Reclaiming the future of food and farming

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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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Syngenta's corporate bullying, revealed

What won’t Syngenta do to keep selling atrazine? As science pointing to the harms of the herbicide continues to roll in, Syngenta has resorted to "creative measures" to keep their lucrative product on the U.S. market. We call it corporate bullying.

It's been clear for years that Syngenta is investing heavily in PR efforts and intimidation tactics to support their flagship herbicide — including collecting a dossier on PAN. Now an in-depth report in Environmental Health News, released last week, reveals new details on the extent of Syngenta’s multi-million dollar campaign. Recently released memos and other internal papers document a sweeping, ruthless strategy to launch personal investigations of atrazine’s critics and pay “independent experts” to back the herbicide.

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Moving the Farm Bill forward

In an unusually bipartisan effort, the Senate passed a version of the Farm Bill Monday with a vote of 66-27. The national farm policy — which comes up every five years for debate — will now be taken up in the House. Republican leadership there said today that it will move forward quickly toward a vote. 

The Agricultural Reform, Food and Jobs Act, a complex 1,150-page bill, largely replaces direct payments to farmers with an expanded crop insurance program that requires conservation compliance. The bill sports two dozen amendments, including several conservation measures that PAN and our partners have pressed hard for. But overall, the news is mixed.

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Getting food & farming back on track

The Senate is in recess this week, but they'll be resuming Farm Bill debate on Monday. The bill will be pared down in the coming days, and PAN and partners are working hard to ensure that key policies that support healthy food, farming and communities are included in the final law.

Among the many amendments up for consideration, three rise to the top of our priority list. These provisions take steps to protect honey bees and support farmers who put smart practices in place to protect our shared air, soil and water. This is our once-every-five-years opportunity to get food and farming policy back on track.

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EU flags another bee-harming pesticide

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Regulators across the pond are keeping up the momentum to protect pollinators, with a new report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) adding fipronil to the list of bee-harming pesticides the agency is concerned about.

Earlier this year, EFSA raised the alarm about three other insecticides that pose a threat to bees. And the EU responded with a two-year ban on the use of those chemicals. We have yet to see if fipronil will be added to the list of restricted pesticides, but EFSA's conclusion signals that protections for bees are more likely.

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