Monarchs safe after all

A well-publicized study concluding that corn genetically modified to contain the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) insecticidal toxin could harm monarch butterflies raised a cry from environmentalists. However, some criticized the study, saying that the research did not reflect real-world exposures. Now, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) apparently agrees. Based on data from several unpublished studies, it concludes that Bt corn poses little threat to monarchs.

Toronto to ban “cosmetic” pesticides

The city of Toronto is nearing a decision to ban the use of pesticides for “cosmetic purposes.” The ban would probably be phased in over several years and would apply to all properties, public and private.

The action follows a similar ban enacted in Halifax. Canadians can expect more such regulations now that the Canadian supreme court has ruled that they are permissible. The ruling settled a lawsuit filed by lawn-care companies operating in Hudson, Quebec. Hudson enacted a ban on cosmetic pesticides and two lawn-care operators sued the city.

Pyrethrum labeled carcinogenic

Pyrethrum, one of the most widely used organic pesticides, has been declared a likely human carcinogen by an EPA scientific advisory committee. Apparently, this conclusion was reached some time ago, but is only seeing the light of day as a result of a lawsuit challenging the EPA's findings. The case is Jim J. Tozzi, et al, v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. One of the plaintiffs is a manufacturer of pyrethrum.

Dennis and Alex Avery, of the Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues, provide an interesting take on this topic, which you can access through

School pesticide bill in jeopardy

The School Environment Protection Act of 2001 (SEPA), an amendment to the education bill currently being considered on Capitol Hill, may be in trouble. SEPA was brokered by N.J. Sen. Robert Torricelli and was widely hailed as a workable compromise between environmental and industry groups. However, some members of the House Agriculture Oversight Subcommittee have expressed serious reservations about the bill. Without their approval, SEPA cannot be enacted.

If SEPA ultimately is approved, it will restrict pesticide applications in schools by requiring posting and prior notification, as well as limiting applications to certain times.

Novel bioherbicide shows promise

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (ARS) studies suggest that various broad-leaved weeds could meet their match in a novel bioherbicide that includes weak or nonvirulent fungi and an oil emulsion.

One ingredient is the usually non-pathogenic fungus Myrothecium verrucaria. In nature, it survives by absorbing nutrients from decaying plant matter. When mixed with oil, however, it can kill many common weed species.

ARS researchers have shown that the oil serves as both an emulsifier that retains moisture and a synergist that enables the fungus to kill weeds. Neither the fungus nor oil alone will damage plants, so natural movement of the fungus to crops or other nontarget plants isn't likely.

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