Reclaiming the future of food and farming

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The Big 6 bring big money to labeling fight

Here we go again. With November's election on the horizon, the world's largest pesticide and biotech corporations are investing heavily to defeat Washington state's GE labeling ballot initiative. Topping the list of opponents, Monsanto gave $4.6 million to the "No on 522" campaign earlier this month. And last week, DuPont gave $3.2 million.

Bayer and Dow — also among the "Big 6" pesticide corporations — have contributed significant funds to defeat the initiative, too. And as we know from last year's labeling battle in California, the corporate cash is likely to keep pouring in.

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Syngenta takes aim at EU's neonic ban

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Last week, Syngenta filed a legal challenge against the European Union's decision to suspend use of its pesticide, thiamethoxam. At the heart of the challenge? Syngenta says their product is wrongly accused of contributing to bee declines.

But the independent science detailing harm to bees from this and other pesticides is clear. And earlier this year, after reviewing the evidence for themselves, European policymakers determined that three widely used neonicotinoids — including thiamethoxam — pose a "high acute risk" to honey bees. Still, the pesticide corporation is protesting. Vehemently.

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EPA bee-protective labels don't cut it

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Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new labels intended to better protect bees from neonicotinoid pesticides. While seemingly a move in the right direction — and explicit acknowledgement from the agency that neonics indeed pose a threat to bee populations — these labels fail to establish truly meaningful protections.

There is no clear path for enforcing EPA's new labels. And even if followed to the letter, the labels fail to address a primary route of exposure through pre-treated seeds. Neonics are systemic, permeating the plant (including pollen and nectar), and are commonly applied as seed coatings to widely planted crops like corn. In short, EPA's labels appear to be an empty gesture.

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Let's hear it for the bees

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Beekeepers and bee enthusiasts across the country are celebrating our favorite pollinators this weekend. National Honey Bee Awareness Day is an opportunity to take stock of all the ways bees contribute to our daily lives — pollinating a third of our food, for starters.

It's also an opportunity to take a hard look at the trouble facing bees. Bee populations are in drastic decline, with beekeepers reporting historic losses this past season of 40-70%. And pesticides are a key part of the problem.

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EPA, stop downplaying the atrazine/cancer link

It’s been more than two years since EPA’s Scientific Advisory Panel reprimanded the agency for lowballing the cancer risks of atrazine — including risks of childhood cancer. Now EPA is finally taking another look at this widely used herbicide.

Atrazine is found in most of our drinking water — about 94%, according to government sampling. And this month, EPA officials start taking another look at the health and environmental harms of Syngenta’s flagship herbicide. With exposure so widespread, it’s hugely important that they get it right.

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A bill to protect bees!

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Late Tuesday afternoon, Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced a long-awaited bill to place a moratorium on bee-harming pesticides. The "Save America's Pollinators Act" would require EPA to pull neonicotinoid pesticides off the market until fully reviewed by independent scientists and proven safe for pollinators.

EPA's current review of these pesticides is due to conclude in 2018, with an action plan to be implemented sometime thereafter. Meanwhile, bees continue to die off in droves — and scientific evidence highlighting neonics as a key factor continues to mount. Bees need help now, and the Conyers-Blumenauer bill provides them an immediate reprieve from neonic exposures.

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Bhopal ruling: Justice denied

It's been almost 29 years since a Union Carbide pesticide plant exploded in Bhopal, India. The 1984 tragedy — one of the worst industrial accidents in history — has killed at least 20,000 people, and contamination at the accident site continues to put the surrounding community's health at risk.

Last month, a New York court once again denied justice for Bhopal victims when it upheld a previous judgment dismissing all claims against Union Carbide and its former CEO, Warren Anderson. Attorney Rajan Sharma, who represented the survivors, called the decision a "whitewash."

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More of Monsanto's RoundUp?

The little herbicide that could. That's what comes to mind as EPA proposes to up the residue levels of RoundUp allowed on food — despite a fresh round of studies pointing to possible human health effects from exposure.

The latest science examines links between Monsanto's flagship product and endocrine disruption, including a laboratory study that suggests an effect on cells similar to that of estrogen — a hormone that plays a role in stimulating breast cancer. PAN scientists are taking a careful look at these findings; given the widespread use of RoundUp (more than 180 million pounds every year) the public health implications could be dramatic.

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Scientists link pesticides & biodiversity loss

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Many scientists rank biodiversity loss very high on their list of urgent global concerns. Chemical contaminants have long been understood as an important driver, but empirical evidence on a large scale has been sparse.

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides compelling data to fill this gap. Researchers found that biodiversity dropped in pesticide-laden streams in three countries: Germany, France and Australia.

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Neonic harms go well beyond bees

Neonicotinoids have been in the news a lot in recent months, and are now widely recognized as a class of insecticides contributing to the dramatic declines in honey bee populations.

Last week, a researcher out of the University of Stirling in the UK released a new study examining other ways “neonics” are impacting the environment. It turns out that the harmful effects of these insecticides are widespread — from birds to earthworms, mammals to aquatic insects.

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