Showing posts with label Pesticides. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pesticides. Show all posts

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Toxic Tides

One of the biggest challenges facing the aquaculture industry everywhere, is Lepeophtheirus salmonis, the sea-louse. 


 Sea lice, Lepeophtheirus salmonis, on farmed
Atlantic salmon, New Brunswick, CA.
Photo by 7Barrym0re



It’s a parasite which attacks both farmed and wild salmon (r.), causing lesions and infections which stunt their growth. But the costs of de-lousing are high. And so are the losses suffered by the industry in the marketplace. Many lice can actually kill many fish.


To fight back, the fish-farmers dump pesticides into the waters (below). But, because they’re released directly into the environment, they not only kill the lice, but place beneficial, “non-target” organisms at risk, too. And several of these live in the open ocean, beyond the confines of the  farms.
This image shows how industry applies pesticides within their operations.


The latest (but not the only) cautionary tale about the wisdom of this practise, has just emerged from Norway

A team of researchers there exposed (in the lab), an important food source for the fish, to varying levels of hydrogen peroxide (H202).  It's the active ingredient in several such products.  The food source  was a zooplankten called Calanus spp. (r.)


Calanus spp. Illustration by the

It's abundant in coastal waters where many salmon farms are located and is a key component in the North Atlantic food web. It's important, not only to young farmed fish, but to wild herring and cod, as well. 

The lab results were convincing.


In just one hour, at only 10% of levels the farmers would apply, 92% of the juvenile Calanus spp. and all of the adult females died. And, at much lower doses (1% or less), the ability of the organisms to take in oxygen was greatly reduced. Their “escape response” was destroyed, making the likelihood of them being eaten by predators, "extremely high." 

The researchers concluded,  "Present recommended levels of application underestimate the impact of the pesticide on non-target crustaceans.”
Rosa H. Escobar Lux, PhD candidate,
Research group Disease & Pathogen 
Transmission.Havforsknings Institute 
of Marine ResearchAustevoll Research Station, 
Norway.

I interviewed the lead author of the study, Rosa Escobar Lux (l.).

PinP: Do you have any evidence that the abundance of Calanus spp. may be affected to the degree that the fish themselves are becoming "food-deprived?" 

Dr. Escobar Lux: "No. Our experiments were done in a laboratory which can answer some of our questions but it does not give definite answers to what is happening in the wild.  Also, there's a need for dispersion models to help us understand the real magnitude of the effects...."

The findings of her team were published recently in the Canadian science journal, FACETS.


Is evidence of harm confined to the lab?

Another study from Norway published just last month,  takes us beyond the lab, into open waters (or "the wild" as Dr. Escobar Lux puts it). It reveals, elevated levels of the pesticide diflubenzuron (DFB) are being found in commercially-valuable northern shrimp, (Pandalus borealisin Norwegian fjords. Salmon farms there use a medicated feed containing that productLab tests have shown it can be lethal to the shrimp, and actually becomes more toxic in warmer waters. This raises added concerns in a world that is heating up fast.

Many Norwegian fishers report, they're catching fewer shrimp in fjords where salmon farms are operating. Experts want further studies to find out if shrimp populations are already crashing. 

And yet another recent study reaches a similar conclusion, that 
hydrogen peroxide's toxicity may already be making itself felt in the open ocean, on northern shrimp. Conducted by mostly Norwegian researchers, they find hydrogen peroxide may be causing "gill damage and delayed mortality" to the shrimp, more than a kilometre from fish farms there.

But, there's more. Even older studies, some done in Canada, point to several other marine creatures being vulnerable to aquacultural pesticides, too. These not only include zooplankten like the kind already referred to, but commercially valuable catches such as lobster and shrimp!

Last year, experts "rounded up" those studies and combined them in  a single, "systematic and exhaustive" review. 

They concluded that hydrogen peroxide wasn't the only suspect product. Three others, cypermethrin, deltamethrin and azamethiphos - each used extensively in the industry - had similar effects. 

The review concludes, "Aquaculture has consequences for the environment. Salmon and trout cage culture has required the use of large quantities of pharmaceuticals. Our results show clear negative  effects at concentrations lower than those used in treatments against sea lice in all of the species studied." 

Despite all of this, in 2016, quite some time after much of this research was known,  Health Canada granted "full registration for  the sale and use" of pesticides using hydrogen peroxide as their active ingredient" for the treatment of sea lice on Atlantic salmon reared in marine aquaculture sites." That was at least five years after the first warnings about the pesticides I was personally able to findwarnings that our government officials must have been aware of. 

A year later, the Department registered also azamethiphos for an identical use, giving identical reasons for doing so. 

In its documents approving registration of both products, Health Canada concludes, "Under the approved conditions of use, the products have value and do not present an unacceptable risk to human health or the environment.   relatively benign products that pose little or no risk to salmon, the marine environment, non-target species, or human health." 

It went on to recommend that the industry, facing one of its worst years for sea lice that year, be allowed one treatment more of H202 than was usually allowed. 

In addition to H202, Canada has, for at least a decade, also permitted the use of deltamethrin, at least in Atlantic Canada.  Cypermethrin, however, is prohibited. 


In the course of my investigation, I was only able to find out how much hydrogen peroxide is being used in aquaculture.

Health Canada figures (see table) show more than one million kilograms were sold in 2016. That placed the active ingredient among the top ten best-sellers that year (9th). It did not register in the top ten the following year. (The government counts products sold for aquaculture as "agricultural.")


Top 10 Active Ingredients Sold in Canada in 2016 in the Agricultural Sector

Active Ingredient 
Product Type
Glyphosate
Herbicide
Surfactant blend
Other
Available chlorine, present as sodium hypochlorite 
Antimicrobial
Glufosinate ammonium
Herbicide
2,4-D
Herbicide
MCPA
Herbicide
Mineral oil
Insecticide/Fungicide/Other
Mancozeb
Fungicide
Hydrogen peroxide
Herbicide/Insecticide/Fungicide
Chlorothalonil
Fungicide
Source - PMRA - Health CA. 


If that figure sounds high, amounts used in Norway - the world's largest producer of farmed Atlantic salmon - are "through the roof" by comparison. One source says, the industry in that country applied 132 million kilograms of H202 between 2009 and 2018. That would be at least than 13 times more per year than the Canadian usage!

So why do regulators continue to register these products?


The importance of aquaculture to human society is widely recognized. In their own studies, the researchers describe it as "One of the best prospects to help meet the growing need for protein in the human diet." 

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization estimates, almost 19 million people worked in that sector in 2015. The world now produces about as much farmed fish as that taken in the wild. Once non-fish products (plants, shells and pearls) are added in - more than 100 million tonnes, or US$163 billion dollars worth of products, were produced by "ocean-farming" that year. It's considered the fastest-growing source of food for human consumption and is made up mostly of "finfish" such as the Atlantic salmon.


In Canada, government figures show, aquaculture employed 14 thousand people, full-time in 2009. For some reason, it's the most recent figure available. In 2013, production in the sector was valued at almost $1 billion. This country is ranked as the world's 4th-largest producer of farmed salmon. 

The website of the Canada Food Inspection Agency proudly states:

"Canada is one of the world's most trusted and respected food suppliers, trusted to provide safe and wholesome products and respected for our commitment to global food security. Canada's strong regulatory system forms the basis of this positive reputation."  (Emphasis mine.)


Are there better ways?

Researchers with Fisheries and Oceans Canada are among those looking for alternatives. They're trying to find out whether physical light traps and biological filters may be able to attract and remove the sea lice from the farms. There's no sign, yet that such methods are about to replace that heavy pesticide use, however. 

Meanwhile, research published about five years ago, seems to put an even finer point on the importance of finding alternatives - not just to pesticides - but to aquaculture itself!  Growth of the industry could actually be worsening the problem. Since sea lice numbers are proportional to fish size, "expanded salmon farming has shifted the conditions in favour of the parasites. Salmon farms are often situated near migrating routes of lice in the open ocean." 

And, as if that weren't enough, the lice are now showing resistance to three of the five compounds being used against them.

On January 11th, I e-mailed Canada's Minister of Health, Patty Hajdu (responsible for the Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency); Fisheries and Oceans Minister, Bernadette Jordan and the "Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance," to comment on my story. 


Apart from automated, return e-mails promising mine would be reviewed, at this writing, I've received no responses.



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Thursday, 19 December 2019

How Has This Pesticide Not Been Banned? Opinion.


The New York Times
Government scientists say chlorpyrifos is unsafe. And yet it’s still in use. Details here.
A "crop-duster" sprays a pesticide believed to be chlorpyrifos
on a canola crop in Manitoba. Circa 2006. A PinP photo.
A related story that may interest you:

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Thirteen years after the pesticide Lorsban sickened a Manitoba family, Health Canada is proposing it be severely restricted in Canada. The European Union will ban it in the new year. by Larry Powell


In the fall of 2006, Loyd Burghart told his story to "Planet in Peril." Burghart, a livestock farmer in the Swan Valley of western Manitoba, said he, his wife, Donna and their four children inhaled fumes from the chemical, Lorsban (chlorpyrifos) which a neighbour had been sparing on a nearby crop. (Many farmers in that part of the province had done the same that year, in an effort to control a severe infestation of  Bertha Army worms.) 

Some time after the incident, Burghart, his wife 
and one of their children, pose by a mother sow and 
piglets in their yard. A PinP photo.
The spray had left Burghart's entire family with severe symptoms. He says he, himself, was left writhing with severe pain in his eyes. 

It's not immediately known how many other Canadians have suffered in similar incidents. But it's hard to believe this was the only case. (Burghart was also worried how the chemical might impact the health of his animals and their feed.)

Health Canada announced recently it will propose that Lorsban be banned for "almost all agricultural uses." It will still be allowed for things like mosquito control. The pesticide has been linked to developmental problems in humans. 

And, it has just been announced that the European Union will ban it next year, as well. 

Lorsban is described as a "broad spectrum insecticide," used to control bugs in cereals, oilseeds, grains, fruits and vegetables.

Friday, 1 November 2019

'Landmark New Research' Links Neonics With Collapse of Fisheries


Sunday, 8 September 2019

Environmentally-Caused Disease Crisis? Pesticide Damage to DNA Found 'Programmed' Into Future Generations


EcoWatch
Researchers have found that concentrations of atrazine in drinking water were highest in May and June when farmers sprayed with the herbicide. They also found that birth defects peaked during the same months. Story here.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Wild ground-nesting bees might be exposed to lethal levels of neonics in soil.


ScienceDaily
In a first-ever study investigating the risk of neonicotinoid insecticides to ground-nesting bees, University of Guelph researchers have discovered hoary squash bees are being exposed to lethal levels of the chemicals in the soil. Story here.
Hoary bees forage on a squash flower.
Ilona Loser

RELATED:





Friday, 9 August 2019

Rachel was right


PAN
Yet another scientific study, released today, shows just how deadly our chemical-intensive farming system has become to pollinators and other insects. Story here,
Bumblebees forage on chives in an organic garden in Manitoba.
A PinP photo.
RELATED:

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Recent research contradicts a claim by the chemical giant, Bayer, that its newest bug-killer is safe for bees.

by Larry Powell

A honeybee colony in Manitoba. A PinP photo.
It's brand name is "Sivanto," (generic name - flupyradifurone). It's an insecticide designed to kill a wide range of bugs which eat food crops such as soybeans. Bayer is registering it in many jurisdictions around the world. 

After conducting various field studies, 
Bayer concludes, "Sivanto displayed a very promising safety profile." The company concedes, it works in ways similar to the neonicotinoids (a group of insecticides which has become notorious for its likely role in pollinator decline). Still, it finds, the product "can be considered safe to most beneficial insects, specifically pollinators." 
Image by Brian Robert Marshall.

But a team of scientists at the University of California, San Diego, reaches a different conclusion. In findings published earlier this year, the team gave a range of Sivanto doses to the bees, including ones they encounter in the field. By itself, the chemical did not appear to be harmful. But, when combined with the fungicide propiconazole (brand name "Banner Maxx"), widely-used by farmers, the harm was "greatly amplified." The bees either sickened or died, apparently because the fungicide weakened their ability to shake off the toxicity. It's not uncommon for pollinators to be subjected to a dizzying array of pesticides all at once, while foraging in the fields. It’s a process called "synergism," in which they can suffer harm they would not,  if  exposed to just a single one.

The spokesperson for the team, Dr. Simone Tosi, tells PinP, she does not believe that regulations in the US require manufacturers to test for synergistic effects when they apply to have their products approved. But neither does she think that such regulations prohibit such testing.


In a news release, her team says, "We believe this work is a step toward a better understanding of the risks that pesticides could pose to bees and the environment. Our results highlight the importance of assessing the effects pesticides have on the behaviour of animals, and demonstrate that synergism, seasonality and bee age are key factors that subtly change pesticide toxicity." They call for further studies to better assess the risks to pollinators.

But at least one of those other studies has already been done. It, too, comes up with similarly negative conclusions. A team from
 three German universities has found that flupyradifurone binds to the brain receptors of honeybees, damaging their motor skills.

Meanwhile, Bayer's marketing plans for its new product are ambitious. It promises to "develop, register and sell" Sivanto in many places across the world, including the US, Europe, Asia, Ghana and Brazil. While Canada isn't mentioned, specifically, there seems little doubt it will end up here, too. The company wants to see its product "in all major climatic zones allowing agriculture."

Last April, over three months ago, I e-mailed the federal Minister of Agriculture, Marie-Claude Bibeau, Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency, Manitoba's Minister of Health, Kelvin Goertzen and Manitoba’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture to ask them about this new research and whether Sivanto will be registered in Canada. 
Apart from a couple of automated responses, I have gotten no substantive answers. 

RELATED: 

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Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Remote lakes in New Brunswick, Canada, remain dangerously polluted, half-a-century after being drenched with the insecticide, DDT, says study.

It's no secret that the now-infamous bug-killer, DDT,
persists stubbornly in the environment. Still, what scientists found in lake sediments they recently analyzed in the Atlantic province, 50 years after it was last used there, shocked them. The sediment in all five lakes they tested (representing numerous watersheds), were laced with DDT at levels up to 450 times beyond what would be considered safe for key aquatic species and even entire food webs.
by Larry Powell

In some ways, it was like a real war.
A plane sprays DDT on bud worms in Oregon, 1955. 
Photo by Forest Health Protection.
In the early fifties, governments and the forest industry teamed up in New Brunswick to launch a massive aerial assault against spruce bud worms. 

The pests had probably been eating their way through conifer stands in eastern Canada and the U.S. for thousands of years. But now, they were causing hundreds of millions of dollars of damage yearly to forests of mostly spruce and fir, highly valued by a growing human population.

By 1968, almost six million kilograms of DDT had been unleashed on the worms. The area treated, varied widely from year to year - from about 80 thousand hectares to two million. Some years, the same area was treated once - others, twice.
 “Budworm City,” established in the early 1950s and used 
as a base for DDT spray operations in northern 
New Brunswick. Photo credit: D.C. Anderson.

Then, some two years later, as awareness of the harm the product was doing to fish and wildlife grew, authorities stopped using it altogether. 

But not before copious amounts had washed off the land and settled into the water directly from the air. 
But this latest research builds even further on what was known back then. 

In the words of the researchers, "Surprisingly, DDT and its toxic breakdown products are still very high in modern sediments - above levels where harmful biological effects tend to occur." 
Populations of a small water flea, Daphnia sp. (below) were found to have gone down significantly in the lakes tested. While such a creature may not sound impressive, it's considered an important invertebrate in the food webs of lakes.
An image of the aquatic organism Daphnia, commonly known as a water flea. They are often numerous in lakes and important grazers of algae, and are eaten by small fish, waterfowl, and large invertebrates. Daphnia are sensitive to their aquatic environment, including DDT levels and other contaminants. Daphniids are used worldwide in toxicology and ecology studies, and are often considered a keystone aquatic species. The postabdominal claw (indicated by the arrow) of Daphnia are preserved in lake sediments and useful to their identification. Photo credit: Kim Lemmen (Queen's University).
L. to r. Environmental Scientist and lead author Dr Josh Kurek,
study co-author Sarah Veinot, field assistant Marley Caddell, and study 
co-author Paul MacKeigan at a remote New Brunswick lake.
The study's lead author, Dr. Joshua Kurek, tells PinP, "Just to be clear, the loss/reduction of Daphnia is a concern, as Daphnia eat algae and are also food for fish. Fewer Daphnia mean less food for fish (and other organisms). It also means less grazing pressure on algae. It's very difficult to quantify. But other studies do show more algae (and blooms of algae), when Daphnia are fewer in lakes."
Excessive growth of sometimes toxic algae can clog lakes, robbing them of their oxygen and killing fish. It has become a huge problem in waterways, worldwide. 

Because New Brunswick had likely become the most heavily-sprayed forested region on the continent, DDT's harmful legacy could well be playing out well beyond the five lakes that were studied. (There are about 2,500 in the province, in all.) 

Another co-author, Dr. Karen Kidd of McMaster University, adds a cautionary note of her own. "The lesson from our study is that pesticide use can result in persistent and permanent changes in aquatic environments."

The project was conducted by experts from three Canadian Universities; Mount Allison, New Brunswick and McMaster. Its findings were published today in the journal,Environmental Science & Technology.

DDT's "rap sheet" is a long one.

Rachel Carson's famous book, "Silent Spring," published in the early 60s, dedicates almost an entire chapter (l.) to the New Brunswick experience. Called "Rivers of Death," it documents the loss of countless fish, insects and birds along the Mirimachi River, one of North America's best salmon-fishing spots, in the wake of the spraying. She noted the pilots made no effort to avoid spraying directly over waterways. She also observed that the spraying was having questionable results, in any event, since the amounts applied kept having to be increased, just to keep ahead of the hungry worms.

Also, years ago, DDT was found to cause a thinning of the eggshells of dozens of bird species, leading to reproductive failure. While their numbers have since recovered, raptors, notably the bald eagle, were especially hard hit.


A swift, as depicted in
Bird Craft - 1897.
And, by killing the bugs they eat, DDT has, for some time,  been recognized as instrumental in widespread declines in insectivorous birds such as the swift (r), as well. 



l.p.


Beyond Covid 19. Are we risking yet another pandemic if we continue to embrace "assembly-line" livestock production into the future?

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