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Glyphosate to Be Banned on Fort Myers Beach

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The skyline of Fort Myers Beach. YinYang / iStock / Getty Images

First Fort Myers banned plastic straws. Now it banned Roundup, or glyphosate, the controversial herbicide recently blamed for causing cancer by several juries, the News Press reports.


Like the plastic straw ban, the driving force behind the ban was the health of Fort Myers' waterways and marine resources. "This effort has all been about water quality," Mayor Anita Cereceda said to the News Press.

City officials ducked the assertion that Roundup causes cancer, by focusing on water pollution. "We are only interested in the fact that it's very bad for the aquatic environment," said Shannon Mapes, the town's marine resource task force vice chair, to the News Press.

Glyphosate's efficacy as an herbicide is remarkable, which spells trouble for marine plants when the herbicide seeps into the water table and washes into the nearby Estero Bay aquatic preserve.

Carried by landscape runoff, glyphosate can percolate into the water table and wash into the water near Fort Myers Beach, especially the Estero Bay aquatic preserve just south of Fort Myer's. Glyphosate can kill sea grass and the aquatic plants that serve as a nursery for the foundation of the beach food chain, Mapes said to the News Press. "Glyphosate is broad-spectrum, meaning it'll kill a tree — it'll kill anything — any plant," Mapes added.

The town will start a public education and outreach campaign to curtail private use of Roundup. There are plans to send out letters to landscaping companies and put fliers in water bills, Cereceda said. "We'll do as much of a PR push as we can," she said.

Fort Myers Beach joins a growing list of municipalities to ban glyphosate. Earlier this year, Los Angeles County directed all of its departments to stop using Roundup until more is known about its environmental and health effects. Los Angeles county's rationale for the moratorium was the World Health Organization's finding that glyphosate is probably a human carcinogen, according to NBC 4 Los Angeles.

That rationale has earned a strong rebuke from the federal government. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently defended glyphosate in forceful language for a regulatory agency. "EPA continues to find that there are no risks to public health when glyphosate is used in accordance with its current label and that glyphosate is not a carcinogen," the agency said in a statement, as reported by Reuters.

However, Fort Myers emphasis on water safety dovetails with the EPA's assertion that glyphosate does present ecological risks and has even proposed measures to protect the environment from an overreliance on Roundup, as reported by Reuters.

Yet, other arms of the federal government have defended glyphosate. The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue roundly criticized Vietnam for banning glyphosate imports, starting this month.

"In addition to the immediate effect of slowing the development of Vietnamese agricultural production, there's the very real risk that Vietnam's farmers will turn to unregulated, illegal chemical products in place of glyphosate," Perdue said, as reported by Reuters.

As for the Mayor of Fort Myers, there's a clear line when it comes to the safety of the water surrounding her town. "We can't be hypocritical about this," she said to the News Press. "We can't constantly be pointing our fingers at Lake Okeechobee and the farmers and everybody else when we ourselves aren't doing all we can to monitor and eliminate what we can here in the island. So this was the next thing on our hit list."

Improving water quality is a top priority for her that requires consistent effort, she said to the News Press. "Little by little, we try to make an impact, and so far, so good."

This article has been edited for correction. Fort Myers is the correct spelling, not Fort Meyers.

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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.

Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.

Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.

SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0​

"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.

It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.

Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.

In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.

The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).

"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.

The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.

"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.

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