Tag Archives: EU

The Playbook for Poisoning the earth

The Intercept – Jan 8, 2020 – Lee Fang

Dennis vanEngelsdorp.
Photo: David Yellen

In September 2009, over 3,000 bee enthusiasts from around the world descended on the city of Montpellier in southern France for Apimondia — a festive beekeeper conference filled with scientific lectures, hobbyist demonstrations, and commercial beekeepers hawking honey. But that year, a cloud loomed over the event: bee colonies across the globe were collapsing, and billions of bees were dying.

Bee declines have been observed throughout recorded history, but the sudden, persistent and abnormally high annual hive losses had gotten so bad that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had commissioned two of the world’s most well-known entomologists — Dennis vanEngelsdorp, a chief apiary inspector in Pennsylvania, then studying at Penn State University, and Jeffrey Pettis, then working as a government scientist — to study the mysterious decline. They posited that there must be an underlying factor weakening bees’ immune systems.

At Le Corum, a conference center and opera house, the pair discussed their findings. They had fed bees with extremely small amounts of neonicotinoids, or neonics, the most commonly used class of insecticides in the world. Neonics are, of course, meant to kill insects, but they are marketed as safe for insects that aren’t being directly targeted. VanEngelsdorp and Pettis found that even at nonlethal doses, the bees in the trial became much more vulnerable to fungal infection. Bees carrying an infection will often fly off to die, a virtuous form of suicide designed to protect the larger hive from contagion.

“We exposed whole colonies to very low levels of neonicotinoids in this case, and then challenged bees from those colonies with Nosema, a pathogen, a gut pathogen,” said Pettis, speaking to filmmaker Mark Daniels in his documentary, “The Strange Disappearance of the Bees,” at Apimondia. “And we saw an increase, even if we fed the pesticide at very low levels — an increase in Nosema levels — in direct response to the low-level feeding of neonicotinoids.”

The dosages of the pesticide were so miniscule, said vanEngelsdorp, that it was “below the limit of detection.” The only reason they knew the bees had consumed the neonicotinoids, he added, was “because we exposed them.”

Bee health depends on a variety of synergistic factors, the scientists were careful to note. But in this study, Pettis said, they were able to isolate “one pesticide and one pathogen and we clearly see the interaction.”

The evidence was mounting. Shortly after vanEngelsdorp and Pettis revealed their findings, a number of French researchers produced a nearly identical study, feeding minute amounts of the same pesticide to bees, along with a control group. The study produced results that echoed what the Americans had found.

Drifting clouds of neonicotinoid dust from planting operations caused a series of massive bee die-offs in northern Italy and the Baden-Württemberg region of Germany. Studies have shown neonicotinoids impaired bees’ ability to navigate and forage for food, weakened bee colonies, and made them prone to infestation by parasitic mites.

In 2013, the European Union called for a temporary suspension of the most commonly used neonicotinoid-based products on flowering plants, citing the danger posed to bees — an effort that resulted in a permanent ban in 2018.

In the U.S., however, industry dug in, seeking not only to discredit the research but to cast pesticide companies as a solution to the problem. Lobbying documents and emails, many of which were obtained through open records requests, show a sophisticated effort over the last decade by the pesticide industry to obstruct any effort to restrict the use of neonicotinoids. Bayer and Syngenta, the largest manufacturers of neonics, and Monsanto, one of the leading producers of seeds pretreated with neonics, cultivated ties with prominent academics, including vanEngelsdorp, and other scientists who had once called for a greater focus on the threat posed by pesticides.

The companies also sought influence with beekeepers and regulators, and went to great lengths to shape public opinion. Pesticide firms launched new coalitions and seeded foundations with cash to focus on nonpesticide factors in pollinator decline.

“Position the industry as an active promoter of bee health, and advance best management practices which emphasize bee safety,” noted an internal planning memo from CropLife America, the lobby group for the largest pesticide companies in America, including Bayer and Syngenta. The ultimate goal of the bee health project, the document noted, was to ensure that member companies maintained market access for neonic products and other systemic pesticides.

The planning memo, helmed in part by Syngenta regulatory official John Abbott, charts a variety of strategies for advancing the pesticide industry’s interests, such as, “Challenge EPA on the size and breadth of the pollinator testing program.” CropLife America officials were also tapped to “proactively shape the conversation in the new media realm with respect to pollinators” and “minimize negative association of crop protection products with effects on pollinators.” The document, dated June 2014, calls for “outreach to university researchers who could be independent validators.”

The pesticide companies have used a variety of strategies to shift the public discourse.

“America’s Heartland,” a PBS series shown on affiliates throughout the country and underwritten by CropLife America, portrayed the pollinator declines as a mystery. One segment from early 2013 on the crisis made no mention of pesticides, with the host simply declaring that “experts aren’t sure why” bees and butterflies were disappearing.

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Antibiotic use plummets on US farms after ban on using drugs to make livestock grow faster

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Dec 19, 2018                       By 

US farmers have slashed the use of antibiotics in meat and milk by a third, new figures from the Food and Drug Administration reveal.

The amount of antibiotics sold to farmers dropped by almost three million kilograms between 2016 and 2017, according to the new data.

In 2017, the FDA banned the use of antibiotics to make animals grow quicker, a practice known as growth promotion. The new rules meant the drugs, formerly available over the counter, could only be obtained with a veterinarian’s order.

The new data is the first indication of the success of the ban in reducing antibiotic use in US agriculture, which is considered key to stemming the growing threat of superbugs which can infect humans.

The overuse of antibiotics in human medicine and in livestock has accelerated the rise of resistant bacteria, commonly known as superbugs. They can cause life-threatening infections as they are resistant to the drugs normally used to kill them. More than 153,000 people in the US died of superbug infections in 2010, a recent study found.

The European Union banned using antibiotics as growth promoters in 2001. But the practice was still legal in the US – one of the biggest producers of meat in the world – until more than a decade and a half later. READ MORE AT…

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‘Hugely Important Breakthrough for Human and Animal Health’ as EU Approves Antibiotic Restrictions for Livestock to Battle Superbugs

Common Dreams – by Jessica Corbett – Oct. 25th, 2018

The European Parliament on Thursday approved new rules for medicine use on healthy livestock in an effort to battle superbugs. (Image: Avicultura.com)

“Antibiotic resistance is a real sword of Damocles, threatening to send our health care system back to the Middle Ages.”

In a move celebrated by experts and activists who continue to raise alarm about the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance—fueled in part by rampant overuse of medicines in agriculture—the European Parliament on Thursday approved new rules for antibiotic use on healthy farm animals.

“This is a hugely important breakthrough for human and animal health and is by far the more serious attempt that Europe has ever made to achieve responsible antibiotic use in farming,” declaredCóilín Nunan, campaign manager of the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, a coalition of EU-based medical, health, agricultural, environmental, consumer, and animal welfare groups.

About 73 percent of the world’s medicines are currently used on livestock, Nunan noted, and “farming accounts for about two thirds of all antibiotic use in Europe, so if the legislation is implemented correctly, we should be seeing very large reductions in use in years to come.”

The “long-awaited” law, which is set to take effect in 2022, will limit preventative use of antibiotics on groups of animals; empower European regulators to designate certain medicines for human use only; impose restrictions on imports; and encourage new research and protections for new drugs.

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Antibiotic apocalypse: EU scraps plans to tackle drug pollution, despite fears of rising resistance

The Guardian – June 1, 2018

Leaked documents reveal discarded proposals to ward off antibiotic resistance through closer scrutiny of drug firms.

The EU has scrapped plans for a clampdown on pharmaceutical pollution that contributes to the spread of deadly superbugs.

Plans to monitor farm and pharmaceutical companies, to add environmental standards to EU medical product rules and to oblige environmental risk assessments for drugs used by humans have all been discarded, leaked documents seen by the Guardian reveal.

An estimated 700,000 people die every year from antimicrobial resistance, partly due to drug-resistant bacteria created by the overuse, misuse and dumping of antibiotics.

The UK’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, has warned that failing to act could lead to a post-antibiotic apocalypse, spelling “the end of modern medicine” as routine infections defy effective treatment.

Some studies predict that antimicrobial resistance could cost $100tn (£75tn) between now and 2050, with the annual death toll reaching 10 million over that period.

An EU strategy for pharmaceuticals in the environment was supposed to propose ways to avert the threat, but leaked material shows that a raft of ideas contained in an early draft have since been diluted or deleted.

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EU votes for a permanent ban on bee-harming pesticides

The European Union has voted for a permanent ban on pesticides that are harmful to bees.

Campaigners call it a ‘tremendous victory’ for the environment, while pesticide company Bayer calls it a sad day for Europe and its farmers.

Fruit and vegetable crops are pollinated by bees and other insects, but modern farming techniques have been blamed for a steady decline in their numbers.

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Europe gives controversial pesticide glyphosate a five-year reprieve

“Glyphosate will be the final nail in Brussels’ coffin.” It was in such categorical terms that Czech MEP Kateřina Konečná spoke at the European Parliament Committee on the Environment, hours after the European Union approved the use of the chemical for another five years. It is the culmination of a battle pitting corporate interests and political manoeuvring against the health of European citizens.

https://www.equaltimes.org/europe-gives-controversial