In case you need another reason to support organic food and fight the use of pesticides in our food supply, here’s a doozy: it could save the pandas.
You read that right. A first-of-its-kind analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency last week determined that three commonly used pesticides cause harm to as many as 97 percent of endangered species and critical habitat globally—a list which includes pandas, sea lions, and chimpanzees.
The chemicals malathion and chlorpyrifos harm 1,725 species and habitats protected under the Endangered Species Act—about 97 percent of them—while a third pesticide, diazinon, was found to harm 1,416 species (79 percent). Malathion is commonly used on fruit trees and plants, chlorpyrifos kills termites, mosquitos, and roundworm and is often used on feed crops, and diazinon controls insects on fruit, vegetable, and nut crops and is also used to make ear tags for cattle. The EPA determined that these species are “likely to [be] adversely affected” by the three pesticides in question and has asked that the Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries Service prepare detailed analyses on specifically how the species are being harmed by pesticide use.
This is the first time a regulatory agency has acknowledged what environmental agencies and anyone with common sense have known for years: that chemicals in our soils, watersheds, and air harm vulnerable species. The Environmental Working Group has called on the EPA to study the impacts from Monsanto weedkillers containing glyphosate on endangered species, after the agency announced it would spend the next five years updating its research on the commonly used herbicide. Last year, the World Health Organization determined that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic” to humans.
And last summer, the Center for Food Safety and other environmental groups launched a legal appeal against the EPA after it approved the pesticide cyantraniliprole, saying the agency failed to consider its impacts on endangered species.
“The EPA’s action was unlawful and irresponsible because it failed to include measures to protect endangered species, water quality and the environment,” George Kimbrell, senior attorney for the Center for Food Safety, said at the time. “As the EPA’s own scientists have warned, this dangerous pesticide can drift into wildlife habitat and waterways but the agency failed to include necessary protective measures.”
Regarding this month’s reports on endangered species, it’s wonderful that the EPA is finally acknowledging some of the damage inflicted by the chemicals it approves for use on our food supply. But really—how many more studies do we need to see before we stop growing food in such a toxic way?
Photo credit: Gabriele Gherardi via Flickr