Tag Archives: pesticides

Beekeepers lost 44 percent of colonies over the last year

Beekeepers reported losing 44 percent of their total number of colonies managed over the last year — close to the highest annual loss in the past six years.

The annual report on honeybee losses in the United States comes from the Bee Informed Partnership, in collaboration with the Apiary Inspectors of America and the United States Department of Agriculture.

These losses are considered too high to be sustainable for U.S. agriculture and the beekeeping industry.

“These honey bee losses reinforce what sciences continues to tell us; we must take immediate action to restrict pesticides contributing to bee declines,” said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner with Friends of the Earth. “The longer we wait, the worse the situation becomes. If we do not suspend neonicotinoid pesticides immediately, we risk losing our beekeepers and harming important ecosystem functions upon which our food supply depends.”

A large and growing body of science has attributed bee declines to several key factors, including exposure to the world’s most widely used class of insecticides, neonicotinoids.

States, cities, universities, businesses and federal agencies in the U.S. have passed measures to restrict the use of these pesticides due to delay by the EPA.

However, these pesticides are still widely used despite mounting evidence that they kill bees outright and make them more vulnerable to pests, pathogens and other stressors.

A year ago, the EPA announced a moratorium on new or expanded uses of neonicotinoids while it evaluates the risks posed to pollinators. In January 2016, the EPA released its preliminary pollinator risk assessment for the neonicotinoid imidacloprid and found it poses risks to honey bees.

The EPA is primarily relying on states and tribes to develop pollinator protection plans to address pesticide use, which was an initiative started by the Pollinator Health Task Force, a group established by President Barack Obama’s Presidential Memorandum on pollinators.

This past year, the USDA, a co-chair of the Pollinator Health Task Force, was reported to suppress and silence its own scientists for speaking to the harms of neonicotinoids and glyphosate — an herbicide that is a leading contributor to monarch decline.

“The EPA is passing the buck to states and our regulatory agencies are letting the pesticide industry pull the wool over their eyes instead of seeking solutions,” said Finck-Haynes. “The EPA, USDA and Congress must adopt a federal, unified plan that eliminates the use of systemic pesticides to protect bees and beekeepers.”

Study: Conventional strawberries most contaminated with pesticides

Conventional strawberries top the Dirty Dozen list from the Environmental Working Group’s 2016 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.

For the past five years, apples had topped the list.

Nearly all strawberry samples — 98 percent — tested by federal officials had detectable pesticide residues, according to EWG.

Forty percent had residues of 10 or more pesticides and some had residues of 17 different pesticides. Some of the chemicals detected on strawberries are relatively benign but others are linked to cancer, reproductive and developmental damage, hormone disruption and neurological problems.

Strawberries were once a seasonal, limited crop, but heavy use of pesticides increased yields and stretched the growing season. In California, where most U.S. strawberries are grown, one acre can be treated with about 300 pounds of pesticides. More than 60 pounds are conventional chemicals that may leave post-harvest residues but most are fumigants — volatile poison gases that can drift into nearby schools and neighborhoods, according to EWG.

“It is startling to see how heavily strawberries are contaminated with residues of hazardous pesticides, but even more shocking is that these residues don’t violate the weak U.S. laws and regulations on pesticides in food,” said Sonya Lunder, EWG senior analyst. “The EPA’s levels of residues allowed on produce are too lax to protect Americans’ health. They should be updated to reflect new research that shows even very small doses of toxic chemicals can be harmful, particularly for young children.”

 

Recent studies of insecticides used on some fruits and vegetables, including strawberries, found children exposed to high levels were at greater risk of impaired intelligence and ADHD. Research also indicates the levels of pesticides in the bodies of elementary school children peaked during the summer, when they ate the most fresh produce. But after just five days on an organic diet, they were essentially pesticide-free.

The Dirty Dozen lists the fruits and vegetables that have been contaminated by multiple pesticides and which have higher concentrations of pesticides.

More than 98 percent of strawberries, peaches, nectarines and apples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue. The average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other produce.

Clean 15

Avocados, on the other hand, remained on the group’s Clean 15 list, with less than 1 percent of samples showing any detectable pesticides. No single fruit sample from the Clean 15 tested positive for more than four types of pesticides and very few for more than one.

The Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, updated every year since 2004, ranks pesticide contamination on 48 popular fruits and vegetables. EWG’s analysis is based on results of more than 35,200 samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration. This year’s update found a total of 146 pesticides on fruit and vegetable samples tested in 2014 – residues that remain on produce even after items are washed and in some cases peeled.

EPA assessment finds pesticide a risk to honeybees

The Environmental Protection Agency, in risk assessment released in early January, said a popular pesticide poses a significant risk to honeybees.

The analysis from the EPA indicates that honeybees can be exposed to imidacloprid — a neonicotinoid pesticide used on 140 crops — at concentrations that negatively affect the health of the hive. The assessment said the pesticide can harm honeybees when used on citrus and cotton but not berries, corn and tobacco.

Lisa Archer, food and technology program director at Friends of the Earth, said the EPA’s assessment “reinforces the strong body of independent science demonstrating that neonicotinoids are a leading driver of bee declines. It is imperative that the EPA stop delaying action and immediately suspend imidacloprid and other bee-toxic pesticides.”

She added, “With beekeepers facing continued unsustainable losses, and harm to essential native pollinators mounting, the EPA needs to stop dragging its feet and take decisive action to suspend these bee-toxic pesticides.”

Others in the environmental community said the EPA didn’t take its assessment far enough and failed to examine risks to nearly 4,000 North American native bees and all other pollinators, including imperiled butterflies, bats and birds.

“You can’t claim to do a pollinator risk assessment and really only look at one pollinator, the honeybee,” said Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity. “That’s not only cheating on the purpose of this work but also cheating the native bees, birds, butterflies and other species threatened by this pesticide. In fact, many of these other pollinators are even more vulnerable to neonicotinoids than honeybees.”

A study published in the journal Nature that wild bees are more sensitive to the acute toxic effects of neonicotinoids, specifically that neonicotinoid seed coatings reduce wild bee density, solitary bee nesting and bumblebee colony growth. The EPA, in its review, acknowledged bumblebees are negatively affected by the pesticide at lower levels than honeybees, but failed to assess properly the risk, according to the CBD.

Also, environmental activists said the EPA relied on a single industry-provided study to assess risk to honeybee colonies, despite an abundance of published studies by independent scientists.

“The EPA’s decision to rely on industry-funded research is absolutely unacceptable, particularly when there has been so much research by independent researchers,” Burd said.

While the EPA emphasized honeybee colony risks, its risk assessment found effects on individual honeybees, not on colonies, from most crops.

Burd said, “The EPA refused to make a determination on colony-level risks for specific crops when it had anything less than conclusive evidence on the risks. This flawed methodology caused the agency to dramatically understate the risks of imidacloprid. Also, the colony-level risk assessment only takes into account exposure via nectar, not pollen. So the EPA is analyzing effects on pollinators without even taking pollen into account.”

Bees and other pollinators face myriad other threats, including climate change, genetically engineered crops and monoculture, disease, pests and habitat loss. Studies show low levels of exposure to neonicotinoids increases the risk posed by these other threats on weakened honeybees.

EPA announces new protections for farmworkers

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today increased protections for the nation’s 2 million agricultural workers and their families.

Each year, thousands of potentially preventable pesticide exposure incidents are reported that lead to sick days, lost wages and medical bills but with changes to the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard the risk of injury or illness resulting from contact with pesticides on farms and in forests, nurseries and greenhouses can be reduced.

“President Obama has called closing gaps of opportunity a defining challenge of our time. Meeting that challenge means ensuring healthy work environments for all Americans, especially those in our nation’s vulnerable communities,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a news release. “We depend on farmworkers every day to help put the food we eat on America’s dinner tables — and they deserve fair, equitable working standards with strong health and safety protections.  With these updates we can protect workers, while at the same time preserve the strong traditions of our family farms and ensure the continued the growth of our agricultural economy.”

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez said, “No one should ever have to risk their lives for their livelihoods, but far too many workers, especially those who work in agriculture, face conditions that challenge their health and safety every day.”

He continued, “Workplace illness and injury contribute greatly to economic inequality, and can have a devastating impact on workers and their families. By promoting workplace safety, these provisions will enhance economic security for people struggling to make ends meet and keep more Americans on the job raising the crops that feed the world, and we are proud to support the EPA in this effort.”

EPA’s updates reflect comment federal and state partners and the agricultural community including farmworkers, farmers and industry.

The EPA said the provisions will help ensure farmworkers nationwide receive annual safety training; that children under the age of 18 are prohibited from handling pesticides; and that workers are aware of the protections they are afforded under today’s action and have the tools needed to protect themselves and their families from pesticide exposure.

These revisions will publish in the Federal Register within the next 60 days. 

Court blocks use of insecticide believed to contribute to bees’ disappearance

A federal appeals court has blocked the use of a pesticide over concerns about its effect on honey bees, which have mysteriously disappeared across the country in recent years.

In her opinion, Judge Mary M. Schroeder, one of three judges who sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit panel, wrote that the Environmental Protection Agency had initially decided to conditionally approve the chemical — sulfoxaflor  — but ordered more studies to better understand the effects of the systemic insecticide on bees.

“A few months later, however, the EPA unconditionally registered the insecticides with certain mitigation measures and a lowering of the maximum application rate,” Schroeder wrote. “It did so without obtaining any further studies.”

“Given the precariousness of bee populations, leaving the EPA’s registration of sulfoxaflor in place risks more potential environmental harm than vacating it,” she added.

“Because the EPA’s decision to unconditionally register was based on flawed and limited data, we conclude that the unconditional approval was not supported by substantial evidence,” the court wrote.

The product, sold in the U.S. as Transform or Closer, must be pulled from store shelves by Oct. 18.

The judgment is a huge victory for environmentalists.

Sulfoxaflor belongs to a group of insecticides known as neonicotinoids (NEE-OH-NIC-DUH-NIDES), according to the Ninth Circuit ruling. Neonicotinoids are suspected of being among several factors that have contributed to the collapse of honey bee colonies throughout the U.S.

Bees, especially honeybees, are needed to pollinate crops, and they are considered essential to the U.S. food supply.

But a disorder has caused as much as one-third of the nation’s bees to disappear each winter since 2006. A 2013 report issued by the EPA and U.S. Department of Agriculture cited a parasitic mite, multiple viruses, bacteria, poor nutrition, genetics, habitat loss and pesticides as factors for the bees’ disappearance.

“We’re certainly extremely happy,” said Greg Loarie, an attorney with the group Earthjustice, which challenged the EPA’s approval of sulfoxaflor on behalf of groups in the beekeeping industry. “It means that sulfoxaflor comes off the market while the EPA does the work it should have done a long time ago.”

Loarie said the pesticide was used on cotton in southern states, but it had only been approved on an emergency basis for one crop in California.

Urban beekeeping can be a sweet hobby

In the back corner of her yard, hidden behind a new fence, Susan Kennedy Spain recently extracted proof that her latest experiment in sustainable living is working: honey and honeycomb.

Both came from one of two beehives she installed earlier this year, her first attempt at raising bees.

“(My husband) John and I wanted to create an edible landscape,” she said. “We’ve had a vegetable garden. This seemed like a natural next step.”

The Spains, who live in Richmond, Virginia, are part of a growing but hard-to-define national movement to keep bees in urban areas, and they’re also participating in a honeybee revival movement so important to the nation’s food supply, President Barack Obama seated a task force to find ways to spur it on.

The White House installed hives in 2009, bringing national attention to the idea of being intentional in providing man-made homes for some of nature’s best, if occasionally misunderstood, pollinators. The hives there went in near first lady Michelle Obama’s vegetable garden.

The federal government’s Pollinator Health Task Force in May released its National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. It focuses on improving the health of honeybees and Monarch butterflies and includes a pledge to restore or enhance 7 million acres of habitat across the country.

“The strategy also advances ambitious federal commitments to increase and improve habitat for pollinators, both directly through the large variety of facilities and acreages of land managed by the federal government, and indirectly through the leadership role that federal agencies can play in interactions with states, localities, the private sector and citizens,” it said in a statement signed by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Gina McCarthy, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

“These actions range from planting pollinator gardens and improving land management practices at federal facilities, to advancing the availability and use of pollinator-friendly seed mixes in land management, restoration and rehabilitation actions nationwide.”

Locally, there are half a dozen or more beekeeping clubs and associations. But figuring out how many people participate is difficult, especially since keeping hives is prohibited in many areas.

“The current ordinance is restrictive,” said Tammy Hawley, press secretary for Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones.

The most recent wording on the ordinance, she said, labels bees as a nuisance and has them lumped in with rats, mice and roaches.

But that could change, she said. Jones has advocated for other environmentally friendly ideas, such as community gardens, green building and bicycle lanes, and Hawley said it might be time to add beekeeping to the list.

“This could be a good example of how usage should be redefined,” she said.

Jones would find plenty of support in the local beekeeping community.

David Stover, a commercial photographer, has become one of the leading local experts in the nine years since he started his first hive and, like many experienced beekeepers, he loves talking about it.

“I’ve always thought it important to share what I know,” he said. “I don’t try to talk anyone into doing this. Beekeeping is a real commitment. It’s like having a pet.”

He keeps 20 or so hives at 10 or more locations in the area.

“I have changed so much in how I view the world,” he said. “I love to garden but, since I started keeping bees, that has changed.”

It used to be, he said, he’d coat his garden with whatever chemicals were necessary to make everything look pretty.

Once the bees came in, the chemicals went out.

“I learned how bad that was,” he said. “I also learned that I didn’t need that to make my yard look good.”

The popularity of beekeeping has been on an upward swing in the past decade, said RD Radford, a 40-year veteran of beekeeping and the president of the Richmond Beekeepers Association.

He credited the growth to attention that came after news reports of colony collapse disorder, which struck particularly hard in 2006-07.

At the time, beekeepers nationwide reported losses of their hives as high as 90 percent from CCD, a phenomena in which worker bees abandon their queens. The hives survive temporarily, because they have honey and baby bees, but they ultimately fail because there’s no one left to do the work.

The EPA reported 60 percent hive loss as recently as 2008, but that dropped to about 31 percent in 2013, the most recent year for which national data are available.

With the new national strategy, the EPA wants to reduce loss to about 15 percent within 10 years.

More bees is a good thing, Radford said.

“They’re just fun to watch,” he said. “I just like playing with them. I can go out there all day.”

But more bees is nothing to fear, he said.

“Unless you mess with their hive, they won’t mess with you,” he said. “When you see them on flowers, they’re just working.”

Even a swarm, he said, was harmless, at least from a distance.

“You might see one on a bridge, but it’s usually gone in an hour,” he said. “They send out scouts to find a new home.”

Spain discovered that.

She was called in to her son’s school about a swarm.

“They were going to call an exterminator, but I said no, no,” she said. “But by the time I got there, it was gone.”

She’s plenty busy anyway with the hives she has.

One has nearly tripled in size and is still growing. It’s the one with the early yield of honey.

She’s expecting more.

A friend in her neighborhood got 250 pounds of honey from his six hives last year.

Spain’s not sure how much she’ll get, but she knows what’s going to happen if the output exceeds what her family can consume.

“My friends and family are going to be very happy,” she said.

Published via the AP Member Exchange.

EPA proposes temporary pesticide-free zones to protect honeybees

If honeybees are busy pollinating large, blooming croplands, farmers wanting to spray toxic pesticides will soon have to buzz off, the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing.

A federal rule to be proposed on May 28 would create temporary pesticide-free zones when certain plants are in bloom around bees that are trucked from farm to farm by professional beekeepers, which are the majority of honeybees in the U.S. The pesticide halt would only happen during the time the flower is in bloom and the bees are there, and only on the property where the bees are working, not neighboring land.

The rule applies to virtually all insecticides, more than 1,000 products involving 76 different chemical compounds, said Jim Jones, EPA’s assistant administrator for chemical safety and pollution prevention. It involves nearly all pesticides, including the much-debated class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, he said.

The idea is “to create greater space between chemicals that are toxic to bees and the bees,” Jones told The Associated Press.

This is part of a new multi-part push by the Obama administration to try to reverse dramatic declines in bee populations. A new federal survey found beekeepers lost more than 40 percent of their colonies last year, although they later recovered by dividing surviving hives.

Scientists blame many factors for bee declines: pesticides, parasites, pathogens and poor bee nutrition because of a lack of wild plants that bees use as food. The new rule only deals with the pesticide part; last week, the federal government came up with a plan to create more and varied food for bees on federal land.

The new rule “doesn’t eliminate (pesticide) exposure to honeybees, but it should reduce it,” said University of Illinois entomologist May Berenbaum. “It may not be ideal, but it’s the best news in about 120 years. In concept, in principle, this is a big policy change.”

The EPA proposal doesn’t apply to residential pesticide use, nor home beekeeping. This is just for areas where professional beekeepers haul in their hives. These trucked-around hives now account for about 90 percent of honeybees in the U.S., according to the University of Maryland’s Dennis van Englesdorp.

This method of managed hives is the insect equivalent of handling livestock and is “a fairly intensive process,” said Pennsylvania State University professor Diana Cox-Foster. “I think it’s much more work than raising cows.”

Jones estimates that at least 2 or 2.5 million acres of cropland will be affected by the new rule. It only applies to spraying pesticides on leaves, not seed or ground applications.

“The acreage may not be large, but the impact is,” Jones said. “It’s really a function of where the bees are.” So when bees are pollinating almonds in February and March, the temporary bans would be near almond trees. They would apply near apple trees in April and May and melons in late spring, he said.

The rule is focused on the time when scientists can document the highest risk for bees, Jones said.

The proposal needs public comment, then will be finalized. If all goes according to plan, new rules and new pesticide labels will be ready for spring 2016, Jones said.

On the Web …

The EPA’s pollinator plans: http://1.usa.gov/1LJnJKO

The White House bee strategy: http://1.usa.gov/1Ad2DUE

Environmental groups petition president for new rules to protect honey bees

Environmental groups representing millions of Americans this week urged President Barack Obama to take action against neonicotinoid insecticides that are devastating honey bee and wild bee populations.

In a letter to the White House, the 11 groups called on the president to immediately suspend neonicotinoid use, take steps to curb the insecticides’ adverse impacts and to instruct his administration to close a legal loophole that allows insecticides sales before the chemicals are adequately assessed for safety.

The letter was sent three weeks after more than 100 businesses, many of them members of the American Sustainable Business Council and the Green America Business Network, sent a similar plea to the White House.

“We hope that you will prioritize action on this issue of vital importance to our food system, economy and environment and make saving bees a key piece of your legacy as president,” the letter stated.

Signers include Trip Van Noppen, president of Earthjustice; Peter Lehner, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council; Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth U.S., and nine other green CEOs.

Citing “a significant loss” of bees and other pollinators last summer, Obama created an interagency Pollinator Health Task Force to be co-chaired by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Agriculture Department. The president gave the task force 180 days to develop a national strategy.

The task force missed its December deadline and is expected to release a strategy paper in the coming weeks.

The letter charges that the EPA is unable “to properly regulate insecticides impacting bees” and notes the “EPA announced it will not release a regulatory decision on neonicotinoids before 2016.”

The letter urges the president to speed up the review of neonicotinoids and hasten the development of better tests for the insecticides’ effect on bees.

“If current rates of bee die-offs continue,” the letter stated, “it is unlikely that the beekeeping industry will survive EPA’s delayed timeline, putting our agricultural industry and our food supply at serious risk.”

Also, according to the letter, “EPA has allowed millions of acres of crop seeds treated with neonicotinoids to be planted annually with no registration of the pesticide-treated seeds and no enforcement against them in cases of misuse.”  Bees are critical for pollinating dozens of important American food crops and contribute nearly $20 billion to the U.S. economy annually.

Neonicotinoids, often applied to seeds before planting, are particularly dangerous for bees because they poison the whole plant, including the nectar and pollen which bees eat. At very high doses, they can kill bees directly; but they more commonly affect and impair bees’ ability to breed, forage, fight disease and survive the winter, scientists say. Yet a recent EPA analysis found that neonicotinoid treatment on soybean seeds offers little or no economic benefit to soy producers.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will phase out use of neonics in wildlife refuges by 2016. Meanwhile, the European Union has a two-year ban on the most widely used neonics.

Poll shows giant gap between what public, scientists think

The American public and U.S. scientists are light-years apart on science issues. And 98 percent of surveyed scientists say it’s a problem that we don’t know what they’re talking about.

Scientists are far less worried about genetically modified food, pesticide use and nuclear power than is the general public, according to matching polls of both the general public and the country’s largest general science organization.

Scientists were more certain that global warming is caused by man, evolution is real, overpopulation is a danger and mandatory vaccination against childhood diseases is needed.

In eight of 13 science-oriented issues, there was a 20-percentage-point or higher gap separating the opinions of the public and members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, according to survey work by the Pew Research Center. The gaps didn’t correlate to any liberal-conservative split. The scientists at times take more traditionally conservative views and at times more liberal.

“These are big and notable gaps,” said Lee Rainie, director of Pew’s Internet, science and technology research. He said they are “pretty powerful indicators of the public and the scientific community seeing the world differently.”

In the most dramatic split, 88 percent of the scientists surveyed said it is safe to eat genetically modified foods, while only 37 percent of the public say it is safe and 57 percent say it is unsafe.

And 68 percent of scientists said it is safe to eat foods grown with pesticides, compared with only 28 percent of the general public.

Ninety-eight percent of scientists say humans evolved over time, compared with 65 percent of the public.

The gap wasn’t quite as large for vaccines, with 86 percent of the scientists favoring mandatory childhood shots while 68 percent of the public did.

Eighty-seven percent of scientists said global warming is mostly due to human activity, while only half of the public did. The figures for scientists are slightly different than past academic studies because of wording of the question and the fact that AAAS members include many specialties, but they tell the same essential story, said Pew associate director Cary Funk.

What to do about climate change is another issue.

Nearly two-thirds of scientists favored building more nuclear power plants, but only 45 percent of the public did.

But more of the public favored offshore drilling for oil and fracking than scientists did.

More than four out of five scientists thought the growing world population will be a major problem, but just less than three out of five members of the public did.

Pew polled 2,002 adults in August and did an online survey of 3,748 AAAS members in the fall. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points for the public and 1.7 percentage points for the scientists.

In 2009, Pew asked only a handful of questions like these to both scientists and the public and the gap hasn’t changed much since, Funk said.

“On the whole, as compared to most members of the public, scientists are likely drawing from a larger scientific knowledge base — and thinking more scientifically _ about each of these issues,” George Mason University communications professor Edward Maibach said in an email. “Therefore, their views appear to be more in line with a completely dispassionate reading of the risks versus the benefits.”

Alan Leshner, chief executive officer of AAAS, said the gap between the way the public and scientists look at issues is a cause for concern.

“Science is about facts; science is not about values,” Leshner said. “Policies are made on facts and values and we want to make sure that the accurate, non-distorted facts are brought in to any kind of discussion.”

The trouble is that scientists don’t think the public knows the facts. The survey said 84 percent of the scientists said it is a major problem that “the public does not know very much about science” and another 14 percent said it is a minor problem.

And 97 percent of the scientists criticized the educational system. Three-quarters of the scientists said not enough science and math education is a major problem and another 22 percent said it was a minor one.

“It’s not about being smart or dumb,” Leshner said. “It’s about whether, in fact, you understand the source of the fact and what the facts are.”

200,000 urge EPA to strengthen protections for farmworkers

Some 200,000 people have called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to strengthen its Agricultural Worker Protection Standard, which is the only federal standard designed to protect the nation’s more than 2 million farmworkers from pesticide exposure.

“Farmworkers face dangerous exposure to poisons over the course of their working life,” said Eve Gartner, an attorney for Earthjustice, a public interest law firm. “While most Americans benefit from broad workplace protections, farmworkers are not protected by the same health and safety standards.”

Earthjustice, Farmworker Association of Florida, Farmworker Justice, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Migrant Clinicians Network, Pesticide Action Network North America, United Farm Workers and CREDO collected more than 200,000 signatures on petitions.

“The nation’s 2 million farmworkers deserve the level of workplace protections provided to other workers,” added Margaret Reeves, a senior scientist with Pesticide Action Network. “Protections for workers from pesticide exposure also mean protections for farmworker children and families.”

The petitioners and grassroots groups are calling on the EPA to change the proposed standard to include:

• Parity with safety rules provided to workers in non-agricultural industries.

• Improved safety training annually and starting before workers enter treated fields.

• Easily accessible information about pesticides used on the farm and in nurseries.

• No children under 18 years of age allowed to handle hazardous pesticides.

• Strict adherence to no-entry rules for areas recently treated with pesticides.

• Improved protections and safety monitoring for pesticide handlers.

Elvia Vasquez of Oxnard, California, worked in the fields of Southern California picking strawberries, lettuce and broccoli for nearly a decade. “I would get rashes and headaches when forced to enter the strawberry fields that had been sprayed with pesticides only hours before,” said Vasquez, who now works with Organizacion en California de Lideres Campesinas, Inc. to educate farmworkers on the dangers of pesticide exposure.

Farmworker advocates say millions are exposed to cancer-causing chemicals without adequate safeguards to protect their health and the EPA must at least take basic steps to protect them.

The government has been hearing from workers and advocates for more than a decade— the WPS was first adopted in 1995 and has been awaiting revision since 2000. The EPA is expected to issue a finalized rule by early 2015, after closing its public comment period on Aug. 18.