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Obama Mandates Precedent-Setting Task Force to Protect Honey Bees and Other Pollinators
During the close of National Pollinator Week, the White House issued a Presidential Memorandum on pollinator health to the heads of federal agencies requiring action to “reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels.” The President is directing agencies to establish a Pollinator Health Task Force, and to develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy, including a Pollinator Research Action Plan. Beyond Pesticides applauds this announcement and action that recognizes and elevates the plight of pollinators in the U.S.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Friday, June 20, President Barack Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum that recognizes the severe losses in the populations of the nation’s pollinators, including honey bees, wild bees, monarch butterflies and others. In accordance with these losses and acknowledging the importance pollinators have to the agricultural economy, the memorandum directs federal agencies to establish a Pollinator Health Task Force, to be chaired by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), develop a pollinator health strategy within 180 days, and support and create pollinator habitat. This federal strategy will include a pollinator research action plan, with a focus on preventing and recovering from pollinator losses, including studying how various stressors, like pesticides, pathogens and management practices contribute to pollinator losses. The task force will also engage in a public education initiative and develop public-private partnerships with various stakeholders.
“Today, President Obama set a precedent, elevating the plight of our nation’s pollinators by acknowledging not only their importance to our economy, but directing federal agencies to be leaders in finding meaningful solutions to our current pollinator crisis,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.
Federal agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and USDA have been slow to respond to pollinator losses and must take immediate action, especially on pesticides known to be toxic to bees and other pollinators.
EPA Fails to Restrict Pesticides Linked to Bee Decline
The President highlights many factors that contribute to pollinator decline; however it is the neonicotinoid class of pesticides that have been receiving the most scrutiny from beekeepers and scientists. These pesticides are not only highly toxic to bees, but studies find that even at low levels neonicotinoids impair foraging ability, navigation, learning behavior and suppress the immune system, making bees more susceptible to pathogens and disease. While EPA announced Friday that it has released two tools in an effort to protect pollinators, the availability of its new Pollinator Risk Assessment Guidance, and new Residual Time to 25 Precent Bee Mortality (RT25 Data), the agency still falls short of restricting the harmful systemic pesticides that are linked to bee decline.
The guidance will purportedly allow the agency to assess effects from systemic pesticides quantitatively on individual bees as well as on bee colonies. The agency is implementing elements of the guidance in its ongoing registration review of neonicotinoid pesticides as well as other pesticide regulatory work. The ongoing review includes new required of the registrants, including refined semi-field studies under more real-world application conditions, however the agency admits that other data from ongoing full-field studies will take up to several years to complete. Additionally, at the request of beekeepers and growers, the agency has also posted RT25 Data online, which gauges the amount of time after application that a particular pesticide product remains toxic enough under real-world conditions to kill 25 percent of bees that are exposed to residues on treated plant surfaces.
Though the science very clearly points to neonicotinoids as a main culprit behind bee-deaths, and while successful organically managed systems prove that these pesticides are not necessary, the EPA has yet to take meaningful action to reduce exposure to these harmful chemicals. According to advocates, bee deaths in Oregon last week from the use of a neonicotinoid and mounting scientific evidence require an urgent response that necessitates removing these chemicals from the market. With continued incidents like these, beekeepers and many other concerned groups and citizens continue to urge the EPA to suspend the use of neonicotinoids.
The Saving America’s Pollinators Act
As the EPA continues to stall, Beyond Pesticides, along with other groups are working to BEE Protective. Last year, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, and others filed a lawsuit against the EPA on its continued registration of these chemicals. The groups are also working to pressure on lawmakers in Congress to take action to protect pollinators. H.R. 2692, the Saving America’s Pollinators Act (SAPA), introduced last year by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D- OR) would suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides until a full review of scientific evidence and a field study demonstrates no harmful impacts to pollinators. Three new co-sponsors signed on Friday, including Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-CA), bringing the total number of cosponsors to 68. With one in three bites of food reliant on pollinators, it is imperative that solutions be found quickly to protect bees and other pollinators. Tell your member of Congress to support SAPA!
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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.