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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Americans take great pride in their lawns. A centuries-old practice adopted from Great Britain and Northern France, lawns have become a status symbol; a standard fixture of American communities.
In the United States, more than 40 million acres of land are covered in grass, making it the single largest irrigated crop in the country, requiring more labor, fuel, toxins, and equipment than industrial farming. These vast areas of monoculture (the practice of planting only a single crop) do ultimately have devastating consequences for ecosystem health.
Constituting 2% of the continental US, turf grass has a substantial environmental impact, especially in regards to lawn care: 3 trillion gallons of water, 200 million gallons of gas (for mowing), and 70 million pounds of pesticides are used for lawn maintenance every year; fertilizer – containing large concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorous – runs off of lawns, into storm drains, and eventually flows to waterways, causing algal blooms and contaminating drinking water; herbicides and pesticides kill unwanted – yet necessary – plants and insects, causing harm to humans and wildlife alike.
Moreover, the turf grass used for most lawns in the United States isn't native to North America and doesn't support the rich, diverse life needed for a healthy ecosystem. Blanketing an area with exclusively non-native grass eliminates the habitats of native plants and insects, decimating the biodiversity of the area and creating far-reaching consequences for food chains.
While boasting a bright green, perfectly mowed, immaculate lawn has become the norm, turning your yard into a native ecological refuge – sometimes called "naturescaping" – with these eco-friendly alternatives can do wonders for the biodiversity and overall health of your backyard ecosystem.
1. Native Plants and Flowers
Lake Lou / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
The ryegrass and Kentucky Bluegrass that make up most American lawns aren't native to the US; between 5,000 and 385,000 acres of native ecosystems are displaced by lawns every day, crowding out regional flowers, plants, and grasses across the country. Without these native plants, monoculture lawns are essentially wastelands for birds and pollinators – like bees, whose populations have been declining rapidly around the world – eliminating the flowers they feed on and locations for nesting.
Choosing to instead foster a yard of native flowers and plants creates a ripple affect in regional food chains: plants provide food for the bugs and bees that depend on it, which in turn provide food for mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, restoring the biodiversity that has been lost. Creating a deliberate landscaping plan to replace grass with low-maintenance plants will attract wildlife and bring some beauty to your backyard.
In urban areas, clover, dandelion, and other lawn "weeds" have been identified as some of the most important food sources for bees, and flowers like columbine, monarda, asters, and holly provide a friendly habitat for birds. Of course, native plants vary by region, so be sure to check with your state's Native Plant Society to find the right species for your eco-haven.
2. Grass Alternatives
If you love to look out the window at your luscious patch of green, you don't have to give it up entirely.
Groundcover plants provide an alternative to turf, but eliminate the need for mowing and still deliver that traditional verdant green. Clover, creeping jenny, barberry cotoneaster, Corsican mint, and creeping herbs like thyme and oregano require very little maintenance; clover especially needs little attention once it's established, suppresses weeds, and has a deep root system that aerates the soil.
Flowering perennial groundcover species – like sweet woodruff, liriope, and horned violets – bring a dash of color to your yard and often do well in shaded areas, as do many kinds of moss. Species of native ornamental grass thrive in different ranges of light, moisture, and soil, giving you plenty of options for your space.
Growing a natural lawn also eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers, improves soil quality, and prevents erosion – all while creating a native habitat for the birds and the bees.
3. Befriend the Bugs
The prevailing rhetoric of traditional yard maintenance is to eliminate as many humming, buzzing, and crawling things as possible, which drives away the beneficial bugs that foster healthy, thriving ecosystems such as ladybugs, spiders, and ground beetles. While caterpillars and Japanese beetles might not be a welcome sight, not all bugs are a bad sign!
During their lifetime, ladybugs may eat as many as 5,000 aphids – a common backyard enemy. Ground beetles too feed on less-desirable bugs like caterpillars, slugs, weevils, and nematodes. To encourage such insects to make a home in your yard, you can purchase many of them online or at garden stores to jumpstart the process. But, once you begin to populate your yard with native plants and bid the turf adieu, the insects should start crawling, flying, and buzzing back.
Learn what beneficial bugs live in your area so you can identify the signs of a healthy, bio-diverse lawn.
4. Ditch the Fertilizer …
While typical fertilizers ramp up the productivity of farms and might keep our backyards emerald green, they also emit harmful greenhouse gases – accounting for 1.5% of global emissions – and fertilized lawns are no exception.
According to Dr. Chuanhui Gu of Appalachian State University, a standard lawn emits up to 6 times more CO2 than what can be absorbed during photosynthesis through mowing, irrigating, and fertilizing, including the production and transportation of the fertilizer.
Instead of synthetic fertilizers, try adding organic nutrients to your eco-friendly lawn by spreading compost. "Topdressing" your yard with compost supplies nutrients and keeps the soil healthy without depleting it, allowing you to maintain a healthy ecosystem for the diverse plant and animal life thriving in your eco-oasis.
5. … and the Pesticides
Henner Zeller / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Scientists have directly linked pesticides to the demise of frog, bat, and bee populations, throwing delicately balanced ecosystems and food chains into disorder. Ninety percent of flowering plants depend on bees and other pollinators to survive – species that have seen alarming decreases in population across the globe (also referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder).
Luckily, saving the bees can start in your own backyard: lawn-owners can make a tangible difference by cutting pesticides from their lawn-care regimen. Allowing native plants and weeds to grow freely and bugs to crawl amongst them will save the lives of your local bees, providing them a sanctuary to live, eat, and thrive in.
6. No-Mow Zones
Mile-for-mile, gas-powered lawn mowers produce about 11 times more pollution than a new car, estimates the EPA – so, running a single gas-powered mower for an hour is nearly equivalent in emissions to a 100-mile car trip.
Mowing lawns is also extremely time-consuming, accounting for more than three million collective hours each year for Americans, who, on average, mow their lawns 22 times per year. Think of the time saved by going no-mow!
The No-Mow Movement encourages lawn-owners to leave native grasses to their own devices, growing tall and wild to eliminate the environmental cost of watering and mowing, and allowing a more natural landscape to take over unimpeded. If you've decided on an alternative to grass that requires no mowing – like clover or moss – you're already there.
Do keep an eye out for invasive weeds in your no-mow lawn that might crowd out native plants and grasses.
Before embarking on your eco-oasis adventure, you'll need to set about "killing" your lawn – that is, doing away with existing turf grass to make way for your native plants and no-mow zones.
Covering the lawn with a sheet of black plastic will trap heat and kill the turf underneath; or, adopt the no-till method of layering newspaper over a section of grass and covering it with a few inches of soil. The newspaper will decay over time and provide a fresh start for your new lawn.
While recovering global biodiversity may seem like a daunting goal, cutting down your environmental impact and saving native ecosystems can all begin in your own yard!
Linnea graduated from Skidmore College in 2019 with a Bachelor's degree in English and Environmental Studies, and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. Along with her most recent position at Hunger Free America, she has interned with the Sierra Club in Washington, DC., Saratoga Living Magazine, and Philadelphia's NPR Member Station, WHYY.
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CBD, or cannabidiol, now comes in a variety of different forms, including CBD oils, CBD gummies, CBD capsules, and even water soluble CBD powders. You can also use CBD vape oil like you would any other vape juice. Our guide to the best CBD vape oils will help you identify the top brands to consider and will provide important information about CBD, vaping, and wellness.
What is CBD Vape Oil?
CBD can be vaporized and inhaled. To that end, many companies offer CBD vaping products, sometimes referred to as CBD vape juice, CBD vape pens, or CBD vape cartridges. These products normally come as disposable or refillable cartridges for vape pens . The vape pen vaporizes the specially made CBD contained in the cartridge, which is then inhaled. It is the same principle behind e-cigarettes and THC vape products.
Vaporization is normally considered a potent way to ingest CBD and so it is not for everyone. Because the vapor is inhaled, the molecule enters the bloodstream much quicker, so vaping produces a fast and relatively intense feeling.
While CBD vape oil may be used as an aid to help you quit smoking, we do not recommend smoking or vaping CBD as your primary method of ingesting CBD because of the health concerns associated with smoking. For alternative methods of taking CBD, check out our oil tincture and CBD gummy reviews.
Note that new federal laws went into in effect starting April 2021 as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, that place new regulations and restrictions around the online sale and delivery of all vaping products. In order to purchase any vape product online, you will need to verify your age and use a shipping service that requires an adult signature upon delivery. As a result, several brands have discontinued their CBD vape pens or no longer sell them online.
Top CBD Vape Oil Products for 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.
How We Chose the Best CBD Vape Oils
Here is a list of factors we consider when choosing and ranking our brand selection.
Hemp source - Hemp source is one of the most important parts of the CBD manufacturing process. We make sure to only pick companies that grow hemp according to the most up-to-date botanical and cultivation methods. We also make sure to choose companies that use organically grown, locally-sourced hemp.
Extraction process - There are three primary types of extraction for CBD products. The first involves crushing the leaves and stems and removing the residual mixture. Solvent extraction involves running the hemp plant through a solvent mixture (most of the time ethanol) then boiling away the solvent to leave the oil residue. The last common method is called supercritical CO2 extraction. Supercritical CO2 extraction is considered the gold standard when it comes to CBD production. As such, we try to find companies that use supercritical methods for their products.
Manufacturing standards - There are several third-party organizations that vet companies based on manufacturing standards and the quality/accuracy of their products. These agencies test company products to make sure that they are made properly and actually contain what they are advertised to contain. As such, we only choose products and companies that have readily accessible third-party lab reports ascertaining the quality of ingredients and production. Any company that does not provide this information for consumers is automatically excluded from consideration.
Extra ingredients - CBD products rarely contain just CBD and nothing else. Many contain a full spectrum of cannabinoids and other molecules such as terpenes. Some may contain delta-8 THC. We make sure that any companies we choose use all-natural ingredients and do not rely on any synthetic or artificial chemicals. We also look at the type and quality of alternative ingredients
Potency - Potency, or concentration, refers to the overall strength of the mixture. Potency is normally measured in milligrams per milliliter (mg/ml). Most of the time a product will list the potency on the label along with the quantity and volume of the product. Potency is very important because it determines the recommended dose that you should take.
Brand transparency - It is important when dealing with CBD companies that the brand is transparent about their products, methods, and supply chains. So, when looking for companies, we make sure only to pick those that have reliable and transparent business practices, product labelings, and company information/policies.
Customer reviews and testimonials - The last major factor we consider is customer reviews and testimonials. Customer reviews encompass more than just the quality of products. They also talk about how it is to interact with the company and the overall company experience. Customer reviews can also give insights in specific matters that general product descriptions cannot give. They also give a good indication of the public reputation of a company.
The Best CBD Vape Oils of 2021
Best Overall: CBDistillery CBD E-Liquid
- CBD - Broad Spectrum
- Strength - 1000 mg CBD per bottle
- Flavor - Mango
Best for Relaxation: Botany Farms CBG Vape Cartridge
- CBD - Full Spectrum (includes Delta-8 THC)
- Strength - 35% CBD, 25% CBG, 9% Delta-8 THC, 7% CBN, 7% CBC per 1 gram
- Flavor - Lemon Diesel
Why buy: This Botany Farms CBG vape cartridge offers a full spectrum blend of CBD and other cannabinoids, including delta-8 THC, for a calming and relaxing experience with a bright, citrusy flavor. Because it does contain full spectrum hemp extract and delta-8, we strongly recommend only using this product to relax in the evenings and that you do not drive after use.
The Research on CBD Vape Oils
CBD has become an interesting object of study by scientists because of its potential therapeutic and medicinal properties. CBD may help support relief from certain health conditions, including:
- Chronic pain
- Joint pain
Out of all these effects, the potential pain reducing and anti-inflammatory properties of CBD are the most well-established. CBD has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and has also been shown to be to help with pain management in certain cases.
The exact mechanism of action of CBD is through the body's endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a large network of cannabinoid receptors throughout the body's brain and nervous tissue. Research has shown that the endocannabinoid system is involved in mediating several homeostatic processes in the body.
To be clear, CBD is not medicine and is not generally approved by the FDA for medical use. CBD is not intended to serve as a substitute or replacement for any approved medical treatment and CBD is not known to cure any diseases.
In fact, there are only 2 FDA-approved medicines that contain CBD as their active ingredient, both of which are meant to treat certain forms of epilepsy. Since CBD is not approved for medical use, you should always talk to your doctor first before using a CBD product.
How to Choose the Right CBD Vape Oil
With any CBD vape juice or oil, it's important to make sure that you choose a product that is safe and made using quality, natural ingredients. Make sure you consider these factors when shopping.
What to Look For
Here are the key things to look for when comparing CBD vape oil products:
Type of CBD: Always known the type of CBD contained in any CBD vape oil product, whether that's full spectrum, broad spectrum, or CBD isolate.
Hemp Source: Look for brands that source their hemp from organic farms in the United States.
Lab Testing: The most important factor to consider is independent third-party lab testing. You should never purchase a CBD product that does not offer proof of independent testing.
Instructions: Some CBD vape cartridges will include specific instructions on how to to use them with your existing vape pen or device, as well as if they can be mixed with other e-liquids.
How to Read Labels
Take the time to read the label of any CBD vape juice product before you buy. Always look for the following information.
- Strength - Check to see how much CBD is contained in the product so you know how much will be in each serving.
- Other Ingredients - Make sure you know what other cannabinoids or ingredients are included in the vape, especially if you are concerned about THC.
- Test Results - The best brands include links or QR codes to the certificates of analysis from the lab tests of their CBD. Use these to check the results for yourself.
Safety & Side Effects
CBD can cause a certain number of side effects, though most of them are mild.. The most common reported side effects of CBD are:
- Dry mouth
- Changes in appetite
- Upset stomach
The most commonly reported side effect is fatigue and tiredness. CBD can also interact with certain prescription medications, so be sure to consult with your doctor before using CBD if you take any prescription medicines.
It's also important to note that vaping or smoking of any kind carries serious health risks. While vape oils may be used to aid in the cessation of smoking, it is not advised as the primary method of taking CBD.
You should always take the time to research any CBD product that you purchase, but this is especially important when it comes to CBD vape oils and CBD vape pens. You can also explore other CBD options including oil tinctures, gummies, capsules, and water soluble mixes in order to enjoy the potential benefits of CBD.
By Jessica Corbett
A coalition of 80 U.S. agricultural, consumer, environmental, public health, and worker groups sent a letter Thursday to key figures in the Biden administration calling for them to "respect Mexico's sovereignty and refrain from interfering with its right to enact health-protective policies" — specifically, the phaseout of the herbicide glyphosate and the cultivation of genetically modified corn.
"Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador quietly rocked the agribusiness world with his New Year's Eve decree," Timothy A. Wise of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (ITAP) noted earlier this year. "His administration sent an even stronger aftershock two weeks later, clarifying that the government would also phase out GM corn imports in three years and the ban would include not just corn for human consumption but yellow corn destined primarily for livestock."
"Mexico imports about 30% of its corn each year, overwhelmingly from the United States," Wise added. "Almost all of that is yellow corn for animal feed and industrial uses. López Obrador's commitment to reducing and, by 2024, eliminating such imports reflects his administration's plan to ramp up Mexican production as part of the campaign to increase self-sufficiency in corn and other key food crops."
The groups' letter on the Mexican policies and U.S. interference — published in English and Spanish — is addressed to recently confirmed U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai. Its lead author is Kristin Schafer, executive director of Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA).
"We call on Secretary Vilsack and Trade Representative Tai, as key leaders in the new administration, to respect Mexico's decision to protect both public health and the integrity of Mexican farming," Schafer said in a statement. "It is completely unacceptable for U.S. public agencies to be doing the bidding of pesticide corporations like Bayer, who are solely concerned with maintaining their bottom-line profits."
BREAKING: 80 orgs deliver letter to @USDA, @USTradeRep opposing U.S. interference in Mexico's glyphosate phaseout https://t.co/m7M2o4sFmB— PAN North America (@PAN North America)1619722728.0
Fernando Bejarano, director of Pesticide Action Network in Mexico, explained that "we are part of the No Maize No Country Campaign, a broad coalition of peasant organizations, nonprofit NGOs, academics, and consumers which support the presidential decree and fight for food sovereignty with the agroecological transformation of agricultural systems that guarantee the right to produce and consume healthy, nutritious food, free of pesticides and transgenics."
"We reject the pressure from corporations such as Bayer-Monsanto—and their CropLife trade association—which are working in both the United States and Mexico to undermine the presidential decree that phases out the use of glyphosate and transgenic corn," Bejarano said.
The letter highlights Guardian reporting on U.S. government documents obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity through a Freedom of Information Act request. The documents revealed that CropLife America and Bayer AG—which acquired glyphosate-based herbicide developer Monsanto in 2018—worked with U.S. officials to lobby against Mexico's plans.
According to journalist Carey Gillam's mid-February report:
The emails reviewed by the Guardian come from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and other U.S. agencies. They detail worry and frustration with Mexico's position. One email makes a reference to staff within López Obrador's administration as "vocal anti-biotechnology activists," and another email states that Mexico's health agency (Cofepris) is "becoming a big time problem."
Internal USTR communications lay out how the agrochemical industry is "pushing" for the U.S. to "fold this issue" into the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade deal that went into effect July 1. The records then show the USTR does exactly that, telling Mexico its actions on glyphosate and genetically engineered crops raise concerns "regarding compliance" with USMCA.
Citing discussions with CropLife, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) joined in the effort, discussing in an inter-agency email "how we could use USMCA to work through these issues."
The Guardian also noted correspondence involving the Foreign Agricultural Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
As the letter to Vilsack and Tai points out: "This interference and pressure from the agrochemical industry is continuing. On March 22nd, industry representatives sent a letter directed to your attention as leaders of USTR and USDA, identifying Mexico's planned phaseout of glyphosate and genetically modified corn as a 'leading concern' for agribusiness interests and the pesticide industry (represented by the pesticide industry's trade group, CropLife America)."
"We strongly object to any interference by U.S. government officials or agribusiness interests in a sovereign state's right to enact policy measures to protect the health and well-being of its people," the letter states. "We urge your agencies to resist and reject these ongoing efforts."
"We welcome the administration's stated commitment to listening to the science, improving public health, protecting the environment, and limiting exposure to dangerous chemicals and pesticides, while holding polluters accountable and prioritizing environmental justice, particularly for communities of color and low-income communities," it adds. "We trust that these stated commitments, as well as your dedication to 'fairness for farmers,' extend equally to other countries and include respect for other nations' and peoples' rights to self-determination."
Other signatories to the letter include the American Sustainable Business Council, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace USA, Indigenous Environmental Network, ITAP, and Organic Consumers Association.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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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By Jenna McGuire
Commonly used herbicides across the U.S. contain highly toxic undisclosed "inert" ingredients that are lethal to bumblebees, according to a new study published Friday in the Journal of Applied Ecology.
The study reviewed several herbicide products and found that most contained glyphosate, an ingredient best recognized from Roundup products and the most widely used herbicide in the U.S. and worldwide.
While the devastating impacts of glyphosate on bee populations are more broadly recognized, the toxicity levels of inert ingredients are less understood because they are not subjected to the same mandatory testing by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
"Pesticides are manufactured and sold as formulations that contain a mixture of compounds, including one or more active ingredients and, potentially, many inert ingredients," explained the Center for Food Safety in a statement. "The inert ingredients are added to pesticides to aid in mixing and to enhance the products' ability to stick to plant leaves, among other purposes."
The study found that these inert substances can be highly toxic and even block bees' breathing capacity, essentially causing them to drown. While researchers found that some of the combinations of inert ingredients had no negative impacts on the bees, one of the herbicide formulations killed 96% of the bees within 24 hours.
According to the abstract of the study:
Bees exhibited 94% mortality with Roundup® Ready‐To‐Use® and 30% mortality with Roundup® ProActive®, over 24 hr. Weedol® did not cause significant mortality, demonstrating that the active ingredient, glyphosate, is not the cause of the mortality. The 96% mortality caused by Roundup® No Glyphosate supports this conclusion.
"This important new study exposes a fatal flaw in how pesticide products are regulated here in the U.S.," said Jess Tyler, a staff scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Now the question is, will the Biden administration fix this problem, or will it allow the EPA to continue its past practice of ignoring the real-world harms of pesticides?"
According to the Center for Food Safety, there are currently 1,102 registered formulations that contain the active ingredient glyphosate, each with a proprietary mixture of inert ingredients. In 2017, the group filed a legal petition calling for the EPA to force companies to provide safety data on pesticide formulations that include inert ingredients.
"The EPA must begin requiring tests of every pesticide formulation for bee toxicity, divulge the identity of 'secret' formulation additives so scientists can study them, and prohibit application of Roundup herbicides to flowering plants when bees might be present and killed," said Bill Freese, science director at the Center for Food Safety. "Our legal petition gave the EPA a blueprint for acting on this issue of whole formulations. Now they need to take that blueprint and turn it into action, before it's too late for pollinators."
ATTN @EPA: Undisclosed "inert" ingredients in #pesticide products warrant further scrutiny! ➡️ A new study compared… https://t.co/bdFwXCVHsD— Center 4 Food Safety (@Center 4 Food Safety)1618592343.0
Roundup — also linked to cancer in humans — was originally produced by agrochemical giant Monsanto, which was acquired by the German pharmaceutical and biotech company Bayer in 2018.
The merger of the two companies was condemned by environmentalists and food safety groups who warned it would cultivate the greatest purveyor of genetically modified seeds and toxic pesticides in the world.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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Coffee has enormous cultural significance. It's a staple of culture, cuisine, and everyday life for people all over the planet. Americans alone consume 400 million cups of coffee per day, and the crop is a highly traded commodity of huge importance to global economies.
These millions of cups aren't without consequence, however. The growing, processing, and transportation of coffee – everything that happens before it's poured into our mugs – have large-scale environmental and social repercussions.
Grown in tropical regions around the equator – called the "Bean Belt" – coffee beans travel far before ending up in our cabinets. Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, and Ethiopia are the top producers of coffee – so, for those living in the continental United States, "local" coffee isn't an option, and its impact will always be substantial.
Increased demand and the undercutting of smallholders in coffee production have led to more destructive growing practices, including monocropping and replacing shade-grown coffee with sun-grown. Extreme exploitation of labor is also tied to coffee production, and farmers typically earn only between 7-10% of the retail price of their product – and less than 2% in Brazil – according to the Food Empowerment Project.
Beyond its production, the way we choose to prepare and consume coffee can also create avoidable waste: from filters to mugs, to spent coffee grounds. Luckily, there are ways to choose and consume your coffee more consciously, from choosing the product to how it's prepared.
Here are a few tips for a more sustainable and responsible coffee routine if you can't kick the habit.
1. Choose Consciously
Doi Chaang coffee on display for sale inside a coffee shop in Chiang Rai. Artur Widak / NurPhoto / Getty Images
When perusing the coffee aisle, look at the packaging for legitimate labels and third-party certifications. Real certifications will let you know that the coffee's production processes followed specific environmental and/or humanitarian regulations.
Be very wary of greenwashing as well: many companies will stamp illegitimate certifications on their packaging – like "100% All Natural," or "Certified Sustainable" – which don't represent any real standards and mislead consumers, giving the appearance of sustainability and responsibility without any basis.
The "local" label is another one to avoid; no coffee is "local" if you live in the continental U.S., regardless of what the packaging might tell you (locally roasted, maybe, but not grown).
There are a few legitimate certifications that consumers can look for when purchasing coffee:
Shade-grown coffee employs natural processes in coffee-growing, as overhead trees drop leaves and bark that suppress weeds and deliver nutrients to the soil, while also providing a habitat for wildlife and preventing soil erosion. Because of its higher yield, sun-grown coffee – that is, coffee grown in wide-open spaces – became popularized in the 1970s, but has reduced biodiversity and necessitated greater use of pesticides and fertilizers by farmers. Deforestation is already linked to coffee production and has only accelerated with the rise of sun-grown coffee and increasing global demand.
Many of the following certifications mandate that a certain percentage of coffee produced by a farm is shade-grown.
Rainforest Alliance Certified
Rainforest Alliance Certified Coffee includes environmental, social, and economic criteria. Growers certified under this label must follow a list of standards set by the Sustainable Agricultural Network, which addresses deforestation, bans the alteration of waterways and dumping of wastewater, restricts the use of pesticides, and requires farms to pay workers at least the federal minimum wage. The Rainforest Alliance certification is being upgraded this summer to address more issue areas and employ newer technologies to verify compliance on farms.
The seal has faced criticism, however, for requiring only 30% of the coffee in a package to have followed these standards, and for not including a fixed price for growers or a provision for organic cultivation.
Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center Bird Friendly Coffee
The requirements for Bird Friendly Coffee are often considered more stringent than those of the Rainforest Alliance, mandating coffee be 100% organic and 100% shade-grown. The seal aims to protect the habitats of migratory birds and requires that a farm be certified organic, maintain a healthy soil base, and employ zero use of pesticides.
The checklist requires, among other qualifications, at least 40% of a coffee farm to be covered in shade and grow 10 different tree species at a minimum to discourage monocropping.
Fair Trade Certified
Fair trade standards primarily focus on supporting farmers and workers. The major labels indicating that a product is fair trade certified are Fair Trade USA and Fairtrade America – the U.S. member of Fairtrade International. Both protect farmers against price fluctuations by setting a price floor that requires a minimum price per pound of coffee, plus additional funds for community development.
These labels have their own complications, as there are many other political and economic complications for farmers, including debts from previous price fluctuations; but, they are a step in the right direction.
The word "fair trade" is also ripe for greenwashing, stamped onto packages with no standards behind it. Be sure to verify whether a product is actually fair trade certified by one of these organizations when purchasing coffee.
USDA OrganicLike other certified-organic products, this label verifies that a farm has followed strict environmental standards, which prohibit synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Products labeled "100% organic" follow these guidelines completely, "organic" products must contain at least 95% organically-produced material, and anything indicating it was "made with organic ingredients" must contain at least 70%.
You can learn more about organic coffee subscriptions here.
2. Replace Disposable With Reusable
Hiraman / E+ / Getty Images
Given all of the complex, energy-intensive processes that go into producing coffee, the environmental footprint of your morning cup goes far beyond plastic waste – but, with 64% of Americans drinking at least one cup a day, that resulting waste is nothing to scoff at.
When brewing coffee at home or grabbing one on-the-go, consider replacing the following:
Coffee filters are like any disposable product: they require energy and resources to produce and then end up in landfills when disposed of. Many of these filters are also chemically bleached with oxygen or chlorine, which has further environmental consequences.
Compostable filters are a partial solution, as they do reduce the overall volume of waste, but still must be created and transported before ending up in your coffee machine.
Luckily, many reusable alternatives can easily replace a disposable filter in traditional coffee machines or pour-over appliances: often made of plastic, metal, or a washable fabric (usually linen or cotton), they should be emptied and rinsed between each use.
Twenty-five percent of Americans have reported using single-cup coffee brewers, although it's no secret that single-use coffee capsules are an incredible source of waste, given that many aren't designed to be recycled or composted. If every K-cup thrown into landfills were lined up, it would wrap around the globe more than ten times.
If you can't quit the coffee-capsule method, stainless steel capsules can be purchased for most single-serve coffee machines. Some compostable capsules have been developed, but, like coffee filters, these too had to be produced and transported, expanding their environmental impact far beyond that of a reusable alternative.
What about coffee on-the-go?
Fifty-eight billion paper cups are thrown away every year in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and their inner polyethylene coating is expensive to recycle, so most of those 58 billion are sent directly to landfills.
A durable, reusable mug for to-go coffee can cut out this waste – around 23 pounds of trash each year, for a daily coffee drinker – and last for years, or even decades. Collapsible coffee mugs can be easily stored in a bag for when you're in a pinch.
Buy in Bulk
Skip the single-use packaging if you can. Many grocery stores will sell coffee beans in bulk, poured into your own reusable bag, and paid for by weight.
3. Consider Your Vessel
Besides choosing reusable alternatives to single-use items, you can also brew your coffee by methods that inherently require less energy.
Think of the energy used by a typical drip-coffee machine: the hotplate left on for hours, the digital display, and the phantom energy sucked up whenever it's plugged in. Appliances like these are usually cheaply made, and planned obsolescence will guarantee the need to purchase a newer model within a few years. Large coffee pots also produce much more than a single cup, often leading to wasted coffee down the drain.
Manual brewing methods require far less energy, such as French presses and Moka pots, which skip the disposable filters and require only the energy needed to boil the water. Pour-over coffee carafes can produce enough for multiple people and are very compatible with a linen coffee filter.
For those with an affinity for iced coffee, cold brew is perhaps the least energy-intensive of all, with time being the main component.
4. Don't Waste It
Natalia Rüdisüli / EyeEm / Getty Images
The average mature coffee tree will produce only about two pounds of beans per year – so, given the environmental and social impacts of its production along with that low yield, it's important to make sure that no coffee is poured down the drain.
When you find yourself with leftover brew, save it in the fridge for tomorrow's iced coffee, or freeze it in an ice cube tray to add to cold brew or smoothies.
5. Compost the Grounds
MonthiraYodtiwong / iStock / Getty Images Plus
Coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen and can be given a second life through composting. Some gardeners even sprinkle spent coffee grounds around their plants to repel slugs and snails without the use of insecticides.
Explore options for composting at home or in your neighborhood, and keep those nutrient-rich grounds out of landfills.
While making our morning coffee might seem as simple as pulling the grounds out of the cabinet and boiling the water, we should be aware of the complex processes that brought these beans to our kitchens, especially as climate change begins to impact our coffee consumption.
Some argue that the only truly responsible action would be cutting coffee out of our lives altogether – but, incorporating more realistic methods by which to reduce the impact of our morning cup will help ensure that both the environment and workers are being protected.
Linnea graduated from Skidmore College in 2019 with a Bachelor's degree in English and Environmental Studies, and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. Most recently, Linnea worked at Hunger Free America, and has interned with WHYY in Philadelphia, Saratoga Living Magazine, and the Sierra Club in Washington, DC.
Linnea enjoys hiking and spending time outdoors, reading, practicing her German, and volunteering on farms and gardens and for environmental justice efforts in her community. Along with journalism, she is also an essayist and writer of creative nonfiction.
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An herbicide commonly used in corn and sorghum fields to kill grasses and weeds is being reviewed by the Environmental Protection Agency as being harmful to endangered species, according to a biological evaluation draft currently open for public comment.
The exact number of species the herbicide atrazine affects is unknown. However, many environmental groups, such as the Center for Biological Diversity, say more than 1,000 species could be at risk. For example, frog and fish species that are exposed to atrazine show damaged reproductive systems, even at very low concentrations.
"Finally the EPA has been forced to acknowledge atrazine's far-reaching harms," Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement. "This alarming assessment leaves no doubt that this hideously dangerous pesticide should be banned in the U.S., just as it is across much of the world."
The new report, released Nov. 5, details how the herbicide's reach is measured. The EPA "considers overlap of the species range (or critical habitat) with areas directly treated with atrazine and those receiving spray drift," the executive summary explained.
"To address uncertainties associated with how treated acres may be distributed within a state (relative to a species range or critical habitat), and the magnitude of usage on any given year, approaches are employed to represent a central estimate of overlap."
In addition to its use on crop fields, atrazine is also frequently used on household lawns. In September, the agency reapproved continued use of the weed killer for two years, with prohibitions in Hawaii, five U.S. territories and Christmas tree farms.
Atrazine is banned throughout the European Union. After glyphosate, an herbicide that has been used for more than 45 years, atrazine is the most common weed killer in the U.S. Swiss-based Syngenta is the largest worldwide manufacturer of atrazine.
It was noted earlier this year in Vermont that while overall herbicide use is decreasing, farmers increased using atrazine due to its lower price.
In 2018 the EPA concluded that atrazine and two other herbicides "share a common neuroendocrine mechanism of toxicity which results in both reproductive and developmental alterations," in humans. It is often designated a pollutant in ground and drinking water.
The Rural Coalition Pesticide Action Network North America, the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Biological Diversity's Beyond Pesticide action group recently filed a lawsuit to ban atrazine's use in the U.S.
The EPA is accepting public comments until Jan. 5. If the final evaluation proves harm through exposure, the agency, working with the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, will determine the endangered species most at-risk and propose ways to curtail exposure.
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"Industrial meat production is not only responsible for precarious working conditions, it also pushes people off their land, leads to deforestation, biodiversity loss and the use of pesticides — and is also one of the main drivers of the climate crisis."
Such were the words of Barbara Unmüssig of green think tank, the Heinrich Böll Foundation, at the Berlin presentation of the so-called "Meat Atlas 2021."
Across 50 pages, the atlas — which is collaboratively published by the foundation, Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) and the international monthly newspaper Le Monde diplomatique — outlines trends and the implications of global meat production on both human and planetary health.
It highlights, for example, how the over-use of antibiotics in intensive animal farming is leading to increasingly resistant germs, thereby threatening the effectiveness of drugs used for humans.
Similarly, the clearing of forests for animal feed is held up as a threat to human health. As habitat loss brings animals and humans into closer proximity with one another, viruses can be transmitted more easily. This, in turn, can lead to new pandemics.
In a survey for the report, young people between the ages of 15 and 29 were asked about their thoughts on meat. The majority said they rejected the meat industry in its current form.
Germany Plays Leading Role in the Meat Industry
Olaf Bandt, chairman of BUND, says policymakers must take account of society's desire to restructure the sector. "This requires far-reaching political realignment of agricultural policy," he said. "But there can be no agricultural transition without a food transition."
Bandt describes Germany as a key player in the production of pork and milk, with a 20% share of the EU market.
"Huge amounts of meat are exported," he said, adding that this reliance on international markets is having a detrimental effect on the environment, livestock and farms. "More and more animals live on ever fewer farms, further exacerbating the pollution of groundwater in those regions."
Meat Devours Rainforest
Global population and economic growth are the drivers behind increasing demand for meat. In 1960, the planet was home to just 3 billion people and, according to the report, meat consumption at that time was around 70 million metric tons. That equated to an annual per capita global average of 23 kilograms.
By 2018, however, when the population had grown to 7.6 billion people, meat consumption had risen seven-fold to around 350 million metric tons — or a global average of 46 kilograms per person annually.
A key problem with this trend is that meat production requires vast areas of land. According to the German Environment Agency (UBA), the country's central environment authority, 71% of global arable land is currently used for livestock feed. That is four times the amount required for direct food growth (18%) or other raw materials such as cotton (7%) and energy crops like corn for biogas (4%).
As global demand for meat continues to grow, so does the pressure on available arable land. As a result, huge areas of forest in countries such as Brazil are being lost to create land on which to grow animal fodder.
In order to feed the world's population and stop rainforests from being cleared, while simultaneously designating land for reforestation, experts are calling for a dietary rethink: less meat and more plant-based foods that require much smaller areas.
In a report on the health of the planet published last year, leading global scientists such as Johan Rockström, director at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) suggested dietary changes that would equate to an average of 16 kilograms of meat and 33 kilograms of dairy products per person per year. Current meat consumption in North and South America as well as in Europe can be as much as seven times that amount.
The Problem With Pesticides
Besides revealing the power and global impact of the international meat industry, authors of the "Meat Atlas" also illustrate links to the global chemical industry. They write that dangerous and sometimes banned pesticides are exported by large chemical companies. Among the producers and exporters of such chemicals are European players, Bayer Crop Science, BASF, and Syngenta, as well as U.S. companies Corteva and FMS.
According to Unmüssig, the use of such pesticides threatens thousands of lives, which is why, Bandt says the "German government must do everything it can to ensure that German companies no longer export toxins that have been banned in the EU."
Unmüssig warns that the planned EU-Mercosur agreement would exacerbate the use of dangerous substances. "Dismantling tariffs would lead to more pesticides being delivered to Latin America and more rainforest would be cleared for soy plantations and meat production."
The experts conclude that establishing a way to farm animals in a cruelty-free way that doesn't harm the climate or the environment, requires a far-reaching shift in agricultural policy as well a rethink in consumption and production.
"As yet, we have not seen the start of any real meat transition," Unmüssig said.
This article was adapted from German.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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By Jessica Corbett
A national nonprofit revealed Tuesday that testing commissioned by the group as well as separate analysis conducted by Massachusetts officials show samples of an aerially sprayed pesticide used by the commonwealth and at least 25 other states to control mosquito-borne illnesses contain toxic substances that critics call "forever chemicals."
Officially known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), this group of man-made chemicals — including PFOA, PFOS, and GenX — earned the nickname because they do not break down in the environment and build up in the body. PFAS has been linked to suppressed immune function, cancers, and other health issues.
Lawmakers and regulators at various levels of government have worked to clean up drinking water contaminated by PFAS. The newly released results of pesticide testing by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MADEP) generated alarm about the effectiveness of such efforts.
"In Massachusetts, communities are struggling to remove PFAS from their drinking water supplies, while at the same time, we may be showering them with PFAS from the skies and roads," PEER science policy director Kyla Bennett, a scientist and attorney formerly with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said in a statement Tuesday.
"The frightening thing is that we do not know how many insecticides, herbicides, or even disinfectants contain PFAS," added Bennett, who arranged for the testing. "PEER found patents showing chemical companies using PFAS in these products, and recent articles discuss the variety of pesticides that contain PFAS as either an active or an inert ingredient."
NEW: @PEERorg found that toxic PFAS “forever chemicals” were sprayed on millions of acres in MA & 25 other states.… https://t.co/TcR3vCuXna— Food & Water Watch (@Food & Water Watch)1606841584.0
The product tested initially by PEER and subsequently MADEP, once the nonprofit alerted the department of its findings, is Anvil 10+10, produced by the Illinois company Clarke.
Karen Larson, Clarke's vice president of government affairs, told the Boston Globe that "when this was first brought to our attention, we conducted an internal inquiry of our manufacturing and supply chain to ensure that PFAS was not an ingredient in the production, manufacturing, or distribution of either the active or inactive ingredients of Anvil."
"No PFAS ingredients are used in the formulation of Anvil, nor in the production of any source material in Anvil. PFAS components are not added at any point in the production of Anvil," she said. Larson added that while it is unclear why the Clarke pesticide contained PFAS, the company "will continue to work closely with the EPA to conduct our own testing."
PEER executive director Tim Whitehouse detailed the recent testing results in a letter sent last week to MADEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg that called for halting the use of Anvil 10+10, ensuring any replacement does not contain forever chemicals, and requiring pesticide companies to comprehensively test their products for PFAS:
This fall, PEER conducted several tests for PFAS of a 2.5 gallon jug of Anvil 10+10, the pesticide used in the aerial spraying programs of Massachusetts and many other states. Our tests revealed that Anvil 10+10 contains roughly 250 parts per trillion (ppt) of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), and 260–500 ppt of hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid (HFPO-DA), a GenX replacement for PFOA. Both these results are hovering around the detection limits of the laboratory's equipment, but there is no doubt that these PFAS are in the insecticide. While PFAS may be useful when added to pesticides as surfactants, dispersants, and anti-foaming agents, it is unclear whether the PFAS found in Anvil 10+10 is an ingredient added by the manufacturer, contained in one of the ingredients supplied to Anvil's manufacturer by other companies, or whether it is a contaminant from the manufacturing/storage process. Moreover, since we were only able to test for 36 PFAS out of the 9,252 on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) inventory, it is impossible to know how many other PFAS might be in Anvil 10+10.
When PEER obtained its first positive PFAS results on Anvil 10+10, we immediately contacted DEP because of the far-reaching implications. MADEP independently tested nine samples of Anvil 10+10 from five different containers, and found eight different PFAS, including PFOA and PFOS. Some PFAS levels were over 700 ppt. As such, there appears to be no doubt that there are PFAS in the pesticide Massachusetts has chosen for mosquito control.
Whitehouse noted that Massachusetts aerially sprayed 2.2 million acres with Anvil 10+10 last year and more than 200,000 acres this year. The Boston Globe explained that "most of the spraying has been done in the southeastern part of the state, where EEE, a rare but deadly mosquito-borne disease, has been most prevalent."
The EPA, which has been lambasted by lawmakers as well as environmental and public health advocates for its handling of PFAS contamination on a national scale, is working on "an analytical method" to detect the forever chemicals in pesticides and plans to conduct its own tests of Anvil 10+10, according to the newspaper.
"There are significant unanswered questions about the data currently available," Dave Deegan, a spokesperson for the federal agency's offices in New England, told the Boston Globe. "EPA will continue to work closely with and support the state on this issue. Aggressively addressing PFAS continues to be an important, active, and ongoing priority for EPA."
Bennett and other critics of the EPA's response to PFAS reiterated concerns about the agency in the wake of the revelations in Massachusetts.
"This PFAS fiasco shows that public trust in EPA having a full accounting of these materials and their safety is utterly misplaced," said Bennett. "Until EPA acts, states need to adopt their own safeguards and chemical disclosure requirements because they certainly cannot depend upon the diligence of EPA."
In a statement about the testing on Tuesday, Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter declared that "these findings shock the conscience — states likely have unknowingly contaminated communities' water with PFAS hidden in pesticides. Once again, the EPA has failed to protect the American people from harmful pollution."
Emphasizing that "we need to stop the introduction of toxic forever chemicals into the environment and our water sources to protect public health," Hauter said that "the EPA must ban all pesticides with PFAS components, designate PFAS as hazardous substances to hold polluters accountable for cleanup of contamination, and set strong enforceable standards for PFAS in our drinking water."
"The GOP-controlled Senate must step up and pass the PFAS Action Act, which passed the House in January, to regulated these toxic compounds and hold polluters accountable, and Congress must pass he WATER Act to provide the financial relief to community water providers and households with wells to remove PFAS from drinking water or find alternative sources where treatment fails," she added. "Now is the time for decisive action to protect people's health and safety."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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Dealing with pest infestations in your home can be stressful. While there are plenty of exterminators that can use toxic chemicals to rid you of your problem, sometimes you want a less harmful solution. Luckily, there are some DIY, eco-friendly methods and natural products that can effectively keep pests out of your home. Below, we're discussing some easy-to-use, natural pest control options for the most common household pests.
Bed bugs are among the most prevalent pests to infest homes, and they're among the most stressful for homeowners to manage.
Luckily, there's a simple DIY solution you can use to kill bed bugs in their tracks. Sprinkle baking soda around the areas you believe to be infected, including around the base of your beds and couches, especially near the legs.
When bed bugs inevitably try to traverse the powder, the baking soda will naturally dry them out and can kill them before they get to you to feed. Let the powder sit for about a week before vacuuming it up and disposing of the dead bed bugs.
Pro tip: baking soda is effective against cockroaches as well!
Termites feed on wood and often burrow into the framing of your home to feed, gradually causing damage and potentially compromising the structural stability of your house.
Many pest control companies use bait stations with potentially harmful chemicals to kill termites, but you can often get a successful treatment using vinegar and lemon juice. The acidity will either deter termites or kill those that are exposed to it.
Simply mix a cup of white vinegar with the juice from four lemons, and place the mixture in a spray bottle. Apply the solution to areas where you see termite damage or believe the insects may enter your home. Reapply regularly to ensure thorough treatment.
Whether you live in a rural setting, or an urban sprawl like New York City, mice, rats, and other rodents have an uncanny ability to find a way into your home. However, many of us still feel bad about using poison or rodent traps to kill or capture them. Thankfully, there's a much simpler method for keeping rodents out that won't cause them any harm.
Mice and rats naturally stay away from certain scents, and peppermint is one of the odors they detest the most. Soak some cotton balls in peppermint oil and place them around your home where you believe the rodents are entering. The smell can help keep them at bay and may make them decide to relocate entirely.
If you have a major infestation you can't solve on your own, don't hesitate to look for eco-friendly pest control companies in cities like New York that use non-toxic solutions and integrated pest management. Their treatments often have better results than homemade repellants while remaining safe for the environment.
It's never pleasant to find ants in your home, and keeping them outside where they belong is often straightforward, even without harmful insecticides.
Ants leave scent trails to help others locate food sources. Aside from eliminating potential attractions in your home like garbage, crumbs, or unsealed food, destroying the scent trail is an excellent way to ruin their chance of finding a meal in your house.
The acidity and pungent odor of lemon juice can wipe out a scent trail. Spraying some around areas where you notice ants entering your home can help deter them altogether.
Mosquitoes are just about the only thing that can ruin a beautiful, sunny day in your yard. Most pest management companies can spray pesticides to keep them at bay, but these can be harmful to you, your family, and other beneficial insects on your property.
Luckily, there's an eco-friendly solution that can keep mosquitoes away for weeks on end. Mix about two cups of mint-flavored mouthwash, three cups of Epsom salt, and three cans of stale, non-alcoholic beer (yes, really!). Spray the solution around your yard, avoiding only flowers.
The zero-toxicity repellent can deter mosquitoes entirely, leaving you to enjoy the outdoors in peace.
DIY pest control solutions can be an environmentally-safe way to take back control of your home and your yard. Many of the remedies we've described above can be implemented today with things you already have around the house, so you can be on your way to a pest-free home in no time.
Ed Spicer has been working in the pest control industry for years helping 1,000's of homeowners navigate the world of insect and rodent management. He now manages Pest Strategies, helping homeowners around the world.
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Turns out, bee labor is required to produce most avocados and almonds in the U.S. Honeybees pollinate most fruits and vegetables in the country, The Washington Post reported. With native bee populations in sharp decline, there aren't enough of them to complete the job naturally or efficiently, The Post added.
Enter migratory beekeeping. Farmers truck beehives full of European honeybees across the country and into their fields so that the insects can pollinate crops during important fertile periods, The Post reported. Without this practice, farmers would lose about one-third of their crops, including broccoli, blueberries, cherries, apples, melons and lettuce, according to The Post.
The practice is so widespread that Tracy Reiman, a representative for PETA, said, "Average shoppers can't avoid produce that involves migratory beekeeping, any more than they can avoid driving on asphalt," Vegan Life reported.
In 2013, Scientific American estimated that California's booming almond industry used 31 to 80 billion migrant honeybees a year in order to achieve maximum pollination during almond trees' two-week bloom. California produces up to 80 percent of all the world's almonds, Scientific American noted, and could not achieve such scale without migratory beekeeping.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0
According to From the Grapevine, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.
U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. CNN reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.
Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.
Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.
Adding pesticides to the picture, bees don't stand a chance. Many countries still use neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics), which are believed to kill bees. In Jan. 2021, the U.K. faced backlash after approving the emergency use of the toxin on sugar beets, despite pledging not to increase its usage in the wake of Brexit. Although restricted, this family of pesticides is still the most widely used in the U.S., and scientists warn that neonics' continued prevalence could be catastrophic for food supplies, honeybee populations and mass die-offs of native species. Neonics are a primary cause behind the massive honeybee and native bee losses each year, researchers and environmentalists argue.
In Columbia, mass bee deaths are being blamed directly on avocado farms, Phys.org reported. Avocado exports from Columbia skyrocketed from 1.7 tons in 2014 to 44.5 tons in 2019, and in 2021, Colombia became Europe's largest avocado supplier, Phys.org added. This boom has resulted in the increased use of neonic insecticide fipronil. Banned in Europe and restricted in the U.S. and China, fipronil is still used in Colombia to grow avocados and citrus for export. This has been bad for neighboring bees, which become contaminated as they buzz through pesticide-treated plantations looking for food.
"They bring this poison to the hive and kill everyone else," Abdon Salazar, a Columbian beekeeper, lamented to Phys.org after losing 800 hives and 80 million bees in the last two years.
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0
Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.
The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could trigger food security issues.
Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"
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