pesticides

In late July 2019, a group of migrant farmworkers from south Texas was working in a cornfield in DeWitt County, Ill., when suddenly a crop duster flew overhead, spraying them with pesticides. Panicked, the crew, which included teenagers and a pregnant woman, ran off the field with clothes doused in pesticides. Their eyes and throats burned and some had trouble breathing.

It happened again two weeks later, this time twice within 30 minutes.

To Save Monarchs, Texas Needs More Milkweed

Aug 13, 2019
Public Domain via MaxPixel

In Texas, monarch butterfly populations have been in steady decline.

As The Texas Observer notes, while these beautiful orange and black butterflies used to be plentiful in the Lone Star State, in recent years their numbers have dropped by 90%.

Consider, for a moment, the circuitous journey of the insecticide called thiamethoxam, on its way to killing a wild wasp.

Alejandro Tena, a researcher at the Valencia Institute of Agricultural Research, in Spain, mixed the chemical into water used to irrigate clementine trees. This is a common practice among citrus farmers. As intended, the tree roots absorbed the insecticide, and it spread throughout the trees' branches and leaves.

More than 2 million people in the U.S. work in or near agriculture fields that are treated with pesticides. The Environmental Protection Agency has strict policies about what those workers need to know about pesticide risks, when they can be in those fields and what they should do if they come into contact with chemicals.

On July 28, 2017, a central Iowa emergency dispatcher received a 911 call from a man in a corn field.

“I had workers that were detasseling,” said the caller, referring to the job of manually pulling the tops off standing corn stalks. “Some may have gotten sprayed by a plane.”

Pesticides are all over, from backyard gardens to cornfields. While their use doesn’t appear to be slowing, concern over drift and the resulting effects on health is driving research — and more worries.

Those concerns are bringing pesticides to a different venue: courtrooms. 

Pesticides are all over, from backyard gardens to cornfields. While their use doesn’t appear to be slowing, concern over drift and the resulting effects on health is driving research — and more worries.

Those concerns are bringing pesticides to a different venue: courtrooms. 

Applying large amounts of pesticides to farm fields can have negative effects on babies born to mothers living nearby, according to new research.

The data-crunching study published in Nature Communications looked at the farm-heavy San Joaquin Valley in California, where a variety of pesticides get applied to dozens of different crops including fruits, vegetables and nuts.

Environmental Protection Agency / Wikimedia Commons

For years, some Texans in agricultural areas have been complaining of chemical drift from crop dusters. Poisonous pesticides can sometimes drift as much as five miles from their intended targets, especially in the high-speed winds of the Texas Panhandle.

After court documents unsealed Tuesday raised questions about its research methods, chemical giant Monsanto says it did not ghostwrite a 2000 study on the safety of glyphosate, the active ingredient in its flagship pesticide Roundup.

Pixabay

Texas winegrowers are concerned that federal approval of new herbicides for some cotton crops will eradicate the wine industry in the Texas High Plains.

Alvesgaspar / Wikimedia Commons

A federal judge’s ruling last week is being hailed as a victory for insecticide companies and lamented as a loss for beekeepers and nature advocates, reports Agri-Pulse.

An insecticide seed coating called neonicotinoid is believed to be partially responsible for the disappearance in many areas of the country of bees. Environmental groups had sued to have the substance outlawed.

A Glimpse Inside Colorado's "Insectary" Lab

Jul 25, 2016
Dan Garrison / Harvest Public Media

In the small farming town of Palisade, Colorado, there’s a lab known simply as "The Insectary." Scientists in the facility are hard at work developing bugs. These insects are engineered to attack other bugs and invasive plants harmful to agriculture.

The adapted critters are known as “biocontrol insects.” Despite its humble surroundings, the Insectary is the oldest and largest such facility in the United States, reports member station KUNC.

Courtney Perry / Minneapolis Star Tribune

Beekeepers on the High Plains might want to keep an eye on a story to the north. Two beekeepers in Minnesota have received compensation from the state’s department of agriculture after their hives were destroyed. The hives were severely damaged last spring by toxic pesticides that had drifted off a neighboring cornfield, reports the Star Tribune.

Kevin Johnson / Santa Cruz Sentinel

Eating organic food can make Latino children less vulnerable to pesticides, according to a new UC Berkeley study. The effect is even more pronounced in low-income agricultural regions, reports the Santa Cruz Sentinel. The study found that organic food can substantially lower pesticide exposure in children. 

Bayer Battles EPA Ruling Banning Pesticide

Feb 12, 2016
Ina Fassbender / Reuters

The Environmental Protection Agency recently attempted to pull one of the chemical company Bayer’s insecticides from the marketplace. The EPA expressed concerns that that the chemical could harm organisms in streams and ponds. Now, reports Reuters, the German company is fighting back.  Bayer is asking for an administrative hearing from the EPA's Office of General Counsel to review the case.

High Plains Farmers Battle Hessian Fly Infestation

Dec 24, 2015
Bugwood.org / Creative Commons

Farmers on the High Plains are experiencing an infestation of Hessian Flies this growing season. And there’s not much to be done about it, says Agriculture.com.

EPA Revises Pesticide Standards

Oct 8, 2015
Sakhorn / Shutterstock

The Environmental Protection Agency has released a new set of Worker Protection Standards, reports The Rural Blog. According to the new EPA rules, children under 18 will now be prohibited from handling pesticides in the US. Farm workers will also require pesticide training every year, a change to the old rule that required training every five years. And the new rules require posting of no-entry signs for areas containing the most hazardous pesticides.

Pesticide Drift Threatens Organic Farms

Aug 10, 2015
Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

From Harvest Public Media:

Chert Hollow Farm sits nestled between rows of tall trees and a nearby stream in central Missouri. Eric and Joanna Reuter have been running the organic farm since 2006. That means they don’t plant genetically modified crops and can only use a few approved kinds of chemicals and fertilizers.

Big Companies Expand Testing of Organic "Biopesticides"

Jun 23, 2015
Dan Charles / NPR

One of the biggest hurdles farmers have faced in recent years is the sticky problem of how to kill weeds organically. As conventional farmers fall under increasing pressure to use fewer toxic chemicals, they have begun to search for less pernicious methods of eliminating weeds, according to NPR.com. One answer is microbe-produced pesticides, known as biopesticides.

A Buzz Over Bees

Apr 7, 2015
: Carol Hillendahl

The plight of our pollinators is a hot topic in legislature; political initiatives are in motion to protect the honey bee and monarch populations across the nation.

From the AG Journal, contributing writer Candace Krebs reports that “Pollinator health is one of three key legislative priorities the American Agri-Women organization decided to zoom in on this year, along with immigration reform and proposed clean water rules.”

Study links pesticide use and depression in farmers

Jan 8, 2015
farmingthedream.com

Organic farming may be just as healthy for the farmers who practices it as it is to their consumers reports the Center for Rural Affairs.

Researchers at the National Institute of Health recently completed a 20 year study on the connection between pesticides and depression in farmers.