November/December 1997 - Volume 20, no. 9
HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT
SEASON'S GREETINGS! We have survived another year. I hope that the Georgia Pest Management Newsletter continues to be of value. From the comments I have received, we at least generate interest. I have a drawer full of positive comments and a trash can full of negative ones. (Just kidding. Negative comments are often more helpful than postive ones, even when they sting a bit.)
A monthly newsletter is a great deal of work, but we will continue as long as we provide something useful. Please submit your comments and suggestions, and THANK YOU for your continued support.
Note: This issue is a combination of November/December. December is a very busy time (it takes a long time to make up this stuff), and news is rather slow. See you next year!
The FQPA requires EPA to develop a brochure for consumers that explains the risks and benefits of pesticides applied to foods, as well as how consumers can reduce their risk from pesticides on foods. The EPA does not want the brochure to be overly frightening or too reassuring.
The issue of organic foods is particularly troubling. Consumers groups want EPA to recommend organic foods. Pesticide organizations do not want EPA to recommend organic foods because that will imply that our general food supply is unsafe. Should the brochure recommend that consumers buy organically grown food to reduce their risk from pesticides? Before you answer, consider that 90% of California produce meets the organic standard concerning pesticide residues ('organic' foods in California may have up to 10%of the pesticide tolerance). Additionally, organic produce is grown with manures instead of synthetic fertilizers. Manures increase the likelihood that the food is contaminated with disease pathogens.
Here is the wild card. Regardless of how much time and money that EPA spends developing this brochure, grocery stores do not have to display it. I cannot imagine why any grocery chain would choose to display a brochure that makes customers think about pesticides on the produce that the store is trying to sell. Nonetheless, the EPA is required to produce this brochure annually with enough copies for more than 40,000 grocery stores in the United States. If each grocery were supplied only 500 copies, the EPA would have to provide 20,000,000 copies.
I think that this brochure is a mistake all the way. The EPA should not invest many resources in a brochure that stores are unlikely to display. Unless the brochure is total fluff, it will scare customers away from the produce aisle and over to the snack cakes and diet sodas.
Many people ask me what to do about food safety. I have two children, so I am very concerned about what they eat. Here is my advice. 1) Wash or peel fresh fruits and vegetables, primarily to remove the bacteria (Do you know how many people have handled or sniffed that apple before you bought it?). 2) Encourage your children to eat lots of fruits and vegetables by making them available instead of unhealthy snacks. 3) Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables because children learn by example. 4) Don't worry about pesticide residues on foods, but keep the pesticide in your home stored securely.
It may be coincidence, but the FQPA review will start with organophosphates/carbamates, and eight organophosphate/carbamate companies have banded together to promote safe use of these pesticides.
Among other things, they offer a free safety kit that includes safety awareness signs, sealable bags for contaminated clothing, and educational brochures. The price is right. Probably not a great gift idea (unless you're on a tight budget). If you want one, call 800-233-1909.
The EPA, USDA, and FDA announced in 1993 that 75% of U.S. crop acreage would be under IPM by 2000. That deadline is now two years away; what progress has been made? The administration defined the IPM initiative in three phases: 1) assemble teams to develop projects that would achieve the 75% goal, 2) fund the best projects, and 3) facilitate IPM privatization strategies for the best projects.
The USDA estimated that IPM implementation was about 50% of U.S. crop acreage in 1994. There have been 23 IPM teams created, and about half have reported priorities. No funding for these projects has come from the IPM initiative, although some of the priority projects are being implemented with other sources of money.
These results are not surprising nor upsetting to me. The federal government is providing a great deal of money for IPM projects but not through the IPM initiative. There is no point in dwelling upon or investing many resources in the 75% goal. 'IPM' is a broadly defined concept, and I could easily create a logical definition by which more the 75% of U.S. acreage would qualify as IPM today. On the other hand, growers, researchers, private industry, and extension have ideas about how to reduce environmental/human risks from pesticides while maintaining profitable farming operations. Isn't that what IPM is really all about? Let's fund continuing implementation of good ideas rather than focus on 75%.
One controversial idea has been the use of IPM as a marketing tool. Proponents contend that consumers will buy IPM labeled products if they understand the environmental/human health significance of IPM. I was invited to a meeting to discuss this concept. In my opinion, IPM marketing would be more effective by associating it with a 'warm, fuzzy' symbol rather than trying to educate that public about the meaning of IPM. The majority, however, did not share my point of view.
As we draw closer to the 2001 phase-out of methyl bromide, rumblings to extend that deadline are inevitable. After all, other parties to the Montreal Protocol have a deadline of 2005, which give U.S. agricultural competitors an advantage. The deadline for developing nations is 2015. The USDA is calling for legislation to 'fix' the Clean Air Act (i.e., change the 2001 deadline).
There are many sides to this debate. Environmental groups are outraged that the United States would consider changing our self-imposed phase-out deadline of 2001; their viewpoint is understandable if methyl bromide is an important threat to the ozone. U.S. agriculture producers, however, do not understand why their overseas competitors should receive an important advantage. Again, their point is well taken; there are millions of dollars to be won or lost. And a shift to foreign production could become permanent even when everyone stops using methyl bromide. Finally, the manufacturers of methyl bromide understand where their markets are. They lobby to have the U.S. deadline extended and try to expand sales to developing countries because that is where the market shift will occur. (Pesticide & Tox. Chem News, 11-12-97)
What will happen? I don't need a crystal ball to see what is likely. Add these ingredients: 1) millions of $$ in sales of methyl bromide and the commodities produced with methyl bromide, 2) uncertainty in exactly how much damage that methyl bromide is doing to the ozone layer, 3) a shift in competitive advantage to foreign competitors, and 4) the greatest impacts in California and Florida (two states with large populations and enormous political clout). Mix well and bake at a very high political temperature; increase heat as 2001 deadline approaches. The result? The U.S. deadline of 2001 will be modified to allow continued use of methyl bromide until it is phased out by our competitors. However, methyl bromide is on the way out. The global scientific community feels strongly that methyl bromide is a serious threat to the ozone layer. In the meantime, let us not forget that a deadline is still approaching; we must invest in effective replacements for methyl bromide.
Which of the following labels is more threatening (or more comforting) to you? 1) This food is a 'product of modern biotechnology.' 2) This food has been 'genetically altered.' 3) This food is 'derived from new technology.' 4) This food may contain a manufactured 'protein-based change.' These phrases and others are being proposed to identify food products that have genetically engineered components. They remind me of the phrases coined by the cigarette industry, such as 'cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide' or 'may be hazardous to your health.' The goal is the same (although the health threat is very different); use a phrase that will satisfy regulations without scaring away your customers.
The issue of labeling genetically engineered food products is hotly debated in the United States and our foreign markets. As consumers become more educated, they want to know what is in the foods they consume. Twenty-five years ago, no one considered the fat and nutritional qualities of the foods they purchased. Now, I look at the fat content of almost every product I buy, primarily to limit my own fat content.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, about 25% of Mississippi growers with Roundup Ready cotton have complained about the cotton's performance. About 20% of Roundup Ready cotton had unexplained boll drop or boll deformity. In addition to Roundup applications, the company (Monsanto) and others are investigating interactions with soil type and weather. After all, 80% of the Roundup Ready cotton did not seem to be affected.
Monsanto has also had some problems with B.t. transgenic cotton. Some groups are pointing to the incidents as evidence that genetically engineered crops are fraught with unpredictable hazards. Others look at the problems as ordinary bumps in the road for a new technology.
In the meantime, the USDA is reducing its role of oversight for new genetically engineered crops. Under this new policy, only transgenic noxious weeds, some virus resistant crops, and pharmaceutical-plants would require a USDA risk assessment. Additionally, there will be less oversight of petitions for new varieties that are closely related to varieties that have already been approved. Environmental/human health groups contend that USDA should maintain more stringent regulation of transgenic varieties; industry groups applaud the reduced regulation. (Gene Exchange, Fall '97)
One of the biggest concerns for transgenic crops is the management of pest resistance to the crop, and the concern is greatest for crops (corn, cotton, potato, etc) that produce a toxin from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Bt is also a widely used spray-on pesticide that is one the few effective tools available to organic growers. As a result, the EPA has required that companies submit a resistance management plan if they want to market Bt crops. For example, farmers with Bt cotton must either plant 20% non-Bt cotton that can be sprayed with nonBt products or plant 4% non-Bt cotton that is not sprayed with any insecticide. Other proposed strategies include engineering the production of more than one Bt toxin in the same plant.
Two recent papers (by two of the leading voices in resistance management) cast serious doubt on the effectiveness of these strategies. Gould, et al., discovered that the gene for resistance to the Bt toxin occurs at a rate of one in thousand among populations of tobacco budworm, a primary target of the Bt toxin in cotton. The frequency of the resistance gene in the population is a major factor that determines when resistance will develop; the one in a thousand frequency is substantially higher than the assumptions used in plans for resistance management. These researchers speculate that Bt resistance could develop in cotton pests within 3-4 years unless resistance management plans are modified, including larger untreated areas and/or inclusion of Bt proteins that are more toxic to the pests. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 94, 1997)
Another basic element in resistance management strategies is to expose pest populations to more than one toxin simultaneously with the idea that if one toxin does not kill the pest, the other one(s) will. This idea assumes that the insect gene for resistance to one toxin does not confer resistance to the other toxins and that the genes for resistance are rare in the population. Tabashnik, et al. report that neither of these assumptions is true for some populations of diamond-back moth, a serious pest of many crops. They discovered that a single gene can effect resistance to four different Bt toxins and that the frequency of this gene in the population was greater than 20%. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 94, 1997)
As we have discovered before, there is no magic bullet to defeat insect pests. They evolved mechanisms to overcome plant defenses for millions of years before man entered the fray. The war against insect pests will never be won; we can only hope to win our share of the battles.
Ever wonder what happened to FlavrSavr Tomatoes? They were widely cheered as the first of many improved foods to come from the transgenic revolution; they were also roundly criticized as the harbinger of doom from the transgenic revulsion. The tomatoes were supposed to be ripen on the vine and still be hard enough to withstand the rigors of long-distance shipping. I am always ready to try a store bought tomato that was supposed to be as good as one from my garden, but I never saw them in my local grocery.
What happened? Well, the tomatoes were never really hard enough to withstand picking, packing, and shipping. They often arrived at the store looking like a tomato that had picked somewhere in California and shipped 3,000 miles. Secondly, the company did not realize the importance of yield and disease resistance. The tomatoes could not compete with other commercial varieties in U.S. tomato growing regions. (Gene Exchange, Fall '97)
In the meantime, Monsanto has obtained the FlavrSavr tomato company (Calgene), and consumers long for a store-bought tomato that tastes like anything. Look for the technical problems concerning yield and disease resistance to be solved and the FlavrSavr to return with a different name.
The USDA-ARS has discovered that two natural fungal compounds have potential as pest control agents. Beauvaria bassiana, a common soil fungus, effected a 53% reduction in corn damage from European corn borer. Beauvaria has also varying degrees of effectiveness against a number of other pests. Another fungus associated with fruit spoilage has been shown to be a broadleaf herbicide. The bioherbicide has been shown to have activity against duckweed, jimsonweed, prickly sida, pigweed, and others. (Pesticide & Tox Chem News, 11-12-97)
There are more than 40 genetically engineered agriculture products that have been approved for sale or await approval. Most of the products are related to crop resistance to herbicides, virus resistance, or production of Bt toxins in plants or micro-organisms. Consider that the first transgenic crop was approved about 3-4 years ago. To quote an old saying, 'you ain't seen nothing yet.' For the overeducated, that means 'mankind has only scratched the surface of this exciting new technology, and we can only speculate on the ramifications for agriculture and society'.
A new process discovered by USDA-ARS helps keep microbial herbicides viable. Although many biocontrols have been discovered to be effective against weeds, it has been very difficult to keep them alive long enough for use in the field. This method has kept many organisms alive at least 2 years with refrigeration and up to 6 months at room temperature. The process combines the microbes with sugar, silica, corn oil, and starch. The resulting mixture is water dispersable and can be applied with conventional spray equipment. (ARS/USDA, 10-97 via Pesticides Coordinator Report, 11-97)
Scientists with BASF have discovered a new class of fungicides for fruits, vegetables, and ornamentals. The fungicide, kresoxim-methyl was isolated from wood rotting fungi. It will be marketed as Sovran for fruits and vegetables and Cygnus for ornamentals. A new fungicide class could be big news. FQPA requires strict regulation of carcinogens, and many fungicides will be affected. (Pesticide & Tox. Chem News 25:50, via Kansas Pesticide Newsletter, 11-17-97)
If you ask EPA, the Clean Air Act has been well worth it. From 1970-90, total benefits from the Clean Air Act ranged from $6 trillion to $50 trillion annually; the costs were estimated to be $523 billion annually. Much of the benefit is based upon an estimated 205,000 lives saved and millions of illnesses avoided. If you are interested in how these numbers are derived, call Jim DeMocker at 202-260-8980. (Pestic. & Tox. Chem. News, 10-22-97)
Look for action on the Endangered Species Act early in the 1998 session of Congress. There is strong bipartisan and White House support for Senate bill 1180. Environmental groups are largely supporting HR 2351. It seems that many voices are calling for reform of the Endangered Species Act. If you want to participate, get ready. (Arrow Newsletter, 11-97)
It is widely accepted that DDT and other pesticides cause breast cancer; however, the largest study to date does NOT support this conclusion. A recent study followed 240 women who submitted blood samples in 1989-90 and developed breast cancer before June 1, 1992. These women were matched with other women with similar levels of DDE (a metabolite of DDT) that had not developed breast cancer. The median level of DDE was lower in the breast cancer patients than it was in the control group. We should be alert to health problems that may be related to pesticides, but we may waste valuable resources if we assume that pesticides are the root of all human disease. (New England Journal of Medicine, 10-30-97)
In a recent study of pesticide in water, there was a much greater rate of detection and higher pesticide levels in urban and suburban areas than in row-crop agricultural areas. The detection levels were quite low in all cases, but the results were still surprising. It is a common practice to point at agriculture for pesticides in water without taking a close look in your own backyard. Diazinon insecticide was detected in every urban and suburban sample; commercial lawn services and golf courses do not use diazinon. The most likely source of diazinon would seem to be homeowners, probably overusing diazinon in attempts to control fire ants. (U.S. Geological Survey, 97-48)
The Annals of Emergency Medicine has published their findings based on hospital discharge reports and poison control center data from 1985-90. In that period, there were 341 fatalities attributed to pesticides; 64% were suicides, and 28% accidental (8% undetermined). There were more than 25,000 hospitalizations associated with pesticides; 78% were accidents. Of 338,000 pesticide calls to poison control centers, 782 were life-threatening (97 deaths were reported. For these calls, herbicides accounted for 8% of exposures but 25% of deaths. BE CAREFUL!! (Annals Emergency Med., vol. 29, 1997)
DowElanco will appoint an independent panel of scientists to evaluate the effects of chlorpyrifos exposure on production workers. Chlorpyrifos has been reported as a leading cause of insecticide poisonings. DowElanco is not required to conduct this investigation, but the company said that it will do the research in the name of product stewardship. Chlorpyrifos is a widely used product (many $$$$), and it has recently come under a great deal of unfavorable scrutiny. The registrant is wise to conduct proactive research regarding the safety of an important product.
On the other hand, the Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Referral and Resources group (you probably have not heard of it, but you are not surprised) is criticizing the project because of the study group. MCSRR contends that the study population should include people that report multiple chemical sensitivity and/or poisoning related to chlorpyrifos. Additionally, MCSRR maintains that workers are more likely to be healthy and wear special equipment that protects them from chlorpyrifos. (Pestic. & Tox. Chem. News, 11-19-97)
More than 45,000 gallons of chlorpyrifos product spilled into streams and lakes around Birmingham, Ala. following a warehouse fire. It is estimated that more than a million fish died as a result. Additionally, birds, reptiles, and other wildlife were affected for 26 miles along contaminated waterways. There are continuing concerns about water and soil contamination, drinking water safety, and the potentially lengthy recovery period for the surrounding area. The fire burned for three days and required more than 55 millions gallons of water to bring it under control. (Pestic. & Tox. Chem News, 10-29-97)
Rid-A-Bird Perch 1100 Solution pesticide will be phased out by Dec. 1, 1999. The EPA is concerned that too many predatory birds are feeding on poisoned prey for which Rid-A-Bird is used, such as starlings and pigeons. After May 1, 1998, Rid-A-Bird may no longer be used in starling roosting areas. No more product may be sold after Oct. 1, 1999. All leftover stocks will be recalled by Dec. 1, 1999. The Agency will expedite review of a new product, CPT, for the same use. (EPA Press Advisory, 11-14-97)
The following products are being canceled at the request of the registrant. Unless the request is withdrawn by April 27, 1998, the product registrations will be canceled. Existing stocks may be sold for one year following the cancellation request. Users may continue to use products according to the label. (FR, 10-29-97)
The following uses will be deleted from the pesticide label at the request of the registrant. Unless the request is withdrawn by April 27, 1998, the product registrations will be canceled. Existing stocks may be sold for one year following the cancellation request. Users may continue to use products according to the label.
The following pesticide uses are being canceled at the request of the registrant. The cancellations will take effect May 12, 1998 if the requests are not withdrawn. (FR, 11-12-97)
The Georgia Pest Management Newsletter is a monthly journal for Extension agents/specialists, and others interested in pest management news. It provides information on legislation, regulations, and other pest management issues
Do not regard the information in this newsletter as pest management recommendations. Consult the Georgia Pest Control Handbook, other extension publications, or appropriate specialists for this information.
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Department of Entomology
University of Georgia
Athens, GA 30602
Paul Guillebeau, Assistant Professor & Extension Entomologist
The University of Georgia and Ft. Valley State College, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and counties of the state cooperating. The Cooperative Extension Service offers educational programs, assistance and materials to all people without regard to race, color, national origin, age, sex or disability.
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