By Andrea Germanos
Despite lower applied amounts of pesticides in U.S. agriculture, their toxicity to non-target species including honeybees more than doubled in a decade, according to a new study.
The findings by a team of researchers from Germany's University Koblenz-Landau were published Friday in the journal Science.
"We have taken a large body of pesticide use data from the U.S. and have expressed changes of amounts applied in agriculture over time as changes in total applied pesticide toxicity," explained lead author Ralf Schulz, professor for environmental sciences in Landau, in a statement.
"This provides a new view on the potential consequences that pesticide use in agriculture has on biodiversity and ecosystems," he said.
The researchers looked at changes in the use of 381 pesticides from 1992 to 2016 and analyzed toxicity impacts on eight non-target species groups, drawing data from the U.S. Geological Survey and Environmental Protection Agency. They used the EPA's threshold values to determine "total applied pesticide toxicity."
Lower amounts of pesticides have been applied, which brought decreased impacts on vertebrates, the scientists noted. But the same can't be said for non-target species including aquatic invertebrates like crustaceans and pollinators like bees, who faced a doubling in toxicity between 2005 and 2015 — a shift the authors put on increases in the use of pesticides called pyrethroids and neonicotinoids.
Also troubling is that an increase in herbicide toxicity has been on the rise as well, the scientists said, with the biggest impact seen on terrestrial plants. The study pointed to increased toxicity in the widely cultivated genetically modified crops in the U.S. of corn and soybean.
Schulz said the findings "challenge the claims of decreasing environmental impact of chemical pesticides in both conventional and GM crops and call for action to reduce the pesticide toxicity applied in agriculture worldwide."
The study was released amid continued concerns, both nationally and international, about wide-ranging adverse ecological impacts of neonicotinoids, or neonics, as they're sometimes called, especially amid a global decline in insect numbers that threatens humanity's future.
As Philip Donkersley, a senior research associate in entomology at Lancaster University, wrote this month at The Conversation:
Since their introduction in the late 1980s, robust scientific evidence has emerged to suggest these chemicals impair learning and memory, foraging behavior, and pollination in bees. The E.U. banned neonicotinoids in 2019, and while the U.K. government pledged to follow suit, it granted a special exemption for sugar beet farmers to use the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam in January 2021. Thankfully, it wasn't used.
Because honeybees don't spend much time on the ground, environmental risk assessments for neonicotinoids often neglect to consider how exposure to these chemicals in the soil affects all pollinators. But in a landmark study published in Nature, researchers have shown how neonicotinoids affect bees not just by accumulating in the plants pollinators visit, but in the ground where most wild bees build their nests.
Evidence suggests neonics' impacts go well beyond bees, including possibly to mammals like deer who inadvertently consume them.
As Civil Eats reported last month, the concerns are prompting continued demands for U.S. regulators to take action to curb or ban use of neonics.
Daniel Raichel, a staff attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told the outlet: "It's a bee issue for sure, but really, it's an ecosystem issue. It's an everything issue."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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The hot, dry weather baking the U.S. West is causing another problem for the beleaguered region: an overabundance of grasshoppers.
The crop-devouring insects are native to the region, and normally their population is too small to cause alarm, The Guardian explained. But warmer, drier winters beginning in 2020 created the ideal conditions for more of them to survive to adulthood. Now, their population is swelling, and ranchers fear that they will gobble up the vegetation their cattle rely on for food, according to CNN.
"Climate change is a concern to all of us, and when we see extreme events such as a very bad drought, we see natural phenomenon increase such as grasshopper outbreaks," former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Sharon Selvaggio told CNN. "It's very concerning."
There are currently 13 states experiencing a grasshopper outbreak, according to a hazard map from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In parts of Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Arizona, Colorado and Nebraska there are as many as 15 grasshoppers per square yard of land.
Grasshoppers are a problem for ranchers and farmers because of how much they eat, The Guardian explained. They compete with cattle for forage, strip the leaves off of fruit trees and settle in the dry areas around crops, eventually eating their way to the grain. Oregon Department of Agriculture entomologist and agricultural scientist Helmuth Rogg told The Guardian that can lead to losses of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"The biggest biomass consumer in the country are not cattle, are not bison. They are grasshoppers," Rogg said. "They eat and eat from the day they get born until the day they die. That's all they do."
While the grasshoppers emerge during drought, they also compound its effects on agriculture.
"Ranchers are already short of forage because of the drought," Lassen County Director of the University of California Cooperative Extension David Lile told LAist. "They can't afford to lose more."
One rancher dealing with the infestation first hand is 70-year-old Deborah Jones of Northern California. Jones said she normally fed her cattle on summer grass, but that the grasshoppers made that impossible this year.
"I've already had to start feeding hay," Jones told LAist. "The animals won't go out and graze because the grasshoppers drive them insane."
Officials are working to suppress the insects with pesticides, but Selvaggio argued to CNN that this is not an effective long-term solution. One reason is that pesticides can harm grasshoppers' predators and competitors. Another factor in their proliferation, for example, is the decline of grassland bird species that would keep them in check.
"Climate change may bring us more grasshoppers in the future in increased frequency, duration or severity," Selvaggio told CNN. "We need those long-term solutions to address grasshoppers for the long-term because we do know that we may be facing more of this in the future if we don't really take this seriously."
- Billions of Cicadas May Soon Be Coming to Trees Near You ... ›
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Medically reviewed by Anna H. Chacon, M.D.
From eating foods for healthy skin to switching up your morning and routines, taking care of the largest organ in the body can get overwhelming. Recently, vitamin C has grown in popularity in the skincare world — but do the best vitamin C serums live up to the hype?
Vitamin C is not only an essential supplement for your immune system and overall health, but it's also a great skincare ingredient that can help limit inflammation, brighten skin, dull fine lines and wrinkles, fight free radicals, and reduce discoloration and dark spots.
Adding vitamin C to your skincare routine seems like a no-brainer, but before you start shopping for a serum, it's important to be aware that vitamin C is an unstable ingredient. Dermatologists say it's important to find legit and properly formulated vitamin C serums to capitalize on the benefits of the antioxidant. In this article, we'll help you find the right dermatologist-approved vitamin C serum to add to your routine.
Our Picks for the Best Vitamin C Serums of 2021
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Overall: ZO Skin Health 10% Vitamin C Self-Activating
- Best for Sensitive Skin: Paula's Choice RESIST Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum
- Best Budget-Friendly Serum: CeraVe Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid
- Best Cruelty-Free Serum: Timeless Skin Care 20% Vitamin C Plus E Ferulic Acid Serum
- Best Anti-Aging Serum: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment
- Best Brightening Serum: The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%
Skincare Benefits of Vitamin C
Also known as ascorbic acid or L-ascorbic acid, vitamin C is an antioxidant that is present in the formation of collagen and that protects against aging, according to Dr. Anna Chacon, a board-certified dermatologist with MyPsoriasisTeam. A vitamin C serum may be a solid addition to your skincare routine because it has a great safety profile, and it's safe for most skin types.
"Vitamin C serum restores and neutralizes environmental stressors that accelerate signs of aging and can be used morning and evening," Dr. Chacon says. However, she warns, "it does not come with sun protection, so additional use of sunscreen is recommended."
As an antioxidant, vitamin C protects skin cells from being damaged by free radicals from things like UV exposure, vehicle exhaust and cigarette smoke. It also hampers melanin production, which can help to lighten hyperpigmentation and brown spots and even out your skin tone.
6 Best Vitamin C Serums
Based on dermatologist recommendations and our market research, the following products are the best vitamin C serums available today.
Best Overall: ZO Skin Health 10% Vitamin C Self-Activating
Our overall recommendation for the best vitamin C serum is the ZO Skin Health 10% Vitamin C Self-Activating serum. The product contains 10% vitamin C, which has anti-aging properties and minimizes the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and sunspots by promoting collagen production. "I have this in my bathroom," Dr. Chacon says. "It is gentle and non-irritating, and it leaves your skin radiant afterward."
Customer Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars with under 100 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Along with L-ascorbic acid, this serum includes ingredients like Coenzyme Q10 for multi-layer antioxidant protection and plant-derived squalane for added hydration. ZO Skin Health's products are all cruelty-free.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Paula's Choice RESIST Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum
Made with plant- and vitamin-derived antioxidants including vitamin C, vitamin E, peptides and CoQ10, Paula's Choice RESIST Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum will help rejuvenate your skin. The formula fights dullness, enhances firmness and reduces the appearance of wrinkles.
Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with about 300 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: This product is paraben-free, fragrance-free and cruelty-free, as it's not tested on animals. The container is 100% recyclable through TerraCycle, and it's formulated and manufactured in the U.S.
Best Budget-Friendly Serum: CeraVe Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid
CeraVe Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid offers high value at a reasonable price. It is a hydrating vitamin C serum that's fragrance-free, paraben-free, non-comedogenic and budget-friendly to boot. The formula uses 10% pure vitamin C to prevent free radical damage as well as soothing vitamin B5 and hyaluronic acid to make the skin look smooth and create a moisture barrier for your skin.
Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 20,000 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Chacon calls CeraVe "a trusted, dermatologist-oriented brand" that comes at drugstore prices, so it's a great choice if you want to try out a budget-friendly vitamin C serum.
Best Cruelty-Free Serum: Timeless Skin Care 20% Vitamin C Plus E Ferulic Acid Serum
Timeless Skin Care's vitamin C serum promotes healthy cell turnover to help minimize the effects of hyperpigmentation and even out your skin tone. According to Dr. Chacon, "vitamin C, E and ferulic acid are all key ingredients that help to brighten skin, building up collagen and evening out tone." This product's formula is non-greasy and lightweight, so it absorbs quickly and clearly into the skin.
Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars with over 1,700 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: The Timeless Skin Care formula is paraben-free, synthetic dye-free, fragrance-free and polyethylene glycol-free. The company doesn't test on animals, and the product is made in the U.S. from natural ingredients. It's also part of the TerraCycle recycling program.
Best Anti-Aging Serum: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment
Using dermatologist-approved ingredients, SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment is lightweight and helps to firm, smooth, and brighten the skin for a more youthful look. The formula utilizes 15% pure vitamin C as well as vitamin E and ferulic acid to protect against environmental damage from things like sunlight, ozone pollution and diesel engine exhaust. Plus, it helps firm the skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
Customer Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars with over 200 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: The SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment is one of the best vitamin C serums for anti-aging purposes. It has an oil-like formulation that goes on smoothly and works effectively without clogging pores.
Best Brightening Serum: The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%
The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% is a topical form of vitamin C that's rich in antioxidants to target aging and brighten the skin. It uses a high concentration of L-ascorbic acid as well as hyaluronic acid spheres for skin hydration. The brightening serum helps enhance skin smoothness and radiance without being too harsh. However, to test skin sensitivity, it is always recommended to perform a patch test before a full application.
Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars with over 4,500 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: This vitamin C brightening serum is cruelty-free and vegan and does not contain alcohol, phthalates, gluten, fragrance, nuts, oil, silicone, parabens or sulfates. The moisturizing serum is good for all skin types, including acne-prone skin and dry skin.
FAQ: Best Vitamin C Serums
What vitamin C serum is the most effective?
Our top recommended vitamin C serum is the ZO Skin Health 10% Vitamin C Self-Activating serum. It is a dermatologist-approved antioxidant powerhouse, yet it is gentle, non-irritating and leaves you with glowing skin.
Should you use vitamin C serum every day?
Dermatologists recommend using vitamin C serum either every day or every other day. After you cleanse and tone your face, use your vitamin c product before applying moisturizer and reef-safe sunscreen with at least SPF 30.
Does vitamin C serum really work?
According to dermatologists, the best vitamin C serums work to protect against skin aging. However, if you do not purchase a doctor-recommended product, you run the risk of wasting your money on a low-concentration serum that won't give you any benefits.
What are the drawbacks of vitamin C serums?
Many vitamin C serums on the market, especially cheaper products, have nearly immeasurable concentrations of antioxidants, which makes them ineffective. Additionally, as with any skincare product, some individuals may have reactions to vitamin C serums including itchiness and redness.
Anna H. Chacon, M.D. is a dermatologist and author originally from Miami, Florida. She has authored over a dozen peer-reviewed articles, book chapters and has been published in JAAD, Archives of Dermatology, British Journal of Dermatology, Cosmetic Dermatology and Cutis.
COVID-19 is having disproportionate impacts on our nation's two million farmworkers, who as essential workers continue to toil in the fields despite numerous deadly outbreaks and no federal COVID-related workplace protections.
COVID-19 has pulled back the veil on the strikingly poor workplace conditions of these essential workers, built by decades of insufficient farmworker health and safety policy, poor immigration policy, and limited health care access. As a consequence, at least 86,900 food workers have tested positive for COVID-19 – but with uneven data collection, exacerbated by businesses' lack of transparency over workplace outbreaks and workers' avoidance of testing due to fear of losing income, the figures we have are likely an underestimate.
A new analysis does note that each additional percentage point of farmworkers per overall population in a county was associated with 5.79 more deaths from COVID-19 – but did not contribute to more deaths per 100,000 residents. The researchers concluded, "farmworkers may face unique risks of COVID-19 beyond issues of language, insurance, or economics."
The Biden Administration must issue a federal standard to protect workers from COVID-19 that includes farmworkers. But beyond COVID-specific actions for farmworkers, the Biden Administration also needs to urgently address the underlying health and workplace conditions that pre-dated COVID.
A Dangerous Regulatory Rollback
One key way the Biden Administration can start to correct the course is by enforcing and safeguarding the Worker Protection Standard (WPS), the main federal regulation that protects workers from pesticide exposure. Pesticide exposure weakens the respiratory, immune, and nervous systems — exacerbating farmworkers' COVID-19 risks.
Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Trump Administration made various efforts to weaken or eliminate key provisions of the WPS, which had been revised and improved at the end of the Obama Administration. The WPS is an outlier in occupational health standards – because pesticides, although they are a workplace hazard, are regulated by the EPA, instead of by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which covers occupational health in every other industry. This is just one example of how farmworkers are exempted from basic protections afforded to other workers.
Many of the Trump Administration's efforts to weaken the WPS were thwarted by advocacy and litigation by environmental and farmworker groups. However, one of the Trump Administration's proposed rollbacks of the WPS remains: the gutting of the Application Exclusion Zone (AEZ), which required pesticide handlers to stop applying pesticides if someone is near the area being sprayed. If the final Trump AEZ rule goes into effect, farmworkers in neighboring fields, children in school playgrounds or in their backyards, and rural residents going about their day may be in close proximity to where pesticides are being sprayed, as long as they're not on the same property, without any requirement that the applicator suspend spraying. More than 1 billion pounds of pesticides, designed to kill insects, weeds, and other pests, are applied to U.S. agricultural fields every year. In addition to acute poisonings, pesticides are also associated with long-term health harms including various cancers, developmental and reproductive harm, and neurological damage, for both farmworkers and community members who are chronically exposed to pesticides.
In December 2020, Farmworker Justice and Earthjustice, acting on behalf of a coalition of groups including Migrant Clinicians Network, sued the EPA to stop these changes. An injunction is currently in place preventing the changes from being implemented as the case proceeds – but the Biden Administration has a responsibility to protect these workers, rather than rely on courts. And the issue of pesticide drift on nearby properties is just one of the many challenges that farmworkers face when it comes to pesticide exposure.
An Opportunity to Right Wrongs
Pesticide spray in Utah. Pesticide exposure is associated with various cancers, developmental and reproductive harm, and neurological damage. Aqua Mechanical / Flickr
These hard-working farmworkers, upon whom we all depend for the food we eat, deserve immediate and effective protections. The new Administration has a unique opportunity to take advantage of renewed public understanding of the exploitation of farmworkers, to provide long-overdue workplace protections to keep essential workers safe, and to transform our food systems to ensure healthy workplaces, neighborhoods, and the environment, by:
- Rejecting the Trump Administration's attempt to weaken the Application Exclusion Zone requirements;
- Increasing the monitoring and enforcement of the WPS, including, but not limited to, provisions such as the minimum age of 18 for applying pesticides, adequate training for workers in a language that they understand, and worker access to information about pesticides being applied;
- Requiring drift protections on pesticide labels for drift-prone pesticides, to better protect workers, bystanders, and communities;
- Requiring that all pesticide label instructions be written in Spanish and/or other languages spoken by workers so they have the information they need to protect themselves and their families;
- Banning highly toxic pesticides such as chlorpyrifos;
- Using accurate scientific methods for determining pesticide risk, including taking into account farmworkers' potential long-term exposure, when making determinations about pesticide safety and the registration of pesticide products;
- Including farmworkers and farmworker-serving organizations as key stakeholders at EPA, with a focus on environmental justice.
These are just some of the essential steps the new administration can take to protect farmworkers from the extreme hazards of their workplaces. Much more needs to be done about the myriad factors that negatively impact farmworker health, like poverty, immigration status, language barriers, and fear of retaliation.
COVID-19 has shown that a strong public health system and a functional food system require basic health and human rights for all of our neighbors, especially those typically left out. The Biden Administration has a duty and an opportunity to improve our systems – and consequently improve our nation's health and well-being.
Amy K. Liebman is Director of Environmental and Occupational Health for Migrant Clinicians Network, a nonprofit focused on creating practical solutions at the intersection of vulnerability, migration, and health.
Iris Figueroa is the Director of Economic and Environmental Justice for Farmworker Justice, a nonprofit that seeks to empower migrant and seasonal farmworkers to improve their living and working conditions, immigration status, health, occupational safety, and access to justice.
Reposted with permission from Environmental Health News.
In Germany, hope is growing for wild bees and insects. Surprisingly, it's taking root in the country's large urban cities, thanks to wildflower meadows being planted precisely to reverse precipitous declines in insect populations.
Insects around the world are in danger. A 2020 study published in Science estimated that global bug populations are down 25 percent on land. Populations declined 9 percent every decade, meaning nearly a quarter of all insects have gone extinct in the last 30 years. The figure jumps to over half in the last 75 years. A different report estimated that all insects could be gone within 100 years.
According to the BBC, the losses are the worst in the West and Midwest of the U.S. and in Europe — especially Germany. The Guardian reported that Germany is home to about 580 species of wild bees. More than half are endangered or on the verge of extinction. The news report cited a 2017 study by the Entomological Society of Krefeld which showed a 75 percent decline in total flying insect biomass in protected areas in Germany since 1989.
Both the BBC and The Guardian listed the main causes of insect loss as climate change, the use of insecticides, land-use changes and pollution from chemicals, exhaust, light and sound. In Germany in particular, a loss of diverse habitats was listed as the main reason for the sharp decline, The Guardian reported.
The anticipated biodiversity loss has been dubbed the "Insect Apocalypse," and scientists are warning against it and the ripple-out effect that such a loss would have because bugs are the "fabric of life." They serve vital ecosystem functions such as aerating the soil, pollination and the recycling of nutrients, the BBC reported.
In the case of bees and other pollinators, the "perfect storm" of parasites, air pollution and other threats currently decimating insect populations could also lead to crop shortages and affect food security. The list of popular foods we would lose without pollinators includes everything from apples and strawberries to avocados, coffee, onions and tomatoes.
To combat this catastrophic decline in bee and insect populations, Germany has undertaken a country-wide project to plant urban wildflower meadows. The Guardian reported that more than 100 flowers and wild grasses have been planted throughout Germany's largest cities over the last three years, and more are on the way. Many of these included endangered plants that take two to three years to mature, mixed in with annual blooms.
At first, local neighbors were dubious about the floral additions, especially at the expense of vast grass patches and lawns.
"I was quite skeptical at first," said Derek O'Doyle, an Irish citizen living in Berlin, to The Guardian. "It looked disorganized. And I resented the loss of a large patch of grass where I could play catch with my dog."
With the German summer now in full swing and the meadows buzzing with color and activity — literally — even the most reluctant city-dwellers have been persuaded.
"I've changed my mind," said O'Doyle. "It's become an incredibly attractive addition to our neighborhood. You experience the seasons in a whole new way."
Longer-term efforts to save bees and other insects must move beyond city limits to address agricultural land use and pesticides, Christian Schmid-Egger told The Guardian. Schmid-Egger coordinates Berlin's wildflower meadows on behalf of the German Wildlife Foundation. Still, he hoped the urban effort would help raise awareness of the importance of preserving wild spaces, even within cities, and of protecting the insects we all rely on.
"Eventually, many such hotspots could create a network of wilderness right inside our cities," he said.
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By Kendra Klein
Biden's election has boosted hopes that scientific integrity will be restored in the federal government. To make good on that promise, the administration will need to take action to safeguard against the risks of an entirely new type of pesticide, one developed by genetic engineers rather than chemists.
These pesticides will broadcast "gene silencing" agents across our farm fields — resulting in an open-air genetic engineering experiment. Among the concerns that scientists have raised are threats to bees and other beneficial insects essential to food production. Others have called out potential impacts on human health, including for some of our most essential frontline workers — farmworkers — and rural communities.
Farmers across the U.S. could soon fill their pesticide spray tanks with a substance known as interfering RNA (RNAi). (RNA is a molecule similar to DNA.) Insects that are exposed to it — either by eating crops sprayed with the substance or by landing on a crop and absorbing it through their bodies — would be genetically modified right there in the field. The pesticide would trigger a process inside the insects' cells to switch off or "silence" genes that are essential for survival — like those needed to make new, healthy cells — thus killing them.
At least one product has already been submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency for approval. But unless Biden's administration takes action, companies will be able to commercialize these new RNAi pesticides without submitting meaningful health or environmental risk assessments.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's pesticide rules were written fifty years ago, long before regulators could imagine a class of pesticides that could genetically modify living organisms. Perhaps most concerning is that once gene-silencing agents are released into the environment, there's no clean-up process when things go awry. Evidence shows that RNAi-related genetic modifications could be passed on for up to 80 generations in some cases.
What could go wrong? Quite a bit, according to scientific research summarized in a report from Friends of the Earth.
RNAi and the "Insect Apocalypse"
There is little reason to believe that this novel technology would be able to target only the "bad" insects and not the plethora of insects that are vital to farming, like pollinators. Bayer and other companies developing RNAi pesticides assert that they can target specific insects. But the genetic story of an ecosystem is one of interconnection — independent researchers warn that thousands of insect species have genetic sequences that are matching or similar enough that they could be unintentionally modified in a way that results in their death.
A 2017 study indicating that honeybees could be harmed by RNAi pesticides raises a red flag since we rely on pollinators for one in three bites of food we eat. Insects form the basis of the food webs that sustain all life on the planet. We are already in the midst of what scientists call an "insect apocalypse" — forty percent of insect species face extinction in coming decades. This is a loss so severe that it could cause a "catastrophic collapse of nature's ecosystems" according to leading researchers.
It's not just insects that may be harmed. While there are gaping holes in the research about potential human health impacts, what we do know raises concerns. Research indicates that naturally occurring RNAi that we consume in our food could regulate genes in our bodies. This suggests that synthetic RNAi could affect our gene expression, causing unforeseen problems. And medical research investigating therapeutic uses of RNAi has been hampered because some participants in clinical trials have experienced adverse immune reactions in their bodies.
Entrenching a Failed Paradigm
The pesticide industry is pitching RNAi pesticides as a solution to a problem the industry itself created: weed and pest resistance. As Rachel Carson warned in Silent Spring, her groundbreaking book about pesticides in the 1960s, our "relentless war" on insect life will inevitably fail because nature "fights back." Indeed, over 540 species of insects and over 360 types of weeds have evolved to resist the deadly effects of commonly used pesticides. Despite drastic and costly increases in pesticide use, some analyses show that farmers are losing more of their crops to pests today than they did in the 1940s.
It is foolish to continue down this same path and expect a different outcome. Research already shows the potential for pests to develop resistance to RNAi pesticides.
But pesticide giants like Bayer and Syngenta need new products to sell. A significant portion of their income is tied to pesticides that pose serious hazards to health and the environment. And as the scientific evidence mounts, the industry is facing increasing regulatory, legal, and market pressures.
Not only could RNAi pesticides provide a lucrative new suite of products, companies appear to be using them to extend their ownership over nature in an unprecedented way. Manufacturers are filing patents that claim property rights to the organisms exposed to RNAi pesticides as well as to their progeny.
Farming With Nature — a True Solution
The science shows clearly that pesticide-intensive agriculture is a disastrous dead end. Decades of data point to the same conclusion: we must rapidly shift to ecological farming methods in order to continue to produce food for generations to come.
Ecological farming offers a true solution to pest management with additional benefits. Practices like cover cropping, composting, and rotating crops build healthy soils that strengthen plants' defenses against pests and fungi while disrupting pest cycles and fostering biodiversity. These same methods, which underpin the success of organic farming, are also the lynchpins of regenerative agriculture, the idea that farmland can serve as a carbon sink.
Follow the Science
Biden has already signaled that he is likely to shy away from making the bold changes we need by appointing Tom Vilsack as head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
But as he rebuilds the scientific backbone of the federal government, advocates hope that he will take steps to update our decades-old pesticide regulations, such as those outlined in this recently introduced bill. In addition, specific criteria need to be added to ensure a science-based approach to regulating RNAi pesticides. Risk assessments of this novel technology should include genome analyses of beneficial organisms in the regions where they will be sprayed to see if bees and other critical species could be harmed, assessments of the hereditary impacts across generations of organisms, evaluations of how long the pesticides will remain active in ecosystems, and rigorous toxicity analysis to understand potential impacts on human health.
If Biden's EPA does not take these measures, we will soon embark on an open-air genetic experiment, the consequences of which may be felt for generations to come.
Reposted with permission from Food Tank.
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The EPA's Seattle office announced Tuesday that it had presented the online retailer with a "stop sale" order targeting products that were unregistered and potentially dangerous or ineffective. Some of them made false or misleading claims that they offered protection against viruses.
"Unregistered pesticides in the e-commerce marketplace pose a significant and immediate health risk to consumers, children, pets, and others exposed to the products," Ed Kowalski, director of the Enforcement Compliance Assurance Division in EPA's Region 10 office in Seattle, said in the announcement.
The EPA sent the latest order to Amazon on Jan. 7, The Seattle Times reported. The order added 70 products to a June 2020 stop sale order that targeted more than 30 products. The new products include items marketed to clean homes and pools, bracelets claiming to repel mosquitoes and several products promising to kill viruses, The Seattle Times reported.
"We have no idea what those products are made of," Chad Schulze, the EPA's pesticide enforcement lead in Seattle, told The Seattle Times. "And when you have people purchasing a product that says it will kill or control viruses in their personal space but it does not, that's a huge risk as well."
Since the stop sale order was issued in January, Amazon has removed the products from its website, a spokesperson for the company told The Seattle Times. However, the online sale of unregistered pesticides is an ongoing problem.
All pesticides sold in the U.S. are supposed to be registered with the EPA under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the agency explained in its June stop sale order. The registration process allows the EPA to ensure all pesticides for sale are safe and do what they say they will do.
Between 2013 and 2018, the EPA claimed that Amazon violated FIFRA almost 4,000 times, The Seattle Times reported. Amazon reached a settlement with the agency over these violations and said it would take steps to reduce the number of illegal pesticides sold on its platforms. Since then, the problem has decreased, but it has not disappeared.
"Is [Amazon] perfect? Is it stopping everything we need them to stop?" Schulze asked in The Seattle Times. "No."
For example, one of the products targeted by the June order was labeled "Amazon's Choice," signaling the company's endorsement.
While Schulze said other e-commerce sites were worse, Amazon is the largest in the U.S. It has almost 300 million customers and offers more than 350 million products, according to the EPA.
Any pesticide or disinfectant that meets FIFRA requirements will have an EPA registration and establishment number, the agency said.
"The agency advises consumers who have purchased an unregistered pesticide product or a misbranded pesticidal device to safely dispose of it in accordance with local, state, and federal laws," the EPA advised. "This is especially important for consumers seeking to protect against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19."
Anyone looking for safe and effective protection against the new virus can look at the EPA's list of products here.
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By Brett Wilkins
After a federal judge rejected a $2 billion class-action proposal from Bayer to avert future lawsuits alleging its popular Roundup herbicide causes cancer, the pharmaceutical and chemical giant announced Thursday that it would consider ending sales of the glyphosate-based weedkiller for residential use in the United States.
In a statement, Bayer said that it "will immediately engage with partners to discuss the future of glyphosate-based products in the U.S. residential market" in a move aimed at "mitigating future litigation risk."
"None of these discussions will affect the availability of glyphosate-based products in markets for professional and agricultural users," the Germany-based company added.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco rejected Bayer's $2 billion plan to settle future lawsuits as "clearly unreasonable," saying that while the proposal would "accomplish a lot for Monsanto" — the Roundup maker acquired by Bayer for nearly $63 billion in 2018 — it "would accomplish far less for... Roundup users."
NEW: @Bayer is rethinking the future of glyphosate products after losing a $2B cancer claims settlement – yet it st… https://t.co/FTj62pCLPi— Friends of the Earth (Action) (@Friends of the Earth (Action))1622148837.0
Earlier this month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco upheld a lower court ruling against Monsanto that found the chemical maker liable for the cancer afflicting users of Roundup, the world's bestselling weedkiller. Thousands of Roundup users allege the herbicide gave them non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the blood.
While Bayer claims Roundup is safe, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said in 2015 that glyphosate "is probably carcinogenic to humans."
In 2018, a San Francisco Superior Court jury found Monsanto liable for damages suffered by a groundskeeper and cancer patient who alleged his ailment was directly caused by exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides including Roundup, opening the floodgate for similar lawsuits across the nation. Juries in three separate cases have found that Monsanto covered up evidence of glyphosate's health risks for decades. Bayer subsequently agreed to allot $9.6 billion toward resolving the 125,000 claims against the company.
Health and environmental campaigners were encouraged by Bayer's Thursday announcement.
"Removing glyphosate from residential use would be a step in the right direction, as most of the cases now pending settlement involved serious exposure from non-farm uses," Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), said in a statement.
"Another clear step would be for Bayer to withdraw the pesticide from end-of-season use on food crops, which gave rise to the contamination EWG has found on oat products, in hummus, and other food," Cook continued.
"But unless this cancer-causing weedkiller is banned by the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] or Bayer cuts its losses and stops making it, people will continue to be exposed and risk serious illness," he added. "And the legal and financial disaster stemming from one of the worst business decisions ever made will remain."
Financial Times reports U.S. glyphosate sales account for around $365 million of Bayer's annual revenue, or less than 2% of sales by its agriculture science division.
Earlier this month, the EPA drew fire from environmental groups for arguing that Roundup should remain on U.S. shelves indefinitely, even after admitting that the review of glyphosate conducted during the previous administration was flawed and needs to be redone.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By Jeannette Cwienk
From violets and pansies to kitchen herbs, the longer spring goes on in the northern hemisphere, the more diverse our options are for outdoor flowers and plants. According to the German environmental nonprofit BUND, about a billion garden and balcony plants are sold in the country each year.
And those splashes of spring color on balconies and in gardens across Europe leave a lot of environmental damage elsewhere. Particularly cheap plants, which many people grab while shopping in the supermarket or hardware store, are often not grown sustainably.
"Most of them come from countries like Ethiopia, Kenya or Costa Rica," said Corinna Hölzel, a pesticide expert at BUND.
The climate in these regions is particularly suitable for cultivation, but young plants or cuttings are then flown from there to be grown further in the countries where they will be sold. Transport by plane releases CO2 greenhouse gases, but that's not the only problem, Hölzel said.
Using Chemicals to Get the 'Perfect' Plants
"Many pesticides are used in the countries of origin, sometimes even some that are banned in the EU because they are dangerous to our health," Hölzel explained. "In many companies there is hardly any protective clothing. The workers often work long days, have no fixed contracts, no trade unions, and often don't know what substances they are coming into contact with."
According to BUND, so-called compressing agents are also used in the cultivation of ornamental plants. These chemicals slow growth so the plants are neither too big nor in bloom before they can be sold. It is an example of using chemicals just for aesthetic reasons.
Plant Certification for More Sustainability
Various seals and certification systems are intended to ensure greater sustainability in the cultivation of ornamental plants. The certification group MPS, for example, works with more than 3,000 producers in 50 countries. The producers have to report how many and which pesticides they use, how much energy they need or how much fertilizer they use. If they significantly exceed regional comparison figures, they won't be certified.
The aim is to use as little energy as possible in all areas and companies regularly receive sustainability reports that compare them to other growers in their region.
"When producers see that others are more economical than they are, it spurs them on to consume less, too," said Karin Spengemann, who is responsible for MPS in Germany. The idea is that it doesn't only boost profits, but helps the climate and the environment.
According to Spengemann, MPS has a "blacklist" of particularly dangerous chemicals, the use of which is prohibited worldwide. Otherwise, all substances permitted in a particular country can be used.
The GlobalG.A.P. certification system works in a similar way and is used by growers in 138 countries. To get the GGN label, growers must cultivate plants according to GlobalG.A.P. standards.
In addition, they must comply with the standards of the International Labor Organization by paying the national minimum wage and other social security obligations. Plants with the GGN label are mainly sold in Germany. MPS and GlobalG.A.P. producers can be inspected at any time.
Not All Certifications Are the Same
BUND pesticide expert Hölzel takes a critical view of these two certification systems: "Both certifications primarily ensure traceability — the entire supply chain is documented. However, strict ecological guidelines are lacking; no specifications are made regarding pesticides, fertilizers or the use of peat. From an ecological point of view they are not recommended."
Those who want to ensure that their balcony or garden plants have been grown without the use of pesticides should instead look for an organic seal, Hölzel said. These types of certifications prohibit the use of genetic engineering, compression agents and synthetic fertilizers.
The Fairtrade seal is also recommendable, she said. The group does not ban all pesticides, but at least the most harmful ones, as well as genetic engineering. Additionally, good working conditions for employees are a key component of the Fairtrade program.
Doing More With Less Pesticides
Klaus Bongartz from the German Association for Ecological Ornamental & Garden Plants (FÖGA) is less critical of the MPS and GlobalG.A.P. certification systems. For companies, using them could be the first step toward environmentally friendly cultivation.
A rethink is also underway in many nurseries. Family farms do not want their children or grandchildren to come in contact with dangerous chemicals. Reports of insects dying off have also startled gardeners. "Many horticultural businesses are already doing without pesticides, and some are using 70-80% less chemicals than they used to," Bongartz said.
But the final step — applying for organic certification — is mentally the most difficult for most growers, he said. "Because then they really have to throw away the key to the poison cabinet forever."
Looking for Alternatives to Peat
Another problem that has not yet been solved in organic gardening is the use of peat. This nutrient-rich soil has perfect properties for plant cultivation: It stores moisture for a long time and, depending on the addition of other components, can be perfectly adapted to the needs of different plants.
Peat is obtained by bogs being drained, which in turn releases the carbon stored with as CO2. Globally, peatlands store around twice as much CO2 as all forests put together. They are also valuable ecosystems rich in species. According to BUND, around 10 million cubic meters of peat are used in Germany alone. That's the equivalent of 4,000 Olympic-size swimming pools.
That's why Bongartz encourages private gardeners to buy only peat-free soil. It is sufficient for normal planting. In plant cultivation, however, there is no real peat substitute yet. Since October, the organic gardener has been running a government-sponsored project to develop just such a substitute. The group is pinning its hopes on a food compost mixed with hard plant fibers.
But here, too, the devil is in the details. Coconut fibers, for example, are washed with a salt solution and have to be imported. In the end, Bongartz wants to avoid creating new problems through the best of intentions.
Buy Regional Plants in Summer
There is still another issue that not even organic cultivation can solve: To get balcony or garden plants into the ground in the spring, they have to have reached a certain size — and for this they need sufficient warmth and light.
This often requires heated greenhouses or cultivation in warm countries, which means the plants have to be transported by plane. Both cases result in the generation of CO2, though studies have shown that unless renewables are used to heat, the latter generates more emissions than flying.
Regionally grown plants sold in summer have the best carbon footprint. They are usually grown without the need for extra heating. And perennials have the added benefit of lasting for more than just one spring.
This article was adapted from German.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
By Kenny Stancil
A new report released Monday by a federal oversight agency revealed that before former President Donald Trump's Environmental Protection Agency reapproved use of dicamba in 2018, high-ranking officials in the administration intentionally excluded scientific evidence of certain hazards related to the herbicide, including the risk of widespread drift damage.
The Office of the Inspector General found that the 2018 decision by the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs to extend registrations for three dicamba products "varied from typical operating procedures."
Specifically, according to the IG report, "the EPA did not conduct the required internal peer reviews of scientific documents," which paved the way for "senior-level changes to or omissions" of research detailing the drift risks of the weed-killer.
While "division-level management review" of pesticide safety documents is typical, staff scientists at the EPA told the IG that senior leaders were "more involved in the 2018 dicamba decision than in other pesticide registration decisions." In addition, "staff felt constrained or muted in sharing their concerns," the government watchdog's report noted.
"Now that the EPA's highly politicized, anti-science approach to fast-tracking use of this harmful pesticide has been fully exposed, the agency should cancel dicamba's recent approval, not try to defend it in court," Stephanie Parent, a senior environmental health attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in response to the new report.
"The EPA knows that anything less is likely to result in yet another summer of damaged fields and lost profits for farmers choosing not to use dicamba," Parent added.
Breaking: A new report, released today, reveals that high ranking officials in Trump's EPA purposefully excluded da… https://t.co/AkPhVwQ0BI— Center 4 Food Safety (@Center 4 Food Safety)1621900096.0
Over the past four years, dicamba products sprayed "over the top" of soybean and cotton crops genetically engineered to resist the herbicide have "caused drift damage to five million acres of soybeans as well as orchards, gardens, trees, and other plants on a scale unprecedented in the history of U.S. agriculture," according to the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Biological Diversity.
Recent research also indicates that dicamba endangers human health. Last year, a team of epidemiologists found that use of the weed-killer can increase the risk of developing numerous cancers.
The Center for Food Safety and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit challenging the 2018 approval of three dicamba products sold by agrochemical giants BASF, Corteva, and Monsanto, which was acquired three years ago by the German pharmaceutical and biotech company Bayer.
In response to the lawsuit, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit overturned the Trump EPA's approval of those three products in June 2020 and ruled that the agency had violated the law when it "substantially understated" the "enormous and unprecedented" amount of damage caused by dicamba herbicides in 2017 and 2018 and "entirely failed to recognize the enormous social cost to farming communities."
And yet, just days before the November presidential election, the Trump EPA rushed to approve new five-year registrations for dicamba products created by Bayer and BASF and extend until 2025 the registration of another dicamba product developed by Syngenta.
As a result, farmers and advocacy groups were once again forced to sue to challenge the approval of the destructive weed-killer. According to the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Biological Diversity, that was the third time the EPA had registered dicamba herbicides, each time with additional restrictions that have failed to curb drift damage.
Referring to the IG evaluation released Monday, George Kimbrell, legal director of the Center for Food Safety, said that "this report admits what we knew already: dicamba's approval was politically tainted. EPA unlawfully promoted the profits of pesticide companies instead of following the law and sound science, putting chemical companies over protecting farmers and the environment."
"The disappointing part," Kimbrell added, "is that EPA nonsensically continues to stand by the plainly political dicamba decision rushed through just days before the 2020 election, just five months after the court's striking down of the 2018 approval."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By Daniel Raichel
Industry would have us believe that pesticides help sustain food production — a necessary chemical trade-off for keeping harmful bugs at bay and ensuring we have enough to eat. But the data often tell a different story—particularly in the case of neonicotinoid pesticides, also known as neonics.
Despite being the most widely used family of pesticides in the United States, research has shown that the largest uses of these neurotoxic chemicals do little to nothing to help crop yields or farmers' bottom lines.
If we look closer, it's easy to see why: The vast majority of neonics are applied as coatings on seeds for crops like corn, soybean, and wheat — where they are most often used indiscriminately, rather than in response to specific pest problems. For many conventional seed varieties, farmers have no choice but to buy neonics-treated seeds, thanks to the near monopolies enjoyed by agrochemical giants, which manufacture both the seeds and the pesticides.
The result? Tens to hundreds of millions of acres are needlessly sown with bee-toxic seeds. And while these wasteful practices may spell good news for the profit margins of chemical manufacturers — to the tune of more than $3 billion per year — they are catastrophic news for the surrounding ecosystems.
That's because neonics are pervasive ecosystem contaminants. When coated on seeds, they're absorbed "systemically" as plants grow — up through the roots and into the nectar, pollen, and fruit itself — which then get eaten by other wildlife. What doesn't make it into the plant (usually more than 95 percent of the toxic seed coating) leaches out into the soil, where it can travel long distances, carried by rain and agricultural runoff into new soil, plants, and water supplies. Once in the ground, neonics are long-lived — building up in the soil over time and continuing to harm or kill bugs and other wildlife for years after application.
Unsurprisingly, our agricultural system is now 48 times more harmful to insect life than it was just two decades ago, with neonics accounting for more than 90 percent of that increase. That's why it's also no surprise that neonics have been recognized as a primary cause of the massive losses of U.S. honey bee colonies every year — the unfortunate new normal. Neonics are also linked to mass die-offs of native bees, birds, fish, and harm to other important insects and earthworms, which keep our soil healthy and nutrient-dense.
This contamination poses a clear ecological crisis but it's also a crisis for how we eat.
In a recent study out of Rutgers University, researchers looked at seven different crops in 131 commercially managed fields across North America to see how many crops were "pollinator-limited" — i.e., crops whose yields would be higher were there more pollinators.
Distressingly, five out of every seven crops they analyzed were pollinator-limited — including favorites like apples, cherries, and blueberries. "Honeybee colonies are weaker than they used to be and wild bees are declining, probably by a lot," said the paper's senior author, Rachael Winfree. "Fewer bees, in turn, mean less food, and more pressure on struggling honeybee populations to replace pollination from native bees."
As Winfree notes, this reliance on a single species is risky, "setting us up for food security problems." Worse yet, the study shows the likely impact of neonics on our food supply isn't decades away; it's already happening right now.
For the present, industries can use stopgap solutions—like breeding and shipping out more honeybees to make up for lost colonies — but these strategies may ultimately fail if we don't address the source of the vast and wasteful neonic contamination.
Looking into the future, low yields may mean that some of our favorite foods become far pricier or unavailable entirely — an outcome with high human and economic costs.
In the United States, the production of crops that rely on pollination is valued at more than $50 billion annually. Indeed, one in every three bites of food is reliant on pollinators. Food workers — an umbrella term for a behemoth industry that includes everyone from farm workers to restaurant cooks and servers to grocery store clerks — could experience increased job disruptions, too, should the markets for these foods become upended.
Recently, a group of local New York chefs — recognizing their reliance on bees and an abundant and diverse food supply to keep restaurants open, workers employed, and their food healthy and delicious—asked state legislators to rein in wasteful neonic use statewide.
Faced with rising food costs, more families may also struggle to put food on the table. Already, more than 10.5 percent of all U.S. families — or more than 35 million Americans — experienced food insecurity at some point in 2019. During the COVID-19 crisis, that number has ballooned. For those unsure where their next meal may come from, even moderate increases in food costs are felt acutely. Potentially significant changes to food costs or availability — particularly for our most nutrient-dense produce — would likely hit low-income families hardest.
The stakes are high, but the solution is simple: We must rein in needless neonic use that threatens our food supply and contaminates our land and water on a vast scale.
In the same turn, we must also support regenerative agriculture practices, which eliminate the need for synthetic pesticides like neonics. A more just and sustainable food system that protects workers, consumers, and the wild world also protects our food security — it's what we need and it's within reach.
Daniel Raichel is a staff attorney and a member of the Lands & Wildlife program, focusing on protecting our nation's bee populations from the ever-growing threats to their health and existence—in particular, the use of bee-toxic pesticides. Before joining the Wildlife team, Raichel was codirector of NRDC's Community Fracking Defense Project and an advocate for the cleanup of industrial pollution in the New York region. Prior to that, he was a member of the Columbia Environmental Law Clinic. Raichel holds a bachelor's degree in English from Cornell University and a J.D. from Columbia Law School. He works out of the Chicago office.
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In 2018, the EU widened a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides because of their impact on bees and other pollinators. At the time, the UK government pledged to keep the ban in place after leaving the EU, The Guardian pointed out. But on Friday, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) approved the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam for emergency use on sugar beets in 2021.
The decision was made in response to requests from the National Farmers' Union (NFU) and British Sugar to give sugar beets extra protection from a virus causing an ailment called virus yellows disease, The Guardian explained.
"Virus yellows disease is having an unprecedented impact on Britain's sugar beet crop, with some growers experiencing yield losses of up to 80%, and this authorisation is desperately needed to fight this disease. It will be crucial in ensuring that Britain's sugar beet growers continue to have viable farm businesses," NFU chairman Michael Sly told The Guardian.
Other countries still currently in the EU have also allowed emergency use of the product, including Belgium, Denmark and Spain.
But environmental advocates argue that any use of the pesticide is too risky at a time when insect populations are in peril. A 2020 study found that land-based insects had declined 50 percent in the last 75 years. The UK alone lost a third of its bees in the last decade, according to The Independent. The decline of UK bees since 2007 coincided with the introduction of thiamethoxam, according to The Guardian. Studies have shown that the pesticide can weaken bees' immune systems and harm the brains of young bees, making it harder for them to fly.
"Insects perform vital roles such as pollination of crops and wildflowers, and nutrient recycling, but so many have suffered drastic declines. Evidence suggests we've lost at least 50% of insects since 1970, and 41% of all insect species are now 'threatened with extinction'", the Wildlife Trust said in a Twitter thread responding to the news.
Bad news for bees: The Government has bowed to pressure from the National Farmers Union to agree the use of a highl… https://t.co/W8k7Tl9p4J— The Wildlife Trusts (@The Wildlife Trusts)1610127990.0
Other outraged citizens launched a petition calling on the government to reverse its decision.
"This pesticide is lethal to bees and other pollinators which our environment desperately needs to pollinate flora and fauna. Bees pollinate up to 3/4 of crops which makes the use of this pesticide incredibly counter-intuitive," the petition stated.
The petition earned signatures from celebrities including comedienne Sue Perkins, The London Economic noted.
2017: ‘The principal public good we will invest in is environmental enhancement.” Gove 2020: Introducing banned pe… https://t.co/uUS9Cz3feo— Sue Perkins 💙 (@Sue Perkins 💙)1610275182.0
In its statement, Buglife said it was especially concerned about a provision allowing farmers to destroy wildflowers around the beets and a lack of information about plans to keep the pesticide from polluting rivers. It noted that a similar application for emergency use was denied in 2018 due to its potential impacts on bees.
"Nothing has changed scientifically since the decision to ban neonics from use on sugar beet in 2018, they are still going to harm the environment," Shardlow said.
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During 18 months, Mongabay investigated allegations challenging the "sustainable" status of the Brazilian palm oil supply chain, revealing impacts including deforestation and water contamination, and what appears to be an industry-wide pattern of brazen disregard for Amazon conservation and for the rights of Indigenous people and traditional communities in northern Pará state.
In this behind-the-scenes video, Mongabay's contributing editor in Brazil, Karla Mendes, takes us on her reporting journey as she and the team track how the palm oil industry is changing this Amazonian landscape.
Karla herself experienced a rapid onset of coughing, shortness of breath, nausea and headaches when she inhaled fumes from these oil palm trees doused with pesticides. "I came back to the car because the smell is very strong. I started coughing, it's horrible," she says.
The Mongabay team also witnessed a wide range of wrongdoing, including the dumping of alleged palm oil residue in the Acará River and the lack of a buffer zone around Indigenous reserves, which are all surrounded by oil palm plantations.
The Mongabay investigation will be used by federal prosecutors as evidence to hold a palm oil company accountable for water contamination in the Turé-Mariquita Indigenous Reserve.
Read the full investigative report here:
Related listening: hear Mongabay's reporter Karla Mendes discuss these issues along with researcher Sandra Damiani and federal prosecutor Felício Pontes Júnior on Mongabay's podcast:
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
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