USDA asked to reclassify LBAM; Pesticides & male fertility; Herbicide use by timber industry; and more...
Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
A Weekly News Update on Pesticides, Health and Alternatives
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- CA groups to USDA: Tiny moth not 'high risk' pest
- River pollutants and male infertility
- Ag-Mart fined by New Jersey for pesticide violations
- California debate on VOCs continues in budget fight
- New report exposes logging company's herbicide use
- USDA gives approval to new pesticide-promoting GE corn
In a February 4 letter delivered to newly confirmed Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a broad coalition of organic farmers, community groups and pesticide policy reform advocates urged Vilsack to immediately strip the controversial Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM) from USDA’s “high-risk pest” list. “Other countries have managed the moth effectively for years,” says Dr. Margaret Reeves, a Senior Scientist with Pesticide Action Network North America and lead author of the letter. “Dramatic action simply isn’t needed to keep this bug under control.” The California-based groups argue that USDA’s listing of the moth as a high-risk pest is based on outdated information. “The moth poses no significant economic or ecological threat,” notes the letter, which goes on to point out that USDA’s current “high risk” classification of the pest triggers “quarantine measures and associated eradication efforts [that] impose real and unnecessary economic hardship on growers, in many instances compelling pest control activities that constitute a further threat to human health and the environment.”
British boys may be thinking twice about skinny-dipping in local streams after a study in the journal Environmental Health and Perspectives suggested that anti-androgens, chemicals found in rivers and waste waters, could be linked to male infertility. While anti-androgens have been linked to the feminization of male fish, their ability to counteract the male sex-hormone testosterone could theoretically harm human reproductive organs as well, especially in the fetus and children. “We have identiﬁed a new group of chemicals in our study on ﬁsh,” Susan Jobling, PhD, of Brunel University told Britain’s The Independent. Sampling effluents from 30 wastewater treatment plants, the researchers were able “to measure their testosterone-blocking potential.” While other studies have linked the feminization of male ﬁsh to estrogenic compounds in surface waters, this study is the ﬁrst to identify anti-androgens as agents in feminization of male ﬁsh. Pharmaceuticals and pesticides are known to contain anti-androgenic chemicals and male feminization may be the result of complicated interactions that combine to produce an “endocrine-disrupting chemical cocktail.” The UK-based organization CHEM Trust recently published a report noting the increasing trend of feminization in male wildlife across the world. Gwynne Lyons, author of the report and director of CHEM Trust stated: “Urgent action is needed to control gender bending chemicals, and more resources are
needed for monitoring wildlife. [Synthetic] chemicals are clearly damaging the basic male tool-kit. If wildlife populations crash, it will be too late. Unless enough males contribute to the next generation, there is a real threat to animal populations in the long term." Many pesticides and adjuvants used as spreading and sticking agents have been implicated in hormone disruption--including atrazine, permethrin, glyphosate (Round-Up), 2,4-D, diethyl hexyl phthalate (DEHP) and the nonylphenol ethoxylates. Exposure to these chemicals has been linked to reproductive abnormalities in polar bears, large cats, alligators and frogs. There is not yet sufficient data on humans to conclusively demonstrate definitive cause and effect links, but a recent review by the U.S. National Toxicology Program noted that "In recognition of ... the clear evidence of effects in laboratory animals, the NTP judges the scientific evidence sufficient to conclude that DEHP may adversely affect human reproduction or development if exposures are sufficiently high."
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has fined a tomato producer nearly $1 million for pesticide violations. The violations by Ag-Mart were called "the most serious ever uncovered" by the DEP and put workers and consumers in jeopardy. According to the Newark Star-Ledger, the DEP cited the company for hundreds of violations, claiming Ag-Mart denied state investigators access to facilities, applied pesticides to tomatoes more frequently than permitted and, on 17 occasions, harvested and shipped pesticide-sprayed tomatoes before they were safe for public consumption. The Florida-based company is already facing fines and charges of pesticide misuse in North Carolina, where women claim pesticides they used while employed by Ag-Mart caused their babies to be born with serious birth defects. "Ag-Mart has repeatedly shown a stunning disregard of laws and regulations intended to protect the workers who harvest their tomatoes, the people who consume them and New Jersey's environment," acting DEP Commissioner Mark N. Mauriello said in a statement. "Ag-Mart's pesticide violations are the most serious DEP inspectors have ever uncovered. We have imposed a record-high penalty not only to hold Ag-Mart accountable for their failure, but to make sure it doesn't happen again." While Ag-Mart has continued to deny these charges, in 2008 it settled a lawsuit with one Florida couple whose baby was born without limbs. Ag-Mart is the only producer of Santa Sweet grape tomatoes and UglyRipe heirlooms.
According to the Fresno Bee, "bugs have invaded state budget talks as the debate heats up over clean-air rules farmers must follow" when spraying smog-forming pesticides. GOP leaders Mike Villines of Clovis and Dave Cogdill of Modesto are seeking to weaken regulations "that are critical to cleaning the polluted air in their Valley districts" and "are part of a long-running push by Republicans to get concessions on a host of environmental regulations" in return for supporting the Governor's proposed state budget. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in the Valley have created numerous public health problems, including farmworker and community poisoning and high asthma rates. In 2006, a federal judge ruled that the state Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) ignored clean air laws for pesticides. The judge ordered regulations to be tightened to cut pesticide emissions in the Valley by 20% from 1991 levels. DPR won an appeal to overturn the ruling in August 2008, and officials are now finalizing new regulations that call for a smaller decrease -- a 12% cut from 1990 levels. Republicans are seeking to put that figure into law, according to language of a proposal circulating in the Capitol. "We're going to do everything in our power to stop [DPR's] misguided regulations and Republicans' attempt to further steal public health protections from rural residents," said Brent Newell, legal director for the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment. Last week, Californians for Pesticide Reform and PAN launched an online action urging Governor Schwarzenegger to reject this GOP-backed budget trailer.
A recent examination of Sierra Pacific Industries, California's largest private landowner, has raised questions about the health effects on wildlife and humans as a result of the timber industry's continuing use of pesticides. San Francisco-based ForestEthics compiled data over a 12 year period that reveals the company applied over 770,000 pounds of toxic pesticides on their tree plantations, located in watersheds throughout Northern California. One of the toxins detailed in the report, atrazine, is a PAN Bad Actor and a carcinogen, and was the second most common pesticide in EPA's National Survey of pesticides in drinking water wells. Studies have shown that at levels 1/30th of what the EPA allows in drinking water, atrazine can cause male frogs to grow ovaries. ForestEthics’ records find that the company used over 91,450 pounds of atrazine. Its use is banned by the European Union. “The evidence for pesticides acting as endocrine disruptors affecting everything from sexual development, to immune function, to cancer is increasing and is no longer simply a hypothesis,” said Professor Tyrone Hayes of the Department of Integrative Biology at Berkeley and an expert on atrazine.
The Center for Food Safety has issued an action alert asking consumers to pressure USDA to halt the approval of of a new pesticide-promoting variety of genetically engineered corn. According to the alert, this GE corn variety was developed by DuPont subsidiary Pioneer Hi-Bred International to tolerate applications of glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) and acetolactate synthase-inhibiting herbicides (ALS inhibitors). The Center for Food Safety warns that USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has failed to address a range of health and environmental risks in its draft environmental assessment, including concerns over food safety and increased pesticide use. Take Action and tell USDA to stop the approval of this new GE corn and complete a thorough Environmental Impact Statement before making a decision.