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August 2014

Latest Research Studies and Reports

Neonicotinoids are polluting rivers
A recent study by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has found that neonicotinoids are polluting streams throughout the Midwest. Neonicotinoids are a class of pesticides used as insecticides throughout the United States. Although they dissolve readily in water, they are slow to break down in the environment, resulting in a high risk of runoff from agricultural fields into water sources. USGS researchers examined rivers that drain most of Iowa, and parts of Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin for the presence of neonicotinoids, and found the chemical present in all nine rivers studied. These findings are especially worrisome as the use of neonicotinoids continues to spread. One of the areas where neonicotinoids are being used heavily is by the conventional citrus industry to control the spread of citrus greening disease. The use of neonicotinoids on citrus is having detrimental effects on pollinator populations, but little research has been done exploring non-toxic methods for controlling the disease. The Organic Center has launched a campaign to find organic alternatives to these harsh chemicals. Learn about our efforts and what you can do to help.

Prenatal exposure to pesticides may increase risk of autism
A new study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that maternal exposure to pesticides can increase the risk of autism in children. Researchers from The University of California—Davis MIND Institute looked at associations between autism diagnoses and pesticides including organophosphates, pyrethroids and carbamates. They found that the risk of having a child with autism increased by two-thirds if mothers lived near farms or fields where synthetic pesticides were applied. This association was higher when pregnant women were exposed during their second or third trimesters. “In that early developmental gestational period, the brain is developing synapses, the spaces between neurons, where electrical impulses are turned into neurotransmitting chemicals that leap from one neuron to another to pass messages along. The formation of these junctions is really important and may well be where these pesticides are operating and affecting neurotransmission,” said lead author Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto in a recent press release. Many synthetic insecticides are neurotoxic, and prenatal exposure can have a disproportionate effect on babies because their developing nervous systems are more vulnerable to environmental pollutants.

UK Parliament body discusses health risks of Roundup
The UK Parliament’s Parliamentary Group on Agroecology met in June to discuss the dangers of exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. At the meeting, international experts shared their findings not only with members of UK political parties, but also with non-profit representatives, the media, and general public. Among the experts was Dr. Malcom Hooper, a professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Sunderland, who pointed out that humans consume frequent, daily doses of glyphosate as residues in our food . He reported this exposure can harm beneficial gut bacteria, leading to leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome, Chrohn’s disease, celiac disease, and gluten intolerance. Research, he said, indicates that the “inert” ingredients in Roundup can also increase its toxicity well above the tested levels of glyphosate alone. Another presenter, Dr. Don Huber, professor emeritus of Plant Pathology at Purdue University, spoke about the interactions of glyphosate and GMOs on soil, plant, animal, and human health . Dr. Huber voiced safety concerns with glyphosate and GMO exposure, including potential associations with increased levels of toxic products, premature aging, reproductive failure, immune system failure, infertility, and birth defects. Other presenters included Dr. John Peterson Myers, Founder, CEO and Chief Scientist of Environmental Health Sciences, and Dr. Michael Antoniou, Reader in Molecular Genetics and Head of the Gene Expression and Therapy Group, Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics, King’s College London School of Medicine, UK.

Latest Updates from The Organic Center

Save organic citrus!
The Organic Center has launched a new campaign to fund research on organic solutions to citrus greening. Citrus greening is a disease that has been decimating the citrus industry, and current control mechanisms focus only on toxic pesticide sprays and GMOs. To address this issue, The Organic Center has launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund a multi-year research project in collaboration with professors at the University of Florida to find holistic organic solutions to controlling citrus greening organically. This project will determine the efficacy of labeled organic pesticides for controlling the Asian citrus psyllid, develop protocols for organic growers struggling with citrus greening, and examine naturally occurring organic trees resistant to citrus greening that can be bred to create non-GMO citrus greening-resistant varieties of citrus.

Study Spotlight: Newcastle study shows health benefits of organic
For those of you who missed our recent special edition of the Organic Scoop, we wanted to highlight the latest study showing the health benefits of organic food! The Newcastle study is one of the most exciting research studies to come out this year, and was recently published in the British Journal of Nutrition. Research findings show that organic crops have higher levels of antioxidants, lower levels of toxic metals, and fewer pesticides than conventional crops. In addition to putting out a special Scoop edition highlighting the findings, we also published a summary of the study and an infographic displaying the study results.

Organic Center briefs Congress on organic research
The Organic Center and the Organic Trade Association on July 29 gave a joint briefing to Congress covering emerging science on organic issues and organic food and farming research needs. The briefing included details about the recent nutritional study led by Newcastle University as well as research concerning citrus greening. The briefing looked at the mechanisms behind the nutritional benefits of organic as well as the integrity of the methods used by the researchers at Newcastle University in the meta-analysis. We noted that the Newcastle study is just one of many great papers to come out this year about organic research. However, research needs are more pressing than ever, especially for solutions to diseases and invasive pests. Citrus greening is one issue affecting both organic and conventional farmers, and thus far there are no cures. Presented were The Organic Center’s research efforts in this regard, including its crowdfunding campaign. Organic solutions will be useful not only to organic citrus growers, but also to conventional growers, because they will ensure long-term control by incorporating diverse control strategies and maintaining a healthy population of natural predators. Overall, the briefing was successful, with participants engaged and showing interest.

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