Co-Sponsored with Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems Funders Moderated by Pete Myers, Jenifer Altman Foundation/Environmental Health Sciences
In June of this year, more than 50,000 bumblebees, representing roughly 300 colonies, were found dead or dying in a Target store parking lot in Wilsonville, Oregon. The culprit was a neonicotinoid pesticide, dinotefuran, applied to nearby trees for cosmetic reasons. That same week, hundreds of bees were found dead after a similar cosmetic pesticide application in the nearby town of Hillsboro.
First introduced in the 1990s in response to widespread pest resistance as well as safety concerns surrounding then-common pesticides, neonicotinoid insecticides have quickly become the most widely used pesticides in the world. Neonicotinoids’ toxicity to bees and other pollinating insects has brought them widespread media attention and has dominated the recent concerns of regulatory institutions worldwide. However, while Europe takes steps to protect pollinators, the US continues registering new uses.
Sadly, time is of the essence. The degree of risk should not be underestimated, as one-third of food in the US relies on insect pollinators. Striking at the core of the trophic support system for all biodiversity, neonicotinoids’ largely indiscriminate effectiveness on non-target vertebrate and invertebrate populations raises concerns that go well beyond bees into the world of aquatic invertebrates, predator insects, and even birds.
Speakers: Chuck Benbrook, WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources Alex Lu, Harvard School of Public Health Cynthia Palmer, American Bird Conservancy
About the Speakers:
Chuck Benbrook serves as the leader of the Washington State University Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources program Measure to Manage: Farm and Food Diagnostics for Sustainability and Health (M2M). The goal of M2M is to develop, refine, validate, and apply analytical systems quantifying the impacts of farming systems, technology, and policy on food nutritional quality, food safety, agricultural productivity, economic performance along food value chains, and on natural resources and the environment. Over a long career, Dr. Benbrook has developed a variety of analytical systems quantifying food quality and safety, and the impacts of agricultural technology and policy. He has worked extensively with several major government data sets, translating, for example, detailed statistics on pesticide use and residue levels into measures of pesticide risk, and government data on the levels of nutrients in food into measures of a food’s nutritional value. Chuck Benbrook earned a B.A. degree in economics from Harvard University in 1971, and M.A. and PhD degrees in agricultural economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1979/1980.
Alex Lu is an Associate Professor of Environmental Exposure Biology in the Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). His research focuses on understanding how ecological and human health are being affected by the pervasive presence of pesticides in the environment. His research follows the gene-environment interaction paradigm in which he characterizes exposures using biomarker approach first and then seek for mechanistic interpretations for the adverse health effects. His public health service involves in implementing practical methodologies, such as integrated pest management (IPM), at the community level in order to mitigate exposures to toxic chemicals, specifically pesticides. He currently serves as an Associate Editor for Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP), one of the leading peer-review journals of environmental health, and as an ad hoc reviewer for more than 30 scientific journals. He also serves as an ad hoc member on the scientific advisory panel to US Environmental Protection Agency under the authority of the Federal Insecticides, Fungicides, and Rodenticides Act (FIFRA).
Cynthia Palmer has been involved in pesticide issues for many years. She is the American Bird Conservancy’s Pesticides Program Manager, and her recent publication examines the impacts of neonicotinoids on birds and other non-target organisms. She earlier co-authored a report on pest control for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, advocated for safer alternatives with the World Wildlife Fund, and helped place pesticide issues in the national spotlight as senior editor of the daily news service, Environmental Health News. Her other work has dealt with chemical contamination, agriculture and food safety issues, worker health and safety, air and water pollution, and climate and energy policy. She received her AB from Harvard College in 1988 majoring in environmental and public health policy, her JD from Harvard Law School in 1993 with an emphasis on environmental law, and her MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health in 1994 concentrating in environmental and occupational health.