Pesticides to Blame for UK's Declining Turtle Dove Population
Unless regulators take action, one of the gifts in the lyrics to “Twelve Days of Christmas,” the turtle dove, may become extinct. The dove has experienced major population decline in England over the past 20 years, due in significant part to the destruction of turtle dove habitat and food sources from increasing herbicide use in English agriculture.
Other species, such as Monarch butterflies and other pollinators around the world, are also experiencing similar loses of habitat and food sources through an increase in herbicide use. These increasing rates of population decline in wild species underscore the problem that chemical-intensive agriculture plays in the degradation of natural habitats.
“The turtle dove is the fastest declining bird in the country [England] and within ten years we could lose this icon of the British countryside completely,” said a spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
Turtle doves in the United Kingdom are found in just a few areas of Southern England and migrate during the winter toward Africa. Turtle doves are obligate granivors, feeding predominantly on seeds of certain arable weeds form farm countryside, such as fumitory, clover and vetch. However, increased herbicide use in England has decimated vegetation (considered “weeds”) that turtle doves have traditionally eaten.
In the 1960’s, arable weeds, including fumitory and chickweed, made up more than 75 percent of the adult diet, but parents are now heavily reliant on cultivated wheat and oilseed corps. The number of breeding pairs in the UK is thought to have dropped this year to a record low of bellow 14,000, making an 84 percent drop since 1995. This problem is now compounded by the cold and damp summer of 2012 hampered the bird’s efforts to feed their chicks as well as keeping them warm.
Serious losses in the Monarch butterfly population have been tied to the expansion of genetically engineered (GE) corn and soybeans production. Historically, for butterflies in the U.S., their key source of food, milkweed, was typically found in several key states where the butterfly feeds and breeds: Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, parts of Ohio and the eastern Dakotas. But now fields have been planted with more than 120 million acres of corn and soybeans genetically engineered to be tolerant to glyphosate (Roundup), and many other herbicides, resulting in milkweed destruction in and around agricultural fields.
According to the researchers, the utilization of these GE crops has all but eliminated milkweeds from these fields, thus eliminating the butterfly’s source of food. A rapid expansion of farmland—more than 25 million new acres in the U.S. since 2007—has eaten away grasslands and conservation reserves that supplied the Monarchs with milkweed. Milkweed was once widespread throughout the U.S., but is considered a nuisance weed by farmers throughout the Midwest.
Recently, The New York Times published an analysis of the decline and near absence of Monarch butterflies at their end migration destination in the mountains of Mexico this fall. This report highlights that the use of Roundup on GE herbicide-resistant crops has devastated Monarch habitat by nearly eliminating milkweed from rural agricultural landscapes.
A 2011 decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to fully deregulate GE alfalfa seed will certainly have an impact on bee populations that are essential for the pollination of the alfalfa seed crop. This deregulation is also troubling because alfalfa seed crops is a pollinated crop and there is a high possibility of cross pollination between GE and organic production. Alfalfa is the key feedstock for the dairy industry. GE contamination will cause organic dairies to lose their source of organic feed, a requirement for organic dairy, including milk and yogurt products. Earlier in September, GE alfalfa was confirmed to have contaminated non-GE alfalfa in Washington State.
According to the Organic Seed Alliance, “Although both the organic and biotechnology industries acknowledge that transgenic material is moving into fields and markets where it is not allowed or wanted, little has been done to address the problem through regulatory processes and enforcement. No new law has been created to address this novel technology.”
GE alfalfa designed to be resistant to herbicides is unnecessary. USDA data shows that 90 percent of all the alfalfa planted by farmers in the U.S. was previously grown without the use of any herbicides, which the GE alfalfa is engineered to withstand.
Due to the planting of GE alfalfa, USDA estimates that up to 23 million more pounds of toxic herbicides will be released into the environment each year which could lead to the destruction of habitat for wildlife. In discussions with EPA, Beyond Pesticides has told the agency that because of the adverse impact that herbicides are expected to have on bees in GE alfalfa seed production, and given its extremely limited benefit to alfalfa productivity, it should prohibit herbicide use in GE alfalfa production. Beyond Pesticides has noted that EPA’s failure to fully consider direct and secondary impacts of pesticides on bees and beneficial insect habitat, associated with increasing and unnecessary herbicide use in genetically engineered alfalfa, is leading to escalating ecological destruction.
Beyond Pesticides, along with other environmental and farming organizations, filed a suit in March of 2011 challenging the agency’s deregulation of the GE alfalfa. The suit, Center for Food Safety, et al., v. Vilsack, et al., argues that the agency’s deregulation of Roundup Ready alfalfa is unlawful, and tried to prevent any further planting of the engineered crop. However, in 2012, a U.S. District Judge in San Francisco issued a ruling that USDA’s decision to deregulate GE alfalfa was not unlawful.
The protection of organic integrity and growth of uncontaminated organic production, which must become a national and international priority, is perhaps the central and most effective strategy for protecting threatened species like bees, butterflies, and birds, including turtle doves. Beyond Pesticides encourages consumers to think about the big picture, and support a wider shift toward organic practices through their purchases. Buying organic is a simple move that makes a big difference in preventing unnecessary contamination to themselves, the environment and the loss of wild habitat.
Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.
By Matthew J. Landry and Heather Eicher-Miller
When university presidents were surveyed in spring of 2020 about what they felt were the most pressing concerns of COVID-19, college students going hungry didn't rank very high.
Why It Matters<p>This is not just a matter of growling stomachs. This is a straight-up education and health issue.</p><p>When students don't really know if they'll be able to get enough to eat, it can lead to a series of problems that make it harder to stay in school. For instance, it can affect <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1359105318783028" target="_blank">academic performance</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-6943-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">sleep quality</a>. It can also lead to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105318783028" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">poor mental and physical health</a> outcomes for college students.</p><p>Food insecurity can also result in disrupted eating patterns if there is <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6627945/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">not enough food or the variety</a> or <a href="https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-019-6943-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">quality of what someone eats</a> is low.</p>
Campus Food Pantries<p>Previous strategies by <a href="https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/696254.pdf" target="_blank">colleges and universities</a> to fight hunger in their student bodies have varied widely. They include campus food pantries, emergency cash assistance and nutrition education through noncredit classes or workshopse.</p><p>These strategies were put to the test during the spring 2020 semester, when nearly <a href="https://hope4college.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Hopecenter_RealCollegeDuringthePandemic.pdf" target="_blank">three in five students</a> said they had trouble meeting their own basic needs during the pandemic.</p><p>College food pantries saw <a href="https://www.utrgv.edu/newsroom/2020/05/01-utrgv-student-food-pantry-seeing-recent-increase-in-demand-during-covid-19.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">big increases</a> in demand. Others said they <a href="https://www.theprospectordaily.com/2020/09/22/uteps-food-pantry-is-running-out-of-food/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">were getting less donated food</a>. This made it even harder to meet the rising food needs of students.</p><p>Campus food pantries largely rely on local or regional food banks, which have been dealing with <a href="https://www.indystar.com/story/news/local/2020/10/04/indiana-food-banks-call-more-food-stamps-meet-publics-need/3523683001/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">greater demand</a> than they are able to meet during the pandemic.</p><p>The many students who are attending college remotely will, of course, have less access to campus resources like food pantries.</p>
Federal Help<p>Other potential ways to get more food are government programs like the <a href="https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/recipient/eligibility" target="_blank">Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program</a>, known as SNAP. Yet the majority of able-bodied students are not eligible. Long-standing restrictions, like the <a href="https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/students" target="_blank">college SNAP rule</a>, prevent full-time students from receiving these benefits.</p><p>Such regulatory hurdles were created under the assumption that most students can rely on their parents to get enough to eat. However, college students have vastly different levels of financial support. Some students can rely on their parents for everything and others cannot rely on their parents for anything.</p><p>Decreased reliance on parental financial support is <a href="https://ir.library.louisville.edu/jsfa/vol47/iss3/5/" target="_blank">especially common</a> for first-generation students and students of color, who now make up <a href="https://1xfsu31b52d33idlp13twtos-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Race-and-Ethnicity-in-Higher-Education.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">45% of enrolled college students</a>.</p><p>Under normal circumstances, many college students might rely on part-time jobs to pay for their food.</p>
Short-Term Solutions<p>Universities and colleges can make it a priority to ensure students are aware of all available campus resources and services. They can also potentially help students apply for federal assistance benefits.</p><p>Campus food pantries are not a fully effective and efficacious solution for the scale of college food insecurity, but they can be a good interim solution to increase access to food for students.</p><p>Campuses without food pantries can start one, making use of resources the <a href="https://cufba.org/resources/" target="_blank">College and University Food Bank Alliance</a> provides. Schools with food pantries can try to get them to <a href="https://www.swipehunger.org/5campuspantry/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reach more students</a>.</p><p>Universities and colleges can also lean on one another for support. The <a href="http://wp.auburn.edu/endchildhungeral/alabama-campus-coalition-for-basic-needs/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Alabama Campus Coalition for Basic Needs</a> is a great example of this. It brings together 10 universities across the state of Alabama collectively working to address student food insecurity.</p>
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Plain Naturals is making waves in the CBD space with a new product line for retail customers looking for high potency CBD products at industry-low prices.
Is More CBD Really Better?<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU2ODQyNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMzYxMDMzN30.6B08i5QYW_Iq5bUf3qtm8oK8o6FKsRUZ74gdakgJ_TY/img.jpg?width=980" id="0ef5b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bac86abf3ce246742b18b0dc4052f4dd" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
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By Dr. Kate Raynes-Goldie
Of all the plastic we've ever produced, only 9% has been recycled. So what happened to all that plastic you've put in the recycling bin over the years?
Triangle of Mistruths<p>The myth created around plastic recycling has been one of simplicity. We look for the familiar triangle arrows, then pop the waste in the recycling bin so it can be reused.</p><p>But the true purpose of those triangles has been misunderstood by the general public ever since their invention in the 1980s.</p><p>These triangles were actually created by the plastics industry and, according to a report provided to them in July 1993, <a href="https://www.npr.org/transcripts/912150085" target="_blank">were creating "unrealistic expectations"</a> about what could be recycled. But they decided to keep using the codes.</p><p>Which is why many people still believe that these triangular symbols (also known as a <a href="https://sustainablepackaging.org/101-resin-identification-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">resin identifier code</a> or RIC) means something is recyclable.</p><p>But according to the American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM) – which controls the RIC system – the numbered triangles "<a href="https://www.astm.org/Standards/D7611.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are not recycle codes</a>." In fact, they weren't created for the general public at all. They were made for the post-consumer plastic industry.</p><p>In other words, the symbols make it easier to sort the different types of plastics, some of which cannot be recycled – <a href="https://www.ecobin.com.au/understand-recycling-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">depending on the recycling facility</a>.</p><p>"Unfortunately, just placing your plastic into the recycling bin doesn't mean it will get recycled," says Lara Camilla Pinho. She is an architect and lecturer at the UWA School of Design who is researching novel uses of plastic waste.</p><p>"The recycling system is complicated and often dictated by market demand. Not all plastic is recyclable. We cannot recycle plastic bags or straws for example."</p>
Behind the Scenes<p>So, what makes recycling plastics so difficult?</p><p>"Essentially, there are two types of plastics – thermoplastics and thermosets. While thermoplastics can be re-melted and re-molded, thermosets contain cross-linked polymers that cannot be separated meaning they cannot be recycled," says Lara.</p><p>"Even thermoplastics have a limit to the amount of times we can recycle them, as each time they are recycled they downgrade in quality."</p><p>Even when plastics are recyclable, it is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/13/war-on-plastic-waste-faces-setback-as-cost-of-recycled-material-soars" target="_blank">often more costly</a> than simply making new plastics.</p>
Sugar, Seaweed and Mushrooms<p>If the conventional recycling system isn't working, what else can we do with all the plastic we've created?</p><p>Lara is looking for ways to add value to recycled plastics such as using it in the design and development of architectural products. She hopes to use these architectural products to help underserved communities that are disproportionately affected by plastic waste.</p><p>In addition to recycling, we also need to find ways to reduce our use of virgin petroleum-based plastics.</p><p>Bioplastic is one such product that has been getting a lot of hype over the last few years. And although they're better than petroleum-based plastics, bioplastics also come with their own <a href="https://phys.org/news/2017-12-truth-bioplastics.html" target="_blank">set of challenges</a>.</p><p>"There are already a lot of bio-based alternatives to plastic, such as bagasse – a byproduct of sugar cane processing," says Lara.</p><p><a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-mycelium-revolution-is-upon-us/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mycelium</a>, a type of fungi we most often associate with mushrooms, are also providing an interesting plastic alternative.</p><p>"In the field of architecture, mycelium is starting to be used as an alternative to plastic insulation, but also as compostable packaging and bricks," says Lara.</p><p>"The bricks take around five days to make and are strong, durable, water resistant and compostable at the end of their use."</p><p><a href="https://www.arup.com/news-and-events/hyfi-reinvents-the-brick" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hy-Fi Tower</a>, created by <a href="http://www.thelivingnewyork.com/living_about.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Living</a>, is an example of a building made from these bricks.</p><p>And finally, there's seaweed.</p><p>"[Seaweed is] cheap and can reproduce itself quickly without fertilizers. In architecture, there is use for seaweed as an alternative to plastic insulation but also as cladding," says Lara.</p>
More Money, More Problems<p>While all these alternatives are great, the main cause of our plastic dilemma is not scientific or technological, but economic.</p><p>As long as it remains <a href="https://engineering.mit.edu/engage/ask-an-engineer/why-is-it-cheaper-to-make-new-plastic-bottles-than-to-recycle-old-ones/" target="_blank">cheaper to create new plastics</a> from fossil fuels rather than from bioplastics or from recycling, we're going to be stuck with plastic garbage islands floating in our oceans.</p><p>The true cost to our health and our environment has yet to be included in the equation. But once it is, maybe that is when the real shift will happen.</p>
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Towards the end of the final presidential debate of the 2020 election season, the moderator asked both candidates how they would address both the climate crisis and job growth, leading to a nearly 12-minute discussion where Donald Trump did not acknowledge that the climate is changing and Joe Biden called the climate crisis an existential threat.
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