeler, “‘All states have their own protections for waters within their borders, and many regulate more broadly than the federal government. . . . Our new rule recognizes this relationship and strikes the proper […]

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Documented Decline of Mayflies, a Keystone Species, Destabilizes Ecosystems

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020

(Beyond Pesticides, January 28, 2020) In more bad news from the insect world, recent research reveals a precipitous decline in numbers of mayflies in territories where they have been historically abundant. Reported by National Geographic and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the research finds that in the Northern Mississippi River Basin, seasonal emergence of burrowing mayfly (genus Hexagenia) adults declined by 52% from 2012 to 2019; in the Western Lake Erie Basin, from 2015 to 2019, the reduction was a shocking 84%. Neonicotinoid insecticides are a significant factor in this decline because mayflies are exquisitely vulnerable to their impacts, even at very low exposure levels. Ephemeroptera to entomologists — and “mayflies” to the rest of us — are a keystone species, one on which other species in an ecosystem are very dependent, and without which, the ecosystem would undergo drastic change. The Latinate name is apt: mayflies are among the most short-lived organisms, with lifespans across the 2,000+ known species lasting from five minutes to one day to a few weeks. Like damselflies and dragonflies, members of an ancient group of insects, the 600 North American species, as do their global kin, make optimal reproductive […]

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Environmental Groups Are Victorious in Lawsuit that Pushes EPA to Protect Endangered Species

Thursday, October 31st, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, October 31, 2019) Last week the U.S. District Court in San Francisco ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must assess the risk eight toxic pesticides pose to protected organisms: atrazine, carbaryl, methomyl, and simazine as well as rodenticides brodifacoum, bromadiolone, warfarin and zinc phosphide. The plaintiffs, Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) asserted that EPA and its then administrator Scott Pruitt violated duties under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by not consulting with the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service in registering these pesticides. The history of this case extends over 8 years. Last year, the court rejected EPA’s attempts to dismiss the lawsuit. According to CBD’s press release, “Under the agreement the agency must complete assessments of four pesticides, including atrazine, the nation’s second most-used pesticide, by 2021. Assessments of four rodenticides, including the widely used rat poison brodifacoum, must be finalized in 2024.” Stephanie Parent, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said “This important step is only the start. We still have work to do to make sure the EPA addresses the harms of all pesticides, as the law requires. EPA was created after […]

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In Response to a Lawsuit, EPA Proposes Review Process for Evaluating the Effects of Multiple Pesticide Ingredients on Nontarget Organisms

Friday, October 11th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, October 11, 2019) The Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking public comment on a document that describes an “interim process” being used to assess potential synergistic effects of admixtures of pesticide active ingredients on non-target organisms. This interim risk assessment process was catalyzed in part by a 2015 lawsuit brought by a group of non-governmental organizations; that suit cited EPA’s failure to evaluate appropriately the impacts of a new herbicide, Enlist Duo, on non-target species, including some endangered species. EPA’s inattention to synergistic impacts on non-target species has long been a deficiency of EPA’s pesticide review and regulation and a focus for Beyond Pesticides’ work to factor in uncertainties, or unknowns, in registering pesticides under a precautionary approach. Although EPA recognizes that pesticide exposures occur in combinations, it evaluates a very limited number of such interactions. Manufactured by Dow AgroSciences, Enlist Duo combines glyphosate and 2,4-D. Increasingly, manufacturers create and market such “twofer” products as responses to the burgeoning issue of plant resistance to individual pesticides. As insects, fungi, weeds, or other “pests” inevitably develop resistance to pesticide, herbicide, fungicide, or insecticide compounds, the efficacy of the chemical treatment obviously plummets. […]

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Cardiovascular Disease Tied to Occupational Pesticide Exposure

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, October 2, 2019) New data gleaned from the Kuakini Honolulu Heart Program — a longitudinal study of men of Japanese descent living on Oahu — demonstrate that occupational exposure to high levels of pesticides can increase risks for cardiovascular disease (CVD) in the forms of coronary heart disease (CHD) or stroke (CVA, or cerebrovascular accident). Further, researchers determined both that workers who experience high-level exposures may not experience such effects for years afterward, and that the maximum subsequent effects were seen within a decade of exposure. The study’s conclusion highlights the importance of pesticide applicator use of protective gear when handling toxic pesticides. These risks and harms could be eliminated through a transition to non-chemical means for pest control in agriculture, land management, and home and personal practices. The Kuakini Honolulu Heart Program, after enrolling more than 8,000 Japanese-American men, 45–68 years old and living on Oahu, Hawaii between 1965 and 1968, has continued to examine and interview these subjects, and document morbidity and mortality among them. This study, which performed statistical analyses on 7,557 of the subjects, is the longest longitudinal study of cardiovascular disease and any association with chronic occupational pesticide exposure, taking into account epidemiologic risk […]

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Mysterious “Havana syndrome” Linked to Neurotoxic Pesticide Exposure

Wednesday, September 25th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, September 24, 2019) In 2016, Canadians and Americans residing in Havana reported symptoms of headaches, dizziness, nausea. They described hearing strange buzzing and high-pitched sounds – some woke in the middle of the night fumbling for alarm clocks that were not going off. Media used the term “Havana syndrome” to describe the illness. Diplomats, scared by symptoms that seemed to only hit them in their hotel rooms or at home, speculated that a sonic weapon was being used against them. The Trump administration accused Cuban leaders of misconduct and removed all but essential employees. Later, some suspected that the diplomats could have experienced “mass hysteria.” A new Canadian study provides a more likely explanation to this mysterious illness that impacted diplomats in Havana: neurotoxic pesticide exposure. Researchers conducted testing on 14 individuals who had resided in Havana and a control group of 12 that had never lived there. Some of the experimental group had been recently exposed while others, tested 19 months after their return, were classified as “remotely exposed.” Tests included brain imaging and self-reported symptom questionnaires. They analyzed blood samples for routine biochemistry, kidney, liver, and metabolic functions. Individuals that showed symptoms of brain injury went […]

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Germany Moves to Phase-Out Glyphosate/Roundup; EPA Unmoved

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, September 11, 2019) Germany is the latest entity to take action on getting glyphosate-based pesticides out of the marketplace. Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced that, beginning in 2020, the country will phase out herbicides that contain glyphosate by the end of 2023. The phase-out will occur through a series of scheduled reductions in amounts allowed for use, with a goal of a 75% reduction over the next four years. The announcement comes after “nation-wide protests and demands from [Merkel’s] junior coalition partner, the Social Democrats, for more decisive action on environmental issues.” This action stands in telling contrast to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) repeated failures to protect people, ecosystems, and our food supply, from this toxic compound. The German government also plans to oppose any European Union (EU) request for renewal of licensing of these herbicides, according to the environment ministry. Bayer AG, maker of glyphosate-based herbicides and owner of original manufacturer Monsanto, has pushed back, saying that the government is “getting ahead of itself” by banning glyphosate-based herbicides prior to any decision by the relevant EU authority, and that EU laws disallow unilateral decisions by member states. (Pesticide licensing decisions lie with EU governance in Brussels, […]

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EPA Sued for Registering Known Bee-Killing Pesticide for Use on Bee-Attractive Crops

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, August 27, 2019) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the subject to a new legal challenge from environmental groups after approving the use an insecticide shown to be highly toxic to bees and other pollinators.  The lawsuit, filed in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals by the Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Food Safety, aims to stop the use of sulfoxaflor on more than 200 million acres of crops. As EPA under the Trump administration has become increasingly emboldened to fight for industry priorities, concerned organizations and people are responding by supporting legal challenges and working to pass policies that truly protect wildlife and the environment. According to EPA’s ecological risk assessment for sulfoxaflor, the chemical is “very highly toxic” to bees. A study published last year in the journal Nature found significant concerns with the chemical’s ability to harm already declining pollinator populations. “There is an urgent need to pre-emptively evaluate the potential sub-lethal effects of sulfoximine-based pesticides on pollinators, because such effects are rarely detected by standard ecotoxicological assessments, but can have major impacts at larger ecological scales,” the authors wrote. EPA had already run in to legal problems associated with its registration […]

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Insect “Honeydew” Secretions, Contaminated with Neonicotinoid Insecticides then Eaten by Other Insects, and Birds Contribute to an Expansive Threat

Friday, August 9th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, August 9, 2019) A recent study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, demonstrates a food chain vector for exposure of beneficial insects to neonicotinoid pesticides — the invasive mealybug, in this case. The finding may also be relevant for other phloem-feeding hemipterans, which can feed on neonicotinoid-contaminated plants and excrete so-called “honeydew” that is then consumed by beneficial insects. A primary “fix” for the decimation of insects and pollinators — caused chiefly by pesticide use, habitat destruction, and impacts of a rapidly changing climate — is, of course, the cessation of use of these toxic compounds in agriculture. The most common route of exposure of beneficial insects to neonicotinoids is through contaminated floral nectar and pollen. The discovery of this “honeydew” vector is important because it could potentially affect far more insects than nectar and pollen consumption, given that honeydew is more abundant, especially in agricultural fields. Pollinators such as honey bees, solitary bees, bumblebees, and even birds have been observed feeding on honeydew. Neonicotinoids represent more than 20% of the insecticides used worldwide; they are used on crops such as citrus, cotton, oilseed rape, soybean, fruits, potatoes, rice, corn, sunflowers (for seed), ornamentals, fruits, […]

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At Congressional Hearing, USDA Proposes Allowing Genetic Engineering (“Editing”) in Certified Organic Food

Friday, August 2nd, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, August 2, 2019) Advocates of organic agriculture, including Beyond Pesticides, are sounding a “yellow alert” on the heels of recent comments, by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, Greg Ibach, before the U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research. In his remarks, Mr. Ibach opened the door to consideration of allowing new gene-editing technologies to be permitted under the federal National Organic Program (NOP) and its standards. He said, “As the National Organic Standards Board set the rules originally, GMOs are not eligible to be in the organic program. However, we’ve seen new technology, including gene-editing, that accomplishes things in shorter periods of time than a natural breeding process can. I think there is the opportunity to open the discussion to consider whether it is appropriate for some of these new technologies that include gene-editing to be eligible to be used to enhance organic production and to have drought and disease-resistant varieties, as well as higher-yield varieties available.” The National Organic Standards (NOS), promulgated in 2002 (on the basis of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990) by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) — on which Beyond Pesticides Executive […]

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Trump Administration Dealt Multiple Blows to Honey Bees this Month

Tuesday, July 30th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, July 30, 2019) Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a decision to register new uses for the bee-toxic pesticide sulfoxaflor. The decision closely followed a USDA announcement halting the Honey Bee Colonies Survey, combining blows to already suffering beekeepers. According to the nonprofit Bee Informed, this past winter tallied the most colonies lost in a decade—an estimated 37% between October 1, 2018 and April 1, 2019. “Proposing to register sulfoxaflor for use on bee-attractive crops, in the midst of an ongoing pollinator crisis, is the height of irresponsibility,” said Drew Toher, community resource and policy director for Beyond Pesticides in an interview for Bloomberg Environment. “When all of the available data points to significant risks to pollinators from use of this chemical we must face the facts: EPA is working towards the protection of pesticide industry, not the environment,” he said. Sulfoxaflor is a systemic insecticide whose mode of action is the same as neonicotinoid pesticides. After application, the chemical is absorbed and distributed throughout the plant, including pollen and nectar. These insecticides are selective agonists of insects’ nicotinic acetylcholine receptors—they bind to the receptor and cause it to activate. The impact on foraging bees […]

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