Recent Articles About Pesticides

Monarch butterflies are in serious trouble. Perhaps the most iconic insect in the United States, this butterfly has existed for countless millennia and, every year, it accomplishes the longest known migration of any insect in the world.

Monarch butterflies have been decimated over the past 20 years due to the loss of milkweed in the Midwest. This once common plant is the only food the butterflies’ larvae eat, and as milkweed goes, so go the monarchs. What’s worse, is the fact that these butterflies’ main summer mating grounds are smack in the middle of the U.S. Corn Belt, where milkweed has been almost eliminated due to the large-scale use of glyphosate (or Roundup) herbicide on genetically engineered corn and soybeans. Read more

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, chloropicrin1,3-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.

Read more

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