PANNA: Mustard is safer, more economical than chemical fumigants; EPA raises threshold for TRI reporting; Pesticide industry sue



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Mustard is safer, more economical than chemical fumigants; EPA raises threshold for TRI reporting; Pesticide industry sues to weaken Clean Water Act; New database on pesticide damage to amphibians

January 04, 2007

Mustard proves good alternative to fumigant pesticides: Farmers in Idaho, including many leasing land from the Shoshone-Bannock tribes, are using a crop rotation of mustard as a less toxic and less expensive alternative to chemical fumigants in potato production. According to Capital Press “Mustard is planted after a wheat harvest in August or September. Fields spring to life with the green and yellow crop in two to three weeks. It is incorporated back into the soil after six weeks of growth.” According to PANNA chemist Dr. Susan Kegley, “Mustard plants produce small amounts of MITC, the same active fumigant that is produced when metam sodium reacts with water. Unlike synthetic MITC, the mustard plant produces very small amounts of this chemical in the soil over the entire growing season, rather than in one high-dose treatment, so the levels emitted are very small, and therefore pose less toxic risk than with chemical-based farming methods.” Ecologist Dr. Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, another PANNA senior scientist, adds: “As we transition away from chemical farming, biological methods that reduce reliance on synthetic pesticides and improve soil quality is a step in the right direction.” Mustard is proving especially effective on curbing nematodes and “early die” in potatoes. The crop also helps hold soil in place, and plowing in this green manure enhances soil percolation.

EPA relaxes Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Reporting: The EPA has given polluters an additional break by raising the threshold for reporting releases of toxic pollution, including bioaccumulative toxics such as lead and mercury. Beginning in 2007, companies can now release up to 2,000 pounds of toxins into the community without detailed reporting, a jump from the 500 pound threshold previously in place. “Mom and pop plants rarely are big enough to make the old reporting threshold of 500 pounds. This rollback primarily benefits big companies, who own numerous facilities that can take advantage of the new loophole,” says Tom Natan of the National Environmental Trust. See more on the story in Science Now Daily News

Pesticide industry challenges EPA over water rule: Though the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently relaxed rules governing pesticide contamination near water, pesticide industry advocacy groups say that the lifting of water protection rules doesn’t go far enough. CropLife America and Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE) filed a legal challenge against EPA, insisting that agricultural areas also should be exempt from the federal Clean Water Act, according to the western U.S. farm and ranch weekly Capitol Press. Public health and environmental advocates say, who had already sued EPA for relaxing the rules, say that when EPA registers a pesticide, it often doesn’t consider increased toxicity due to combinations of pesticides contaminating water or the pesticide drift that travels by air or from land to water. Read more about EPA action Nov. 30 PANUPS, “EPA allows water poisoning,” and “EPA sued for pesticide pollution in water,” Dec. 21 PANUPS.

New database for pesticide impact on amphibians and reptiles: Californians for Alternatives to Toxics (CATs) announced a new database with extensive research on the impact of pesticides on amphibians and reptiles. “The updated research is searchable by species and genus, location of research, pesticide studied and toxicological effect. It includes a list of 327 scientific papers published since 1999 on the effects of pesticides on amphibians, as well as 128 research papers on pesticides’ impacts on reptiles,” according to the CATs website. CATs research reveals that “California is one of the ‘hot spots’ in the global decline of amphibian populations, and native aquatic frog and toad species have been disappearing for two decades.”

PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing resource guides and reporting on pesticide issues that don’t always get coverage by the mainstream media. It’s produced by Pesticide Action Network North America, a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to advance sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide.

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