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Action of the Week

Action of the week is intended to provide you, our supporters and network, with one concrete action that you can take each week to have your voice heard on governmental actions that are harmful to the environment and public and worker health, increase overall pesticide use, or undermine the advancement of organic, sustainable, and regenerative practices and policies. As an example, topics may include toxic chemical use, pollinator protection, organic agriculture and land use, global climate change, and regulatory or enforcement violations.

03/18/2019 — Take Action: What's in the Bottle, Bag, or Box is Not Tested Fully for Adverse Effects

Forget about single-pesticide issues: this affects every single one of them. EPA is allowing massive data gaps to persist for each and every pesticide product it registers by conducting the bulk of its health and environmental risk assessments using active ingredients alone. With its current practices, EPA is failing its federal mandate to protect public health and the environment and misleading the public about what is “safe.”

Tell your Congressional delegation that EPA must assess the real risks of pesticide use, not rely on false representations of risk based on tests of isolated ingredients.

When pesticides are sprayed on our crops, lawns, and roadsides, and enter into our waterways, groundwater and drinking water, we are exposed to whole formulations, whole tank mixtures, and whole pesticide combinations, not just active ingredients (those that the manufacturer claims are the only ingredients that attack the target pest). It is the whole formulation that makes the poison, and that whole formulation must be regulated.

Active ingredients are far from the whole story of pesticide poisoning. Despite their name, “inert” ingredients are very often not chemically, biologically, nor toxicologically inert or innocuous. According to a peer-reviewed study, as of 2006, more than 500 ingredients that were listed as “inert” in some products serve as the active ingredient in other products. Many “inert” ingredients are known to state, federal, and international agencies to be hazardous to human health. One of the most hazardous ingredients in common formulations of the popular herbicide Roundup is a surfactant, which is classified as an “inert,” and therefore not listed on the label. A 2013 study found that some Roundup adjuvants are 9,661 times more toxic to human cells than the active ingredient glyphosate. The real threats of herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides are masked when EPA only tests active ingredients.

Synergy between ingredients adds yet another layer to the stack of untested threats. Ingredients added to formulations are specifically selected for their ability to make the active ingredient more potent, yet these effects are ignored in the vast majority of EPA-required testing. A 2016 Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) Investigative report found that 69% of recently approved pesticide patent applications claimed or demonstrated synergy between ingredients in the product.

Based on EPA’s current policies, the agency does not require any testing on the health effects of pesticide products, as commonly applied, in the areas of chronic toxicity, carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, developmental and reproductive toxicity, or subchronic oral toxicity, inhalation toxicity, and neurotoxicity. Nor does it require any testing on the effect of whole pesticide products on avian oral toxicity, avian dietary toxicity, avian reproduction, freshwater aquatic invertebrate life cycle, freshwater fish early-life stage, or honey bee acute contact toxicity.

To put it another way: EPA has no idea whether the pesticide products it registers and claims pose an “acceptable risk” could cause cancer, chronic disease, developmental delays, or infertility. EPA has no idea whether the pesticide products it registers could harm or kill birds, fish, aquatic invertebrates, or honey bees. These data gaps are alarming and unacceptable, and a misinterpretation of the law.

Tell your Congressional delegation that EPA must assess the real risks of pesticide use, not rely on false representations of risk based on tests of isolated ingredients.

If you have a moment, please take a few minutes to navigate to EPA’s public comment page and tell EPA directly that it must require whole mixture testing. By clicking on ‘Comment Now!’ you can become part of the official decision-making process in this critical, far-reaching issue. See below for suggested comments (which you can cut-and-paste into the EPA docket), or personalize your own.

(Suggested Comment):

I am writing in support of the policy amendments detailed in the petition, “Seeking Revised Testing Requirements of Pesticides Prior to Registration,” Docket # EPA-HQ-OPP-2018-0262-0001.

Whole pesticides must be tested across all areas of toxicity in the same form in which they are commonly applied, in order to comply with FIFRA and adequately protect the environment and public health.

Based on published policies (40 C.F.R § 158.500-660), EPA does not currently require any testing on the health effects of pesticide products, as commonly applied, in the areas of chronic toxicity, carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, developmental and reproductive toxicity, or subchronic oral toxicity, inhalation toxicity, and neurotoxicity. Nor does it require any testing on the effect of whole pesticide products on avian oral toxicity, avian dietary toxicity, avian reproduction, freshwater aquatic invertebrate life cycle, freshwater fish early-life stage, or honey bee acute contact toxicity.

By requiring only the active ingredient for the majority of pesticide risk assessment tests, EPA is failing to adequately protect against known widespread hazards of “inert” ingredients and their synergistic effects on whole pesticide toxicity.

EPA must fulfill its federal mandate and test whole pesticide formulations and mixtures, as they are commonly applied. Anything less falls short of adequate protection under the law.

Sincerely,

03/11/2019 — Call for Moratorium on the Release of RNAi Pesticides that Manipulate Genes

We must stop the expanded commercialization of genetically engineered pesticides. The failure of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to fully evaluate environmental impacts of gene-manipulating pesticides raises serious concerns in light of the agency’s ongoing failure to predict ecological effects of pesticides, such as the dramatic decline of pollinators.

With the release of a 2019 peer-reviewed scientific article, Environmental Fate of RNA Interference Pesticides: Adsorption and Degradation of Double-Stranded RNA Molecules in Agricultural Soils, on the potential impact on soil and non-target microorganisms in soil, the study’s co-author, Kimberly Parker, PhD, remarked, “The ecological risk assessment of these emerging pesticides necessitates an understanding of the fate of dsRNA [double stranded RNA] molecules in receiving environments, among which agricultural soils are most important.”

This technology, given that it is systemic to the plant and leaves traces in the soil, can cause widespread indiscriminate poisoning—as has been seen with bees, butterflies, birds, and the larger catastrophic decline of insect populations.

Tell your members of Congress that the ecological effects of RNAi gene-manipulating pesticides raise serious questions—they have not been fully studied by EPA and, until they are, the agency should issue a moratorium on their release.

Previously, technical hurdles in measuring dsRNA had stymied scientists’ ability to quantify the genetic material and its degradation products in soil, but these investigators are now able to “tag” the molecule so it can be followed through a series of simulated soil systems representative of those in the “real” world. The work of these researchers marks the beginning of understanding the ecological risks of these emerging dsRNA pesticides.

The dsRNA pesticides work by impeding the expression of essential proteins in target pest insects via a cellular mechanism called RNA interference (RNAi). In RNAi, the messenger RNA of the target organism (pest) is adversely affected and it is left either stunted or dead.

In the biochemical genetic engineering (GE) sector, “gene silencing” technology is engineered into plants so that they can, functionally, produce their own pesticides. EPA quietly registered Monsanto’s (now Dow’s) first product using this genetic engineering technology in the summer of 2017 and it is expected to be on the market in 2019 or 2020.

For decades, the silver bullet strategy to controlling the corn rootworm has eluded companies advancing approaches that do not take into account crop and soil management systems known to prevent insect problems, such as those utilized by organic farmers. Previous attempts that incorporate Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterium that produces a toxin that kills some pests and non-pests) have been met with insect resistance over time. With the gene-manipulating pesticide, when the rootworm ingests the dsRNA in the corn plant’s tissue—grown from GE corn seeds called SmartStax Pro—a gene in the insect that is essential for rootworm survival gets turned off.

Too many mistakes have been made with the proliferation of pesticides and herbicide-tolerant genetically engineered crops, resulting in harm to consumers, farmers, and other organisms. With this new study, it is clear that we know less than we should to allow the marketing of a new pesticidal plant. Given that we have the tools to grow food productively and profitably without it, there is no need for EPA to move ahead without complete understanding of serious potential hazards.

Tell your members of Congress that the ecological effects of RNAi gene-manipulating pesticides raise serious questions—they have not been fully studied by EPA and, until they are, the agency should issue a moratorium on their release.

03/04/2019 — Tell Congress to Save America's Pollinators

Last week, U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) reintroduced the Saving America's Pollinators Act (H.R.1337) to cancel specific bee-toxic pesticides and establish a review and cancellation process for all pesticides that are potentially harmful to pollinators. The specific pesticides targeted in the bill include the systemic insecticides imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, dinotefuran, acetamiprid, sulfoxaflor, flupyradifurone, and fipronil. The bill also establishes requirements for review of other potentially bee-toxic chemicals by an independent pollinator protection board, and requires annual reports on the health and population status of pollinators. The bill creates a sustainable model for pollinator protection in the face of ongoing obstruction by an increasingly industry-influenced EPA. There are 29 cosponsors to date.

>>Tell your Representative to cosponsor the Saving America's Pollinators Act!

The current bill is the fifth version of Saving America's Pollinators Act (SAPA), which was first introduced by U.S. Representative Conyers (D-MI) in 2013. The newest version differs from previous bills in its bold definition of who should have responsibility for assessing harm to pollinators. SAPA 2019 calls for the establishment of a Pollinator Protection Board, to be composed of expert scientists, beekeepers, farmers, members of environmental organizations and other key stakeholders, nearly all of whom must not have any conflict of interest or affiliation with industry. The Pollinator Protection Board would be charged with annual review of potentially bee-toxic pesticides, to ensure continued assessments the initial suspensions. Beyond Pesticides holds the position that such continuous oversight free from conflict of interest is necessary to adequately protect vital pollinators, especially in the face of worsening mass declines. The current SAPA creates a similar board structure and authorities to the Organic Foods Production Act.

“Pollinators and other insects are vital to our economy and our livelihoods. This analysis is a call to action to do all we can to protect these valuable insects,” Rep. Blumenauer said, referencing a recent study “that paints a terrifying picture for the future of insects and our planet.”

Numerous scientific studies implicate systemic insecticides as key contributors to the global decline of pollinator populations. Systemic insecticides have been found to weaken both behavioral and immune resistance to parasites, pathogens, and temperature stress in honey bees and native pollinators. Several independent studies of managed and wild bees in the field have shown significant colony and population declines as a direct result of neonicotinoid crop treatment (123). There is widespread consensus in the scientific community that systemic insecticides are responsible for pollinator declines and need to be restricted, as evidenced by a 2018 “Call to restrict neonicotinoids” published in Science and signed by 233 scientists. 

“The health of our food system depends on the health of our pollinators. The status quo is like flying blind – we shouldn't be using these pesticides when we don't know their full impact,” said Rep. Blumenauer in the introduction to the previous iteration of the bill. “The EPA has a responsibility to get to the bottom of this issue and protect pollinators.”

EPA scientists have found that neonicotinoids pose far-reaching risks to birds and aquatic invertebrates, in addition to pollinators. EPA's risk assessments find deadly impacts to birds from neonicotinoid-treated seeds, poisoned insect prey, and contaminated grasses. University researchers have found that tiny amounts of neonicotinoids are enough to cause migrating songbirds to lose their sense of direction and become emaciated. A 2018 study by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) researchers found neonics widespread in the Great Lakes at levels that harm aquatic insects—the foundation of healthy aquatic ecosystems.

Human health is also at stake. A recent study by USGS and the University of Iowa found two metabolites of imidacloprid in drinking water that have never been evaluated for their potential risks to human and environmental health. Experts warn that these metabolites may morph further into new forms of chlorinated disinfection byproducts (DBPs) during routine water treatment processes, with potential for high toxicity to humans due to loss of insect-specificity.

Canada's pesticide regulatory agency recently proposed a phase-out of two widely used neonicotinoids, thiamethoxam and clothianidin, based on harms to bees and aquatic ecosystems. In 2018, Europe instituted a ban on neonicotinoids for outdoor use based on based on the General Court of the European Union's 2018 ruling upholding their harms to pollinators.

Rep. Blumenauer is offering a legislative remedy to address the U.S. pollinator crisis. But Congress won't act unless members hear from their constituents. Read the latest draft of the bill to understand how the new act would transform pollinator protection in the U.S., and urge your representative to support the Saving America's Pollinator Act 2019. With managed honey bee losses remaining at unsustainable levels and wild pollinators and insects of all taxa at risk of extinction, it is time for the U.S. to finally protect pollinators.

The bill has 29 cosponsors to date: Rep. Cartwright, Matt [D-PA-8], Rep. Castor, Kathy [D-FL-14], Rep. Clark, Katherine M. [D-MA-5], Rep. Cohen, Steve [D-TN-9], Rep. Connolly, Gerald E. [D-VA-11], Rep. DeFazio, Peter A. [D-OR-4], Rep. DeLauro, Rosa L. [D-CT-3], Rep. Gabbard, Tulsi [D-HI-2], Rep. Haaland, Debra A. [D-NM-1], Rep. Huffman, Jared [D-CA-2], Rep. Jackson Lee, Sheila [D-TX-18], Rep. Kaptur, Marcy [D-OH-9], Rep. Keating, William R. [D-MA-9], Rep. Kuster, Ann M. [D-NH-2], Rep. Lee, Barbara [D-CA-13], Rep. Lewis, John [D-GA-5], Rep. Lieu, Ted [D-CA-33], Rep. McCollum, Betty [D-MN-4], Rep. McGovern, James P. [D-MA-2], Rep. Omar, Ilhan [D-MN-5], Rep. Pingree, Chellie [D-ME-1], Rep. Quigley, Mike [D-IL-5], Rep. Raskin, Jamie [D-MD-8], Rep. Ryan, Tim [D-OH-13], Rep. Schakowsky, Janice D. [D-IL-9], Rep. Tonko, Paul [D-NY-20], Rep. Velazquez, Nydia M. [D-NY-7], Rep. Wasserman Schultz, Debbie [D-FL-23], Rep. Watson Coleman, Bonnie [D-NJ-12].

The following congress members who previously cosponsored SAPA bills have not yet cosponsored SAPA 2019:  Rep. Aguilar, Pete [D-CA-31], Rep. Beatty, Joyce [D-OH-3], Rep. Beyer, Donald S., Jr. [D-VA-8], Rep. Bishop, Sanford D., Jr. [D-GA-2], Rep. Carson, Andre [D-IN-7], Rep. Cartwright, Matt [D-PA-17], Rep. Chu, Judy [D-CA-27], Rep. Clarke, Yvette D. [D-NY-9], Rep. Clay, Wm. Lacy [D-MO-1], Rep. Cummings, Elijah E. [D-MD-7], Rep. Davis, Susan A. [D-CA-53], Rep. DelBene, Suzan K. [D-WA-1], Rep. DeSaulnier, Mark [D-CA-11], Rep. Doggett, Lloyd [D-TX-35], Rep. Eshoo, Anna G. [D-CA-18], Rep. Grijalva, Raul M. [D-AZ-3], Rep. Himes, James A. [D-CT-4], Rep. Horsford, Steven [D-NV-4], Rep. Jeffries, Hakeem S. [D-NY-8], Rep. Johnson, Eddie Bernice [D-TX-30], Rep. Johnson, Henry C. Hank, Jr. [D-GA-4], Rep. Langevin, James R. [D-RI-2], Rep. Larsen, Rick [D-WA-2], Rep. Larson, John B. [D-CT-1], Rep. Levin, Sander M. [D-MI-9], Rep. Lofgren, Zoe [D-CA-19], Rep. Lowenthal, Alan S. [D-CA-47], Rep. Maloney, Carolyn B. [D-NY-12], Rep. Matsui, Doris O. [D-CA-6], Rep. Meeks, Gregory W. [D-NY-5], Rep. Meng, Grace [D-NY-6], Rep. Nadler, Jerrold [D-NY-10], Rep. Norcross, Donald [D-NJ-1], Rep. Norton, Eleanor Holmes [D-DC-At Large], Rep. Pascrell, Bill, Jr. [D-NJ-9], Rep. Pocan, Mark [D-WI-2], Rep. Price, David E. [D-NC-4], Rep. Roybal-Allard, Lucille [D-CA-40], Rep. Ruppersberger, C. A. Dutch [D-MD-2], Rep. Rush, Bobby L. [D-IL-1], Rep. Schiff, Adam B. [D-CA-28], Rep. Smith, Adam [D-WA-9], Rep. Speier, Jackie [D-CA-14], Rep. Takano, Mark [D-CA-41], Chris [D-MD-8], Rep. Vargas, Juan [D-CA-51], Rep. Waters, Maxine [D-CA-43].

02/25/2019 — National Kroger Week of Action: Spring Swarm for Kid-Safe & Bee-Safe Food

A new study by Friends of the Earth and allies found that found that breakfast cereal, apples, applesauce and pinto beans made and sold by Kroger contains residues of toxic pesticides linked to a range of serious health and environmental problems.

This is alarming. Kid-friendly food like applesauce and cheerios should not contain dangerous pesticides. Kids are the most vulnerable to these pesticides and shouldn't be exposed to brain-damaging or cancer-causing pesticides when they eat their breakfast or snacks. The connection between pesticides and cancer, learning disabilities, and other diseases is supported by hundreds of studies in Beyond Pesticides' Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database.

>> Join the national week of action by either delivering a letter to Kroger in person, or sending an email to Kroger Chief Executive Rodney McMullen

These new tests, which corroborate numerous residue studies, mean that Kroger customers may be purchasing food with the intent of providing safe and healthy food for their families, but end up unknowingly exposing them to toxic pesticides.

The pesticides found in Kroger's food are harmful to human health and pollinators. We found residues of cancer-causing glyphosate, brain-damaging organophosphates and bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides.

Organophosphates can cause damage to children's developing brains, including reduced IQ, loss of memory and attention deficit disorders, as well as acute pesticide poisoning in adults and children. They also poison farmworkers and wildlife, including pollinators, birds and aquatic organisms. 

Glyphosate aka Monsanto's Roundup® is linked to cancer and has contributed to the widespread die-off of monarch butterflies. Monarchs have declined by over 90 percent in the past two decades and are on the brink of extinction.

Bee-killing neonicotinoids have contributed to widespread bee die-offs, which are critical to every one in three bites of food we eat and many of the foods sold at Kroger.  These pesticides are also associated with endocrine disruption and may lead to changes in behavior and attention.

Kroger should not be selling any food to consumers that is grown with these toxic pesticides. 

>> Join the national week of action by either delivering a letter to Kroger in person, or sending an email to Kroger Chief Executive Rodney McMullen

We know Kroger has the power to stop selling products grown with toxic pesticides. Costco adopted a policy to phase out neonicotinoids and chlorpyrifos (an organophosphate pesticide) on the fruits, vegetables and garden plants that it sells. The policy demonstrates that it is possible for supermarkets to eliminate toxic pesticides from store shelves. Kroger has no excuse. It can commit to stop stocking its shelves with food grown with brain damaging organophosphates, Monsanto's Roundup® and Bayer's neonicotinoids.

We must shift the market fast if we want to protect public health and save bees and other pollinators. These dangerous pesticides can't be on supermarket store shelves. Especially the the healthiest and most affordable foods supermarkets sell. 

Please help us ramp up pressure on Kroger immediately to make sure it doesn't turn away from the results of this report and takes immediate action. 

>> Join the national week of action by either delivering a letter to Kroger in person, or sending an email to Kroger Chief Executive Rodney McMullen

02/19/2019 — Stop Antibiotic Use in Citrus Production

At the request of Beyond Pesticides, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has extended its public comment period on antibiotics in citrus production until March 14. With this extra time, please share this action widely to stop this threat.

If you have already written your member of Congress to comment on this, please consider distributing this action broadly and submitting a comment to EPA.

We have a two-part action for you to take.

  1. Use our online form to send a letter to Congress.
  2. Leave a comment on the EPA docket at regulations.gov.Please personalize our messages by adding your own story, or that of a loved one. Let your representatives and the EPA know why you want to prevent bacterial resistance!

 

Background
Despite the building national and international crisis of deadly bacterial resistance to antibiotics, this new allowance would expand on an emergency use decision the Environmental Protection Agency made in 2017. It permits up to 480,000 acres of citrus trees in Florida to be treated with more than 650,000 pounds of streptomycin per year; 23,000 citrus acres in California will likely be treated annually.

The World Health Organization has called bacterial resistance “one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.” The two approved antibacterial chemicals to be used as pesticides in citrus production are streptomycin and oxytetracycline. Their use was permitted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under an emergency exemption in May, 2017 for a citrus greening disease caused by the bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas) in Florida citrus crops through December of 2019.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced March 15, “EPA is issuing these tolerances without notice and opportunity for public comment as provided in FFDCA [Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act] section 408(l)(6).” EPA states, “[T]ime-limited tolerances are established for residues of streptomycin in or on fruit, citrus, group 10-10, at 2 ppm, and the dried pulp of these commodities at 6 ppm.” For oxytetracycline, EPA is allowing residues “in or on all commodities of fruit, citrus, group 10-10, at 0.4 ppm.” [See below; organic standards do not allow antibiotic use.] Now, EPA is moving forward with a permanent allowance of these chemicals.

See Agricultural Uses of Antibiotics Escalate Bacterial Resistance. Beyond Pesticides, with other organizations, led a successful effort to remove antibiotics from organic apple and pear production because of their contribution to antibiotic resistance and the availability of alternative practices and inputs.

As bacteria become resistant to the most commonly prescribed antibiotics, the results are longer-lasting infections, higher medical expenses, the need for more costly or hazardous medications, and the inability to treat life-threatening infections. The development and spread of antibiotic resistance is the inevitable effect of antibiotic use. Bacteria evolve quickly, and antibiotics provide strong selection pressure for those strains with genes for resistance. Both antibiotics proposed for expanded use are important for fighting human disease. Tetracycline is used for many common infections of the respiratory tract, sinuses, middle ear, and urinary tract, as well as for anthrax, plague, cholera, and Legionnaire’s disease, though it is used less frequently because of resistance. Streptomycin is used for tuberculosis, tularemia, plague, bacterial endocarditis, brucellosis, and other diseases, but its usefulness is limited by widespread resistance (U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2006).

Exposure to antibiotics can disturb the microbiota in the gut. In addition to interfering with digestion, a disrupted gut microbiome can contribute to a whole host of “21st century diseases,” including diabetes, obesity, food allergies, heart disease, antibiotic-resistant infections, cancer, asthma, autism, irritable bowel syndrome, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and more. Furthermore, the human immune system is largely composed of microbiota.

Actions

  1. Using this form, Tell your U.S. Senators and Representative to urge EPA to reject the use of antibiotics in food production, including citrus production.
  2. Please put your comment in the EPA docket at REGULATIONS.GOV (a few extra clicks!)


You can cut-and-paste the language below (“Comment to EPA”) and submit it to the EPA docket at Regulations.gov. If you have a personal story with antibiotic resistance, please begin your comment with that. Reach out to others, including medical personnel, who can share their experiences with EPA.

Comment to EPA (cut-and-paste in EPA’s REGULATIONS.GOV; add personal perspective)

I write to urge EPA to reject the use of antibiotics, including streptomycin and oxytetracycline, in citrus production. This creates a public health threat that EPA must consider in real terms, as it relates to longer-lasting infections, higher medical expenses, the need for more costly or hazardous medications, and the inability to treat life-threatening infections. Antibiotic resistance is a real and urgent public health threat and represents an existential threat to modern civilization. 

Antibiotic resistance kills over 23,000 people each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In addition to the CDC, the World Health Organization has cited this escalating problem as one of the biggest public health challenges of our time.

“By 2050, resistance is estimated to add 10 million annual deaths globally with a cumulative cost to the world economy of US$100 trillion,” said Jack Heinemann, PhD, University Canterbury’s School of Biological Sciences. Exposure to antibiotics can disturb the microbiota in the gut. In addition to interfering with digestion, a disrupted gut microbiome can contribute to a whole host of “21st century diseases,” including diabetes, obesity, food allergies, heart disease, antibiotic-resistant infections, cancer, asthma, autism, irritable bowel syndrome, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and more. The human immune system is largely composed of microbiota.

Note that it may not be widely appreciated that use of antibiotics on fruit trees can contribute to resistance to the antibiotic in human pathogens. The human pathogenic organisms themselves do not need to be sprayed by the antibiotic because movement of genes in bacteria is not solely “vertical,” that is from parent to progeny—but can be “horizontal”— from one bacterial species to another. So, a pool of resistant soil bacteria or commensal gut bacteria can provide the genetic material for resistance in human pathogens.

Consider the real cost to the American people and internationally and prohibit the use of streptomycin in citrus production by setting a tolerance or allowable residue of zero.

 Thank you.

02/11/2019 — Tell Oregon Department of Agriculture to Ban This Tree-Killing Pesticide

Tell Oregon Department of Agriculture to Ban This Tree-Killing Pesticide

Aminocyclopyrachlor (ACP) is a tree-killing pesticide masquerading as a broadleaf herbicide. The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) has the opportunity to lead the country in banning this inherently dangerous chemical. According to ODA, nearly 1,500 dead or dying trees have been reported along Oregon's iconic US Highway 20, home to old growth ponderosa pines. Many of these 150- to 300-year old trees are now dead from ACP exposure. ODA indicated that “because [ACP] is a relatively new herbicide it is unknown how many trees stressed from past applications of [ACP] will die in the future.” 

>> Even at tiny levels, ACP run-off and drift kills trees. Tell Oregon's Department of Agriculture to lead the country in completely banning its use. 

In 2014, DuPont chemical company settled a nearly $2 million lawsuit with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after the herbicide (under the brand name Imprelis®) was found to kill trees at golf courses, homeowners associations, businesses, and private residences. Despite this history, regulators left ACP on the market. Its use was banned on lawns and turfgrass, but allowed for roadside rights-of-way. A couple years ago, Bayer purchased the rights to ACP from DuPont and continues to market and sell the chemical under the brand names Perspective®, Streamline®, and Viewpoint®. It should be no surprise to officials that this tree-killing herbicide is killing trees, but we must now deal with their errors of judgment. 

ODA announced late last year that it was temporarily banning the use of ACP on roadsides while it put together a new rule. That rule is now available for public comment, and while it would make this temporary ban on roadside uses permanent, Oregon officials stopped short of a complete ban, allowing a limited one-time per year exemption from the ban when spraying an invasive weed in a limited area. While this is an important step, it is clear that there is enough evidence to completely ban the use of this chemical in Oregon. 

>>Tell ODA to strengthen its final rule on ACP and completely ban the chemical from use in the state!

Although ODA's new rule prohibits roadside right-of way spraying, it does not ban all uses of the chemical. In effect, this is simply setting the stage for the next round of news stories picturing ACP-poisoned trees.

Real action against tree-killing ACP is needed now. ODA will accept public comments from any U.S. resident, so regardless of where you are in the country, send the letter below to ODA today! Deadline for comments is 2/26/2019. 

At the federal level, Beyond Pesticides joined with our partners at the Center for Biological Diversity and Beyond Toxics to file a Freedom of Information Act request in order to get more information about this tree-killing pesticide. We'll keep fighting EPA's approval of this herbicide, but please help encourage the state of Oregon to step up and lead the way!

02/04/2019 — Help Protect Endangered Bumblebees

Although the rusty patched bumblebee was placed on the endangered species list in 2017, the Trump Administration has failed to put in place legally required safeguards for the species. The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) must designate locations where additional protections could help restore the endangered bumblebee's population. 

>>Tell Your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators to Urge U.S. Department of Interior Acting Secretary David Bernhardt to protect the endangered rusty patched bumblebee as required by law.

DOI's failure to comply with requirements under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is consistent with the Trump Administration's continued disregard for ongoing pollinator declines and environmental protections in general. Under ESA, DOI is required to determine “critical habitat” that contains physical and biological requirements a listed species needs in order to recover. That area must be designated within one year of placing a species on the endangered list, using best available scientific data. The Trump Administration's DOI has failed to do so under either former Director Ryan Zinke or Acting Director David Bernhardt. Without determining critical habitat, the administration is in violation of the ESA, and the survival of a critical endangered species is threatened.

The rusty patched bumblebee has a historical range that included habitat throughout the Northeast and Midwest United States. The Washington Post notes that, “The rusty patched bumblebee was so prevalent 20 years ago that pedestrians in Midwestern cities had to shoo them away.” However, pesticide use, climate change, disease, and habitat loss led to significant declines over the last several decades. Since then, their populations have dwindled and their overall decline is estimated at 91 percent.

The Trump Administration has dragged its feet on protecting the rusty patched bumblebee since the beginning of its term. The species was proposed for ESA listing under the Obama Administration in 2016, and finalized in 2017 only a week before the new Administration took office. However, on his first day in office, President Trump directed federal agencies to postpone the effective date of any regulations that had been published to the federal register but not yet put into effect. This move effectively reversed the ESA listing of the rusty patched bumblebee. In March 2017, the species was finally placed onto the endangered list

Unfortunately, the Trump Administration's actions in this case are more of the norm rather than the exception. In August of last year, DOI reversed a long-standing policy that prohibited the use of systemic, bee-toxic neonicotinoid insecticides on National Wildlife Refuges. The Administration has also worked on the pesticide industry's behalf to slow down the implementation of farmworker protections and continue the allowance of another highly toxic insecticide chlorpyrifos.

>>Tell Your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators to Urge U.S. Department of Interior Acting Secretary David Bernhardt to protect the endangered rusty patched bumblebee as required by law.

01/28/2019 — Help Stop Hazardous "Emergency" Pesticide Uses That Threaten Health

 

A September 2018 report from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified issues important to protecting health and the environment. The EPA's response to the report left many of these problems unresolved. 

Measures and Management Controls Needed to Improve EPA's Pesticide Emergency Exemption Process (Report No. 18-P-0281, September 25, 2018), finds that the agency's practice of routinely granting “emergency” approval for pesticides through its Section 18 program does not effectively measure risks to human health or the environment.

>>Tell Congress to Ask the EPA Administrator to Close the “Emergency” Pesticide Use Loophole, and Adopt All the Recommendations of the Office of the Inspector General

Under Section 18 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), EPA has the authority to approve the temporary emergency use of unapproved pesticides if the agency determines the pesticide is needed to prevent the spread of an unexpected outbreak of crop-damaging insects, for example. But this provision has been widely abused.

The inspector general recommends EPA “develop and implement applicable outcome-based performance measures to demonstrate the human health and environmental effects of the EPA's emergency exemption decisions.” 

EPA disagreed and said, [T]he development of an outcome-based performance measure for the Section 18 emergency exemption process was neither appropriate nor feasible.” EPA's response demonstrates that the current Section 18 program, which allows chronic overuse of emergency exemptions, is neither appropriate nor adequately protective of public health.

OIG's report finds “significant deficiencies in the OPP's [Office of Pesticide Programs] online database management, in its draft Section 18 emergency exemption standard operating procedure and application checklist, and in its reports to Congress and the Office of Management and Budget.” Specifically, the report notes EPA “does not have outcome measures in place to determine how well the emergency exemption process maintains human health and environmental safeguards. The program office also does not have comprehensive internal controls to manage the emergency exemption data it collects,” and “OPP does not consistently communicate emergency exemption information with its stakeholders.”

Beyond Pesticides has firmly opposed the current use of Section 18. Through the Section 18, or emergency exemption program, EPA allows the use of pesticides that are not registered for a particular crop, or in some cases not registered for use at all, but making progress toward registration. EPA can set tolerances for affected crops that are time-limited, usually for the season in which they are allowed or sometimes longer. For example, in March 2017 EPA announced it is allowing residues of antibiotics in Florida orange juice, after approving an emergency exemption for the antibiotics streptomycinand oxytetracycline –allowing their use for a bacterial disease, citrus greening (Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas) bacterium that causes Huanglongbing), in Florida citrus crops through December of 2019, and further exacerbating bacterial resistance. Organic citrus growers use cultural practices, soil fertility focused on soil biology, and biological controls to manage the disease.

Beyond Pesticides has found a growing number of requests for Section 18 emergency exemptions from states over the last ten years for the use of pesticides to control various resistant weed and insect pests that do not meet the criteria for “non-routine” or “emergency” conditions set forth in FIFRA, and/or whose pesticide use would pose elevated risks to the environment. Additionally, a number of requests and subsequent, almost annual, issuance of Section 18 exemptions essentially replace one Section 18 exemption with another. Continuous exemptions for the same or similar pest problem over a number of years indicates that the case is not “non-routine” and undermines the intent of the program, which is to provide temporary relief from unforeseen problems.

A Center for Biological Diversity report finds as of 2017, EPA had granted 78 “emergency” exemptions for sulfoxaflor, a pesticide that the EPA itself concluded is highly toxic to bees. EPA has approved emergency exemptions to allow sulfoxaflor use on more than 17.5 million acres of U.S. cotton and sorghum farms – use sites where the pesticide is not currently registered. Other exemptions are given to states to combat herbicide-resistant weeds, which have proliferated across the U.S. over the last decade and should not be considered an “emergency” situation; resistance is a predictable consequence of pesticide use.

Reoccurring problems like weed resistance to herbicides should be a wake-up call for farmers and EPA to reevaluate and implement alternative biological and cultural management practices for the long-term prevention of diseases, ending the reliance on the “chemical fix” that will exacerbate the problem when pest resistance to the chemical inevitably occurs.

>>Tell Congress to Ask the EPA Administrator to Close the “Emergency” Pesticide Use Loophole, and Adopt All the Recommendations of the Office of the Inspector General.

01/22/2019 — Help Get Neurotoxic Pesticide, Chlorpyrifos, Out of Agriculture

 

(Beyond Pesticides, January 22, 2019) Earlier this month, U.S. Representative Nydia Velásquez (D-NY) introduced The Ban Toxic Pesticides Act, H.R.230 which bans the insecticide chlorpyrifos from commerce.

Chlorpyrifos is a toxic chemical that has been linked to damaging and often irreversible health outcomes in workers, pregnant women, and children. As a result of a revised human health risk assessment, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed a regulation to ban chlorpyrifos in 2016. Under the Trump Administration, the EPA has taken steps to reverse the regulation.

“It’s unconscionable for EPA to turn a blind eye as children and workers are exposed to this poison,” Velázquez said.  “If the EPA won’t do its job when it comes to chlorpyrifos, then Congress needs to act – and do so quickly.”

Ask your U.S. Representative to Co-Sponsor H.R. 230 to Stop the Use of the Toxic Insecticide Chlorpyrifos, which Is Damaging Children’s Brains. 

Chlorypyrifos is a widely used pesticide. Agriculture companies annually spray 6 million pounds of the substance on crops like citrus, apples, and cherries.  In the same family as Sarin gas, the substance was initially developed prior to World War II as a chemical weapon. It can overstimulate the nervous system to cause nausea, dizziness, and confusion. With very high exposures (accidents or spills), it can cause respiratory paralysis and even death. When applying the chemical to fields, workers must wear protective garments such as respirators. Workers are then blocked from entering the fields from 24 hours up to 5 days after application due to the chemical exposure risk.

In August, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement its previous proposed ban of the chemical in the U.S. However, the Administration is appealing the ruling, seeking to prevent implementation of the Obama-era ban.

Rep. Valázaquez states, “As long as there are efforts underway in the courts or administratively to undo the ban on this toxic pesticide, I’ll be working to see chlorypyrifos removed from commerce through the legislative process.”

There is a strong recent history of action of introducing legislation to remove chlorpyrifos from use. The same legislation being proposed by Valazquez was introduced in the last Congress as H.R. 3380, Pesticide Protection Act (2017). In the closing days of the 115th Congress, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) introduced a bill to ban chlorpyrifos. The Prohibit Chlorpyrifos Poisoning Students Act (S. 3764) would elevate Hawai‘i’s state ban to the national level, banning the use of the chemical near (within 300 feet of) schools in 2019 and banning its sale and distribution altogether the following year. The legislation follows a 2017 bill introduced by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), Protect Children, Farmers and Farmworkers from Nerve Agent Pesticides Act, S. 1624, that deems any food with chlorpyrifos residues to be adulterated and therefore illegal.

EPA negotiated a cancellation of all residential uses (with the exception of golf courses and disease-carrying mosquitoes) in 2000 after finding significant neurotoxic effects on children. In June, 2018, Hawai‘i became the first state to ban chlorpyrifos, effective 2022.

Given the abundant research demonstrating deleterious effects of chlorpyrifos on human health –including a 2016 EPA human risk assessment that found the agency’s exposure threshold is exceeded for children, and citing concerns about chlorpyrifos levels in the air in schools, homes, and communities — it is critical to support a complete ban on the chemical.

H.R. 230 has 56 house representative co-sponsors. If your representative has already signed on, you will be prompted to send them a thank you note that encourages them to keep advocating for human and environmental health.

Ask your U.S. Representative to Co-Sponsor H.R. 230 to Stop the Use of the Toxic Insecticide Chlorpyrifos, which Is Damaging Children’s Brains. 

Letter to U.S. Representatives:

I am writing to request that you co-sponsor The Ban Toxic Pesticides Act, H.R.230. Introduced by Rep. Nydia Velásquez, the act bans the insecticide chlorpyrifos from commerce. Chlorpyrifos is a toxic chemical that has been linked to damaging and often irreversible health outcomes in workers, pregnant women, and children.

 EPA negotiated a cancellation of all residential (with the exception of golf courses and disease-carrying mosquitoes) uses in 2000, after determining that the neurotoxic effects to children exceeded reasonable levels. A 2016 revised EPA human health risk assessment of chlorpyrifos found that the agency’s exposure threshold is exceeded for children, citing concerns about levels in the air at schools, homes, and communities in agricultural areas. As a result, the EPA developed a regulation to ban chlorpyrifos. Under the Trump Administration, the EPA has taken steps to reverse the regulation despite clear human health hazards.

In June of 2018, Hawai‘i became the first state to ban chlorpyrifos (effective in 2022). The evidence of deleterious effects and momentum of policy change make it clear: there is an urgent need to extend protection from chlorpyrifos to children and others in all states.

Please confirm with me that you will co-sponsor H.R. 230, The Ban Toxic Pesticides Act.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

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Co-sponsors in the last (115th) Congress (56): Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva, Rep. David N. Cicilline, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Rep. McNerney, Rep. Peter DeFazio, Rep. Blumenauer, Rep. Bonamici, Rep. Roybal-Allard, Rep. Quigley, Rep.
Lee, Rep. Chu, Rep. Eleanor H. Norton, Rep. Frederica S. Wilson, Rep. Gabbard, Rep. Jackson Lee, Rep. Peter Welch, Rep. Mark Pocan, Rep. Espaillat, Rep. Lipinski, Rep. Kathy Castor, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Rep. Steve Cohen, Rep. Ro Khanna, Rep. Tim Ryan, Rep. Yvette D. Clarke, Rep. Chris Smith, Rep. Pramilia Jayapal, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, Rep. Gregory Meeks, Rep. Albio Sires, Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán, Rep. Dwight Evans, Rep. Betty McCollum, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Rep. Jerry Nadler, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Rep. Raskin, Rep. McGovern, Rep. Ted W. Lieu, Rep. Bobby Rush, Rep. Pingree, Rep. Grace Meng, Rep. Adam Smith, Rep. Huffman, Rep. Fudge, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr, Rep. Tony Cárdenas, Rep. Matt Cartwright, Rep. Pete Visclosky, Rep. Jimmy Gomez, Rep. Jackie Speier, Rep. Grace Napolitano, Rep. Seth Moulton, Rep. Katherine Clark.

01/16/2019 — Tell Congress to Reject Antibiotic Use in Citrus Production

Tell Congress to stop the Trump administration from opening the floodgates to permit widespread use of antibiotics in citrus production (grapefruits, oranges and tangerines). 

Despite the building national and international crisis of deadly bacterial resistance to antibiotics, this new allowance would expand on an emergency use decision the Environmental Protection Agency made in 2017. It permits up to 480,000 acres of citrus trees in Florida to be treated with more than 650,000 pounds of streptomycin per year; 23,000 citrus acres in California will likely be treated annually. 

The World Health Organization has called bacterial resistance “one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.” 

>> Tell your U.S. Representative and Senators to urge EPA to reject the use of antibiotics in food production, including citrus production.

The two approved antibacterial chemicals to be used as pesticides in citrus production are streptomycin and oxytetracycline. Their use was permitted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under an emergency exemption in May, 2017 for a citrus greening disease caused by the bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas) in Florida citrus crops through December of 2019.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced March 15, “EPA is issuing these tolerances without notice and opportunity for public comment as provided in FFDCA [Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act] section 408(l)(6).” EPA states, “[T]ime-limited tolerances are established for residues of streptomycin in or on fruit, citrus, group 10-10, at 2 ppm, and the dried pulp of these commodities at 6 ppm.” For oxytetracycline, EPA is allowing residues “in or on all commodities of fruit, citrus, group 10-10, at 0.4 ppm.” [See below; organic standards do not allow antibiotic use.] Now, EPA is moving forward with a permanent allowance of these chemicals. 

In addition, both the active and inert ingredients in common herbicides advance antibiotic resistance. Learn more about the history of Resistance and Antibiotics by visiting Beyond Pesticides' Antimicrobials and Antibacterials program page.  Pose the question to policy makers: Will we now see an “Antibiotics rebellion”?

Beyond Pesticides, with other organizations, led a successful effort to remove antibiotics from organic apple and pear production because of their contribution to antibiotic resistance and the availability of alternative practices and inputs.

As bacteria become resistant to the most commonly prescribed antibiotics, the results are longer-lasting infections, higher medical expenses, the need for more costly or hazardous medications, and the inability to treat life-threatening infections. The development and spread of antibiotic resistance is the inevitable effect of antibiotic use. Bacteria evolve quickly, and antibiotics provide strong selection pressure for those strains with genes for resistance. Both antibiotics proposed for expanded use are important for fighting human disease. Tetracycline is used for many common infections of the respiratory tract, sinuses, middle ear, and urinary tract, as well as for anthrax, plague, cholera, and Legionnaire's disease, though it is used less frequently because of resistance. Streptomycin is used for tuberculosis, tularemia, plague, bacterial endocarditis, brucellosis, and other diseases, but its usefulness is limited by widespread resistance (U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2006).

Exposure to antibiotics can disturb the microbiota in the gut. In addition to interfering with digestion, a disrupted gut microbiome can contribute to a whole host of “21st century diseases,” including diabetes, obesity, food allergies, heart disease, antibiotic-resistant infections, cancer, asthma, autism, irritable bowel syndrome, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and more. Furthermore, the human immune system is largely composed of microbiota.

>> Tell your Senators and Representative to urge EPA to reject the use of antibiotics in food production, including citrus production.

01/07/2019 — Tell Your Senators and Representative: It's Time for a Green New Deal!

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As the dust settles on the final Farm Bill, which passed the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives last month, it is clear that neither the substance nor the process on a range of issues meet the urgent need to address key sustainability issues that put the future in peril.  

We must not allow this Farm Bill to be the final word on a number of critical environmental issues facing the nation and world. That is why it is absolutely critical that we get to work immediately, with the new Congress, to set a new course that transforms the institutions of government that are holding back the urgently needed transition to a green economy.

>> Tell your Senators and Representative to support a Green New Deal that restructures food and agriculture programs.

On the Farm Bill, our victories were mostly measured in terms of what we were able to remove from the Farm Billnot the standard of achievement that we need to face critical environmental threats.

The good. Our major victory in the Farm Bill does not move us forward, but simply protects the status quo of our democracy—protecting the power of states and local government to adopt pesticide restrictions that are more stringent than the federal government. With your help and the help of a broad network of local officials nationwide, we were able to stop a preemption provision from being inserted in the federal pesticide law. Although the victory was in defeating this provision, the chemical industry has awakened a new front in the pesticide reform movement. As a result of this provision, there is new momentum to reassert the rights of local governments and repeal state-level preemption of municipalities. Other environmental setbacks to the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and farmworker protection were taken out of the final bill. So, thank you to all who participated in this important process.

The bad. We were unable to remove an amendment to organic law that introduces confusion on the mandate to sunset all synthetics used in organic agricultural production and processing, forcing the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and USDA to reassess the science and necessity of these inputs with the most rigorous scrutiny by requiring a super-majority vote of the board every five years to allow continued use of these synthetics—the same standard used when synthetics are initially petitioned. The growth of organic is essential to solving our key environmental challenges, from the dramatic decline in biodiversity to global climate change. Nothing should be done to undercut the integrity of the organic standard setting process. Additionally, new language in the organic law allows farmer, handler, and retailer positions on the NOSB to be filled by employees of farmers, handlers, and retailers, making the decision making process less robust.

The ugly. The Farm Bill sets policy on food and farm issues for the next five years and should not be the result of backroom negotiations in Congress, as it was this round. Important and controversial issues deserve public hearings in which all members of Congress and the public can participate, and all perspectives can be heard.

More on organic. There were some “wins” for organic in continued funding for programs important to organic production and research, and necessary improvements to oversight and enforcement of organic imports.

New leadership. Increasing support is being shown for a proposal by U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York to form a House Select Committee for a Green New Deal that addresses economic and environmental reforms while ensuring a functioning democracy. A Green New Deal  provides a framework for supporting agriculture that helps farmers, consumers, and the environment by advancing organic agriculture. In the words of commentator and former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower, “Everybody does better when everybody does better.” We need new food and farm policy that benefits all farmers and consumers.

>> Tell your Senators and Representative to support a Green New Deal that restructures food and agriculture programs.