World’s Largest Producer of Toxic Pesticide Chlorpyrifos Ends Its Production
Corteva, formerly part of the chemical manufacturing giant Dow Chemical, announced today that it would stop making chlorpyrifos — a toxic, brain-harming pesticide commonly sprayed on various U.S. food crops, including apples, oranges, and berries — by the end of the year.
The decision by the chemical's biggest producer, which cited declining sales, marks a watershed moment in the drawn-out fight by environmental, labor, and public health groups to ban chlorpyrifos and protect children, whose health is most at risk from exposure. The move by Corteva will likely reduce the more than five million pounds of chlorpyrifos that are sprayed on U.S. food crops each year. "After years of pressure and increasing public concern, the end of chlorpyrifos is finally in sight," Jennifer Sass, senior scientist at NRDC, says.
Adapted from World War II nerve gases, the chemical sticks around on our food and makes its way into our drinking water and air, exposing farmworkers and those living in agricultural areas.
While Corteva continues to claim the pesticide is safe, the science has long disagreed: In 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency itself concluded that the chemical contaminates the national food supply at unsafe levels. Exposure brings along with it serious risks to the developing brains and nervous systems of children and fetuses, such as learning disabilities, ADHD-like symptoms, and reductions in IQ.
"The science, policy, and public pushback all aligned around this chemical being too dangerous for use on our food and in our fields, making today's announcement an eventual forgone conclusion," Sass says.
The fight against chlorpyrifos isn't over. A federal ban — proposed by President Obama but reversed by the Trump administration soon after taking office — has yet to be put in place, a decision that a coalition of labor and health groups, including NRDC, continue to fight in court. Chlorpyrifos also remains available and in use in other parts of the world.
"We will be watching the manufacturer's statements to ensure that the sunset of chlorpyrifos is as quick and as complete as possible," Sass says. "Ridding the American marketplace of this pesticide is a huge step, but it cannot be allowed to continue to threaten the health of kids in other global markets."
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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