Recent Articles About Pesticides

Update: After we published this story, the USDA reversed course on organic cannabis but the state of Colorado is moving toward an organic label for marijuana.

Colorado is now home to some of the nation’s first certified organic cannabis, which comes with a blessing from federal regulators. CBDRx, a Longmont, Colorado cannabis farm, has secured a certification to market its products with the organic seal from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a major coup for the plant’s enthusiasts. Read more

Neonicotinoids—the world’s most widely used and fastest growing type of insecticide—have been at the center of the conversation about bee die-offs for several years. Even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently acknowledged that very small quantities can impact pollinators. But what about human health?

“There is an amazing lack of information for such widely used pesticides,” Mount Sinai professor of pediatrics and preventative medicine and dean for global health Philip Landrigan told Civil Eats. Read more

Seed company mergers have been all over the news lately. First, there was Monsanto’s rebuffed attempts to buy Syngenta, followed by a proposed merger between DuPont and Dow. Then, a Chinese company expressed interest in buying Syngenta, which lead to Syngenta’s renewed interest by Monsanto. As this chart by Michigan State University’s Phillip Howard shows, all this recent merger activity is the culmination of about two decades of the world’s largest seed companies swallowing up smaller companies by the score.

And while most of these developments have been reported as business stories, they also have huge implications for agriculture and our food supply. Read more

Update (2/19/2016): As part of the settlement of a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) will analyze the impacts of atrazine and glyphosate—two of the most commonly used pesticides in the U.S.—on 1,500 endangered species. Under the agreement, announced today, the USFWS will also develop conservation measures for these and two other pesticides, which together represent almost 40 percent of annual U.S. pesticide use.

The state of California has been working to list atrazine—the United States’ second most-widely used herbicide—as toxic to the reproductive system under the state’s Proposition 65, which requires public warnings to be posted when and where such chemicals are used. Now, a court decision coming as soon as January will determine how the state will move forward with the listing. Read more

Update: On Janury 28, 2016 the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision, effectively putting the herbicide — and the new generation of GMO crops it was designed to be used with — back on the market.

 

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made an unusual move—it changed its mind. In a legal ruling, the agency said it would revoke its approval of a controversial new herbicide called Enlist Duo, which combined the weed killers glyphosate (Roundup) and 2,4-D.

The EPA had approved the Enlist Duo just a year earlier, despite considerable public opposition and “grave concerns” from about 50 members of Congress. Made by Dow AgroSciences, Enlist Duo was specifically formulated to be used on corn and soybeans genetically engineered to resist it. And although it was initially approved for use in only six Midwestern states, the EPA extended that approval to an additional 10 states this past spring. Read more

When parents spend the extra money to feed their children organic food, it’s often in hope of keeping the overall amount of pesticides in their bodies to a minimum. (If you’ve seen this popular video of the Swedish family that made the switch, you know what we’re talking about.) But a new study by a team of scientists at the University of California, Berkeley suggests that diet is only part of the equation, especially for kids who might be exposed to insecticides at home or pesticides from agricultural fields nearby. Read more

On a cool November day in 2009, farmworker Jovita Alfau was transplanting hibiscus as she’d been instructed in a section of Power Bloom Farms and Growers nursery in Homestead, Florida.

As she pulled up the seedlings from the pots, she began to “feel dizzy and weak, experienced numbness in her mouth, and vomited,” according to a complaint she would later file against her employer in federal district court in southern Florida. Read more

A senior scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture filed a whistleblower complaint on Wednesday accusing the federal agency of suppressing research findings that could call into question the use of a popular pesticide class that is a revenue powerhouse for the agrichemical industry.

Jonathan Lundgren, a senior research entomologist with the USDA’s Agriculture Research Service who has spent 11 years with the agency based in Brookings, S.D., said that retaliation and harassment from inside USDA started in April 2014, following media interviews he gave in March of that year regarding some of his research conclusions.

Lundgren’s work has included extensive examination of a class of insecticides known as neonicotinoids, or neonics, which are widely used by U.S. farmers to control pest damage to corn and other crops, helping protect production. The insecticides are sold in forms that both are sprayed on plants or coated on seeds before they are planted. They are also used on plants sold by lawns and garden retailers. Read more

At the base of the Truchas Mountains in northern New Mexico, Melanie Kirby and her partner, Mark Spitzig, operate the Zia Queen Bee Farm and Field Institute, a queen bee breeding and production business. Their 250-some hives dot the canyons, deserts, and alpine meadows along the Rio Grande Valley. They call their bees “survivor stock,” a term that is growing in the industry, but which has no official definition. Generally, survivor stock refers to bees that can survive without pharmaceuticals and can defend themselves against pests like the varroa mite. Some bees may be genetically resistant to varroa, while others have hygienic behaviors to keep mite populations in the hive under control. Read more