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Daily News Blog

10
Jan

Carlsbad, California Adopts Ordinance Prioritizing an Organic and “Least-Toxic” Approach

(Beyond Pesticides, January 10, 2018) At the end of 2017, the City of Carlsbad, CA voted unanimously to adopt a policy prioritizing the use of organic and defined “least-toxic” pesticides to manage pest problems on city-owned and controlled property and public rights-of-way. Buoyed by a strong and growing coalition of  Non Toxic advocates fighting for a healthier environment for their children, pets, and wildlife, Carlsbad is the newest in a string of southern California communities that are implementing safer pest control practices. In recognition of the significant progress and activity in southern California communities, Beyond Pesticides’ 36th National Pesticide Forum, Organic Neighborhoods: For healthy children, families, and ecology, will take place in Irvine, CA from April 13-14, 2018 (stay tuned to Beyond Pesticides’ website for additional updates!).

Carlsbad’s new policy is, in fact, an update of an Integrated Pest Management plan the City last reviewed in 2003. While its previous policy only addressed City parks, the new plan will include all City maintained or operated land and facilities. The policy also takes a much tougher approach against toxic pesticides, prioritizing the use of organic products first and foremost when pest problems arise. Importantly, the policy also places pesticides last on the list of pest management tactics, indicating that even least-toxic and organic pesticides should be used only as a last resort after cultural, mechanical, environmental/physical, and biological controls have been attempted and failed. While the policy is broad and outlines a decision making process with priorities, it distinguishes itself from a Portland, Maine-style ordinance (adopted previously by Montgomery County, MD and South Portland, ME) that clearly prohibits the allowance of any toxic pesticides used in managing landscapes that are not compatible with organic methods, except in cases of public health protection and management of invasives. Under these ordinances, materials are clearly defined as compliant with organic by USDA or exempt by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Carlsbad City Council voted to take a phased in approach to the implementation of the ordinance, aiming to educate city staff and contractors about the ordinance and update contracts and approvals the City currently has with land and building maintenance companies. That process is expected to be complete by mid-2018. “Asked to choose between aesthetics and public health 
 I’m going to choose public health every time,” said Councilwoman Cori Shumacher to the San Diego Union Tribune. “There’s a request for us to take the lead here.”

Concerns in local newspapers noted the potential for increases in cost as a result of the new policy. However, as experiences in other communities across the country show, while there may be a short transition time when costs increase as new practices are learned, the organic approach takes hold, and soil life begins to rebound after years of chemical use, in the long run organic land care costs less. A 2010 report produced by turfgrass expert Chip Osborne and the group Grassroots Environmental Education provides a detailed account of cost, finding that a natural turf management program can result in savings of greater than 25% after 5 years. That report is now nearly a decade old, and many organic land managers indicate that the new products and practices available today could allow many communities to transition with little to no initial cost increase.

Irvine Unified School District, which, along with the City of Irvine, California, was first in the region to implement an organic policy, and has seen only minor cost increases during the first year and a half, at 5.6% of its landscape budget.  Bob Johnson, a member of Non Toxic Carlsbad and former employee at the City of Irvine has high hopes for the future of organic land care. “It’s a total transformation,” he told The Coast News. “It’s been in place for 18 months, and the IUSD budget went up 5.6 percent because of testing different products. I think the price will go down, especially with less watering.”

Unlike the historic policy passed earlier this month banning pesticide on public and private property in Portland, ME, California communities are limited to addressing pesticide use that occurs on public, City-owned property, and cannot restrict pesticide use on private property. California’s state preemption law, which disallows local communities from crafting a policy that is stricter than state law, prevents these communities from doing so. However, as more and more communities like Carlsbad, Irvine, and San Juan Capistrano pass organic policies and show the desire for local communities to go farther than EPA and the state in protecting their residents, pressure will build on California state lawmakers to reverse regressive preemption statues.

The best way to fight back against inaction and industry influence within EPA and our state and federal governments is to become active at the local level. Reach out to Beyond Pesticides for tools, strategies, and information you can use to enact change in your community. And stay tuned for more information to come on Beyond Pesticides 36th National Pesticide Forum, Organic Neighborhoods: For healthy children, families, and ecology, in Irvine, CA, April 13-14.

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

Source: San Diego Union Tribune, The Coast News

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09
Jan

Take Action: Fight back for organic integrity and animal welfare!

(Beyond Pesticides, January 9, 2018) Comments are needed by January 17 on plans announced by the Trump Administration to scuttle the final rule on organic animal welfare (the Organic Livestock Poultry Practices rule, or OLPP) that was adopted as a final rule a year ago.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue has repeatedly delayed implementation of the final rule on animal welfare in organic production. The effective date of the final rule published on January 19, 2017, delayed on February 9, 2017, and again on May 10, 2017, is now delayed until May 14, 2018. By setting minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements and defining “outdoors,” the rule would make it more difficult for factory egg and poultry farms to be certified organic. Although many wished it to be stronger, the rule received widespread support. More than 40,000 agriculture groups, farmers, and others urged USDA to finalize the standard; only 28 commenters opposed it. The Organic Trade Association sued USDA in September for failing to finalize the standard. Now, USDA proposes to withdraw the rule altogether.

Tell USDA to implement the Organic Livestock Poultry Practices rule now!  Then give your message to your U.S. Senators and Representative.

The OLPP requires that organic chickens have access to the outdoors, space to move around, sunlight and fresh air, and that animals on farms be protected from unnecessary and potentially harmful procedures, such as tail docking of cows and unrestricted beak trimming on birds. The majority of organic livestock farmers already comply with these rules. USDA’s inexcusable rollback of organic standards is the biggest attack on organic since it tried to allow GMOs in the original standard nearly 20 years ago.

Tell USDA to implement the Organic Livestock Poultry Practices rule now!

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08
Jan

Protections from Agricultural Pesticide Drift over Schools Take Effect in California

(Beyond Pesticides, January 8, 2018)  With a long-documented history of children’s exposure to pesticides that drift from agricultural fields to school yards, California’s new regulations establishing no-spray buffers took effort January 1, as labor and public health groups acknowledged the progress and inadequacy of the measure. The new rule, DPR 16-004 Pesticide Use Near Schoolsites, adopted by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), prohibits many pesticide applications within a quarter mile of public K-12 schools and licensed child day-care facilities during school hours, Monday through Friday between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. This includes all applications by aircraft, sprinklers, air-blast sprayers, and all fumigant applications. In addition, most dust and powder pesticide applications, such as sulfur, will also be prohibited during this time. The new rule was announced in November, 2017.

Advocates say the new rules fail to address persistent low-level exposures associated with the use of the pesticides near schools, which are in agricultural areas that are disproportionately Latino and from farmworker families. There is continuing concern about children’s exposure to hazardous pesticides because children use school grounds after school hours and on weekends and residues from drift may remain on school grounds. Many pesticides used are persistent and systemic, lingering in the air and on surfaces long after they are applied. In fact, 2016 air monitoring data found pesticide residues at levels more than 18 times federal standards on the campus of Shafter High School in Kern County. 

After two years of contentious debate, and more than 19,000 public comments, hearings and workshops, DPR, a division of the state’s Environmental Protection Agency, adopted the regulation. DPR invited public comment on the regulation in October, 2017. The regulations also provide annual notification to schools and day-care facilities of pesticides expected to be used within quarter mile of the schools by April 30. However, there are concerns that the notification provisions are not adequate to protect the vulnerable because of the inability to avoid exposure. The law will affect about 4,100 public schools and licensed child day-care facilities and approximately 2,500 growers.

DPR notes that the state has some of the most restrictive pesticide regulations in the country, but population growth has created a growing number of situations where schools and day-care facilities are located near or directly adjacent to working farms, increasing the potential for unintended exposures to pesticides. Many counties have adopted local rules related to pesticide applications near schools and day-care centers, but until now, there was no consistent, statewide standard. Now, DPR states the new regulations will allow schools, growers and county agricultural commissioners “to devise alternative application restrictions that provide an equal or greater level of protection to those provided by the regulation.”

Intense pressure from the industry, resulted in a weakening of the draft proposed regulation. For example, the original proposal required growers give schools 48-hour notice of any pesticide use planned within a quarter mile was removed from the final regulation, leaving only the requirement to provide general notice to schools of possible pesticide use over the year. At that time, concerned parents and advocates said it was unacceptable for DPR to water down already insufficient protections.

While the quarter mile buffer zone creates a standard across the entire state, scientific evidence and recent incidents in the state point to a need for a much larger buffer zone. In spring 2017, dozens of farmworkers were harmed when pesticides, including the controversial chlorpyrifos, drifted more than half a mile from the application site.

A 2014 California Department of Public Health (CDPH) report on pesticide use near schools revealed that there are 140 highly hazardous pesticides associated with cancer, reproductive and developmental harm and damage to the nervous system used in close proximity to schools; over 118,000 students attend school in close proximity to the heaviest use of pesticides; and Latino schoolchildren are 91% more likely than white students to be exposed to the highest levels of hazardous pesticides.

Children exposed to high levels of pesticides like the organophosphate insecticide chlorpyrifos have developmental delays, attention problems, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder problems, and pervasive developmental disorders. Most recently, researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, analyzing 500,000 birth observations, report that exposure to pesticides as a result of living in the agriculturally dominated San Joaquin Valley increases the risk of giving birth to a baby with abnormalities. A 2014 study conducted by the UC Davis Mind Institute also found that pregnant women who lived within a mile of fields where chlorpyrifos was sprayed more than tripled their chances of giving birth to a child with autism. Additionally, the UC Berkeley CHAMACOS team, studying organophosphate impacts on women and children in the Salinas Valley, found that every 522 pounds of combined organophosphate pesticide applications within one kilometer of a pregnant woman’s home correlates with a two point IQ loss in her children at seven years old. A 2016 study published in The Lancet estimated that organophosphate pesticide exposure, insecticides often used for agricultural purposes, resulted in 1.8 million lost IQ points, and 7.5 thousand intellectual disability cases annually at an estimated cost of $44.7 billion each year. Of that $44.7 billion, roughly $350 million in costs can be attributed to California, proportionately.

Although California’s statewide regulation is a start, its numerous shortcomings demonstrate the clear and present need to transition to least-toxic alternatives, and to eventually phase-out chemical-intensive agriculture. It is not enough to simply prohibit spraying toxic chemicals near schools “at certain times.” Dosing fields with hazardous agricultural pesticides must become a thing of the past. A wide variety of alternative practices and products are available to assist growers in preventing pest problems before they start. Organic agriculture, which requires farmers to improve soil health and craft an organic system plan to guide pest control decisions, represents a viable path forward for agriculture in California and beyond.

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

Source:  California Department of Pesticide Regulation; Pesticide Action Network North America; KEYT News

 

 

 

 

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05
Jan

Portland, ME Becomes an Organic City, Banning Toxic Pesticides on Public and Private Property

(Beyond Pesticides, January 5, 2018) After 11:00 pm on January 3, the City Council of Portland, ME voted unanimously (9-0) to restrict the use of toxic pesticides on all lawns and landscapes within the City, both public and private. Passage of the new pesticide ordinance, one of the strongest in the country, represents the culmination of nearly two and a half years of intense debate and discussion between residents, advocates, opponents, and City of Portland officials. Local and national health and environmental groups are praising the City for its diligence in addressing the issue, and its ultimate decision to restrict hazardous pesticide use in the face of insufficient protections from federal and state regulators. Read Beyond Pesticides’ and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association’s (MOFGA) op-ed in the Portland Press Herald.

Outside of Maine, the City of Portland now joins neighboring South Portland and other jurisdictions in the state of Maryland (the City of Takoma Park and Montgomery County ), which have taken similar action. Twenty-eight jurisdictions throughout Maine have restricted pesticides in various ways, including on public property, but the comprehensive Portland-style ordinance stops virtually all hazardous pesticide use in the community, on private and public property. In support of the legislation, the Council received a letter from 31 medical and science professionals, who said, “As health professionals, it is our contention based on the molecular and microbiologic actions of these synthetic land care pesticides that the continued use of them must be challenged, banned, and replaced by practices and products that are not harmful to people and the environment.”

The ability to apply pesticide restrictions to private property is permitted within only a handful of states due to preemption laws which prevent localities from enacting pesticide policies stricter than the state’s. While Maine localities are not preempted, during the course of deliberations in Portland, Governor Paul LePage and other state lawmakers friendly to the pesticide industry launched a failed attempt to pass preemption legislation. The bill was rejected unanimously by a state legislature committee.

Avery Kamila, a leading advocate for pesticide reform in the City and co-founder of the local group Portland Protectors, is proud of the Portland City Council. “The council listened to the residents, organic experts and the independent science and decided to prioritize public health and environmental stewardship,” she said in an emailed statement.  “I expect our new status as a leading organic city will make Portland even more attractive to young people and visitors.”

In August of 2015, Portland Protectors presented the City Council with a draft pesticide ordinance, and launched a petition which eventually received over 1,300 signatures. A subcommittee hearing scheduled in October of that year saw strong turnout, though city staff also presented their own version of an ordinance which was limited to public property, and included a number of exemptions. After several subsequent hearings, the Council decided to form a Task Force to further study the issue. Advocates viewed the Task Force as tilted toward industry interests, and its final recommendation reflected that notion, with language encouraging an outdated Integrated Pest Management approach that allowed the use of undefined “least-toxic” pesticides.

As Portland continued its debate, neighboring South Portland passed a model, comprehensive pesticide reform policy that specifically defined allowed pesticides as those permitted under organic production or considered minimum risk by the Environmental Protection Agency. Advocates in Portland seized on the passage of South Portland’s policy, and urged the City Council take up an ordinance modeled after their neighbor’s, rather than the recommendation of the Task Force.

Portland’s elected leaders listened to the concerns of their residents, and final debate over pesticide reform considered a South Portland-style ordinance. City staff recommended a range of changes to weaken the policy, however only two minor amendments were included within the final bill passed this week. These amendments delay the start date of the ordinance on public property from March 1, 2018 to July 1, 2018, and include an exemption for the use of toxic pesticides to control invasive plants on public property.

In addition to creating specific criteria for what pesticides are allowed for use in the City, the ordinance establishes a Pest Management Advisory Committee (PMAC) comprised of City staff, land care and pest control experts, and Portland residents. Within PMAC, a waiver committee will review requests to use more toxic pesticides, determining whether their use is necessary or would further endanger public health. The ordinance also includes a strong outreach and education campaign to ensure the community is aware of the changes, and of best practices for their lawns and landscapes. Violations of the ordinance will be subject to civil penalties as enforced by the City Manager. After the new July 1 start date for restrictions on public property, all private property will be subject to the ordinance beginning on January 1, 2019.

“Portland Protectors will closely monitor the implementation of this ordinance,” said Avery Kamila. Advocates are concerned about a clause they had hoped to remove from the final version of the ordinance exempting high use athletic fields for a period of time. As Ms. Kamila indicates, “the city used 2,200 pounds of high risk weed-and-feed on five student athletic fields last year. This use will be allowed until 2021, and we want to see it stop much sooner.”

“We also hope the council will come back later and restrict synthetic fertilizer use and restrict the sale of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers,” she said. There is growing recognition that the success of policies that restrict pesticides entail a change in management practices away from fertilizers which damage soil and undermine healthy turf. Beyond Pesticides’ list of fertilizers compatible with organic landscape management intends to help localities establish a foundation for healthy turf management.

After the passage of Portland’s ordinance, advocates are focusing on creating a strong PMAC committee, implementing the outreach and education program, and hoping that additional communities in the state will follow the City’s lead. As communities and states continue to rely on an increasingly lax and industry-friendly EPA for determinations about the safety of pesticides, more and more concerned residents are contacting their local elected leaders, and more and more leaders are listening, and acting on their constituent’s concerns. The passage of Portland’s ordinance is yet another example of the power of grassroots change to protect not only our own health, and particularly the health of children, but the also the air we breathe, the water we drink, the soil we use to grow our food, and wildlife and complex ecology upon which we all rely.

If you’re interested in getting active in your community and passing a policy like Portland’s, reach out to Beyond Pesticides for the tools and the strategy you need to succeed. Contact us at 202-543-5450 or email [email protected].

Read Portland’s ordinance here (an updated document including the two additional amendments voted on before final passage will be added when it becomes available).

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

Source: Portland Press Herald; Beyond Pesticides Press Release

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04
Jan

EPA’s Assessments of Seeds Coated with Neonicotinoid Insecticides Confirm Dangers to Birds and Aquatic Organisms

(Beyond Pesticides, January 4, 2018) Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the preliminary ecological (non-pollinator) assessments for the neonicotinoids (neonics); clothianidin, thiamethoxam, dinotefuran, and the terrestrial ecological assessment for imidacloprid, finding that these pesticides pose both acute and chronic risks to aquatic life and birds. Treated seeds are identified as posing the highest dietary risks to birds, confirming previous research that neonics are highly hazardous not only to bees, but to birds, aquatic life, and other non-target organisms.

Released December 15, 2017, EPA opened the public comment period for these assessments until February 20, 2018. Along with the risks identified in the assessments, the agency is specially requesting feedback on the benefits of continued use of the neonics in cotton and citrus crops identified in last year’s pollinator assessments as posing risks to honey bees. EPA states, “We believe early input from the public will be helpful in developing possible mitigation options that may be needed to address risks to bees.” This despite evidence of long-term systemic exposures to non-target organisms that support a phase-out of these pesticides. EPA believes that neonicotinoids are crucial for the management of Asian citrus psyllid, an invasive pest that causes citrus greening, and for plant bugs and stink bugs in cotton. However, other non-chemical, or biological, management have been successfully employed.

EPA found that risks posed to certain birds from eating neonic-treated seeds exceeded the agency’s level of concern by as much as 200-fold. For clothianidin, the agency finds that as little as 1-5 seeds of treated corn will be enough to exceed acute and chronic levels of concern for small to large birds. Specifically, EPA states, “Dietary exposures from clothianidin treated seeds are noted to result in the highest acute and chronic risks from the terrestrial risk assessment to birds and mammals.”

Clothianidin, which is widely used as seed coatings on millions of acres of corn and soybean, is also determined by EPA to be very highly toxic to other taxa, including shrimp and aquatic insects. Reproduction effects is observed in several freshwater and estuarine/maine invertebrates. Developmental effects have occurred in benthic invertebrates living at the bottom of water bodies.

EPA has already released the preliminary pollinator assessment for the neonicotinoids which identified risks to pollinators from a variety of uses on agricultural crops. The aquatic assessment for imidacloprid, also released last year, finds that imidacloprid threatens the health of U.S. waterways with significant risks to aquatic insects and cascading effects on aquatic food webs.

As a result of risks to aquatic organisms, the Canadian pesticide regulatory agency has recommended banning imidacloprid, a decision on which has been delayed. In Europe, a recent survey finds that streams across the United Kingdom (UK) are contaminated with neonics. The European Commission met on December 12 and 13, 2017 to decide on a proposal to extend the 2013 neonicotinoid ban to all outdoor crops, but this decision was delayed. The issue is expected to be on the agenda again in early 2018. The UK government has reversed its previous stance on neonicotinoids, now saying that it should be banned due to their harm to pollinators.

Research on neonics has been consistent in linking their use to reduced learning in bees, as well as other impacts, such as those on colony size, and reproductive success. Studies looking at effects on birds reports that songbirds exposed to widely used insecticides, like neonicotinoids, fail to properly orient themselves for migration, the first such study that adds weight to arguments that pesticides are a likely cause in the decline of migratory bird populations.  U.S. beekeepers lost an unsustainable 33% of their hives between 2016 and 2017. Neonics are also detected regularly in the nation’s waterways at concentrations that exceed acute and chronic toxicity values for sensitive organisms. Beyond Pesticides released Poisoned Waterways, a report which documents the persistence of neonicotinoids in U.S. waterbodies and the danger they cause to aquatic organisms, resulting in complex cascading impacts on the aquatic food web. The report also highlights current regulatory failures of EPA aquatic standards, which continue to underestimate risks to sensitive species due to a reliance on test protocols that do not reflect real-world exposures or susceptibilities. Aquatic standards, which have been underestimating risks to sensitive species due to a reliance on test protocols, do not reflect real-world exposures or susceptibilities.

The comment period is open until February 20, 2018. You can view EPA’s assessments here and submit your comments here.

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

Source: EPA News Release.

 

 

 

 

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03
Jan

Canada To Impose Fines Up to $1 Million for Cannabis Growers Using Banned Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, January 3, 2018) Companies licensed to grow cannabis in Canada will be required to submit to mandatory testing and will receive fines of up to $1 million if their product contains banned pesticides. The new measures announced by Health Canada come as the country prepares to launch its recreational market in July 2018, and reports from national news outlets are sounding the alarm over widespread contamination of the ongoing medical cannabis market. Canada’s move is being closely watched by growers and regulators in the United States, where 29 states currently allow some form of medical or recreational cannabis to be sold, each with different pesticide rules.

Health Canada, the primary pesticide enforcement agency in the country, had previously indicated that fines were unlikely because, as regulators told The Globe and Mail, companies were aware that banned pesticides were illegal and disallowed. However, after the country began regular testing, and news outlets began reporting on multiple instances of banned and highly toxic pesticides making their way onto the market, the agency decided to change its approach.

Both growers and patients are encouraged by the new rules. Chairman of the Cannabis Canada Association, Neil Closner, told The Globe and Mail, “We believe when fairly applied, [the fines] can be a useful and effective tool for Health Canada to ensure proper adherence to the rules if other mechanisms fail.” Mr. Closner indicates that the attention the issue is getting is positive, and “has only strengthened the industry.”

Health Canada currently lists 20 pesticide products as legal to use on cannabis grown in the country. Products on the list are primarily biological-based or least-toxic insecticidal soaps. In the United States, because cannabis remains illegal under federal law, no registered pesticides are allowed to be used on the plant, a matter of legal interpretation recently confirmed by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. Pesticides considered ‘minimum risk’ by the agency and thus not required to undergo formal registration can however be used by growers. In regards to other pesticide regulatory activities, states have taken a varied approach to testing, fines, labeling, and growing practices. The state of California, for instance, opened its recreational cannabis market on the New Year, but is phasing in lab testing requirements for pesticides over the course of the year.

While pesticide regulations vary between the Canada and the U.S, as well as within states, one chemical, banned for use on cannabis in every state and country, the fungicide myclobutanil, is regularly found on tainted cannabis during the course of testing. The active ingredient in the product Eagle 20, myclobutanil is intended to treat powdery mildew, a plant disease that poses little risk to consumers. The chemical is considered a reproductive toxin under California’s Prop 65: Chemicals Known to the State to Cause Cancer or Reproductive Toxicity. A lawsuit against grower LivWell Inc.** in Colorado citing myclobutanil contamination notes that the chemical when heated breaks down into hydrogen cyanide. Given that research has found 69.5% of pesticide residues can remain in smoked marijuana, there is cause for significant concern, particularly for medical patients, when lab tests are so frequently detecting the chemical.

As Canada prepares for its mid-year launch of its recreational market, their testing protocols and enforcement around cannabis will be watched for its effectiveness. With growers beginning to coalesce behind strong controls around pesticides and cannabis, the industry has the potential to create an organic market that may eventually inform the conventional agricultural cropping industry about pesticide-free best practices. For more information on pesticide use in cannabis cultivation, see Beyond Pesticides’ Daily News Blog articles under the cannabis category.

**CORRECTION: The case referred to in this DN was dismissed, which should have been reflected in the reference in this story. See the Denver Post for additional information on the now dismissed LivWell Inc. lawsuit.

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

Source: The Globe and Mail

 

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02
Jan

FDA Stops Medical Uses of Triclosan in Hospitals, Other Disinfectants to Stay Despite No Safety and Efficacy Data on Controlling Bacteria

(Beyond Pesticides, January 2, 2018) The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on December 19, 2017 announced it was removing from the market 24 over-the-counter (OTC) disinfectants or antimicrobial ingredients, including triclosan, used by health care providers primarily in medical settings like hospitals, health care clinics, and doctors’ offices. The agency took this action because the chemical industry did not respond to a 2015 request for data to support a finding of “generally recognized as safe and effective (GRASE).” The decision, which follows a 2016 FDA decision to remove OTC consumer soap products with triclosan for the same reason, leaves numerous consumer products (fabrics and textiles, sponges, undergarments, cutting boards, hair brushes, toys, prophylactics, other plastics, etc.) on the market with triclosan (often labeled as microban) under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The December decision leaves in commerce six antiseptic compounds widely used in the hospital and medical setting, in response to industry requests for more time to develop safety and efficacy data.

In what appears to contradict FDA’s finding that it does not have sufficient data to make a GRASE finding for antiseptic products used in the health care and medical setting, the agency is leaving the most widely used compounds in these products on the market, under chemical industry pressure. There is wide concern that health care providers and hospitals may be using products under false and misleading labeling of products critical to patient protection from pathogenic bacteria leading to infections. Of importance is the fact that these are the most widely used products. In its press release, FDA states,

“In response to requests from industry, the FDA has deferred final rulemaking for one year, subject to renewal, on six specific active ingredients that are the most commonly used in currently marketed OTC health care antiseptic products ‒ alcohol (ethanol), isopropyl alcohol, povidone-iodine, benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride, and chloroxylenol (PCMX) – to provide manufacturers with more time to complete the scientific studies necessary to fill the data gaps identified so that the agency can make a safety and efficacy determination about these ingredients. In addition, the final rule does not affect health care antiseptics that are currently marketed under new drug applications and abbreviated new drug applications.”

For advocates, the speed of the federal government’s progress on regulating toxic chemicals can be glacial. The 2016 U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) narrow ban on the antibacterial compounds triclosan and (its cousin) triclocarban in consumer soap products, after arguments against them made persistently by public health scientists, environmental advocates, and members of the public over the course of the past few decades, is a case in point.

Triclosan is an antibacterial, antifungal compound used widely in more than 200 consumer products, including: personal care products (e.g., soap, deodorant, toothpaste), toys, textiles and clothes, plastics, paints, carpeting, etc. It is regulated by both FDA and EPA, though triclosan-containing cosmetic products fall under FDA jurisdiction. Triclocarban is a related antibacterial chemical, used most commonly in soaps; its structure and function are similar to those of triclosan, and like it, has toxic properties.

The common and rapid adoption of soaps with triclosan or triclocarban was based largely on a public perception that the antibacterial compounds are effective tools for safeguarding health from harmful bacteria. For years, studies have challenged the utility of the chemicals, and found that, in fact, for OTC consumer products antibacterial soaps show no health benefits compared to soap and water washing.

These compounds have been the object of a campaign and litigation by a coalition of health and environmental groups, led by Beyond Pesticides and Food & Water Watch (and targeted litigation by the Natural Resources Defense Council, to get triclosan removed from the market. After years of clamor by these and other stakeholders to ban it from consumer products, in early Fall 2016, FDA announced a final ruling on its use in consumer washing products. FDA banned 19 specific ingredients in soap products, including triclosan and triclocarban, saying they were no longer “recognized as safe and effective,” and citing risks to health and contributions to the problem of bacterial resistance. Manufacturers had until September 6 of this year to reformulate their products and remove existing triclosan products from market. The ban does not apply to washing products used in health care and food service settings.

When the ruling was announced, Beyond Pesticides executive director Jay Feldman noted, “FDA’s decision to remove the antibacterial triclosan, found in liquid soaps [its use in toothpaste went unaddressed), is a long time coming. The agency’s failure to regulate triclosan for nearly two decades . . . put millions of people and the environment at unnecessary risk [of] toxic effects and elevated risk [of] other bacterial diseases. Now, FDA should remove it from toothpaste and EPA should immediately ban it in common household products, from plastics to textiles.” During the past few years, with pressure from consumer groups and media, major manufacturers, such as Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson, have quietly reformulated their consumer products without triclosan; Colgate-Palmolive removed it from liquid soaps, but continues to include it in its toothpastes.

The timeline on the status of these chemicals is extremely protracted; what follows are some highlights of the journey to the current situation. First introduced to the market in 1972 in health care settings, it proliferated during the next several decades, permeating hundreds of consumer products with virtually no government oversight. FDA first noted, in a 1974 Tentative Final Monograph, that there was insufficient evidence that triclosan was safe and effective for long-term use. (See the end of this blog post for information on effective, nontoxic approaches to health-protective hygiene.) The FDA’s Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee declared, in 2005, that antibacterial soaps and washes were no more effective than regular soap and water in fighting infections. In 2009, Beyond Pesticides, in partnership with Food & Water Watch and 80 other groups, submitted a petition to FDA calling for a ban on the non-medical uses of triclosan. (A companion petition was submitted to EPA.)

The agency announced plans, in 2010, to address the use of triclosan in cosmetics and other products, saying in a response letter to Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey (then a U.S. Representative) (who had repeatedly asked FDA to write regulations for antibacterial products in hand soap and EPA on other products), that recent studies “raise valid concerns about the effect of repetitive daily human exposure to these antiseptic ingredients.” FDA initiated triclosan’s registration review in 2013, announcing that it would require manufacturers to prove that their antibacterial soaps were safe and more effective than soap and water (including providing the agency with data from clinical studies to demonstrate their findings); manufacturers failed to do so. Minnesota became the first state to enact a ban on triclosan in personal care cleaning products (2014), and the European Union banned its used altogether in 2015. On the heels of that arrived the 2016 FDA ban targeted only at consumer soap products.

The narrow address of that ruling, and the decades it has taken FDA to arrive at it, galvanized a group of scientists from academia and the nonprofit world to issue The Florence Statement on Triclosan and Triclocarban in 2016. The Summary of the statement reads: “The Florence Statement on Triclosan and Triclocarban documents a consensus of more than 200 scientists and medical professionals on the hazards of and lack of demonstrated benefit from common uses of triclosan and triclocarban. These chemicals may be used in thousands of personal care and consumer products, as well as in building materials. Based on extensive peer-reviewed research, this statement concludes that triclosan and triclocarban are environmentally persistent endocrine disruptors that bioaccumulate in and are toxic to aquatic and other organisms. Evidence of other hazards to humans and ecosystems from triclosan and triclocarban is presented, along with recommendations intended to prevent future harm from triclosan, triclocarban, and antimicrobial substances with similar properties and effects. Because antimicrobials can have unintended adverse health and environmental impacts, they should only be used when they provide an evidence-based health benefit. Greater transparency is needed in product formulations, and before an antimicrobial is incorporated into a product, the long-term health and ecological impacts should be evaluated.”

Scientific evidence has demonstrated a variety of adverse health impacts of triclosan and its cousin, triclocarban: skin irritation; exacerbation of allergic response; endocrine disruption (e.g., triclocarban has been shown to amplify the activities of natural hormones, which can cause adverse reproductive and developmental effects); interference with production of the thyroid hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine; and increased risk (for children) of developing asthma, eczema, and allergies. In addition, there is substantial evidence that broad use of these compounds promotes the emergence of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotic medications and antibacterial cleansers important in health care, thus, contributing to the extremely serious issue of antibiotic resistance in “superbug” bacteria. Many health impacts are likely still unknown.

Because 95% of the triclosan and triclocarban from consumer products goes down residential drains and into soil, groundwater, aquifers, and waterways, there is great concern about the environmental (and ultimate human and non-human health) effects of these when they are “let loose” in the environment. In studies done roughly a decade ago, triclosan was one of the most frequently detected compounds (and at some of the highest concentrations) in waterways. The risks associated with use of triclosan and triclocarban, and identified to date, include: water contamination and resultant harm to fragile aquatic ecosystems; toxicity to algae; bioaccumulation in the fatty tissues of fish; and potential interference with thyroid hormone production (and other endocrine function).

Another cause for concern about the prevalence of triclosan in waterways is that, when exposed to sunlight, it is converted into a dioxin. Dioxins are highly toxic compounds that can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage immune systems, interfere with hormones, and cause cancer. If that were not sufficiently alarming, triclosan can also combine with chlorine in tap water to form chloroform (which is listed as a probable human carcinogen) — creating yet another toxic exposure.

Water treatment plants do not completely remove triclosan from treated water; thus, it is a contaminant in the “product” of such treatment plants — sewage sludge — which is often spread on land, and even on agricultural land. (One result is that the chemical is now present in earthworms.) Triclosan can bioaccumulate in many organisms and researchers are concerned that it will accumulate and spread through aquatic and terrestrial food webs.

In the face of the slow federal progress on these toxic chemicals in the materials stream, and in personal care products, in particular, Beyond Pesticides offers reminders on nontoxic personal and family hygiene:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly. Regular soaps lower the surface tension of water, and thus, wash away unwanted bacteria. Lather hands for at least 10–15 seconds and then rinse off in warm water. It is important to wash hands often, especially when handling food, before eating, after going to the bathroom, and when someone in the household is sick.
  • Wash surfaces that come in contact with food with a detergent and water.
  • Wash children’s hands and toys regularly to prevent infection.
  • If washing with soap and water is not possible, use alcohol-based sanitizers.

In addition, the public can advocate for getting these chemicals out of consumer products by asking the owners or managers of local supermarkets, drugstores, household goods and toy stores, etc., to stop selling products containing them. Beyond Pesticides offers this customizable sample letter to use for such efforts. Local municipalities, schools, government agencies, religious institutions, and businesses are other good “targets” of efforts to persuade such entities to use their buying power to go triclosan-free. See the Beyond Pesticides’ model resolution, which commits the signatory to not procuring or using products containing triclosan.

Source: https://www.beyondpesticides.org/programs/antibacterials/triclosan

 

 

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22
Dec

It is an honor to work with you, the members and network of Beyond Pesticides

Thank you for your support and collaboration. Onward in 2018!

(Beyond Pesticides, December 22, 2017)  We deeply appreciate your donation to our program in 2017 and it is easy to donate HERE.

Year in Review

At Beyond Pesticides, we collaborate with organizations and advocate across the country to get our message out on the threat that pesticides pose to human health and the environment. We support local action to stop this threat. And, we assist communities nationwide with the adoption of organic management practices that are more effective and protective than chemical-intensive practices. The partnerships that have been established are, at a more rapid pace, resulting in the adoption of land management practices that are supported by Beyond Pesticides’ strategic vision for a world free of toxic pesticides.

Information for Action
Beyond Pesticides expanded its role in the forefront of pesticide and organic advocacy with our Action of Week  and Q&A of the Week, in addition to our Daily News, which identifies and delves into key science, policy, and actions that inform local action. The Summer issue of our journal, Pesticides and You, highlighted David Montgomery’s talk at Beyond Pesticides’ National Forum on the importance of soil microbiota and gut microbiome to healthy ecosystems and people, and the adverse effects of pesticides on their critical role in sustaining life. We juxtaposed his talk with a piece, Monsanto’s Glyphosate (Roundup) Exposed, on glyphosate’s adverse effects on the gut microbiome, raising the level of discussion on this important topic as communities across the country seek to stop the herbicide use locally.

Transforming land management with organic practices
A key piece of our work is framing the deficiency in public health and environmental protection under pesticide law, and contrasting that with the promise of transformation under organic law and practice. Our work informs and supports local action, justifying the adoption of local policies and practices in the face of no or inadequate federal and state action.

With our continued work to highlight the ecological effects of neonicotinoid insecticides, focused on protecting bees and pollinators and soil and aquatic organisms, we are drawing attention to the limitations of regulations that fail to consider the total environment and the complex biological community that supports life. As this understanding increases, the urgency for local action increases. Helping decision makers to understand the regulatory deficiencies in protecting habitat, the aquatic and terrestrial food webs, and ultimately human health is critical to our daily work, through our publications, website, Daily News, testimony, and TV, radio and newspaper interviews.

Local policies and practices
With the Trump Administration undermining the role of the federal government in protecting health and the environment, our work at the local level takes on elevated importance. We have elevated work with communities on a number of fronts, including implementing organic land management ordinances adopted (Montgomery County, MD and South Portland, ME), developing new ordinances (Anchorage, AK) and new pilot projects (Maui-HI, Salt Lake City-Utah), following up on implementation of new bans on landscape pesticides (Irvine-CA, South Miami, FL), and training landscapers. The latest community poised to adopt an organic landscape law is Portland, ME, as the chemical industry is fighting back. See the op-ed that we wrote with the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA). The momentum is with us!

Monitoring and responding to government attacks
When we launched ‘Action of the Week’ at the end of January, 2017, we began working with public health and environmental advocates on one concrete action each week that speaks to governmental actions or inaction that are harmful to the environment and human health, increase overall pesticide use, or undermine the advancement of organic, sustainable, and regenerative practices and policies. Topics have included toxic chemical use, pollinator protection, organic agriculture and land use, global climate change, and regulatory or enforcement violations. The topics range from people speaking up in opposition to the EPA decision that allows the continued use of the highly neurotoxic insecticide chlorpyrifos, reversing course on an earlier EPA proposal to prohibit residues in food, to opposing EPA budget cuts, mergers of chemical company giants, and sales of bee-toxic pesticides by Amazon. And, we suggested that people thank the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for listing the rusty patched bumblebee as an endangered species.

Growing the organic solution
Our role in protecting the integrity of organic is unique. We are now the only organization that comments and rally public involvement on all the issues and material reviews before the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), issue action alerts, and provide guidance and public comment suggestions through our Keeping Organic Strong page. Given our advocacy for organic as the solution to pesticide pollution, contamination, and poisoning, and our efforts to expand its practices beyond agriculture to lawns and landscapes, we have a special responsibility to ensure the integrity of the definition and enforcement of organic standards. On the congressional front, we are working closely with the National Organic Coalition as part of a collaboration to ensure a strong organic voice and, when necessary, block the attack, as espoused by U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, intended to weaken the NOSB and other aspects of the organic program.

We leverage the problems with inadequate EPA review, such as the recent chlorpyrifos decision, to point to organic as the solution. We push back against alternative labeling (alternative to organic) that greenwash and do not have transparent standards that are subject to public review and comment, such as Whole Foods’ reintroduced “Responsibly Grown” signage in its stores, natural and pure labeling, and Certified Naturally Grown. We point to organic as the solution in the context of pesticide residues in food and broad environmental effects, as captured in our Eating with a Conscience database  and our recent report, Poisoned Waterways, on the adverse impact of neonicotinoids on the aquatic food web. In the waterways report, we cite EPA’s own conclusion in its 2017 preliminary aquatic risk assessment, which says, “[C]oncentrations of imidacloprid detected in streams, rivers, lakes and drainage canals routinely exceed acute and chronic toxicity endpoints derived for freshwater invertebrates.”

Bringing technical knowledge to local deliberations
We bring technical resources, scientists, medical practitioners, and organic experts to support local and state legislation. In New Hampshire we worked on legislation to protect children from pesticides. Working with a the prime sponsor of the legislation in the NH House of Representatives, a veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, our board members’ testimony was an important part of the dialogue in the state that we have been supporting for the past year to restrict toxic pesticides in public places where children play. The chemical industry, under the banner of CropLife (the pesticide industry trade association), and the golf course industry rallied significant resources to defeat the legislation this past session. However, the effort has raised the profile of the pesticide problem, the availability of alternatives, and the need for action, while giving new life to advocacy for local ordinances in the state, including one that passed in Portsmouth, NH to ban toxic pesticides on public property. Through this process, the sponsor of the state bill, a conservative Republican, has become educated on pesticides and alternatives and, as a result, is a big proponent of local laws to restrict pesticides statewide in the absence of a state law. We support the coalitions necessary to effect this effort in New Hampshire and nationally.

Challenging “natural” fraud and deception in the market
We’ve teamed up with a private law firm and continue to file lawsuits on product labels that display a “natural” claim. One lawsuit against Monsanto challenges product label language that says that Roundup (glyphosate) targets an enzyme not found in humans and pets. This suit aligns with our work on pesticide impacts to the gut microbiome, which requires the full functioning of bacteria. We provide substantive support to litigation (administrative cases, and challenges to false and deceptive labeling) that strives to stop marketing that false greenwashing that undercuts organic. The unequivocal nature of Monsanto’s label claim on Roundup belies the complexity of human biology and the impact this highly toxic chemical has on the functioning of the human gut bacteria, essential to our health. With its claim, Monsanto is falsely telling the public that its product cannot hurt them. Overall, the “natural” label misleads consumers (because the product ingredients are typically grown with pesticides) and drives people away from organic.

Unique databases that inform local action
We maintain our unique databases as part of our focus on providing the public with “tools for change” to inform local action. Our Gateway on Pesticide Hazards and Safe Pest Management and Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database are widely use as the basis for community discussion on pesticide hazards, as is our summary 30 Most Commonly Used Landscape Pesticides (health and environmental effects). We integrate our ‘Q&A of Week,’ when focused on pest problems, with our ManageSafe database, and get a lot of very valuable suggestions and experiential data from our network. ManageSafe offers the public practical information on preventing and managing pest populations with organic practices.

The two newest informational sources, Products Compatible with Organic Landscape Management and Fertilizers Compatible with Organic Landscape Management, help turn policy into action and serve as a guide for consumers and hardware store to find products. These lists identify the emerging products that are available to lawn and landscape managers and residents managing their land or building organically.

Because the use of toxic materials undermines the organic system by harming soil microbial life, identifying compatible products is an essential component of the system. While the systems-based approach that we advocate is not product-dependent, products may only be used that do not harm soil biology and biodiversity, if essential. We continue to build on this as a tool for adopting organic lawn and landscape care and implementing ordinances that ban toxic pesticide use and/or require organic practices.

We bring our message to EPA
We challenged EPA on the use of the organophosphate mosquito insecticide Naled in response to the Zika virus, expressing concern about the pesticide’s potential adverse effects to children. We brought to an EPA meeting an elected member of the Collier County, Florida mosquito control commission who is concerned about the use of Naled and the relative lack of mosquito breeding prevention strategies.

We told EPA officials that its current risk communication suggests to the public and state and local decision makers that mosquito insecticides are completely safe, and, as a result, many communities put insufficient emphasis on tools that are essential to an effective mosquito management program (e.g., larviciding, education, source reduction). The same could be said about the neonicotinoid insecticides that are harming pollinators. Why bother avoiding neonics or consider transitioning to organic methods if current practices are problem-free? The agency’s current risk communication has the effect, in too many cases, of supporting pesticide use that presents a public and environmental harm, is not effective, and leads to insect and weed resistance, which escalates the problem. The cycle of dependency that supports pesticide use gets a boost from EPA every time it states that a pesticide can be used “without posing risks of concern to the general population or to the environment when applied according to the pesticide label.” And all that was under the previous administration and continues under the current one. So, there are clearly institutional problems that we are up against –again calling for more local decisions that protect our communities.

Getting together to discuss science, policy, and strategy —35th National Pesticide Forum
We developed an all-star program for the 35th National Pesticide Forum, Healthy Hives, Health Lives, Healthy Land: Ecological and Organic Strategies for Regeneration, which you can check out on our YouTube channel.  This is the all-star group that joined us as co-convenors —Organic Consumers Association and the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment, and the co-sponsors —Pollinator Friendly Alliance, Giving Tree Gardens, Humming for Bees, Kids for Saving Earth, Blue Fruit Farm, Students for Sustainability, Birchwood Cafe, Seward Community Co-op, The Beez Kneez, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services (MOSES), Beyond Pesticides Minnesota, Clean Up the River Environment (CURE), Minnesota Food Association, White Earth Land Recovery Project, Midwest Pesticide Action Center, Pollinate Minnesota, and Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA). The forum brings together the discussion and strategic thinking on connecting the management of soil with its effects on wildlife and human.

Save the date
Now we’re planning the 36th National Forum with the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of California Irvine, and NonToxic Irvine. Please  watch our website for details and plan to join us in Irvine, California, April 13-14, 2018!

Investing in a strong organization with the highest organizational rating
Beyond Pesticides received Charity Navigator’s highest 4-Star rating this summer. To achieve this ranking, the organization’s finances, tax forms, and policies are evaluated. For details on our overall score and rating, financial performance metrics, and accountability and performance transparency metrics, see Charity Navigator’s website.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, and pesticide-free holiday season and new year.
The Staff and Board of Beyond Pesticides

 

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21
Dec

EPA Says Glyphosate “Likely Not Carcinogenic,” Despite Scientific Findings to the Contrary

(Beyond Pesticides, December 21, 2017) On December 18, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared that glyphosate is likely not carcinogenic. Relatedly, after weeks of stalemate on a decision by European countries, the European Union (EU) voted, in late November, to extend the license for the herbicide for another five years, despite massive opposition in member countries. In the U.S., the Center for Biological Diversity charged that the EPA assessment relied heavily on industry studies to arrive it its conclusion, and ignored its own guidelines for assessing cancer risks.

Senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity Nathan Donley said, “The only way the EPA could conclude that glyphosate poses no significant risks to human health was to analyze industry studies and ignore its own guidelines when estimating cancer risk. . . . The EPA’s biased assessment falls short of the most basic standards of independent research and fails to give Americans an accurate picture of the risks posed by glyphosate use.” Glyphosate is due for its EPA registration review in 2019, and opponents are concerned that the December 18 announcement portends likely re-registration — which advocates say is bad news for human health and the environment.

As the chief ingredient in Monsanto’s pervasive herbicide, Roundup, the compound has historically been touted by industry and the EPA as a “low toxicity” chemical and “safer” than other compounds. Glyphosate is widely used in food production, on lawns and playing fields, and in parks and gardens.

The EPA pronouncement conflicts with the 2015 classification of glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen” by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). It also contravenes a ruling by California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, which included the chemical on its Proposition 65 list of “probable carcinogens” in July 2017. The California decision is commonly considered to have been spurred by the IARC action. In its report, IARC noted that glyphosate has been linked to DNA and chromosome damage in human cells. Epidemiologic studies have found that exposure to glyphosate is significantly associated with an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The IARC finding bucked that of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Chemicals Agency, which both said the substance was not likely to cause cancer in humans. Opponents of glyphosate use say that, for all its claims of safety, Monsanto has ghostwritten “research papers for regulators, enlisted EPA officials to block a U.S. government review of glyphosate, and formed front groups to discredit critical scientists and journalists, citing documents revealed in a U.S. lawsuit by non-Hodgkin lymphoma sufferers.”

Indeed, it was later revealed that EFSA copied dozens of pages from a Monsanto study in reaching its conclusion that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a cancer hazard to people. (EFSA’s recommendation was supposed to have provided independent analysis for European Union member states.) In what was likely a recognition of the corrupting influence of industry, in October 2017 the European Parliament (EP) banned Monsanto lobbyists from access to committee meetings, digital resources, and contact with any EP members.

More than 250 lawsuits are pending against Monsanto in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, brought by people who claim that Roundup exposure caused them or a family member to contract non-Hodgkin lymphoma — a cancer that originates in the lymphatic system, which comprises much of the body’s immune system, and can then spread throughout the body — and that Monsanto covered up the health risks associated with glyphosate. The first trial is set for June 18, 2018 in San Francisco County Superior Court.

The EPA announcement represents yet another hurdle for scientists and advocates, who have worked for years to have use of the toxic pesticide banned or severely curtailed. Among the critiques of the evaluations of glyphosate is that they often assay the compound per se, rather than in formulated glyphosate products, such as Roundup. It is these formulated products — which have inert ingredients that increase their overall toxicity — that are typically applied to crop fields, gardens, and landscapes.

Glyphosate (N-phosphono-methyl glycine) is a broad spectrum, post-emergent, non-selective, systemic herbicide used on non-cropland as well as a variety of crops. It has seen the largest use in crops that are genetically engineered to be tolerant to it, where it kills most grassy and broadleaved plants. Glyphosate products, such as Monsanto’s Roundup, are formulated with surfactants and other ingredients to increase its effectiveness. Glyphosate blocks the activity of the enzyme 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase (EPSPS), a key enzyme in the shikimate pathway of production of aromatic amino acids. Since this pathway does not occur in animals, safety claims ignore glyphosate’s adverse effect on beneficial bacteria essential to human health. Newer scientific studies have also looked in greater depth at glyphosate’s mode of action and the implications for human and ecological health. Glyphosate works by disrupting a crucial pathway for manufacturing aromatic amino acids in plants—but not animals—and, therefore, many have assumed that it does not harm humans. Patented as an antibiotic, it blocks the activity of the enzyme 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase (EPSPS), a key enzyme in the shikimate pathway of production of aromatic amino acids.However, many bacteria do use the shikimate pathway, and 90 percent of the cells in a human body are bacteria. The destruction of beneficial microbiota in the human gut (and elsewhere in and on the human body) is, therefore, a cause for concern—and a major contributor to disease. In addition, the destruction of soil microbiota leads to unhealthy agricultural systems with an increasing dependence on agricultural chemicals. Assessing the mode of action of glyphosate, scientists have found that it starves and sickens the very crop plants that it is supposed to protect. It is dangerous to base the review of chemicals on the assumption that microbiota is irrelevant to assessing dangers. While it is well known that taking a course of antibiotics disturbs microbes that help digest food, disturbing the microbiota has greater consequences than a bout of diarrhea. It can contribute to a whole host of “21st century diseases,” including diabetes, obesity, food allergies, heart disease, antibioticresistant infections, cancer, asthma, autism, irritable bowel syndrome, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and more. For more information this, see Monsanto’s Roundup (Glyphosate) Exposed.

As evidence of the hazardous effects of glyphosate mounts, Beyond Pesticides urges communities around the U.S. to advocate for the elimination of glyphosate and other toxic pesticide use, at least in public spaces. Consumers can have a real impact by talking to neighbors, farmers, and the legislators who make decisions that affect people’s health. As always, contact Beyond Pesticides at [email protected] or 1.202.543.5450 for assistance, or visit the Beyond Pesticides website. Meanwhile, as the regulatory wrestling continues, the best ways to avoid glyphosate and other harmful pesticides are to support organic practices in agriculture and for lawns and landscapes in the community, and to purchase organic food.

Source: Los Angeles Times

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20
Dec

“Buyer Beware” as California Starts Recreational Marijuana Sales without Pesticide Residue Testing

(Beyond Pesticides, December 20, 2017) As California prepares to open up retail sales for its legal cannabis market, experts are urging consumers to be cautious, as the state has yet to fully phase-in its pesticide testing protocols.  Donald Land, PhD, a chemistry professor at the University of California, Davis, who also works as a consultant for pesticide testing company Steep Hill Labs Inc. told the Associated Press, “Buyer beware.” Along with local news station KNBC 4, his company purchased cannabis products from 15 dispensaries in Southern California in early 2017, finding that 41 out of 44 samples tested, 93%, tested positive for pesticide residue higher than legal limits in Oregon, Washington state, Massachusetts, and Nevada.

The California Bureau of Cannabis Control’s (CBCC) emergency rules implementing its legal cannabis market phases in quality testing for cannabis throughout 2018. However, when shops open on January 1st, retailers will be allowed to sell cannabis products without laboratory testing for pesticides or other contaminants, though they will have to be labeled as such. Any cannabis products harvested after January 1, 2018 will be tested for “contaminants with a high public health risk.” By July 1, 2018, “moderate relative health risk” contaminants will be tested, and by the end of the year the state will include “minor relative health risk” testing, according to a fact sheet released by the CBCC. A list of what pesticides are considered under each of those categories is available on page 92 of CBCC’s emergency regulations.

Despite concerns and uncertainties when shops open in the New Year, California’s approach to pesticide use on legal cannabis has been lauded by health groups for limiting the list of products legally allowed to be used to control cannabis pests. In 2015, California released its guidelines for pesticide use on cannabis, limiting allowed products only to those considered to be “minimum risk” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and thus not subject to pesticide registration. In addition to suggesting which minimum risk products should be used for individual pests, the state also provided growers with suggested non-toxic integrated pest management practices to address pest problems without hazardous chemicals.

Beyond Pesticides has long maintained that no EPA registered pesticides are legally allowed for use on cannabis, and that only minimum risk products can be legally applied because they are exempt from registration. In July 2017, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a notice of intent to disapprove use of four registered pesticides on cannabis. This action effectively endorsed Beyond Pesticides’ interpretation of current law; though motivations may have been different, EPA’s denial of these four registrations provides an opportunity for the industry to flourish based on organic principles.

Dr. Land’s experience as reported by the AP provides hope for that outcome. Steep Hill Laboratories also conducted pesticide testing on cannabis concentrates a few years ago, finding toxic extracting solvents in 132 out of 135 samples. “At first they were mad because they couldn’t sell their stuff the way they wanted to,” Dr. Land told the AP. However, the exposure caused manufacturers to look at their production procedures, and develop a method to prevent contamination of their finished product. Two years later, and the laboratory reported that all samples by the same manufacturers passed.

If growers can continue to adjust to consumer and patient concerns over pesticide contamination after decades of operating on the black market, the burgeoning cannabis industry has the potential to become one of the safest agricultural products in the U.S. For more information about Beyond Pesticides’ approach to pesticide use in cannabis production, read the 2015 article on the subject in Pesticides and You, which evaluates state-level cannabis laws at the time of its release. Additional developments can be found through coverage on Beyond Pesticides’ Daily News.

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

Source: AP

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19
Dec

EPA Beginning to Backtrack on Farmworker Health Protections from Toxic Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, December 19, 2017) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to revisit, and potentially weaken, rules passed in 2015 to  update farmworker protections from hazardous pesticides. Improvements to Agricultural Worker Protection Standards (AWPS) were proposed under the Obama Administration after over a 20-year delay. While certain provisions will go into effect next year, the Trump Administration and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt will nonetheless propose new changes that are likely to significantly weaken safeguards for farmworker health. Health and farmworker groups are deriding the move as another signal that the current Administration is carrying out the orders of the pesticide industry.

Most workers in the U.S. look to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for  standards  to  protect  them from exposure to hazardous chemicals. However, farmworkers are not eligible for protection under these rules. Protection for farmworkers from pesticides is left to EPA’s authority under AWPS, a standard that is far less protective than OSHA.

EPA announced in a press release that three aspects of the Obama-era AWPS would be revisited: i) a requirement that the farmworker be a minimum age of 18 to apply toxic pesticides; ii) a provision that establishes 25 to 100 ft ‘exclusion zones’ after toxic pesticide applications; and iii) a clause which allows farmworkers to have a ‘designated representative’ obtain information about where and when pesticides were applied.

Changes to these aspects of AWPS are viewed as a benefit to the pesticide industry, which says the rules will be too expensive to implement, and weaken health protections for farmworkers. What parent would want their child to apply restricted use pesticides, the most toxic chemicals on the market? How is it acceptable to expose any human to known carcinogens or neurotoxicants without reasonable buffer zones or areas to take shelter? Why should individuals, their doctors, or their attorneys be denied information about chemical exposure that could help address health problems or bring accountability to dangerous business practices?

Despite the plan to propose new rulemaking, EPA does plan to allow the Certification of Pesticide Applicators Rule within the AWPS to go into effect on May 22, 2018, nearly a year after originally intended. These rules provide new training and compliance requirements for pesticide applicators. In June 2017, farmworker and health organizations, including Earthjustice and Farmworker Justice, sued EPA for delaying the rule, which the agency provided the public only four days to comment on before making the move.

Farmworkers encounter both acute and chronic risks from pesticide exposure. A report published in late 2016 by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined that between 2007 and 2011, over 2,600 cases of acute pesticide poisoning occurred among pesticide workers in 12 states. Poisoning incidents of agricultural pesticide applicators was over 37 times those of nonagricultural workers. A separate report from the state of California in 2016 found substantial increases in pesticide poisoning incidents.

Farmworkers and pesticide applicators are at increased risk for a range of diseases as a result of their frequent exposure to toxic pesticides. Research from the United States’ long-running Agricultural Health Study found earlier this year that male pesticide applicators who were part of a pesticide spill or related accident were more likely to experience DNA changes that make them more susceptible to prostate cancer.

While the Obama-era update to AWPS was not ideal, and could have been further strengthened, the process considered a wide range of stakeholder input, including both industry and farmworker advocates. Opening back up the rules will benefit only one group of stakeholders, the pesticide industry. To protect farmworkers in the face of government inaction and backsliding, help effect a shift in consumer preference away from foods laced with toxic pesticides. Vote with your food dollars by purchasing organic whenever possible. By choosing organic, consumers help grow a system that eschews the use of toxic pesticides, protecting the health of farmworkers and their families. To learn more about how buying organic food can help safeguard farmworkers from toxic pesticides, see Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience guide. And for more information on how you can get educated and active in protecting farmworkers and changing our agricultural system towards safer practices, see Beyond Pesticides Agricultural Justice webpage.

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

Source: EPA Press Release, Bloomberg BNA

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18
Dec

Take Action: Tell Congress to Support Organic Certification Cost Share

(Beyond Pesticides, December 18, 2017)  Organic certification cost share enables small and medium-sized organic farms to become certified. The costs of annual certification are increasing.  The two federal programs providing certification cost share offer a modest, partial (75 percent) reimbursement of up to $750 annually per certification, to help defray these costs. Having a diversity of scale of operations involved in organic production helps to maintain the integrity, vitality and opportunity of the U.S. organic sector.

Tell Congress to reauthorize both the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP) and the Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) program through the next Farm Bill, to provide assistance needed by small and medium-sized organic producers.

Organic certification cost share helps to increase domestic production of organic products to better meet growing demand. Sales of organic products continue to grow at a rapid rate. Nationwide, U.S organic sales reached $47 billion in 2016, with nearly 24,000 family farms and other businesses represented. However, U.S. organic production is lagging behind demand for organic products.  Unless we are able to get more U.S. farmers certified as organic, the United States will continue to import a growing percentage of organic food and feed from other nations.

There are many economic and environmental benefits of organic production. Small and medium-sized organic farms support rural economies and protect natural resources. Organic farming results in cleaner air, water, and soil, and helps fight climate change by sequestering carbon in the soil.

Organic production provides critical jobs in farming and food processing that can and should be kept here at home.  It is critical to address the challenges that hinder growth in U.S. organic production and send U.S. dollars abroad to meet the growing organic demand.

The cost of annual organic certification can be a barrier for some farmers. One of the unique costs faced by organic farmers and those transitioning to organic, is the cost of annual organic certification.  These costs can be particularly burdensome for many small and medium-sized organic farms and businesses. The organic certification process is necessary ensure that farmers and handlers who market their products as organic are meeting strict USDA organic standards. However, one of the barriers to getting farmers to transition is the concern about the annual costs of organic certification.

Currently, two programs provide organic certification cost share assistance.

‱    The Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA), enacted as part of the Federal Crop Insurance Act, provides certification cost share assistance for organic farmers (but not handlers) in 16 states. The AMA program also provides risk management and conservation grants to producers in those states as well.

‱    The National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP), enacted as Section 10606 of the 2002 Farm Bill and reauthorized through the 2008 and 2014 Farm Bills, provides organic certification cost share for organic farmers in states not covered by the above-mentioned AMA program, and for organic handlers in all States.  The program has operated through State Departments of Agriculture. The one-year Farm Bill extension legislation passed by Congress on January 1, 2013 did not provide any funding for the NOCCSP, so the program was dormant for 2013, which caused a great deal of confusion and disruption.

Tell Congress to reauthorize both the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP) and the Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) program through the next Farm Bill, to provide assistance needed by small and medium-sized organic producers.

Please note that the menu of choices for “title” is dictated by the recipients of these letters, and letters without a title will not be delivered. We suggest that those who would like a gender-neutral title award themselves an honorary doctorate.

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15
Dec

EPA Nominee Withdraws Amid Bipartisan Opposition to His Chemical Industry Ties

(Beyond Pesticides, December 15, 2017) The Trump Administration’s pick to become the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Michael Dourson, PhD, has withdrawn his name from consideration after it became increasingly likely he would not pass Senate confirmation due to his deep connections to the chemical industry. In a letter obtained by the Associated Press, Dr. Dourson indicated his move “avoids unnecessarily politicizing the important environmental protection goals of Administrator Pruitt.” Health and environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, which launched a campaign against Dr. Dourson’s nomination, are pleased by the withdrawal announcement, but remained deeply concerned with the Trump administration’s continued propensity to promote industry interests and industry-backed nominees over real measures to safeguard environmental health and justice.

Dr. Dourson’s withdrawal was predicated on reports in November that North Carolina’s two Republican Senators, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, planned to vote against Dourson’s appointment.  North Carolina is the midst of a growing scandal implicating Chemours, a company spun-off from chemical giant DuPont in 2015, in widespread water contamination with the chemical GenX, used to make Teflon and other industrial products. Chemours operates a GenX production plant in Fayetteville, NC, and is accused of regularly dumping the chemical into local rivers, polluting drinking water in a number of communities. Recent tests have found the chemical in the honey of bees in farms two miles away from the GenX production site.

This backdrop helps frame the North Carolina Senators’ decision to oppose Dr. Dourson, who has a long career of supporting use of toxic chemicals produced by multinational corporations. After working for EPA from 1980 to 1994, Dr. Dourson left the agency to found his own consulting group, Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA), which contracted with chemical companies to perform risk assessments and often downplayed the health risks posed by their compounds. Over the years, TERA worked with Dow Chemical Company, Koch Industries Inc., and Chevron Corporation, among others. Dr. Dourson and his research were frequently used in court by chemical companies aiming to dismiss safety claims against their products.

Senator Tom Carper, a Democrat from Delaware, summed up the feeling of those who oppose Dr. Dourson’s appointment. “I sincerely believe he is the wrong person to hold this important position, and it’s become clear that, even with a Republican majority in the Senate, he could not be confirmed,” Senator Carper said to the AP. “Dourson, an individual who has spent most of his career promoting less protective chemical safety standards, had no business overseeing our nation’s chemical safety laws.”

In addition to Senators Burr and Tillis, with all 48 Democratic Senators opposing Dr. Dourson, only one additional Senator was needed to vote him down.

Health and environmental groups like Beyond Pesticides will continue to watchdog the government and alert its members and supporters when the Trump Administration is overreaching or working on behalf of industry. Chemical industry influence in EPA and its Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention is a systemic issue that cuts across presidential administrations. EPA and the chemical industry often act as a “revolving door” whereby individuals move back and forth between jobs. In 2015, Beyond Pesticides alerted the public to pesticide industry umbrella group Croplife America’s hiring a former branch chief within the Office of Pesticide Programs shortly after he left EPA.

The withdrawal of Dr. Dourson shows the power of the public to stop nominees that threaten the integrity of our governmental agencies. Stay in the know on the latest threats to public and environmental health by signing up for Beyond Pesticides’ action alerts today.

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

Source: Associated Press

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14
Dec

UK Rivers Contaminated with Neonicotinoids; EU Delays Decision to Extend Ban

(Beyond Pesticides, December 14, 2017) Tests of waterways in the United Kingdom (UK) reveal rivers contaminated with neonicotinoids, the class of chemicals highly toxic to bees and aquatic invertebrates. And now, although neonicotinoids were banned from use on certain crops in the European Union (EU) in 2013, an EU vote to extend the ban has been delayed.

The test results raise concerns over neonicotinoids’ impacts on waterways, especially to fish and birds. Under a new EU mandate -Water Framework Directive ‘Watch List’ initiative – the UK was required to monitor for all five commonly used neonicotinoids: imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, acetamiprid and thiacloprid. Twenty-three sites were sampled in 2016, 16 in England, four in Scotland, three in Wales and three in Northern Ireland.

This is the first systematic testing of neonicotinoids in rivers in Britain. According to the results, half the rivers tested in England had either chronic or acute levels of contamination. Of the 23 rivers tested across Britain, all but six contain neonicotinoids. Eight rivers in England exceed recommended chronic pollution limits, and two are acutely polluted.

Neonicotinoids are not only highly toxic to bees but also highly toxic to aquatic insects, which are a vital food source to fish and birds. In its recently released 2017 Preliminary Aquatic Risk Assessment for Imidacloprid, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finds that aquatic invertebrates, especially keystone aquatic insects like the mayfly – basic to aquatic food chains, are sensitive to imidacloprid. Further, current imidacloprid levels detected in streams, rivers, lakes, and drainage canals exceed acute and chronic toxicity endpoints. Impacts occur at low concentrations and can result in decreased species abundance, altered predator-prey relationships, and reduced nutrient cycling.

According to the environmental group, BugLife, which reported on the UK results, the River Waveney on the Norfolk/Suffolk border is the most polluted river, with the acute harm level exceeded for a whole month, and the River Wensum in Norfolk, an area identified for special conservation, is also chronically polluted. Waveney and Wensum rivers, both containing residues of clothianidin and thiamethoxam, supply the Broads, an internationally important wetland site and home to many endangered aquatic animals. They note that nearby sugar beet fields are the most likely source of neonicotinoid contamination. Rivers near urban areas have higher levels of imidacloprid. No official limits exist in the EU for neonicotinoids in freshwater.

The European Commission met December 12 and 13, 2017 to decide on a proposal to extend the 2013 neonicotinoid ban to all outdoor crops, but this decision was delayed. The Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed discussed proposals for an expanded ban, but no vote was taken. The issue is expected to be on the agenda again in early 2018. The UK government has reversed its previous stance on neonicotinoids, now saying that it should be banned due to their harm to pollinators.

After its recent aquatic analysis, EPA quietly adjusted its aquatic benchmarks for imidacloprid to 0.385 ug/L for acute risks (down from 34.5ug/L) and 0.01 ug/L for chronic risks (down from 1.05 ug/L), reflecting the high toxicity of imidacloprid to aquatic invertebrates. Independent studies have shown impacts to aquatic life occurring at levels as low as 0.65 ug/L for acute toxicity and 0.03 ug/L for chronic toxicity.

Earlier this year, Beyond Pesticides released Poisoned Waterways, a report which documents the persistence of neonicotinoids in U.S. waterbodies and the danger they cause to aquatic organisms, resulting in complex cascading impacts on the aquatic food web. The report also highlights current regulatory failures of EPA aquatic standards, which continue to underestimate risks to sensitive species due to a reliance on test protocols that do not reflect real-world exposures or susceptibilities. Aquatic standards, which have been underestimating risks to sensitive species due to a reliance on test protocols, do not reflect real-world exposures or susceptibilities.

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

Source: The Guardian, BugLife, Farming UK

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13
Dec

Health Costs from Chemical Exposures May Exceed 10% of the Global GDP

(Beyond Pesticides, December 13, 2017) A recent study finds that environmental exposures contribute to increasing disease burden and corresponding health costs that may exceed 10% of global gross domestic product (GDP). Neurological impairments particularly add significant costs to both individuals and societies. This European study combined cost calculations for exposures to environmental chemicals, including pesticides, air pollution, and endocrine disrupting substances, and suggests that a shift in priority setting for environmental policy is needed.

The study’s authors, from Harvard University, the University of Southern Denmark, and the EHESP School of Public Health in France, say that calculations currently used as international references are “serious underestimations” of the economic costs associated with preventable environmental risk factors. Published in Environmental Health, the study, Calculation of the disease burden associated with environmental chemical exposures: application of toxicological information in health economic estimation, combined and extended cost calculations for exposures to environmental chemicals, including neurotoxicants, pesticides, air pollution, and endocrine disrupting chemicals, where sufficient data were available to determine dose-dependent adverse effects. The study utilized risk valuations to assess the environmental burden of disease, and used country-specific monetary values of metrics for length and quality of life (Disability-Adjusted Life year or DALY – a common metric often used in measuring global burden of disease) to estimate societal costs, including costs borne by the health care system, by the individual and the household, and by employers and insurers. The study covers substances such as mercury, organophosphate pesticides (OPs), polybrominated diethyl ethers (PBDEs), and several endocrine disrupting chemicals.

The results of the authors’ calculations, based on economic estimates of exposure information and dose-response data, find that environmental chemical exposures contribute costs that may exceed 10% of GDP and that current DALY calculations substantially underestimate the economic costs associated with preventable environmental risk factors.

Neurotoxicants that lead to cognitive deficits and intellectually disability are identified as an important group of chemicals affecting the burden of disease, along with air pollution and endocrine disruptors – which represent a substantial attributable fraction for obesity. IQ losses due to PBDEs resulted in economic productivity losses of $12.6 billion, whereas OPs resulted in a lost economic productivity of $194 billion. In the U.S., where exposures are different, similar data suggest losses of $266 billion and $44.7 billion, for PBDEs and OPs, respectively. Thus, the authors note, neurodevelopmental toxicity must be considered a greater contributor to the environmental disease burden than previously considered.

According to the study, other assessments by international bodies like the World Health Organization (WHO) are primarily based on deaths and severe clinical conditions, while less serious subclinical conditions, such as childhood and adult obesity, male infertility, fibroids, and endometriosis among others, are mostly disregarded. Additionally, most calculations do not consider harm from prenatal exposures. Previous studies have estimated the economic costs of chemical exposure to be billions of dollars in lost productivity due to neurological deficits, reproductive, and developmental conditions and disease.

The authors conclude that several environmental risk factors represent very substantial annual losses to global GDP and that their findings suggest that “a revised paradigm is required for evaluating and prioritizing the environmental contribution to human illness and the associated costs.”

This study and others underscore the need for strong protections against harmful environmental exposures. Beyond Pesticides is working to advance regulatory reform and support broader implementation of alternative products and practices that do not rely on toxic chemicals. Through the Eating with a Conscience tool, those concerned about pesticides on their produce can find out which chemicals are allowed in food production. The ManageSafe database helps households control common pests without toxic pesticides, and the Lawn and Landscapes webpage helps property owners manage lawns without the use of pesticides linked to endocrine disruption and other adverse health effects. Ultimately, by supporting organic agriculture, with prohibits the use of harmful synthetic chemicals, we can help to drastically reduce the burden of disease.

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

Source: Health and Environmental Alliance

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12
Dec

Monsanto Offers Farmers Payments to Use Controversial Herbicide Dicamba, According to Reuters

(Beyond Pesticides, December 12, 2017) According to a Reuters story, agrichemical company Monsanto plans to offer farmers a cash incentive to use its highly toxic and drift-prone dicamba-based herbicide next season, despite links to widespread crop damage that has pitted neighbor against neighbor in agricultural communities throughout the country. The move comes as more and more states enact or consider restrictions on use of the herbicide, which is intended to be paired with genetically engineered (GE) soybean seeds resistant to both dicamba and another controversial herbicide produced by Monsanto, glyphosate.

Monsanto plans to provide farmers more than half of the cost of herbicide per acre as an incentive to plant its GE seeds. However, given the range of new regulations surrounding the products, as well as the social stigma around its use, it remains to be seen whether the offer will sway farmers. 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 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. And reports from NPR indicate that a dispute last October between two neighbors over dicamba drift led to the murder of one Arkansas farmer.

Monsanto claimed earlier this year that the problem was that farmers were not following directions on application labels, or using contaminated equipment, or buying older formulations of dicamba that are cheaper but more prone to drift. However, research is showing that the new product Monsanto released, although promoted by the company as being less prone to off-site drift, has inherent problems that will continue to lead to nearby crop damage.

If farmers do decide to use these products, there will be a range of federal and state regulations to follow. Administrator Scott Pruitt’s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offered the most tepid response, reclassifying dicamba products used with GE crops as ‘restricted use’ and including additional record keeping and label changes. Other states have imposed additional restrictions. North Dakota will not allow any dicamba applications to be made after June 30th, and if the chemical is used, temperatures must be below 85 degrees. Arkansas and Missouri issued temporary bans on dicamba’s sale and use earlier this year, and followed up with additional regulations this winter. Missouri is finalizing requirements that mandate prior notification to the state Department of Agriculture before dicamba is applied, as well as restrictions that prohibit its use in certain Missouri counties after June or July 2018. Arkansas is close to enacting the strongest prohibition on GE dicamba formulations, banning its use between April 16 and October 31, 2018. Officials in Minnesota are also considering a cut-off date and temperature restrictions.

Despite the damage seen this year, Monsanto indicated to Reuters that it predicts over 40 million acres will be planted with dicamba-tolerant soy in 2018. This  trajectory is a concern to many who say that it puts the future of agriculture and crop diversity in jeopardy. The ability for Monsanto’s dicamba to drift and volatilize means that any nearby farmer not growing dicamba-resistant crops will be penalized and likely incur crop damage as a result of its use. Organic farmers are likely to be the worst hit, as any herbicide contamination could cause them to lose their certification and price premium on their crops.

Beyond Pesticides encourages support for organic agriculture as a viable alternative for the future of farming in the U.S. Certified organic products are never made from GE materials, and never have toxic synthetic herbicides applied to them. For more information about why GE crops should be on their way out, and why a transition to organic farming is needed now, see Beyond Pesticides Genetic Engineering an Organic Agriculture program pages.

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

Source: Reuters

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11
Dec

Take Action: Tell the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to Support Monarch Habitat

(Beyond Pesticides, December 11, 2017)
Tell the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to substantially increase the amount of funding spent on the conservation of monarch butterflies and the restoration of their habitat, and to ensure that restored habitat is not poisoned with hazardous pesticides.

Although the agency has taken some steps to protect monarchs –including the implementation of the Monarch Butterfly Habitat Development Project and support for the Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund— last year’s NRCS expenditure of $4 million was insufficient to prevent the monarchs’ decline, and could not even begin stemming the loss of milkweed habitat. Restoring the monarch butterfly and its habitat will require a substantial contribution from the agricultural sector and strong leadership from the NRCS. Agricultural lands encompass 77% of all prospective monarch habitat, and thus are indispensable to reaching these goals.

Monarch populations have fallen more than 80 percent over the last 20 years, and it is estimated that there is a 60 percent chance the multigenerational migration of these butterflies would completely collapse in the next 20 years. Milkweed, the only forage for monarch caterpillars, has decreased by 21 percent, especially in the Midwest, where agricultural fields and pesticide use have expanded.

Scientists estimate that to meet the monarch protection goal in the 2015 National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, the U.S. needs to plant approximately 1.6 billion more milkweed stems to support a population of 225 million butterflies and the goal of six hectares of overwintering monarchs –a population goal that is still substantially lower than the monarch butterfly population in the early 1990s, but one that would drastically reduce the likelihood of monarch extinction.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is set to determine whether to protect monarch butterflies under the Endangered Species Act. An agreement with Center for Food Safety and the Center for Biological Diversity in July 2016 requires the agency to decide by June 2019 whether the butterflies will receive federal protection. This agreement came in response to a lawsuit earlier that year to force the agency to set a legally binding deadline for a decision on a 2014 petition calling for protection of the species. FWS’s consideration of federal protection for monarchs is a positive step toward improving habitat and raising awareness about the decline of the butterfly, as well as the plight of other pollinator populations. Restoration of safe monarch habitat is essential to building populations, allowing the monarch to be delisted in the near future. Ensuring that this habitat is safe for monarchs by requiring that no pesticides are used would have benefits in building soil biology and protecting other pollinators.

The Monarch butterfly is one of many important pollinator species that have experienced drastic declines in recent years. Along with threats from glyphosate use and habitat loss, the use of insecticides, like neonicotinoids, has also been linked to monarch declines. The use of genetically engineered (GE) crops (Roundup-ready crops) allows the use of Monsanto’s glyphosate in cropland, an important factor in the decline of the monarch. Glyphosate eradicates milkweed, and the dramatic surge in Roundup use and “Roundup Ready” crops has virtually wiped out milkweed plants in Midwestern corn and soybean fields. It is estimated these butterflies have lost more than 165 million acres of habitat. A 2016 study found that the increasing use of neonicotinoid insecticides is correlated with a steep decline in butterfly health and reproductive success.

Tell NRCS to Support Safe Monarch Habitat!

 

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08
Dec

Least-Toxic Chemicals Show Promise for Bed Bug Control, But Non-Toxic Practices Remain the Best Solution

(Beyond Pesticides, December 8, 2017) Less toxic oil-based insecticides are showing promise for the treatment of bed bugs, according to a study published this month in the Journal of Economic Entomology. The common bed bug has seen a significant resurgence in the U.S., and with the pests found to be resistant to a broad range of modern, toxic insecticides, pest control operators are searching out new, safer ways to manage infestations. “So far there are no reports of resistance to these oils,” said study author Changlu Wang, PhD to Entomology Today. “It is very difficult for insects to develop resistance to them since they are not neurotoxins.”

A range of 18 essential oils, concentrated liquids containing aromatic compounds derived from plants, were tested for their toxicity to bed bugs that were retrieved from an infested building in Indiana. Paraffin oil, a colorless and odorless mineral oil, as well as three silicone oils, similarly colorless and odorless oils used in various personal care products and medications, were also screened for their toxicity to bed bugs. Scientists observed the bed bugs in a laboratory setting for two weeks before moving to another round of experimentation.

Of the 22 oils tested, paraffin oil and the three silicone oils displayed the greatest bed bug mortality, with blood orange oil and cedarwood oil showing the most toxicity of the essential oils. The authors suspect that the higher rate of bed bug mortality through silicone and paraffin oil exposure is primarily a physical mode of action, where the oils suffocate the insects by entering their tracheal system.

Scientists also compared cedarwood oil, geraniol, and formulated product called EcoRaider, which contained both cedarwood and geraniol in a formulated product. The formulated product EcoRaider resulted in a significantly higher mortality than either of the individual essential oils alone. The study suggests that this may because the pure essential oils are highly volatile and evaporate quickly, while the EcoRaider efficacy is likely a result of additional surfactants in the EcoRaider product.

Silicone oils, paraffin oil, and the formulated product EcoRaider all showed relatively similar toxicity to bed bugs. Given that recent studies have revealed high levels of resistance to widely used neonicotinoid and pyrethroid insecticides, these products may present a viable management option when paired with other techniques. It is important to note that this current experiment was conducted in a laboratory setting, and bed bugs have been shown to display significant variation between toxicity and mortality in the lab and in actual infested buildings and residences. In real world settings, certain bed bug populations may develop stronger resistance mechanisms, and in addition, the bugs have a greater opportunity to avoid insecticide applications. Research in 2012 found that even long-term laboratory populations of bed bugs susceptible to common insecticides were unharmed after given a thin cloth as a cover. Given the bug’s propensity to hide in cracks and crevices of beds, furniture, bags, and other household items, it is evident that spraying any product, even a least toxic one, may not be the best solution for an infestation.

Beyond Pesticides recommends an integrated approach to bed bug management that focuses on cultural practices first and foremost. This includes eliminating clutter where the bugs can hide, encasing and isolating certain furniture, thorough vacuuming, caulking and sealing cracks and crevices around bed frames, floors, walls, baseboard edges, and moldings, and laundering fabrics and clothing.  Heat and steam treatments are good options that are generally effective at eliminating or drastically reducing most bed bug infestations. Least-toxic chemicals, such as the ones in the present study, but also borates and diatomaceous earth, should be considered as a last resort, and used carefully.

To get a handle on a bed bug infestation in your home or property, don’t reach for a chemical -see Beyond Pesticides article “Got Bed Bugs? Don’t Panic.” as well as the ManageSafe fact sheet on bed bugs. And for more information see the Bed Bug program page or call the office at 202-543-5450 or email at [email protected] for assistance.

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

Source: Entomology Today, Journal of Economic Entomology

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07
Dec

Environmental Groups Plan to Sue EU Regulators over Glyphosate Decision

(Beyond Pesticides, December 7, 2017) European health and environmental groups Global 2000 and Pesticide Action Network (PAN) have announced plans to sue European Union authorities over their assessment of the herbicide glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup products produced by the chemical company Monsanto. The groups claim that the German regulatory authority, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) used material directly from Monsanto in their report over the safety of glyphosate without making clear that the data came from Monsanto itself.  “Both the BfR and the EFSA were in breach of the requirement obliging them to make an independent, objective and transparent assessment,” the groups said in a statement provided to Reuters.

PAN and Global 2000 filed legal complaints with investigators in both Berlin and Vienna, and plan to follow up with suits in France and Italy. The groups cite Austrian criminal code in their complaint, which indicates that “incorrect or falsified data” could be cause for commercial fraud. The two groups are also alleging that EFSA and BfR willfully endangered the public and the environment. Although the next steps are unclear, groups indicate to Reuters that they plan to work these cases through domestic courts and eventually toward the European Court of Justice.

The lawsuit against these agencies comes as the European Commission of 28 member states voted late last month to extend the allowed use of glyphosate in the continent for five years. The close vote, which saw nine against, and one abstention, pitted Germany against France, with the former country winning out after swaying the vote in favor of continued allowance of the chemical. Despite the decision, France announced it remains committed to eliminating the herbicide from use within its home county as soon as possible, and will continue to engage at the pan-European level to abolish glyphosate use.

Both EFSA and BfR have been accused of working closely with Monsanto to sway their final decisions on the controversial chemical. In 2015, reports indicated that BfR based its glyphosate renewal assessment almost solely on industry science and classified industry reports from an industry greenwashing group called the Glyphosate Task Force. It was also found that three scientists on Germany’s scientific panel on pesticides work for the pesticide industry.

In 2017, another report found that EFSA copied “dozens of pages” of documents submitted by the Glyphosate Task Force when it released its renewal assessment report recommending continued use of the chemical. Beyond concerns over collusion is the fact that neither BfR nor EFSA looked at formulated glyphosate products like Roundup. Both evaluations, including of course the Glyphosate Task Force evaluation, only considered pure, technical grade glyphosate in their assessment of the chemical’s health impacts. When the World Health Organization deemed glyphosate carcinogenic, it looked at the health effects of both the active ingredient and formulated products such as Roundup.

Monsanto indicated at the time of the report that EFSA wrote it the way it did because of the large number of studies that it needed to assess. However, both EFSA and the German regulatory agencies continue to refuse to disclose two key chronic toxicity studies that were pivotal to the decision, citing them as confidential business information.

While the EU five-year authorization is a setback, environmental and health groups will continue to challenge these decisions in the courts, as well as at the national level within EU member states. The U.S. is no less subject to the influence of multi-national chemical companies like Monsanto. Eliminating glyphosate and other toxic chemical use in the U.S. may also require continued court action, such as the numerous personal injury lawsuits against Monsanto’s Roundup, as well as sustained grassroots advocacy. Start your own local movement to stop toxic pesticide use in your community by arming yourself with the latest science on toxic chemicals and their alternatives, building a coalition of concerned residents, and taking your concerns to elected officials. Contact Beyond Pesticides at [email protected] or 202-543-5450 for assistance.

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

Source: Reuters

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06
Dec

Groups Urge Trump Administration to Protect Monarch Butterflies

(Beyond Pesticides, December 6, 2017) Last week over 100 conservation and environmental groups urged the federal government to increase funding to protect and conserve monarch butterflies. These iconic butterflies, native to North America, have seen drastic declines in their populations. Surveys report over 80 percent reductions in populations over the last 20 years. Pesticide use, habitat loss, and climate change have all been identified as stressors to these butterflies.

The groups, led by the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Humane Society, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to do more to help the imperiled butterfly. The letter requests the agency increase the allotment of conservation funds from $4 million- spent last year- to $100 million. The increase in funds is needed for efforts to increase milkweed habitat. In contrast, the government spent over $500 million on sage grouse initiatives to prevent that animal’s listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), even though the Trump Administration is seeking to overturn these initiatives.

Currently, the agency has taken some steps to protect monarchs. These include the implementation of the Monarch Butterfly Habitat Development Project and support of the Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund. But, according to the letter, “Restoring the monarch butterfly and its habitat will require a substantial contribution from the agricultural sector and strong leadership
” Monarch populations have fallen more than 80 percent over the last 20 years, and it is estimated that there is a 60 percent chance the multigenerational migration of these butterflies would completely collapse in the next 20 years. Milkweed, the only forage for monarchs has decreased by 21 percent, especially in the midwest, where agricultural fields and pesticide use have expanded. Monarch butterflies are hatched on milkweed plants and spend much of their juvenile periods foraging there. The letter notes that to restore millions of acres of milkweed, it would cost at least $100 million per year, according to government assessments.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is set to determine whether to protect monarch butterflies under the Endangered Species Act. An agreement was made with Center for Food Safety and the Center for Biological Diversity in July 2016 that requires the agency to decide by June 2019 whether the butterflies will receive federal protection. This agreement came in response to a lawsuit earlier that year to force the agency to set a legally binding deadline for a decision on a 2014 petition calling for protection of the species. Many see FWS’ consideration of federal protection for monarchs as a positive step toward improving habitat and raising awareness about the decline of the butterfly, as well as the plight of other pollinator populations.

The monarch butterfly is one of many important pollinator species that have experienced drastic declines in recent years. Along with threats from glyphosate use and habitat loss, the use of pesticides, like neonicotinoids, has also been linked to monarch declines. The use of genetically engineered (GE) crops (Roundup-ready crops) allows the use of Monsanto’s glyphosate in cropland, an important factor in the decline of the monarch. Glyphosate eradicates milkweed and the dramatic surge in Roundup use and “Roundup Ready” crops has virtually wiped out milkweed plants in midwestern corn and soybean fields. It is estimated that these butterflies have lost more than 165 million acres of habitat.  A 2016 study found that the increasing use of neonicotinoid insecticides is correlated with a steep decline in butterfly health and reproductive success. This study looked at 67 species of butterfly in Northern California and found a correlation between butterfly population decline and increasing neonicotinoid applications, which also appeats to be more severe for smaller-bodied species. According to the researchers, the results suggest that neonicotinoids could influence non-target insect populations when applied nearby. Pesticides like neonicotinoids also harm other non-target pollinators like honey bees and other bee species. Studies show an association with decreased learning, foraging and navigational ability, as well as increased vulnerability to pathogens and parasites, in bees.

Critical to the survival of monarchs, other pollinators, and organisms essential to ecological balance is the large-scale adoption of organic farming practices. Beyond Pesticides supports organic agriculture  as effecting good land stewardship and a reduction in hazardous chemical exposures for workers on the farm. The pesticide reform movement, citing pesticide problems associated with chemical agriculture, from groundwater contamination and runoff to drift, views organic as the solution to a serious public health and environmental threat.

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

Source: Center for Biological Diversity

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05
Dec

Fungicides Tied to Declining Bumblebee Populations in the United States

(Beyond Pesticides, December 5, 2017) Fungicides are likely playing an important role in the decline of North American bumblebee populations, according to new research published by a team at Cornell University. While overwhelming data continue to indicate that insecticides, particularly the neonicotinoid class of chemicals, are the leading factor in overall pollinator declines, Cornell scientists discovered that fungicides, in particular the chemical chlorothalonil, are likely compounding risk and toxicity for U.S. bumblebee species. As new studies continue to expand the chemical culprits in pollinator declines, calls for a wholesale change in agricultural practices toward more sustainable organic production are reinforced.

Cornell researchers began their investigation by focusing on what land use factors had the most impact on eight bumblebee species, many of which have been declining in the U.S. Bumblebee species were sampled at nearly 300 sites in 40 states during the summer months, and at each of the sampling sites, landscape variables were characterized and quantified for land use (urban v rural), habitat (high vs low latitude), and pesticide (insecticide, fungicide, herbicide) usage.

The strongest indicator of declining range within the selected bumblebee species was found to be overall fungicide use, with those in the northern U.S. undergoing the most rapid decline. Scientists focused in on the prevalence of Nosema bombi, a fungal pathogen that has also been closely linked to declining bumblebee species. They found that the use of the fungicide chlorothalonil at a site was the most accurate predictor of N. bombi prevalence.

“Nosema can be devastating to bumblebees and honeybees,” said lead author Scott McArt, PhD. “Since fungicide exposure can increase susceptibility of bees to Nosema, this may be the reason we’re seeing links between fungicide exposure, Nosema prevalence and bumblebee declines across the United States in this data set.”

Research from 2013 found that fungicide exposure honey bees encountered through normal pollination was linked with increased vulnerability to a close cousin of N. bombi, the pathogen N. ceranae. “Insecticides work; they kill insects,” Dr. McArt noted in a press release. “Fungicides have been largely overlooked because they are not targeted for insects, but fungicides may not be quite as benign — toward bumblebees – as we once thought. This surprised us.”

Previous studies back up claims of chlorothalonil affecting the health of bumblebee populations. In 2015, a study published by entomologists at the University of Wisconsin found that bumblebee colonies kept in field enclosures where flowers were sprayed with field-realistic doses of chlorothalonil significantly diminished the colonies’ size and health.

Other fungicides have also been found to have negative impacts on pollinators. Myclobutanil, a commonly used fungicide found in the product Eagle 20, was linked to damage in the muscles that honey bees use to fly and keep warm during the winter in a study published earlier this year.  Scientists inferred that complex interactions between the fungicide, natural compounds in flowers, and the honey bees’ detoxification system, known as the cytochrome p450 system, ultimately resulted in the muscle damage.

A similar mechanism is likely in place with bumblebees and recorded declines. “While most fungicides are relatively nontoxic to bees, many are known to interact synergistically with insecticides, greatly increasing their toxicity to the bees,” Dr. McArt said.

Beyond Pesticides and other health and environmental groups are calling for an end to the synthetic pesticide experiment first documented in detail by Rachel Carson in the 1960s. Since that time, the pesticide industry continued to ‘innovate’ by producing synthetic chemicals with different, though no less deleterious, impacts that fit into U.S. Environmental Protection Agency risk assessment models, but have other impacts that are characterized as novel or ‘mysterious.’ Only after investigation and published research from independent scientists do the mechanisms behind these effects become apparent.

It’s time to end the cycle of shifting from one health or ecological catastrophe to another by establishing real protections from pesticide use and a positive vision for the United States’ agricultural future. Organic production is a viable, scalable, cost-effective method without any of the long-associated harm of conventional agriculture, but it requires moving government support away from chemical corporations and towards more sustainable practices. Representative Earl Blumenauer’s Food and Farm Act, proposed as an amendment to the 2018 Farm Bill, is a good start towards moving agriculture in a safer direction. Tell your Congressional leaders to join Rep Blumenauer and support sustainable systems by signing Beyond Pesticides Action of the Week.

Source: Cornell University Press Release

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

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04
Dec

Take Action: Don’t Allow Dow Chemical to Poison Farms and Communities

(Beyond Pesticides, December 4, 2017) You told the Arkansas Plant Board to exercise its authority to protect farmers, consumers, and the environment from use of the herbicide dicamba on genetically engineered (GE) soybeans, and the board listened. Now, we need to ask the board to stop the use of 2,4-D on GE cotton. The action of states is critical as the federal government ignores basic safety concerns. Action in Arkansas will influence other states.

Tell the Arkansas Plant Board to adopt the proposed rule and to prohibit use of 2,4-D on cotton!

The decision concerning 2,4-D use on herbicide-tolerant cotton goes to the Arkansas Plant Board on December 12. The choice has many similarities to the decision to allow — and then prohibit — the use of dicamba on herbicide-tolerant soybean varieties. Both 2,4-D and dicamba are phenoxy herbicides — 2,4-D being the infamous ingredient (along with 2,4,5-T) of Agent Orange. Our voices were heard when the Arkansas Plant Board considered dicamba, so please weigh in on 2,4-D.

At this December 12 meeting, the Arkansas Plant Board is holding a hearing on a proposed regulation that would allow the Board to request more information from pesticide registrants, which could support restrictions based on conditions within Arkansas. The proposed regulation is a straightforward authorization to seek further information, with a requirement to disclose how it is used. Arkansas law allows the state to restrict or prohibit use of a pesticide to prevent unreasonable adverse effects caused by drift.

Both phenoxy herbicides (2,4-D and dicamba) are noted for their propensity to drift — both as droplets during application and as vapor afterward. Their application causes a wide range of health effects, as well as environmental impacts. Broad-leaved crops, including soybeans, non-GE cotton, grapes, and vegetables are susceptible to damage by phenoxy herbicides. The State of Arkansas has a growing wine industry that deserves to be protected from 2,4-D drift. The proposed rule will enable the state to request information from registrants that enables it to protect farms and communities more effectively from drift.

Like dicamba in soybeans, 2,4-D use in cotton represents movement in the wrong direction — toward harm to productivity and ecosystem services. Reliance on toxic herbicides and GE crops has failed farmers in a world where organic production is a viable alternative. The predictable problems associated with 2,4-D can and should be avoided.

Tell the Arkansas Plant Board to adopt the proposed rule and to prohibit use of 2,4-D on cotton!

Thank you for taking action!

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01
Dec

PolliNATION: Best BioControl, Ichneumonid Wasps

(Beyond Pesticides, December 1, 2017) Ichneumonid wasps (family Ichneumonidae), are a widely distributed parasitoid wasp family within the order Hymenoptera. The name “ichneumonid” comes from Greek words meaning “tracker” and “footprint.” And females do indeed hunt for suitable “hosts” by first identifying the organism’s food source. Once a suitable host is found, females deposit eggs onto the unsuspecting insect larvae where, within ten days to several weeks, the Ichneumonid larva kills the host by feeding on its body fluids before it emerges. They are also known as “scorpion wasps” for the extreme length and curving motion of their segmented abdomens. Note: both adult males and females are stingless, and feed on nectar.

The discovery of Ichneumonidae was so troubling to many that, in 1860, Charles Darwin wrote a letter to the American naturalist Asa Gray, saying:

“I own that I [should wish to] see as plainly as others do
evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us
I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.”

The parasitic behavior of Ichneumon wasps was the inspiration behind the “Alien” movies’ “face-hugger” and “chest-burster” alien species.

Range

The Ichneumonidae, arguably the largest animal family, contains about 4,000 species in North America alone. There are an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 ichneumonid species distributed worldwide, more than any other Hymenoptera family including ants and bees. Though considered to be especially species-rich in high latitudes, ichneumonids can be found in North America during spring and summer in a majority of wild habitats including forests and wetlands, as well as urban lawns and green spaces.

Physiology

Ichneumonids look like slim stinging wasps, having long legs and noticeably longer antennae containing 16 or more segments whereas other wasps have 13 or fewer segments. Both sexes can be found tapping their antennae across logs or tree trunks.

Ichneumonid wasps are some of the larger parasitic wasps. Adult size, form and color varies widely based on the size and food source of its larval host. Consequently, some may be brightly colored, while others are brown or tan. The largest ichneumonids of North America, those of the genus Megarhyssa (or giant ichneumonids) can reach 5 cm in length.

While their wings may be shaded blue or brown, ichneumonid wing structure varies slightly from other wasps – the main distinguishing feature being the added “venation” (or, vein arrangement) on its forewings.

Female ichneumonid wasps have a long “ovipositor,” or egg-laying organ. (In stinging hymenopterans, the stinger is a modified ovipositor.) The female’s ovipositor has a tiny ionized manganese or zinc (metal) tip which allows her to drill through bark to reach wood-boring hosts. Interestingly, such high metal concentrations are also found in the wasp’s hardened mandibles, allowing the newly emerged adult to chew a way out of the wood in which the prey larva was encased.

She uses her long ovipositor to inject eggs into a host’s body. The length of the ovipositor allows the female to inject eggs into leaf-rolling or stem-boring insect larvae remarkably (to a human’s viewpoint) hidden from view. A female will use her antennae to sense vibrations made when grubs or pupa feed.

Males tap their antennae only when in search of mates. They have neither stingers nor ovipositors.

Ecological Role and Threats to Existence

Being effective insect parasitoids, ichneumonid wasps play an essential role in the majority of ecosystems. Acting as biocontrol agents, they have been incorporated into managed biocontrol programs.

When in search of hosts to parasitize, female ichneumonid wasps target a wide variety of larvae or pupae of so-called “pest” insects. Ichneumonid wasps are considered highly beneficial as they are immensely helpful in decimating crop-damaging insects before they reach the adult, reproductive stage. Such hosts include tomato hornworms, boll weevils, forest yellowjackets, wheat stem sawflies, cutworms, birch leafminers, cabbage loopers, as well as both corn and wood borers.

When not in search of hosts, solitary ichneumonid wasps can often be seen feeding on nectar and sap of native flowers, shrubs and trees. Foraging adults prefer members of the carrot family Apiaceae (or Umbelliferae). These plants are usually aromatic and contain an umbrella-shaped “inflorescence.” Multiple broad-faced flowers (acting like a welcome mat, or landing pad), enables ichneumonid wasps to clamber across multiple flowers in a single visit, which effectively pollinates the plants.

Ichneumonid wasps travel up to 625 m. These lengthy journeys allow for wider pollen dispersal. However, some adults have been shown to revisit certain locations within days or weeks.

Like other insects, including those providing biological control and pollination services, ichneumonid wasps can be poisoned by the spraying of insecticides. In addition, the cosmetic application of toxic herbicides along the perimeter of our lawns, or across large swaths of farm fields, can destroy ichneumonid waps favorite plant food source, the Apiaceae. Without a viable food source, ichneumonid numbers dwindle, as adults become weak, inactive, and are more susceptible to disease.

How to protect the species

Learn to recognize insects. Learn how to identify and conserve flowering plant species. (Stop to appreciate their smell, color, and allure.) Protect biodiversity in every way you can using Integrated and Organic Pest Management. Remember: Exterminating pests does not mean similar pests will not return. Use least-toxic pesticides only as a last resort, carefully choosing the product least likely to harm insect predators and parasitoids. To keep pests at bay, start by identifying and eliminating pest entry ways as well as food and water sources. Toxic chemicals used on your lawn, parks, or sports fields, devastate the microbes needed to sustain a well-balanced food web.

To ensure a healthy and biodiverse environment for ichneumonid wasps to mate and feed, work collaboratively with neighbors to enliven microbial activity in your lawns or gardens. Replace a portion of your grass lawn with the native plants adapted to your region. Over-seed and apply “top-dressing” (ex- compost) to your lawn, or garden. Aerate soil to allow water to permeate through and stay where it should.

When wishing to incorporate ichneumonid wasps into an IPM strategy, remember, if the goal is to encourage beneficial ichneumonid wasps to deposit their parasitoid eggs into “pest” insect larvae, you need to offer ichneumonid adults sustained access to nectar plants. As ichneumonid wasps are attracted to aromatic plants in the carrot family, try adding varieties such as fennel, parsley, parsnip, dill, cumin, coriander, or chervil to your garden, or grow these plants in pots.

Further research in natural as well as biological control is always needed! Support the Organic Agricultural Research Act. Find out about quantitative biodiversity surveys in your area and their data on ichneumonid species diversity and habitat-hotspots. Keeping such records today will help future conservationists and entomologists make informed ichneumonid wasp protection decisions.

Remember: Avoid using insecticides indoors (or in your garden) as residues can persist in homes for over a year. Visit Beyond Pesticides’ ManageSafe database to learn about least-toxic alternatives for indoor and outdoor pest problems.

Citations
Brisbane Insects and Spiders: www.brisbaneinsects.com
http://www.brisbaneinsects.com/brisbane_parawasps/ICHNEUMONIDAE.htm
Waspweb.org
Bug Guide: https://bugguide.net/node/view/150
Washington State University, Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center (Orchard Pest Management Online): http://jenny.tfrec.wsu.edu/opm/displaySpecies.php?pn=920
Missouri Deparment of Conservation: https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/ichneumon-wasps
www.britanica.com: https://www.britannica.com/animal/ichneumon
McGill University, Quebec Biodiversity Website: http://redpath-museum.mcgill.ca/Qbp/2.About%20Biodiversity/surveys.htm
Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ichneumonidae

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