One year ago, an agency of the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC) declared that glyphosate (or Roundup), the world’s most widely used herbicide, probably causes cancer. Then, in the fall, the European Food Safety Agency’s (EFSA) responded with an assessment that disagreed with the WHO’s findings. Read more
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Most scientists, farmers, and regulators usually consider the health effects of pesticides one at a time. But that’s not always how they’re used.
A new report by researchers at the University of California Los Angeles’s Sustainable Technology & Policy Program (STPP) took a rare look at several pesticides—all fumigants—that are often applied in combination, chloropicrin, 1,3-dichloropropene, and metam salts. It found that when mixed together, the chemicals can interact and become more toxic, endangering and leaving farmworkers, neighbors, and schoolchildren without adequate protection.
“We know these are being applied on purpose together,” and some have similar health effects, including cancer, says report co-author Susan Kegley, principal, and CEO of the California-based Pesticide Research Institute.
Millions of pounds of these three pesticides are commonly used in combination to grow strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, grapes, nuts, and other crops. All together about 30 million pounds were used on California farm fields in 2013 alone and together they account for about a fifth of all pesticides used in the state.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the nation’s chief food safety regulator, plans to start testing certain foods for residues of the world’s most widely used weed killer after the World Health Organization’s cancer experts last year declared the chemical a probable human carcinogen. Read more
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
Lately it seems like bees just can’t get a break. This is the tenth consecutive year of exceptional annual bee losses. And despite heightened attention to the plight of the nation’s pollinators—which are essential to producing $15 billion worth of U.S. agricultural products a year—these losses continue to grow. 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