EPA, Deny Dow's Pesticide for GMO Crops
Ashley Ugarte is the student advisory board president for the Bay Area based non-profit, Teens Turning Green. This passionate foodie, environmental activist and Teens Turning Green chef-in-residence is a senior at Rice University in Houston, TX majoring in Health Sciences and minoring in Water and Energy Sustainability.
For me, a typical day consists of informing myself and others about the pertinent issues facing our environment—GMOs, pesticides, herbicides, toxic chemicals—they’re all on my radar. After reading article after article about the recent (and disturbing) actions of the EPA, one of these pieces of journalism was finally my tipping point. I couldn’t simply READ any longer, I needed to ACT. Maybe if I did, other people would join me, and together, we could finally begin taking steps in the right direction. [You can help by signing this petition]. So I decided to write a letter…
Subject Line: EPA, Please Protect My Generation
To the Honorable Administrator Gina McCarthy,
My name is Ashley Ugarte, a rising senior at Rice University in Houston, TX, and Student Advisory Board President for Teens Turning Green. On April 30, 2014, the EPA proposed the impending approval of Enlist Duo™, a double herbicide combination of 2,4-D and glyphosate from Dow Chemical Co. Today, I am writing to you as a daughter, a sister, a friend, a leader and an environmental activist concerned for the future of my generation to advise the EPA to not approve Dow’s Enlist Duo.
It wasn’t until I came across a devastating article on EcoWatch, "Environmental Groups Fear EPA Could Approve Dow Pesticide for GMO Crops," that I first became aware of this proposal. Upon finishing the article, I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed, appalled, and betrayed by the news that was brought to my attention. After engaging in further research, I discovered information that couldn’t be ignored. According to the Environmental Working Group, Enlist Duo’s toxic formula—a mixture of 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (an herbicide invented in 1946) and glyphosate (the main ingredient in RoundUp)—are two highly toxic chemicals that have been “linked to multiple adverse effects on human health and the environment.” If the EPA moves forward with this proposal, the use of 2,4-D nationwide could more than triple by 2020. Such an increase would accelerate herbicide resistance and expose communities near 2,4-D-resistant corn and soybean fields to eight times more 2,4-D than today’s current rates.
The actions and decisions conveyed recently by the EPA, especially in regards to the issues pertaining to genetically modified organisms and toxic chemicals in our food supply, has caused me and my peers to question the sanctity and reputation of the organization altogether. If the EPA’s Environmental Risk Assessment for 2,4-D found “information gaps, key uncertainties and insufficient information” in the analysis of its impact on non-target organisms, then why is approval still an option? If the EPA also admitted concerns for direct and indirect effects on birds, mammals, insects and plants, then again I ask, why is approval still an option?
Above all, I find it hard to understand that the EPA could base all of its safety determinations on a study that was conducted by the chemical company itself. Even to the untrained eye, the biases here are blatantly clear. As the next generation of global citizens and procreators, we are charged with the task of bringing new life into this world and to responsibly regenerate the existence of humanity. With this in mind, I'm curious as to how our current generation of leaders expects us to be successful, while well aware of (and contributing to) the present obstacles that face our health and the environment.
While I understand that the EPA will be issuing its final decision later this summer, I believe that the EPA cannot and should not ignore the thousands of signatures from citizens concerned for our future and environmental organizations such as Food & Water Watch, Center for Food Safety and the Pesticide Action Network. I cannot stand here and allow one company to poison our shared planet and jeopardize the health of my family, friends, peers, neighbors and our future generations. With my peers standing by my side, I hope you will take our concerns into consideration and not be involved in a decision that would demean our right to health in lieu of corporate profits. I greatly honor and admire your expertise in environmental health, which is why I believe that it is essential for us to protect and abide by EPA's own mission "to protect human health and the environment." Let us set an example together by banning this toxic band-aid of a solution and taking a step in the right direction; the direction of repair and sustainability for our planet and its resources on which we so heavily rely.
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Summer has finally arrived in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska, liberating hundreds of thousands of northern stream fish from their wintering habitats.
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Photo of Arctic grayling (left) and Dolly Varden trout (right). Alyssa Murdoch / Lilian Tran / Nunavik Research Centre and Tracey Loewen / Fisheries and Oceans Canada<p>Yet, not all fish species fared equally well. Ecologically unique northern species — those that have evolved in colder, more nutrient-poor environments, such as Arctic grayling and Dolly Varden trout — were showing declines with warming.</p>
Fish Strandings and Buried Eggs<p>Recent news headlines run the gamut for Pacific salmon — from their increased escapades <a href="https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/more-pacific-salmon-showing-up-in-western-arctic-waters/" target="_blank">into the Arctic</a> to <a href="https://www.juneauempire.com/news/warm-waters-across-alaska-cause-salmon-die-offs/" target="_blank">massive pre-spawning die-offs</a> in central Alaska. Similarly, results from our study revealed different outcomes for fish depending on local climatic conditions, including Pacific salmon.</p><p>We found that warmer spring and fall temperatures may be helping juvenile salmon by providing a longer and more plentiful growing season, and by supporting early egg development in northern regions that were previously too cold for survival.</p><p>In contrast, salmon declined in regions that were experiencing wetter fall conditions, pointing to an increased risk of flooding and sedimentation that could bury or dislodge incubating eggs.</p>
Headwaters of the Wind River within the largely intact Peel River watershed in northern Canada. Don Reid / Wildlife Conservation Society Canada / Author provided<p>Interestingly, we found that certain climatic combinations, such as warmer summer water temperatures with decreased summer rainfall, were important in determining where Pacific salmon could survive. Summer warming in drier watersheds led to declines, suggesting that lowered streamflows may have increased the risk of fish becoming stranded in subpar habitats that were too warm and crowded.</p>
The Fate of Northern Fisheries<p>The promise of a warmer and more accessible Arctic has attracted mounting interest in new economic opportunities, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2019.103637" target="_blank">including fisheries</a>. As warming rates at higher latitudes are already <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank">two to three times global levels</a>, it seems probable that northern biodiversity will experience dramatic shifts in the coming decades.</p><p>Despite the many unknowns surrounding the future of Pacific salmon, many fisheries are currently <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/03632415.2017.1374251" target="_blank">thriving following warmer and more productive northern oceans</a>, and some <a href="https://doi.org/10.14430/arctic68876" target="_blank">Arctic Indigenous communities are developing new salmon fisheries</a>.</p><p>As warming continues, the commercial salmon fishing industry is poised to expand northwards, but its success will largely depend on extenuating factors such as <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060023067" target="_blank">changes to marine habitat and food sources</a> and <a href="https://www.yukon-news.com/news/promising-chinook-salmon-run-failed-to-materialize-in-the-yukon-river-panel-hears/" target="_blank">how many fish are caught during the freshwater stages of their journey</a>.</p><p>Even with the potential for increased northern biodiversity, it is important to recognize that some northern communities may be unable to adapt or may <a href="https://thenarwhal.ca/searching-for-the-yukon-rivers-missing-chinook/" target="_blank">lose individual species that are associated with important cultural values</a>.</p>
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“You’ve Been Exposed”<p>After the case interview, contact tracers will get to work calling the folks who may have been exposed to the coronavirus by the person who tested positive.</p><p>"We give them recommendations about quarantining or isolating, getting tested, and what to do if they become sick. If they're not already sick, we still want them to self-quarantine so that they don't spread the disease to anyone else if they were to become sick," said Labus.</p><p>Generally, the contact tracer won't ask for additional contacts unless they happen to call someone who is sick or has a confirmed case of the virus. They will help ensure the contact has the resources they need to isolate themselves, if necessary. The contact tracer may continue to stay in touch with that person over the next 14 days.</p><p>"We follow the percentage of people that were contacts, then converted into being actual cases of the virus. It's an important marker to help us understand what kind of transmission happens in our community and how to control the virus," said Gullett.</p>
Why You Should Participate (and What Happens If You Don’t)<p>A <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30457-6/fulltext" target="_blank">Lancet study</a> from June 16, which looked at data from more than 40,000 people, found that COVID-19 transmission could be reduced by 64 percent through isolating those who have the coronavirus, quarantining their household, and contacting the people they may have exposed.</p><p>The combination strategy was significantly more effective than mass random testing or just isolating the sick person and members of their household.</p><p>However, contact tracing is only as effective as people's willingness to participate, and a small number of people who've contracted the coronavirus or were potentially exposed are reluctant to talk.</p><p>"Contact tracers have all been hung up on, cussed at, yelled at," said Gullet.</p><p>The hesitation to talk to contact tracers often stems from concerns over privacy — a serious issue in healthcare.</p>
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