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A federal appeals court recently ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to ban the entire class of chlorpyrifos-containing pesticides in the United States. The decree, while still subject to further delays and appeals, marks a major victory for environmental and public health groups.

This is not the first time these pesticides have been banned. As we reported in a previous article, the EPA overturned a ban on chlorpyrifos in March 2017. The decision was largely carried out by Scott Pruitt, then administrator of the EPA under the Trump administration (his own staff at the EPA recommended that chlorpyrifos-containing products be taken off the market).

Throughout his tenure, Mr. Pruitt was the targeted recipient of intense lobbying on behalf of the pesticide industry—a cozy relationship that led to lavish spending, family favors, and other ethical scandals. Since the summer of 2017, Mr. Pruitt has become the subject of no less than thirteen federal investigations into these “legal and ethical violations,” and has since resigned.[1]

The recent ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit was issued in response to a lawsuit filed by environmental groups shortly after the commercial ban was rejected by Mr. Pruitt. The court ruled that there was “no justification for the E.P.A.’s decision in its 2017 order to maintain a tolerance for chlorpyrifos in the face of scientific evidence that its residue on food causes neurodevelopmental damage to children,” and ordered the agency to enact a ban with sixty days.[2]

Studies show adverse effects on childhood neurological development

The EPA still maintains that their staff has been unable to “access” sufficient data to warrant an outright ban of chlorpyrifos, but most experts agree that this stock response is nothing more than a stall tactic originally conceived by Mr. Pruitt. There most certainly is sufficient data to warrant concern over chlorpyrifos toxicity, especially in children.

For example, one study carried out by researchers at the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health reported “evidence of deficits in Working Memory Index and Full-Scale IQ” in seven-year-old children who had been exposed to chlorpyrifos-containing pesticides for all or most of their lives.[3]

Another study published in the journal Neurotoxicology examined the effects of prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos, and found it to be correlated with mild to moderate tremors in children, as well as an increased risk of more serious movement disorders.[4]

Despite the EPA’s reluctance, environmentalists are celebrating

The EPA hasn’t yet made it clear what their next action will be. The agency reserves the right to request a reconsideration of the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, to ask for an extension on the chlorpyrifos ban deadline, or to appeal to the Supreme Court.

As mentioned above, representatives still claim that they require more data in order to make their decision. Agency spokesman Michael Abboud stated that “the E.P.A. is reviewing the decision,” and explained that “the Columbia Center’s data underlying the court’s assumptions remains inaccessible and has hindered the agency’s ongoing process to fully evaluate the pesticide using the best available, transparent science.”

While loyalty to genuine, evidence-based science is certainly an admirable sentiment, the slowness of the E.P.A.’s actions is still strange. After all, the agency’s first priority is to protect the health of the environment and American citizens, not corporate interests—one would hope that any evidence that chlorpyrifos adversely affects children would spur at least some degree of swift regulatory action.

Despite these ambiguities, though, environmental activists view the Ninth Circuit’s ruling as cause for celebration.

For starters, the current ban is more all-encompassing than the one rejected by Scott Pruitt in 2017—it prohibits not only commercial household uses of chlorpyrifos (e.g. as an insecticide), but also all industrial use on farms. The previous ban still allowed farmers to legally use chlorpyrifos, a caveat with which environmentalists took issue, given that the chemical’s adverse effects have been shown to be especially pronounced in the children of farming families.

If the ban is enacted, it will be a huge blow to pesticide companies. Over fifty different crops—including a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains—are grown using chlorpyrifos-based pesticides. According to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, a whopping 640,000 acres of California farmland was treated with such pesticides in 2016 alone.[5]

Regardless, the Ninth Circuit’s ruling serves as a beacon of hope to many environmentalists who had begun to believe that not even the Environmental Protection Agency could be trusted to, well…protect the environment. The ruling demonstrates that evidence-based science and targeted activism, coupled with a well-functioning judicial system, can still triumph over corrupt politics and corporate cronyism.

With any luck, by the time farmers throughout the United States plant and harvest their next round of crops, law will require them to do so without toxic, chlorpyrifos-containing pesticides.

 


References

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/05/climate/scott-pruitt-epa-trump.html

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1003160/

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26385760

[5] https://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/pur/pur16rep/chmrpt16.pdf

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glyphosate-organic-foods - glyphosate pesticide

You may already be familiar with glyphosate, the pesticide constituent with which Monsanto and the agricultural industry is poisoning our entire planet. Not long ago, concerns about the usage of this noxious chemical on our nation’s crops were shrugged off as conspiracy paranoia—but now even the World Health Organization officially considers it a probable human carcinogen.

New study data is emerging all the time, and findings point to a simple but frightening fact: the toxicity of glyphosate has been grossly underestimated.

Glyphosate triggers massive inflammation, taxes the body with oxidative stress, throws your hormones out of whack, and destroys your microbiome (many experts attribute Celiac disease and grain intolerance to this damage). That pretty much covers the root causes that lead to nearly all major health conditions, so it’s no wonder that glyphosate has now been linked with immune dysfunction, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, obesity, depression and other mood disorders, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, ADHD, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, infertility, reproductive issues, developmental deformities, and ALS.[1]

One study demonstrated that even glyphosate levels in the parts-per-trillion range cause breast cancer proliferation and extreme estrogen imbalance—and researchers fear that similarly miniscule amounts of the chemical can lead to the other conditions listed above.[2] For this reason and many others, some scientists believe that glyphosate is the most dangerous and toxic chemical ever approved for commercial use.

Amidst all of this overwhelming evidence, Monsanto continues to deny all toxicity claims. The corporation has employed a ludicrous array of tactics to undermine the information reported the WHO: attacking the professional credibility of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the division of the WHO that published its report on glyphosate, downplaying any and all negative evidence against their beloved chemical, and funding propaganda campaigns to drown out legitimate research.

Monsanto has even stooped to laughable word games, claiming that labeling their pesticides as “carcinogenic” doesn’t actually link the chemical to cancer. I’m sure that it’s hardly necessary for us to point out the absurdity in this statement.

The point is that, despite loud public outcry, Monsanto has shown its commitment to continually growing their multi-billion-dollar agricultural empire—regardless of what effect it may have on the health of you and the planet. And the larger their operations grow, the more widespread glyphosate contamination becomes.

A groundbreaking U.S. Geological Survey found glyphosate (as well as its toxic degradation product, AMPA) in 59% of sampled surface water sites, 8.4% of sampled groundwater sites, and over 50% of soil and sediment samples. Even 10% of water in wastewater treatment plants was found to contain glyphosate (and a whopping 80% contained AMPA).[3]

But at least organic food is safe…right?

In light of this increasingly grave situation, those wishing to protect themselves from the negative health effects of glyphosate have retreated into the perceived safety of organic food. But recently, a tirelessly health-conscious company, Tropical Traditions, has revealed that organic food is not as safe as we think it is.

They recently tested commercial organic grains grown in Montana, North Dakota, and Canada, and found them to contain levels of glyphosate that were nearly as high as in conventional, non-GMO grains (between 0.03-0.06 mg/kg, compared to 0.07-0.09 mg/kg found in conventional produce). While GMO grains contain much higher levels yet (between 3.3-5.7 mg/kg), this presence of glyphosate in organic products is deeply distressing—particularly given the chemical’s uncanny abilities to trigger health problems at shockingly low doses.

All organic grains they examined failed the glyphosate test, with the exception of organic rye and organic millet, as well as organic wheat from small-scale farmers in Wisconsin.

How can this be happening?

It’s human nature to want a well-defined culprit at whom we can point our fingers—especially when it comes to industrial, health-destroying schemes. For better or worse, though, the perpetrator is hard to identify in this case, as the problem extends through every level of the agricultural system.

Pesticide manufacturers are obviously the instigators of the whole problem—if companies like Monsanto would stop pushing their toxic products into the hands of farmers, our world could begin to heal the damages caused by glyphosate. Farmers may be to blame, as well, though—it’s suspected that many “organic” farmers use glyphosate to kill late-season weeds that grow in between crops, and even that they “dessicate” their crops with glyphosate (this kills the crop early, ensuring that they’re able to harvest it before early snowstorms come).

When it comes time for the USDA to give these contaminated crops the organic seal of approval, they too drop the ball—their “acceptable” pesticide levels are far too high, and if farmers demonstrate that glyphosate hasn’t been directly applied to the crop during its growing season, farmers are even given 5% of wiggle room. These numbers are based on standards set by the EPA, which recently raised the allowable limit for pesticides in food by a worrying degree.

And lastly, some glyphosate contamination is simply out of everyone’s control. Some scientists fear that glyphosate is reaching organic crops through rainwater and irrigation, and that contaminated water supplied could make it increasingly difficult to produce truly glyphosate-free food.

How to protect yourself (and our entire food system)

Luckily, companies like Tropical Traditions are leading the charge to offer officially tested, glyphosate-free food. In order for them to succeed, we must all vote with our dollars by supporting their products instead of those contaminated by Monsanto’s poisons.

Whenever possible, research products to see if they’ve been tested for glyphosate content (chances are that “glyphosate-free” will enter mainstream health food nomenclature before long). Source your food from small-scale companies and farmers, and be willing to ask tough questions about how it was grown. As long as consumers remain ambivalent about issues like glyphosate contamination, GMO labeling, and insufficient government regulation, the toxic agricultural industry will carry on with business as usual.

By only supporting companies and products that you know are committed to ridding the world of glyphosate, you can play your part in protecting the future of our food and water supply—as well as the future of your personal health and well-being.

 


References

[1] http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/alert-certified-organic-food-grown-us-found-contaminated-glyphosate-herbicide?page=1

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23756170

[3] http://toxics.usgs.gov/highlights/2014-04-23-glyphosate_2014.html

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