Friday, March 30, 2012


Neurotoxic Pesticides Helping to Decimate Bees Populations, Studies Indicate

Two studies show that a class of chemicals known as neonicotinoids created disorientation among bees and caused colonies to lose weight, which may have contributed to a mysterious die-off.

- Common Dreams staff
Two new studies released on Thursday show that industrial pesticides -- specifically chemical neurotoxins called 'neonicotinoids' -- have robust negative impact on the honey bees' ability to navigate and sufficiently reproduce.  Previous studies have shown that insecticides may play a role in 'colony collapse disorder,' a term that describes huge bee die-offs in recent years, the direct and specific cause of which has remained elusive to scientists, but these studies are unique for being conducted in the field as opposed to in laboratory conditions.
A honeybee pollinates a flower in a citrus grove just coming into blossom. (Photograph: David Silverman/Getty Images) "People had found pretty trivial effects in lab and greenhouse experiments, but we have shown they can translate into really big effects in the field. This has transformed our understanding," Prof David Goulson, at the University of Stirling and leader of one of the research teams told The Guardian. "If it's only one metre from where they forage in a lab to their nest, even an unwell bee can manage that."
One scientist, who lauded the study for its role in furthering understanding of the bees decline, also noted that the study should aware the public that these same chemical pesticides could be having similar impacts on other species as well. "There's a general phenomenon of pollinator decline — bats, bird, butterflies, all kinds of things," he said.
*  *  *
Five years ago, bees made headlines when a mysterious condition called colony collapse disorder decimated honey bee colonies in parts of the United States. Now bees are poised to be in the news again, this time because of evidence that systemic insecticides, a common way to protect crops, indirectly harm these important pollinators. Two field studies reported online this week in Science document problems. In bumble bees, exposure to one such chemical leads to a dramatic loss of queens and could help explain the insects' decline. In honey bees, another insecticide interferes with the foragers' ability to find their way back to the hive. Researchers say these findings are cause for concern and will increase pressure to improve pesticide testing and regulation.
*  *  * reports:Bumblebees exposed to neonicotinoids in a study produced 85% fewer queens per colony and gained 8% to 12% less weight, on average. “If that went on for years, the consequences could be pretty dramatic,” said David Goulson of the University of Stirling in Scotland, who led the study. (David Goulson, University of Stirling / July 31, 2004)
“It’s pretty damning,” said David Goulson, a bee biologist at Scotland’s University of Stirling. “It’s clear evidence that they’re likely to be having an effect on both honeybees and bumblebees.”
Neonicotinoids emerged in the mid-1990s as a relatively less-toxic alternative to human-damaging pesticides. They soon became wildly popular, and were the fastest-growing class of pesticides in modern history. Their effects on non-pest insects, however, were unknown.
In the mid-2000s, beekeepers in the United States and elsewhere started to report sharp and inexplicable declines in honeybee populations. Researchers called the phenomenon colony collapse disorder. It was also found in bumblebees, and in some regions now threatens to extirpate bees altogether.
Many possible causes were suggested, from viruses and mites to industrial beekeeping practices and climate change. Pesticides, in particular neonicotinoids, also came under scrutiny.
Leaked internal reports by the Environmental Protection Agency showed that industry-run studies used to demonstrate some neonicotinoids’ environmental safety were shoddy and unreliable. Other researchers found signs that neonicotinoids, while they didn’t kill bees outright, affected their ability to learn and navigate.
*  *  *
The Guardian report adds:
The pesticides investigated in the new studies - insect neurotoxins called neonicotinoids - are applied to seeds and flow through the plants' whole system. The environmental advantage of this is it reduces pesticide spraying but chemicals end up in the nectar and pollen on which bees feed. Goulson's group studied an extremely widely used type called imidacloprid, primarily manufactured by Bayer CropScience, and registered for use on over 140 crops in 120 countries.
Bumblebees were fed the toxin at the same level found in treated rape plants and found that these colonies were about 10% smaller than those not exposed to the insecticide. Most strikingly, the exposed colonies lost almost all of their ability to produce queens, which are the only bee to survive the winter and establish new colonies. "There was a staggering magnitude of effect," said Goulson. "This is likely to have a substantial population-level impact."
The French team analysed the effect on honey bees of a new generation neonicotinoid, called thiamethoxam and manufactured by Syngenta. They fitted tiny electronic tags to over 650 bees and monitored their activity around the hive. Those exposed to "commonly encountered" levels of thiamethoxam suffered high mortality, with up to a third of the bees failing to return. "They disappeared in much higher numbers than expected," said Henry. Previous scientific work has shown insect neurotoxins may cause memory, learning, and navigation problems in bees.
*  *  *
Jeff Pettis of the Department of Agriculture's bee research lab in Beltsville, Md., who wasn't involved in the studies, praised the bumblebee report in particular for highlighting that honeybees aren't the only ones that may suffer from sublethal doses of pesticides. He predicted that the effects on bee reproduction would raise red flags for regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency.
"There's a general phenomenon of pollinator decline — bats, bird, butterflies, all kinds of things," he said.
#  #  #

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Farmers Determined to Defend Right to Grow Food

March 28th, 2012
Appeal Filed in Family Farmers V. Monsanto Case
NEW YORK – Family farmers have filed a Notice of Appeal  challenging Judge Naomi Buchwald’s February 24th ruling dismissing Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association et al v. Monsanto.  The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Manhattan will hear the farmers’ appeal, seeking to reinstate the case, which has received worldwide attention.
The determined plaintiffs are moving forward with their lawsuit challenging Monsanto’s patents on genetically engineered seed technologies — and the biotechnology giant’s threat to sue farmers allegedly infringing on their technology should their crops become contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically engineered seed.
“Farmers have the right to protect themselves from being falsely accused of patent infringement by Monsanto before they are contaminated by Monsanto’s transgenic seed,” said Dan Ravicher, Executive Director of the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT), a not-for-profit legal services organization based at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law that represents the plaintiffs.  ”Judge Buchwald erred by denying plaintiffs that right and they have now initiated the process of having her decision reversed.”
Monsanto’s harassment of family farmers is well known in farm country, the biotech seed and chemical giant has one of the most aggressive patent assertion agendas in U.S. history.  Between 1997 and 2010, Monsanto acknowledges filing 144 lawsuits against America’s family farmers, while settling another 700 cases out of court for undisclosed amounts and imposing gag orders on farmers.
The farmers’ fears were heightened when Monsanto refused to provide a legally binding covenant not to sue in the future, signaling the corporation’s intention to maintain their option to pursue innocent family farmers in the future.
“Farmers are under threat.  Our right to farm the way we choose, and to grow pure organic seed and healthy food on our farms for our families and for our customers is under assault,” said Maine organic seed farmer Jim Gerritsen of Wood Prairie Farm, President of lead Appellant OSGATA.  ”We are honor-bound to challenge an erroneous ruling which denies family farmers the protection the law says we deserve.  We’re not asking for one penny from Monsanto.  Ultimately, our fight is for justice and is waged to defend the right of the people to have access to good and safe food.”
The Plaintiff/Appellant group is comprised of individual family farmers, small and family-owned seed companies and agricultural organizations.  They are all organic or committed to farming without using genetically engineered seeds, and have no desire to produce food with Monsanto’s patented GMO technology.  However, they are fearful that Monsanto’s genetics, in the form of pollen or seed will trespass onto their farms and that the resulting contamination of their crops will be viewed by biotechnology giant as illegal ‘possession’ resulting in patent infringement allegations.
“America’s farmers deserve to be protected under the law from the unwanted genetic contamination of their crops by Monsanto’s flawed genetically engineered seed technology,” said David Murphy, founder and Executive Director of Food Democracy Now!, an Iowa-based national advocacy organization of more than 300,000 members.
“We need the courts to protect farmers and consumers from genetic trespass and pollution of our food chain,” said Will Fantle, Codirector of The Cornucopia Institute, a corporate and governmental watchdog in the organic industry.  “This lawsuit is critical to the future of organic food and agriculture.”
The original complaint in OSGATA et al v. Monsanto was filed on March 29, 2011. In July, Monsanto filed a motion to dismiss.  Plaintiff lawyers at PUBPAT then filed a rebuttal brief on August 11, 2011.  Judge Buchwald called for oral arguments on the motion to dismiss, which was held in Manhattan on January 31, 2012.  The judge’s dismissal ruling was issued February 24th and plaintiffs had thirty days in which to file their Notice of Appeal.
The Appellants in the suit represented by PUBPAT are:  Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association; Organic Crop Improvement Association International, Inc. (OCIA); Food Democracy Now!; The Cornucopia Institute; Demeter Association, Inc.; Navdanya International; Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association; Northeast Organic Farming Association/Massachusetts Chapter, Inc.; Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont; Rural Vermont; Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association; Southeast Iowa Organic Association; Mendocino Organic Network (California); Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance; Canadian Organic Growers; Family Farmer Seed Cooperative; Sustainable Living Systems (Montana); Global Organic Alliance; Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund; Weston A. Price Foundation; Center for Food Safety; Beyond Pesticides; Northeast Organic Farming Association of Rhode Island; Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Hampshire; Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut; Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York; Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance; Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (Wisconsin); Midwest Organic Dairy Producers Alliance; Florida Organic Growers; Peace River Organic Producers Association (Alberta and British Columbia); FEDCO Seeds, Inc. (Maine); Adaptive Seeds, LLC (Oregon); Sow True Seed (North Carolina); Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (Virginia); Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds (Saskatchewan); Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., LLC (Missouri); Comstock, Ferre & Co. LLC (Connecticut); Seedkeepers, LLC (California); Siskiyou Seeds (Oregon); Countryside Organics (Virginia); Cuatro Puertas (New Mexico); Seed We Need (Montana), Wild Garden Seed (Oregon); Alba Ranch (Kansas); Wild Plum Farm (Montana); Gratitude Gardens (Washington); Richard Everett Farm, LLC (Nebraska); Philadelphia Community Farm, Inc. (Wisconsin); Genesis Farm (New Jersey); Chispas Farms, LLC (New Mexico); Midheaven Farms (Minnesota); Koskan Farms (South Dakota); California Cloverleaf Farms; North Outback Farm (North Dakota); Taylor Farms, Inc. (Utah); Ron Gargasz Organic Farms (Pennsylvania); Abundant Acres (Missouri); T & D Willey Farms (California); Quinella Ranch (Saskatchewan); Nature’s Way Farm, Ltd. (Alberta); Levke and Peter Eggers Farm (Alberta); Frey Vineyards, Ltd. (California); Bryce Stephens (Kansas); Chuck Noble (South Dakota); LaRhea Pepper (Texas); Paul Romero (New Mexico); Donald Wright Patterson, Jr. (Virginia); Common Good Farm; LLC (Nebraska); American Buffalo Company (Nebraska; Full Moon Farm, Inc. (Vermont); Radiance Dairy (Iowa); Brian L. Wickert (Wisconsin); Bruce Drinkman (Wisconsin); and Murray Bast (Ontario).

The Cornucopia Institute is a Wisconsin-based nonprofit farm policy research group, is dedicated to the fight for economic justice for the family-scale farming community.  Their Organic Integrity Project acts as a corporate and governmental watchdog assuring that no compromises to the credibility of organic farming methods and the food it produces are made in the pursuit of profit.  Their web page can be viewed at
Complete background information about OSGATA et al v. Monsanto is available at


Obama and Corn

President Obama knows that agribusiness cannot be trusted with the regulatory powers of government. On the campaign trail in 2007, he promised: We'll tell ConAgra that it's not the Department of Agribusiness. It's the Department of Agriculture. We're going to put the people's interests ahead of the special interests.
Tom VilsackBut, starting with his choice for USDA Secretary, the pro-biotech former governor of Iowa, Tom Vilsack, President Obama has let Monsanto, Dupont and the other pesticide and genetic engineering companies know they'll have plenty of friends and supporters within his administration.
President Obama has taken his team of food and farming leaders directly from the biotech companies and their lobbying, research, and philanthropic arms:
Michael TaylorMichael Taylor
former Monsanto Vice President, is now the FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods.
Roger BeachyRoger Beachy
former director of the Monsanto-funded Danforth Plant Science Center, is now the director of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Islam SiddiquiIslam Siddiqui
Vice President of theMonsanto and Dupont-fundedpesticide-promoting lobbying group, CropLife, is now the Agriculture Negotiator for the US Trade Representative.
Rajiv ShahRajiv Shah
former agricultural-development director for the pro-biotech Gates Foundation (a frequent Monsanto partner), served as Obama's USDA Under Secretary for Research Education and Economics and Chief Scientist and is now head of USAID.
Elena KaganElena Kagan
who, as President Obama's Solicitor General, took Monsanto's side against organic farmers in the Roundup Ready alfalfa case, is now on the Supreme Court.
Ramona Romero
corporate counsel to DuPont, has been nominated by President Obama to serve as General Counsel for the USDA.


Beekeepers to EPA: We’re running out of time

Beekeepers have seen average population losses of around 30 percent every year since 2006. (Photo by Enrique Lara.)
Beekeepers have been concerned that pesticides are to blame for the bee die-offs devastating their industry for a while now. As we reported recently, their losses have spiraled out of control, putting not just the beekeepers but our entire agricultural system in peril.
The concern centers around a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allowed to be marketed and sold even after the agency’s own scientists’ put up red flags. And now some in the industry have decided it’s time to formally challenge EPA’s negligence. On March 21, 27 beekeepers and four environmental groups filed a petition [PDF] with the agency asking it to take clothianidin — the neonicotinoid causing the most trouble — off the market until a long-overdue, scientifically sound review is completed.
The EPA asked Bayer — the manufacturer of clothianidin — to conduct a study looking at its effects on bees and other pollinators back in 2003, but allowed Bayer to sell the pesticide under “conditional registration” in the meantime. Bayer didn’t produce a field study until 2007, and in spring 2010, clothianidin was quietly granted full registration. But later that year a leaked document revealed that EPA scientists had found Bayer’s study inadequate. “By that time, the pesticide was all over the country,” said Peter Jenkins, an attorney with the Center for Food Safety, the lead legal group on the petition. “We felt that what EPA did was illegal.”
The beekeepers’ petition claims EPA violated the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act by not enforcing its requirement for a field study proving clothianidin’s safety, and that this failure creates an imminent hazard to the environment. The petition also holds EPA in violation of the Endangered Species Act for not properly assessing clothianidin’s effects on threatened species.
EPA said it would work with Bayer to design a better study, Jenkins said. But beekeepers don’t have time to wait; they’ve seen average population losses of around 30 percent every year since 2006. “At the rate this agency goes, we know it would be years and years before they actually completed [a new study],” Jenkins said. “So we’re saying, fine, just suspend use of the pesticide until the study’s done.”
It’s unlikely that such a study, if carried out properly, would produce results different from what a wealth of peer-reviewed research has already shown: Clothianidin and other neonicotinoids (or neonics) harm pollinators. A new report from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation handily summarizes the science so far: Plants grown from seeds treated with nenonics absorb the chemical through their vascular systems, and the residue in their pollen or nectar can be lethal to insects that come to forage. Even exposure to sublethal levels of neonics can affect bees’ immune systems and their ability to fly, navigate, communicate, and learn new tasks –- all crucial to keeping a hive functioning. And pollinators face multiple exposure routes to neonics besides direct contact with treated plants: They can be poisoned by the exhaust spewing from machines used to plant treated seeds, either by flying through it or by foraging in nearby fields where the dust has drifted. Once neonics are present in soil, they can stay there for up to six years, meaning untreated plants sown in subsequent years may still absorb chemical residues.
It’s no wonder, then, that beekeepers in both the U.S. and Europe can trace their problems more or less back to when commercial farmers began transitioning away from integrated pest management — a system in which insecticides are sprayed once a pest problem arises — and toward neonicotinoids, which, as Jenkins explained, “are too good, too efficient; they turn a simple corn plant into a killing machine.”
If EPA doesn’t respond to the petition, Jenkins said the Center for Food Safety and other petitioners could sue the agency. But he’s “reasonably optimistic” that EPA will wise up. “We made a really good case, and it’s helped by this new report [from the Xerces Society],” he said. “It’s not unheard of — EPA has responded in the past when it’s clear that a pesticide is killing something in ways that the agency hadn’t analyzed.”
Last summer, EPA ordered a recall of DuPont’s herbicide Imprelis, which had been linked to tree deaths across the U.S. Imprelis, like clothianidin, had been on the market under conditional registration, though it debuted only a year before its recall. Also like clothianidin, Imprelis’ labeling did not warn about its potential danger to another species — even though, it turns out, DuPont knew before its release that Imprelis could harm trees. The beekeepers’ petition to the EPA calls the labeling of clothianidin “defective.”
Since EPA scientists themselves have acknowledged clothianidin’s harmful effects on bees and proclaimed the Bayer study to be inconclusive, getting the chemical off the market comes down to yet another uphill battle against a government agency in thrall to corporations — in this case, the chemical industry. Maybe this petition — backed by over a million citizen petitions — will give EPA the push it needs to listen to its own experts.
UPDATE: The New York Times reports on two new studies published Thursday in the journal Science that give further evidence for neonicotinoids’ role in bees’ decline.
Claire Thompson is an editorial assistant at Grist.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

AG Responsible for @ 1/3 GLOBAL Greenhouse Gas Emissions - NEW CONFERENCE

Global Food Crisis Imminent, Drastic Changes Needed: Planet Under Pressure

Scientists call for immediate shift to global sustainable agriculture, decrease in waste

- Common Dreams staff (Photo: AFP)
According to a new report released today at the Planet Under Pressure conference in London, drastic changes must be made to agriculture and food consumption around the world to avoid a global food crisis in the near future.
According to a year long study by The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change there are already one billion people in the world that are undernourished while millions of others eat in excess. The waste of affluent countries has aided environmental damage and mass hunger in the rest of the world.
"Global demand is growing for agricultural products and food prices are rising, yet roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. Climate change threatens more frequent drought, flooding and pest outbreaks, and the world loses 12 million hectares of agricultural land each year to land degradation. Land clearing and inefficient practices make agriculture the largest source of greenhouse gas pollution on the planet," the Commission reports.
The report calls for massive shifts in agricultural practices: "If you're going to generate enough food both to address the poverty of a billion people not getting enough food, with another billion [in the global population] in 13 years' can't do it using the same agricultural techniques we've used before, because that would seriously increase greenhouse gas emissions for the whole world, with climate change knock-ons," Commission chair Prof Sir John Beddington told BBC News.
* * *
World Scientists Define United Approach to Tackling Food Insecurity (Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change):
Nearly one billion people in the world are undernourished, while millions suffer from chronic disease due to excess food consumption. [...]
To address these alarming patterns, an independent commission of scientific leaders from 13 countries released today a detailed set of recommendations to policy makers on how to achieve food security in the face of climate change. In their report, the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change proposes specific policy responses to the global challenge of feeding a world confronted by climate change, population growth, poverty, food price spikes and degraded ecosystems. The report highlights specific opportunities under the mandates of the Rio+20 Earth Summit, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Group of 20 (G20) nations.
“Food insecurity and climate change are already inhibiting human well-being and economic growth throughout the world and these problems are poised to accelerate,” said Sir John Beddington, chair of the Commission. “Decisive policy action is required if we are to preserve the planet’s capacity to produce adequate food in the future.” The report was released at the Planet Under Pressure conference where scientists from around the world are honing solutions for global sustainability challenges targeted to the Rio Summit, which will be held on 20-22 June in Brazil. [...]
The Commission has outlined seven recommendations designed to be implemented concurrently by a constellation of governments, international institutions, investors, agricultural producers, consumers, food companies and researchers. They call for changes in policy, finance, agriculture, development aid, diet choices and food waste as well as revitalized investment in the knowledge systems to support these changes.
* * *
Farming is probably responsible for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, although the figure is hard to pin down as a large proportion comes from land clearance, for which emissions are notoriously difficult to measure.
Although there are regional variations, climate change is forecast to reduce crop yields overall - dramatically so in the case of South Asia, where studies suggest the wheat yield could halve in 50 years.
"We need to develop agriculture that is 'climate smart' - generating more output without the accompanying greenhouse gas emissions, either via the basic techniques of farming or from ploughing up grassland or cutting down rainforest," said Sir John. [...]
It says the economic and policy framework around food production and consumption need to change to encourage sustainability, to raise output while minimising environmental impacts.
Farmers need more investment and better information; governments need to put sustainable farming at the heart of national policies. [...]
But it also recommends changes in developed nations - for example, around food waste.
"The less we waste food, the less food we have to produce, the less greenhouse gases are emitted," noted Dr Negra.
# # #

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Just Label It
Dear Clean Food Earth Woman,
Today we're delivering over one million comments in support of labeling genetically engineered foods to the FDA – because of people like you. By submitting a comment, emailing your friends, posting on Facebook, and talking to your coworkers and neighbors, you made this possible.
Comments were submitted by Americans from all 50 states – people from tens of thousands of different communities around the country. This record-breaking achievement proves that Americans care about how our food is produced and the right to know what's in our food.
In the era of pink slime, deadly melons, and BPA in our soup, more and more of us are coming together to demand the right to know about the food we are eating and feeding our families. It's time that the FDA gives us the same rights held by citizens in over forty other countries: to know whether our foods have been genetically engineered.
Check out our new infographic!
Today, we're also releasing results from our new public opinion survey on GMO labeling with a cool infographic. It found that nearly all Democrats (93%), Independents (90%), and Republicans (89%) favor labeling. At a time when partisan rancor dominates the public conversation, there are few topics that can muster such overwhelming support. Yet so far, the FDA has refused to act.
This campaign doesn't end with today's delivery. We'll need your help again in the coming weeks and months to keep up the pressure on the FDA and to make sure our leaders in Washington know that more than one million Americans are watching their next moves.
Thank you for everything you've done so far – and for all that you'll continue to do in the weeks ahead.
With deep gratitude,
– Alex, Nancy, Naomi, Sue, and the entire Just Label It team

We're building a movement of concerned citizens – parents, health care workers, small business owners, farmers, and more – who care about what's in the food we eat.
In October 2011, the Just Label It campaign was formed when the Center for Food Safety filed a petition with the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to require the labeling of all foods produced using genetic engineering. Days later, we asked citizens from around the country to join us and tell the FDA to "Just Label It." More than one million Americans have contacted the FDA urging them to label genetically engineered foods. Ask others to sign on by taking action at

Monday, March 26, 2012


Raging hormone disruptors: Common chemicals cause trouble even in small amounts 

The cigarette isn't the only danger in this photo. (Photo by Regan Walsh.)
The BPA in your water bottle may be even more dangerous than you think.
A major new paper is raising the alarm about low-level exposure to endocrine disruptors, substances like bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates that interfere with hormones in the human body. These endocrine-disrupting chemicals, or EDCs, are found in a vast array of everyday products like plastics, household cleaners, cosmetics, pesticides, upholstery, and paper receipts.
“The dose makes the poison” is a widely accepted tenet in the field of toxicology, suggesting that a substance’s impact on the body increases with the amount of exposure. Case in point: A drop of arsenic in a well may not produce any noticeable health problems; a generous pour mixed into lemonade can kill a man.
Get ready for a change in accepted dogma: A paper published in the journal Endocrine Reviews found that low doses of EDCs — amounts that average people are exposed to through consumer products every day — can have serious negative health impacts.
“This is the biggest and broadest review of this work that’s been done to date,” says Laura Vandenberg, lead author of the paper and a post-doctoral fellow at the Tufts Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology. She and a team of 11 other scientists combed through 840 scientific studies that examined dozens of EDCs’ low-dose impacts.
“At high doses [like in industrial accidents], endocrine-disrupting chemicals can kill people, cause birth defects and severe malformations of fetuses,” says Vandenberg. “These studies overwhelmingly show that EDCs have actions at low doses, too. They’re not killing people, but instead they are changing the development of organs that can have permanent effects.” For example, low-level EDC exposure has been linked to cancers, obesity, infertility, neurobehavioral disorders, and immune-system issues, among other health problems.
Further complicating the picture, some EDCs produce one effect at a low level of exposure and a totally different effect at a high level, or even no effect at all — a relationship known as non-monotonicity.
To illustrate a non-monotonic effect, Vandenberg points to PCBs, compounds that, while no longer used regularly, still persist in the environment. “If you have the highest doses of PCBs, you’re not at the highest risk,” says Vandenberg. “It’s actually people who have moderate levels that are more likely to get things like cardiovascular disease.”
Another example is tamoxifen, a drug used to treat breast cancer. At high doses, this hormone disruptor inhibits breast-cancer growth. At low doses, it actually stimulates it.
“The assumption has always been that if a little is bad, a lot more is worse, and it’s all dose-related,” says Patricia Hunt, a reproductive biologist at Washington State University who was not involved with Vandenberg’s paper. “That’s not how hormones work, and that’s not how endocrine disruptors work. These non-monotonic dose responses aren’t a rare thing — they’re an expected thing for endocrine-disrupting chemicals.”
Of course, not everyone agrees with the assessment by Vandenberg et al. The American Chemistry Council, an industry group, isn’t convinced that low doses of endocrine disruptors harm human health. “[R]egulatory agencies around the world, which review extensive scientific data, have not confirmed the validity of low-dose effects or their relevance to human health,” ACC spokesperson Kathryn St. John said via email.
It’s no wonder the industry isn’t happy with the research: Getting EDCs out of plastics, pesticides, and other widely used products would be a massive undertaking.
“It’s terrible and it’s frightening, but in pretty much every aspect of our lives, we’re being exposed to these chemicals,” Vandenberg says.
She and other concerned scientists hope that this paper will spur regulation of EDCs, as well as more comprehensive research. “If regulators are going to read the paper and really pay attention to it, it should change the regulation of endocrine-disrupting chemicals,” says Shanna Swan, a professor of preventive medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “I don’t think it’s avoidable after reading this — the way chemicals are regulated is not protecting health.”
Several states have already banned BPA in children’s products. More change is being driven by consumer pressure. Most baby-bottle makers have voluntarily phased out BPA, and some food manufacturers are starting to do the same. These are small steps forward on just one of dozens of EDCs Americans are regularly exposed to, but they show what’s possible with enough pressure.
“Regulatory agencies that are charged with protecting the American people and the world need to think about how we test chemicals for these low-dose effects,” says Vandenberg. “Can a chemical that mimics a hormone ever be used safely? We really believe that chemicals that act like hormones are not products that should be in our bodies. We need to think about phasing them out, replacing them and changing the way we test chemicals that are coming onto the market now.”
Sarah Parsons is a freelance writer and editor based in Washington, D.C. Her work has also appeared in Popular Science, GOOD, Audubon, OnEarth, Plenty,, and, among others.


In Defense of Food Sovereignty: Stop Water Grabbing!

Declaration of La Via Campesina in the Alternative World Water Forum

We, as peasants’ and farmers’ organizations from countries all over the world, members of La Via Campesina, met between the 12th and 17th of March 2012, for the Alternative World Water Forum in Marseille, France. Among others, the testimonies from Turkish, Brazilian, Bangladesh, Madagascar, Portugal, Italy, French, and Mexican delegates gave voice to the distress of “environmental victims”, making known the plight of people affected by dam construction, by the shale gas and mining industries, by the grabbing, commodification, scarcity and widespread pollution of water, and by the repression and murder of activists who are defending water.
We demand that the right “of” and “to” water should be respected within the framework of food sovereignty. The right “of” water means continuous respect for the entire water cycle.
We state that the privatization and commodification of water and of any other common good (land, seeds, knowledge, etc.) are crimes against the planet and against humanity. Large-scale dams and hydro-electric projects grab and sequester water, taking no account of the needs, traditional practices and opinions of local communities, and totally disregarding the protection of ecosystems.
The water and biodiversity crises, the social and financial crises, and the energy crisis are all linked. They are the consequences of neo-liberalism and of the industrial agricultural model that is promoted by the international financial institutions (the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization), through free trade agreements, by the World Water Council, and by transnational Corporations as well as by most national governments.
We state that the privatization and commodification of water and of any other common good are crimes against the planet and against humanity.
The Green Economy is a false solution to climate change and water scarcity. The supposed answers to the crises: the commodification of water, of carbon and of biodiversity; nanotechnology; geo-engineering; and GMOs represent new opportunities for neo-liberal economic expansion. Despite the fact that these technology-driven and market-driven responses are the main cause of the environmental and social chaos that we are suffering, neo-liberalism’s headlong rush continues.
The industrial model of production, with its monoculture and its agro-chemicals, has polluted our water and endangered our health. We defend agro-ecological practices and small-scale and peasant agriculture that put into effect food sovereignty and contribute to the protection and sustainable use of water.
Water is a common good for the benefit of all living beings and it should be under public, democratic, local and sustainable management. Local and traditional systems of knowledge regarding forms of water management that take into account and protect the whole ecosystem have existed for thousands of years; they have demonstrated over time their effectiveness. We believe that public policies and laws related to water should recognize and respect this knowledge.
In Defense of Food Sovereignty: Stop Water Grabbing!
La Via Campesina
La Via Campesina is the international movement which brings together millions of peasants, small and medium-size farmers, landless people, women farmers, indigenous people, migrants and agricultural workers from around the world. It defends small-scale sustainable agriculture as a way to promote social justice and dignity. It strongly opposes corporate driven agriculture and transnational companies that are destroying people and nature.


Goodlatte-Holden Chesapeake Bay Bill Trades Away Bay Protections

Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter

WASHINGTON - March 26 - “The Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization and Improvement Act recently introduced by Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Tim Holden (D-Penn.) is designed to ignore the real problems underlying pollution in the Chesapeake Bay: industrialized agriculture and urban sprawl. Decades of bad policies have created the problems that currently afflict the Bay, and this bill would ensure continued algal blooms, deoxygenated water and fish kills.
“The environmental community failed to take a stand against pollution trading in past failed legislation and in the EPA’s Total Maximum Daily Load Program, the current plan for cleaning up the Bay. This bill and its embrace of supposed ‘free market environmentalism’ abandons the Chesapeake Bay to the whims and profiteering of industry and Wall Street.
“With its embrace of pollution trading, the Goodlate-Holden Bill would gut the federal Clean Water Act and let unsustainable industries, including concentrated industrialized poultry production, off the hook for their pollution. This bill would abandon the concept of setting enforceable standards to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, leaving it vulnerable to the whims of market-based schemes designed to allow polluters to keep polluting.”
“The EPA attributes 45 percent of phosphorous loading, 35 percent of nitrogen loading and 60 percent of sediment loading into the Bay to agricultural sources. Animal manure accounts for about half of the nitrogen loads. Companies like Perdue are reaping immense profits while Bay aquatic life and fishing and crabbing communities suffer. We need policy that works to clean up the Bay by dealing with the fact that there are too many chickens concentrated on the Eastern Shore. This bill does the exact opposite.
“Instead of trading schemes that let polluters pay to keep polluting and allow developers to pave over farm land, let’s instead focus on creating a system in Maryland that values small and medium-scale sustainable, healthy food production.”
Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink. 
March 26, 2012  
4:00 PM
CONTACT: Food & Water Watch
 Erin Greenfield at (202) 683-2457 or


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Last year a Canadian study discovered that insecticide toxins from genetically engineered (GMO) crops were found in the blood of 93% of blood samples taken from pregnant women and 80% umbilical cords tested. Monsanto has maintained that these toxins in their crops would never affect the food supply or affect humans, but can we trust them? Today 88% of corn and 94% of soybeans are genetically engineered. How could this be affecting you and your family?
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