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Trump Admin Reverses Ban on 'Bee-Killing' Pesticides in National Wildlife Refuges
The Trump administration has lifted an Obama-era ban on the use of genetically modified crops and pesticides linked to bee decline in certain national wildlife refuges where farming is allowed, Reuters reported Saturday.
In a memo signed Aug. 2, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Gregory J. Sheehan said the move was necessary to provide adequate food for waterfowl.
"There may be situations, however, where use of GMO crop seeds is essential to best fulfill the purposes of the refuge and the needs of birds and other wildlife," Sheehan wrote.
Boosting waterfowl populations dovetails with the interests of sportspeople who hunt ducks and other birds, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has made expanding hunting on national lands a priority, Reuters reported.
But environmental groups argue the decision comes at the expense of other species.
"Industrial agriculture has no place on public lands dedicated to conservation of biological diversity and the protection of our most vulnerable species, including pollinators like bumble bees and monarch butterflies. The Trump administration's approval to use toxic pesticides and genetically modified crops is an insult to our national wildlife refuges and the wildlife that rely on them," President and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife Jamie Rappaport Clark said in a statement.
Jim Kurth, head of the refuge system under Obama, announced the ban in 2014, arguing that the use of neonicotinoids led to plants whose tissues harmed "non-target" species. Moreover, he said that "refuges throughout the country successfully meet wildlife management objectives without" genetically modified crops or the pesticides they are engineered to withstand, Reuters reported.
Defenders of Wildlife further noted that the populations of game birds like geese and ducks are currently doing fine without the help of genetically modified crops.
Sheehan, however, has reversed the blanket ban and said that the use of genetically modified crops and neonicotinoids would be considered in the more than 50 farming-friendly refuges on a case-by-case basis.
The move came a day after California's Department of Pesticide Regulation released a risk assessment finding that the use of four neonicotinoids on certain crops, including the corn and sorghum often grown in refuges, could cause more harm to pollinators than previously thought, The Center for Biological Diversity reported.
"Agricultural pesticides, especially bee-killing neonics, have no place on our national wildlife refuges," senior Center for Biological Diversity attorney Hannah Connor said. "This huge backward step will harm bees and other pollinators already in steep decline simply to appease pesticide-makers and promote mono-culture farming techniques that trigger increased pesticide use. It's senseless and shameful."
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.