New research shows an organic diet shrinks pesticide exposure

February 13, 2019 by  
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The bad news isn’t news to many — eating a conventional diet leads to pesticide buildup. But a new study published in Environmental Research reveals surprisingly good news. Switching to an all-organic diet quickly and significantly reduced synthetic pesticide levels in study participants. After six days of an all-organic diet, their pesticide and pesticide metabolite levels dropped by an average of 60.5 percent. Four American families of different races participated in the study, titled Organic Diet Intervention Significantly Reduces Urinary Pesticide Levels in U.S. Children and Adults . The families lived in Atlanta, Baltimore, Minneapolis and Oakland. Related: Is a flexitarian diet right for you? The most significant finding was a huge drop in levels of organophosphates, insecticides that are commonly used in agriculture , gardening and household products, such as roach spray. Farm workers often administer them when growing apples, peaches, strawberries, spinach, potatoes and other common crops. The study showed a 95 percent drop in the organophosphate malathion, a probable human carcinogen linked to brain damage in children. Levels of pesticides associated with endocrine disruption, autism, adverse reproductive effects, thyroid disorders, lymphoma and other serious health issues dropped between 37 and 83 percent after a week of all-organic eating. “This study shows that organic works,” said study co-author Kendra Klein, PhD, senior staff scientist at Friends of the Earth. “We all have the right to food that is free of toxic pesticides . Farmers and farmworkers growing our nation’s food and rural communities have a right not to be exposed to chemicals linked to cancer, autism and infertility. And the way we grow food should protect, not harm, our environment. We urgently need our elected leaders to support our farmers in making healthy organic food available for all.” The study’s authors are affiliated with the University of California at San Francisco, UC Berkeley, Friends of the Earth U.S. and the Commonweal Institute. Friends of the Earth is urging the U.S. Congress to pass a bill to ban chlorpyrifos, a pesticide that causes brain damage in children. In 2017 under President Trump, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reversed its proposed ban on chlorpyrifos. + Friends of the Earth Image via Paja1000

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Shellfish farmers push to use pesticides in oyster beds

February 12, 2019 by  
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Pesticide use for oyster beds is once again threatening Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay. Shellfish growers are making another push to allow for the spray of pesticides on clam and oyster beds in the region, which environmentalists and state officials say is a major risk to invertebrates, like the Dungeness crab. Oyster growers claim they need the pesticides to kill burrowing shrimp that harm oyster beds and prevent them from harvesting their product. The companies are looking to reverse a current ban on the use of pesticides such as the neurotoxic imidacloprid. They area also supporting three bills in the state legislature. If passed, these initiatives would make it legal for the companies to spray pesticides in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor. The Ecology Department has already put measures in place that prevent the use of pesticides on oyster and clam beds. Related: France is the first country to ban all 5 pesticides linked to bee deaths Officials with the state and federal government claim that there is strong evidence that suggests these pesticides are harmful to the environment . While the chemicals are effective against burrowing shrimp, they also kill other forms of ocean life that include the Dungeness crab. Fortunately, there are a variety of groups that are fighting the oyster growers and the newly proposed laws. This includes the Western Environmental Law Center, the Center for Food Safety, the Center of Biological Diversity and the Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat, all of which are filing appeals to keep the pesticide ban in place. The appeals will be heard at the Pollution Control Hearings Board over the next few weeks. It is unclear if the oyster growers will be successful in their attempts to lobby for legislation that makes it legal to spray pesticides in oyster beds in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor. Via Capital Press Image via SeahorseDigital

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Bees addicted to pesticides much like smokers to nicotine, scientists say

August 30, 2018 by  
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Bees have developed a likening to pesticide-containing plants , according to a recent study. The affinity exhibited by the bees is similar to an addiction to nicotine from cigarettes. Apparently, the more pesticide-laced pollen that the bees ingest, the more they crave the tainted alternatives. The contaminated nectar is potentially harmful to bees and unfortunately, researchers are finding higher quantities entering bee colonies than before. To reach these conclusions, a British research team conducted a series of studies over 10-day periods, offering 10 different bee colonies access to both pure sugar solutions as well as a compound that contained neonicotinoids, or neonics. Over extensive exposure, the bees increasingly preferred the sugar flavored with pesticides over the natural alternative. Related: Canada moves to ban bee-killing pesticides “Interestingly, neonicotinoids target nerve receptors in insects that are similar to receptors targeted by nicotine in mammals ,” explained Richard Gill, researcher in the Department of Life Sciences at London’s Imperial College . “Whilst neonicotinoids are controversial, if the effects of replacements on non-target insects are not understood, then I believe it is sensible that we take advantage of current knowledge and further studies to provide guidance for using neonicotinoids more responsibly, rather than necessarily an outright ban.” Related: Total field ban on bee-harming neonicotinoids likely after new EU assessments Researchers will continue to experiment with the bees, according to lead scientist Andres Arce, part of the same Imperial College department as Gill. “Many studies on neonicotinoids feed bees exclusively with pesticide-laden food, but in reality, wild bees have a choice of where to feed,” Arce said. “We wanted to know if the bees could detect the pesticides and eventually learn to avoid them by feeding on the uncontaminated food we were offering. We now need to conduct further studies to try and understand the mechanism behind why they acquire this preference.” The extensive research will have major implications for agriculture practices in the EU as well as North America. The EU already imposed a partial ban on neonics in 2013 after evidence found that they may have an adverse effect to bee colonies. As of today, the ban has been extended to all crops that are not grown in greenhouses. Canada has already moved to ban the pesticide this year, with the U.S. following suit in the near future. + The Royal Society Publishing Via The Guardian Image via Axel Rouvin

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Court orders EPA to ban pesticide that causes learning disabilities in children

August 10, 2018 by  
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After over a decade of fighting, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has finally scored a victory in securing the ban of the pesticide chlorpyrifos. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a court order to the EPA  requiring it to ban the chemical agent, which has harmful neurodevelopmental effects. Longstanding studies have indicated that exposure to chlorpyrifos can lead to increased risk of learning disabilities such as ADHD, developmental delays, and a lower IQ. Related: Unreleased internal FDA emails show glyphosate weedkiller residue in almost every food tested The NRDC and a coalition of labor and health organizations were represented by EarthJustice in the court case. The court found that the EPA broke the law by ignoring proven scientific evidence – including some evidence discovered by the agency itself – that chlorpyrifos could harm children who consumed produce treated with the chemical . Even small quantities of ingestion can cause developmental issues for some children, and so the long-overdue ban has left many parents relieved. “Some things are too sacred to play politics with—and our kids top the list,” said Erik Olson, the senior director of NRDC’s Health and Food program. “This is a victory for parents everywhere who want to feed their kids fruits and veggies without fear it’s harming their brains or poisoning communities.” States such as Hawaii had undertaken solitary battles against chlorpyrifos, banning it before the court ruling. However, many (including the NRDC) are upset it took so long for these protections to expand. Thankfully, yesterday’s court order mark a significant step toward protecting the food supply from chlorpyrifos at the national level. + EarthJustice Via NRDC

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Champagne could lose its classic taste due to climate change

August 9, 2018 by  
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Planning to pull out a bottle of chilled champagne in celebration of your latest accomplishment? Not so fast. The seasonal shifts in temperature that have become more and more extreme over the years are affecting grape production in regions around the world, and that includes the famous Champagne region in France. Champagne grapes depend on a cool climate and chalky soil in order to produce the crisp, fruity taste they are known for. But climate change is making these factors less dependable, and champagne producers in France are worried about the future. Related: The growing wine industry is threatening California’s Napa Valley In an interview with Bloomberg, Antoine Malassagne, co-owner of champagne maker A.R. Lenoble, explained the difficulties now involved in champagne production. “Harvest is two weeks earlier than it was 20 years ago,” he said. “It used to be mid-to-late September. Now harvest often starts in August, as it will this year. But maturity during hot days and nights results in lower and lower acidity in the grapes, which means less freshness in the wines.” The lower acidity is also problematic for producers, given that acidity is what allows champagne to age, creating the wine’s unique taste. A.R. Lenoble has been combating the gustatory alterations to its products by mixing in reserve wines from older vintages. Louis Roederer, another champagne compnay, has begun experimenting with DNA analysis of yeast and biodynamic viticulture to try and head off the impacts of climate change. Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon, the company’s chef de cave, has spearheaded these efforts in search of a way “to maintain what has made Champagne’s reputation.” Despite the potential challenges facing champagne producers, Lecaillon is optimistic. “We invented bubbles to make up for unripe grapes. As farmers, our job, our life, our passion has been to adapt to climate change for hundreds of years. If the future heats up too much,” he said, “we’ll just have to make Burgundy.” Via Bloomberg Image by  Anthony Delanoix  on  Unsplash

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Thoreau’s Walden Pond is under threat from human activities

April 6, 2018 by  
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In his book first published as  Walden; or, Life in the Woods , transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau reflected on living simply in green spaces while cultivating self-sufficiency and carefully observing the natural world. His reflections were informed by his experiences living in a cabin near the edge of Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts . Today, Walden Pond remains a cherished local landmark, where people enjoy hiking and swimming. However, since Thoreau’s time, Walden Pond has suffered from climate change,  erosion  and even human pee. In the mid-1800s, Thoreau described the “crystalline purity” of the water in Walden Pond, a characteristic still observable today. However, that may soon change as the effects of climate change take hold. In  a recently published paper on the environmental health of Walden Pond , researchers concluded that major changes in the algal content of the lake began in the 20th century and continue to threaten it today. According to the paper, “The sediment darkening and high percentages of [ algae ] in the recent sediments of Walden Pond … indicate not only that the lake ecosystem is now quite different from that described by Thoreau but also that it may be primed for more severe reductions in water clarity in a warming future.” Related: Thresher sharks die in Massachusetts – likely due to cold shock As global temperatures continue to rise , more people looking for relief from the humid summer weather in Massachusetts may find their way into the pond for a refreshing dip. Researchers concluded that more than half of the phosphorous content in the pond “may now be attributable to urine released by swimmers.” The good news is that Walden Pond has seen its environmental health improve in recent decades. However, vigilance is necessary to preserve Walden for future generations. Via The Guardian Images via Ekabhishek , Terryballard and Cbaile19

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The world’s first space hotel could launch by 2022

April 6, 2018 by  
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We’ve all heard of the companies promising to launch humans on trips to space , but have you thought about where you will stay once you get there? Startup Orion Span thinks they have the answer – and they’re planning to launch a luxury space hotel into orbit in the next few years. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, start saving your pennies – a 12-night stay will set you back a mere $9.5 million PER PERSON. But don’t worry, the price includes transportation, food and drinks, and a three-month training course. The Aurora Station hotel will be able to accommodate four guests at a time, plus two crew members. The station will float above the Earth in low orbit (about 200 miles above the planet – 50 miles below the ISS) and the company claims it will be ready to start hosting guests by 2022. That’s extremely soon – keep in mind that other companies have set lofty goals for space hotels that didn’t quite get realized . The company plans to start with one station and expand as demand grows. If you want to book your stay right away, 80k will hold you a spot until the hotel is built and launched. Related: Elon Musk says trips to Mars coming as soon as next year Speaking of, Orion Span hasn’t provided much in the way of details for its space hotel. For instance, the company says it plans to manufacture the station at a Houston facility that hasn’t been built yet. Nor has it disclosed how it plans to transport people to the station – it seems likely that it will team up with one of the companies who is developing private space travel. Even still, it’s a pretty exciting idea, and not a bad price considering that it costs $81 million for an astronaut to hitch a ride to the ISS on a Russian rocket. Via Engadget Images via Orion Span

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Planting wildflower strips across crop fields could slash pesticide use

February 2, 2018 by  
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Could wildflowers help us cut our use of pesticides ? The Guardian reported that colorful strips of the flowers have been planted through 15 large arable fields in England – instead of just around them – as part of a Center for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) trial. The wildflowers could boost natural pest predators, potentially helping us reduce our reliance on environmentally damaging pesticides. Concern has mounted over how pesticides are harming our environment , even as we struggle to feed all 7.4 billion humans on the planet. Scientists in the UK are seeking sustainable ways to grow food, and wildflowers could help. The flower strips on 15 farms were planted last fall, where researchers will monitor them over the next five years. Related: How one Bay Area couple plans to save the bees by planting one billion wildflowers Stripes of wildflowers across farm fields could cut pesticide spraying https://t.co/L2l1tQJxdm by me @CEHScienceNews pic.twitter.com/kV4KavIjN5 — Damian Carrington (@dpcarrington) January 31, 2018 The Guardian pointed to research showing that use of wildflower margins to boost bugs like hoverflies, ground beetles, and parasitic wasps has cut pest numbers and even increased yields. But in the past, wildflowers were largely planted around fields instead of through them, making it harder for natural predators to get to the middle of large fields. GPS -guided harvesters now allow for crops to be reaped precisely, avoiding wildflower strips. Initial tests revealed planting stripes around 100 meters, or around 328 feet, apart, allowed predators to attack pests like aphids throughout a field. In the field trials, strips are around 20-feet-wide, and take up two percent of the total field area, The Guardian reports. Oxeye daisy, wild carrot, common knapweed, and red clover are among the flowers planted. Scientists will be watching to see if drawing insects into the middle of fields “does more harm than good.” CEH scientist Richard Pywell told The Guardian the ideal is that natural predators keep pests in check over the years so farmers would never have to spray pesticides. The Guardian said similar tests are happening in Switzerland, with flowers like dill, cornflowers, poppy, coriander, and buckwheat. Via The Guardian Images via Henry Be on Unsplash and Wikimedia Commons

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United Kingdom joins Europe in banning bee-killing pesticides

November 10, 2017 by  
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The United Kingdom is joining Europe on a key environmental issue by supporting a total ban on neonicotinoids, pesticides that have decimated bee populations across the world. According to British environment secretary Michael Gove, the United Kingdom has reversed its previous opposition to such a ban after new research has shown that neonicotinoids cause significant damage to bee colonies. Gove was also moved to adopt this new policy position after reading reports of 75% declines in insect populations in Germany . “The weight of evidence now shows the risks neonicotinoids pose to our environment, particularly to the bees and other pollinators which play such a key part in our £100bn food industry, is greater than previously understood,” said Gove, according to The Guardian . “I believe this justifies further restrictions on their use. We cannot afford to put our pollinator populations at risk.” Although neonicotenoids are the world’s most used insecticide, their use on flowering crops was banned by the European Union in 2013. The United Kingdom nonetheless opposed the ban, though the times have changed. As the EU moves towards a total ban on neonictenoids outside of greenhouses, the United Kingdom’s change in its policy position adds momentum to the European reform effort. Related: “Bee-friendly” plants sold in the UK are coated in harmful pesticides “As is always the case, a deteriorating environment is ultimately bad economic news as well,” said Gove, citing figures that pollinators boost the profitability of UK crops by £400m-£680m each year. Gove also pointed out that, in the face of declining pollinator populations, British gala apple growers are forced to spend £5.7m per year to compensate for the loss of the natural ecological services provided by pollinators. Environmental and science groups are applauding Gove’s decision. “We warmly welcome the UK’s change of position,” said Matt Shardlow, of the insect conservation group Buglife, according to The Guardian . “Brexit will give the UK more control over the health of our ecosystems and it is essential in doing so that we apply the highest standards of care.” Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Crazy new building in China looks like a giant crab!

November 10, 2017 by  
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China may have decided to steer away from “weird architecture” , but bizarre new buildings continue to pop up throughout the country. The new Ecology Center in Kunshan is one of the strangest we’ve seen – it looks a giant crab, complete with hairy claws and white pincers! The building is located on Yangcheng Lake’s eastern shore and it references the area’s famous crab-based delicacy. The outer shell is crafted from dark stainless steel , with pincers and claws resting on the ground. The crab’s durable exterior can supposedly withstand strong winds and typhoons . Related: 21 of China’s Quirkiest, Craziest and Most Fantastical Buildings Work is still underway on the building’s interior, which is expected to open to visitors in 2018. Via Archdaily

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