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NRDC Report and Coalition Against Pesticides

NRDC Report and Coalition Against Pesticides

On June 21, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) held a news conference in Washington, DC, to announce the availability of a new NRDC report, "After Silent Spring," and a national coalition effort to reform pesticide law. Information from the news conference was on television news last night and is being carried today in newspapers, including "USA Today."

The NRDC news release, which follows, summarizes the findings in the report. We also include a news release from the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides (NCAMP), a coalition of environmental, labor and consumer groups; the release explains the coalition's positions and history. As made clear in the news conference, the coalition supports the phasing out of any pesticide suspected of causing cancer. It also supports labeling of food to show what pesticides were used on the food and what the possible risks might be to consumers.

Presenters at the news conference frequently raised the issues of food safety, water quality and worker protection. Other points they made at the news conference include the following:

  • USDA was said to lack in leadership in the research and implementation of alternative agriculture methods.

  • It was suggested that pesticide enforcement should be under state departments of labor rather than agriculture, as agriculture tends to side with industry and not the workers and consumers.

  • The coalition does not favor a ban of all pesticide use. The need for people to eat fruits and vegetables was recognized; again, the group urged that food labeling show pesticide use.

  • The coalition's position is that USDA must lead the way with work on alternatives in agriculture, and must promote IPM and biological controls.

Points of interest from the NRDC report, "After Silent Spring," include the following:

  • Pesticides pollute the nation's lakes, streams and rivers.

  • At least 38 percent of the food samples analyzed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1990 contained detectable pesticide residues.

  • Increasing numbers of pests are becoming resistant to pesticides.

  • The report takes an in-depth look at the history of eight chemicals, DBCP, EDB, daminozide, parathion, 2,4-D, methyl bromide, alachlor and atrazine, several of which remain in use.

  • At least 107 different active ingredients in pesticides have now been found to cause cancer in animals or humans.

  • Pesticides have now been found to be pervasive contaminants of drinking water.

If you want a copy of the NRDC report, "After Silent Spring," you may order one for $7.50 plus $1.45 shipping and handling (per copy) from: NRDC Publications, 40 West 20th St., New York, NY 10011 (checks in U.S. dollars only).

We have also attached an item distributed by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) at the news conference. This release supports and names specific IPM programs.

This information is being provided to increase awareness of news activities and materials of various groups that may influence food safety and quality and pesticide education programs. No endorsement is intended.

In the next day or two, you will receive more background information on pesticide issues and examples of Extension programs in anticipation of the June 29 release of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report on pesticides and children's diets.

Because we are communicating with several different Extension departments, please coordinate your efforts to avoid duplication and to assure that everyone has the same information.

If anyone has related information to share with us or the entire Extension System, please let us know. Thank you.

Attachments (3)


Natural Resources Defense Council
1350 New York Ave., N.W
Washington, DC 20005
202 783-7800
Fax 2O2 783-5917


For Immediate Release
June 21, 1993

Contact: Sarah Silver 202-783-7800
Judy Martinez 213-892-1500


Coalition of Environment, Labor, Consumer, Grassroots Groups Endorses Reform Agenda For Nation's Pesticide Laws

A new report released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council reveals that the public health and the environment have been put in jeopardy through the government's ineffective and indifferent efforts to control pesticide use in the thirty years since Rachel Carson's landmark book "Silent Spring" was published.

Urging action to resolve the problems highlighted in NRDC's new report, "After Silent Spring: The Unsolved Problems of Pesticide Use in the United States," a broad coalition of national environmental, consumer, labor groups and grassroots organizations joined forces today and called on the Clinton Administration and Congress to support an aggressive pesticide agenda.

"NRDC's new report exposes the disastrous effects of our continued reliance on toxic pesticides," said Jennifer Curtis, NRDC senior research associate. "The government's seeming devotion to pesticides has resulted in the systematic contamination of our environment, our wildlife, our drinking water, our food supply and in the poisoning of farmers and farmworkers."

NRDC's report found:

  • Since 1964, conventional pesticide use in the U.S. has almost doubled; total pesticide use now exceeds two billion pounds - eight pounds for every man, woman and child in this country.

  • At least 71 known carcinogenic pesticides are in use today on our food crops.

  • Studies in humans indicate that for certain cancers, farmers are at increased risk because of exposure to pesticides. Similarly, women with increased levels of DDE, a metabolite of DDT, in their fat tissue are at greater risk for breast cancer.

  • One out of every ten public water supply wells in the U.S. contains residues of at least one pesticide and over 440,000 rural private wells contain pesticides.

  • At least 38 percent of the food samples analyzed by the FDA in 1990 contained detectable levels of pesticide residues.

  • Posing a threat unlike any other, the widely used pesticide methyl bromide has been found to be a potent destroyer of the ozone layer.

"Over the past three decades, health and environmental problems from pesticides have grown, largely as result of a regulatory system that is an abysmal failure and in need of a complete overhaul," said Erik Olson, NRDC senior attorney.

"The federal government has done little to stem the increase in pesticide use or to promote the use of safe alternatives," Olson stated. "Weak federal laws and regulations, bureaucratic delay and a suspect system of environmental and health effects assessment have conspired to render pesticide oversight inadequate."

"American consumers are eager to kick the pesticide habit. But lawmakers must act on a broad range of issue to make that vision a reality," said Olson.

According to NRDC experts, a confluence of events makes 1993 the best time to act on reforming pesticide policy.

"The time is right," stated Erik Olson. "The courts upheld the Delaney Clause which bans carcinogenic pesticide residues in processed food, the new EPA chief Carol Browner expressed a commitment to reforming the old, outdated policies, and environmentalists and consumer groups are agreed on a plan of action.

"Thirty years after Rachel Carson first warned the world about the dangers of pesticides, we may finally have the political opportunity to fix the problem. That is great news for all Americans," Olson concluded.

A new coalition of groups announced their support for a comprehensive reform agenda, similar to the agenda outlined in NRDC's report. The three major goals of the coalition agenda are to improve the safety of the food supply, encourage the use of non-toxic agricultural alternatives to pesticides; and strengthen the nation's pesticide program by modernizing pesticide laws to better protect the public and environment. The key recommendations proposed by the coalition are:

  • Phase out the food uses of the most dangerous pesticides over a specific tune period.

  • Adopt a uniform statutory health-based standard for all pesticides in all foods.

  • Encourage the development, demonstration, and transition of alternatives to risk pesticides through targeted research.

  • Streamline and strengthen EPA's pesticide program, improve EPA's enforcement authority for FIFRA; and protect the public and farmworkers from risky pesticides.

NRDC is a non-profit environmental advocacy group with more than 170,000 members nationwide.


National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides
701 E Street, SE - Suite 200; Washington, D.C.

Embargoed For Release
June 21, 1993
Contact: Jay Feldman


Washington, D.C. (June 21, 1993) - A coalition of environmental, labor and consumers groups joined in a national effort to reform federal pesticide law. The groups represent a major cross section of organizations that have previously taken a range of positions. The groups today called for the phaseout of cancer causing pesticides and the removal of other pesticides shown to cause other effects such as birth defects, nerve system damage, and other health effects. At the same time, the coalition called for a major national effort to put alternative pest management approaches in place that do not rely on pesticides by the year 2,000.

The National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides (NCAMP), a national organization composed of grassroots environmental, labor and consumer organizations, has long asked Congress to take hazardous pesticides, such as those that cause cancer, off the market and assist in a national transition to nonchemical pest management strategies. The group supports the 1958 Delaney Clause of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, requiring EPA to remove from commerce cancer pesticides that concentrate in processed food. The requirement in the law prohibits additional cancer risk to be added to the processed food supply and, according to NCAMP, is based on the public health principle of preventing harm. A federal Appeals Court (Ninth Circuit) last July instructed EPA to enforce the no additional risk standard of the law, rather than the "negligible risk" standard it has been using. The court decision has sparked agrichemical industry efforts calling for the repeal of the Delaney Clause.

Over its twelve-year history, NCAMP has developed a broad, bipartisan coalition composed of those who have experienced problems associated with pesticides and the benefits of alterative pest management practices that are not reliant on pesticides. People and their organizations that are a part of NCAMP come from both an urban and rural perspective, farm and nonfarm. What joins the coalition members together is a concern about the widespread use of pesticides that has resulted in adverse health and environmental effects and property damage. The group has worked extensively with growers who have been damaged by the DuPont chemical fungicide, Benlate, now tied to crop damage all across the United States.

NCAMP says it is wrong to dismiss so-called trace amounts of deadly cancer causing pesticides. Scientists are unable to establish a safe level for exposure to cancer causing pesticides. NCAMP rejects the notion that a "negligible risk" standard will protect people, especially given the multiplicity of cancer causing pesticides used in food production. Eleven of the 32 pesticides EPA has identified as cancer causing are registered for use on apples, 10 on grapes. Assessing the risk from a piece of fruit, a plate of food and three meals a day is beyond the grasp of numerous legislative proposals before Congress. The group says that these proposals are not sufficiently protective at a time when cancer strikes one in three in the U.S. and claims one in four lives.

According to Jay Feldman, NCAMP's executive director, "The goal of the reform policy is to replace high risk pesticides with lower risk pest management methods. In this sense, we are calling for a pesticide registration system that is based on pest management needs, coupled with the promotion of least toxic methods. The goal is to replace toxic materials with pest management approaches that are not reliant on poisons."

"Are we worried that delays in removing dangerous pesticides from the market will lead to no action in the end? Yes, we are," said Mr. Feldman. Feldman continued, 'We are not interested in trading the Delaney Clause for flawed risk assessments that ignore the real pain and suffering of dreaded illnesses like cancer and nervous system diseases. We are interested in weaning our nation's food production system from its chemical fix while putting in place pest management practices that truly protect human health and the environment."



World Wildlife Fund is drawing on the knowledge and experience of thousands of farmers in the United States and elsewhere in developing policy recommendations that reduce reliance on pesticides and other agrichemicals. A high-level, measurable commitment to pesticide reduction must be backed by policies and programs that provide opportunities for farmers to diversify their approach to pest control.

Concern for a safer environment and a desire to farm more profitably drive on-farm experimentation in practices that reduce off-farm inputs. The art of farming requires keen observation and flexible thinking to creatively balance relationships between plants, animals, soil, weather and market conditions, as well as personal, community and business needs.

The farmers and organizations mentioned in this fact sheet are well-known for their efforts to reduce agrichemical inputs. You may wish to contact them directly for further information concerning on-farm pesticide reduction.


Integrated Pest Management (IPM) provides farmers multiple options for pest control. Farmers can reduce reliance on pesticides by carefully monitoring crops, banding pesticides, recalibrating pesticide sprayers, as well as by improving soil quality to protect plant health, introducing beneficial insects that prey on pests, and maintaining habitat for the pest predators.

Arnold Elzer saved $117.90/acre in tart cherry production and $191.20/acre in apple production using IPM techniques. He is part of the Michigan Sustainable Agriculture Project, sponsored by American Farmland Trust and the Michigan Agricultural Stewardship Association.

Potato growers Bernie and Bob Lapacinski -use half the pesticides they used ten years ago through IPM. They cut their folier spraying in half, eliminated fungicide seed treatments, stopped using systemic insecticides and reduced herbicide rates. They demonstrate IPM through the University of Wisconsin Nutrient and Pesticide Management Program.

The Kitamura farm, Sacramento, CA, saved $7,318 a year on pesticides (averaging $45.73/acre) with tomatoes grown in an IPM system. The case study is detailed in the National Research Council's "Alternative Agriculture," 1989.

Tom Galazen grows strawberries for market without pesticides, saving $44/acre. Part of the Chequamegon Organic Growers Network, his demonstration is sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.


Farmers may use a variety of cropping options to control weeds and insects in their fields. In addition to IPM, farmers may use conservation tillage, cover cropping, intercropping, strip cropping and mowing. Farmers commonly rotate crops to disrupt insect life cycles and may use a rotary hoe to disrupt weed growth in spring.

The Michigan Energy Conservation Program documented that about 50% of the participants in their sprayer recalibration program were applying pesticides over the label rate by more than 10%. Through sprayer recalibration alone, growers saved $8.50/acre or more on pesticide inputs.

Bernie and Nancy Klieber compared three systems on a com/soybean rotation. Profits on com in the conventional system were $108/acre; ridge-till $152/acre and with ridge-till and a cover crop $128/acre. Soybean profits ranged from conventional $49/acre; ridge-till $88/acre; ridge-till and cover crop $85/acre. Although the cover crop cost the Kliebers in the short- run, they expect to see benefits from Unproved soil quality over time. The Kliebers demonstrate with the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, a private research group in East Troy, Wl.

As part of the 1990 Indiana On-Farm Demonstration project, Vaghn Edwards and Dave Williamson saved money and maintained yields by simple changes in soybean production. Williamson banded herbicides, saving $8/acre. Edwards mowed, used the rotary hoe and gave his fields and additional cultivation, saving $11/acre. The demonstrations were sponsored by the American Farmland Trust and the Indiana Sustainable Agriculture Association.

Alan Yegelehner, another participant in the Indiana On- Farm Demonstration Project, managed two ridge-till soybean plots identically, using rotary hoe and cultivation for weed control. On one plot, Yegelehner banded herbicides, too, and found that the soybeans grown without the herbicides were healthier and produced a higher yield.

Arden Kiefer, Belmond IA, converted his farm from row crops into a cash crop hay farm, reducing input costs 75 %. Source: Regenerative Agriculture Association's "Profitable Farming Now," 1985.

Darryl Townsend of Nobleton, FL, raises nearly half a million pounds of seed on 1,250 acres. Through crop rotation and a dramatic reduction of synthetic fertilizer and pesticides, Townsend has maintained his sandy soil in good condition, achieved better yields, and cut his chemical bill in half. From the Regenerative Agriculture Association's "Profitable Farming Now," 1985.


Including animals in a farming system allows farmers to mimic natural systems through production diversity. Farmers often grow a variety of crops in rotation, such as corn, oats, alfalfa and hay, to use as animal feed. The livestock manure can then be used for crop fertilizer, completing a biological loop. Intensive rotational grazing is one way of integrating the entire farming system, taking full advantage of biological relationships. Rotational grazing saves the farmer's time and energy, and the animals are healthier, too. Some farmers no longer grow grain for animal feed, eliminating crop pesticide use completely.

Dick Cates, field director for sustainable agriculture demonstrations sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, notes that in grazing projects over the past five years, farmers are realizing a 40% savings across the board. Dave Forgey, an Indiana dairy producer, also documented a 40% savings on his farm using rotational grazing.

Dr. Dave Zartmann, chair of Ohio State's dairy science department is working with other researchers at Ohio State and Penn State to study intensive rotational grazing in this innovative multidisciplinary joint effort.

John and Linda Oswalt raise sheep on 18 acres of rotational pasture. When net income from the pasture is compared to John's estimated net return from 18 acres of field corn, the rotational pasture produced four and one half times more income for the Oswalts in 1992. The Michigan Sustainable Agriculture Project sponsors the demonstration.

Gene and Mary Fritsche had the lowest cost per bushel of any Wisconsin corn producer who entered the state's 1992 Profits through Efficient Production (PEPS) contest. Substituting crop rotation and mechanical weed control for pesticides, he topped the dairy livestock division with corn grown without pesticides. The Fritsches demonstrate through the University of Wisconsin- Nutrient and Pest Management program.

Dean Swenson and Carl Pulvermacher, both of the Western Wisconsin Farmers Research Network, switched to sustainable practices on their field corn acreage, realizing about a $26/acre savings on production. The farmer network demonstrates through the WI Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

The Sabot Hill Farm outside of Richmond, VA., has experienced a savings of more than $20,000/year on their 3,530 acre diversified farm through alterative weed management, improved pastures, and other sustainable methods. Source: National Research Council's "Alternative Agriculture," 1989.

For further information on whole-farm approaches to pesticide reduction contact:

Michigan Agricultural Stewardship Organization. Tom Guthrie, 616/623-2261

Wisconsin Rural Development Center. Margaret Krome, Director of Sustainable Agriculture Programs, 608/437-5971

University of Wisconsin-Nutrient and Pest Management Program. Kit Schmit, Public Information, 608/262-5200

Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Richard Cates, Sustainable Agriculture Program, 608/273-6408

Ohio State University-Dairy Science Department. Dr. David Zartmann, Chair, 614/292-6851

Indiana Sustainable Agriculture Association. Steve Bonney, 317/463-9366

Tom Galazen-Chequamegon Organic Growers. 715/779-3254

Dean Swenson and Carl Pulvermacher. Southern Wisconsin Farmers Research Network. Carl Fredericks, Network Coordinator, 608/437-4395

American Farmland Trust--Center for Agriculture in the Environment. Brian Petrucci 815/753-9347

Pennsylvania Sustainable Agriculture Steering Committee. 814/349-9856

Virginia Association of Biological Farmers. 703/675-3263

Practical Farmers of Iowa. Dick Thompson, 515/432-1560

Alternative Energy Resources Organization. 406/443-7272

Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group. 803/297-8562

World Wildlife Fund. Michelle Miller, Great Lakes Project for Agricultural Pollution

World Wildlife Fund, 1250 Twenty-Fourth St., NW Washington, DC 20037-1175 USA Tel: (202) 293- 4800 Telex: 64505 PANDA FAX: (202) 293-9211

Incorporating The Conservation Foundation. Affiliated with World Wide Fund for Nature.