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EFSA conclusion on the peer review of the pesticide risk assessment for aquatic organisms for the active substance imidacloprid

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was asked by the European Commission to perform an evaluation of imidacloprid as regards the risk to aquatic organisms. In this context the conclusions of EFSA concerning the risk assessment for aquatic organisms for the active substance imidacloprid are reported. The context of the evaluation was that required by the European Commission in accordance with Article 21 of Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 to review the approval of active substances in light of new scientific and technical knowledge and monitoring data. The conclusions were reached on the basis of the evaluation of the representative uses of imidacloprid authorised at the time of approval of the substance. The proposed endpoints concluded as being most appropriate for use in regulatory risk assessment, derived from the submitted studies and literature data, are presented. Missing information identified as being required to allow for a complete risk assessment is listed.

Insecticides and fungicides are impacting survival and reproduction of earthworms

Earthworms provide key soil functions that favour many positive ecosystem services. These services are important for agroecosystem sustainability but can be degraded by intensive agricultural practices such as use of pesticides. Many literature reports have investigated the effect of pesticides on earthworms. Here, we review those reports to assess the relevance of the indicators of earthworm response to pesticides, to assess their sensitivity to pesti- cides, and to highlight the remaining knowledge gaps. We focus on European earthworm species and products authorised in Europe, excluding natural compounds and metals. We consider different organisation levels: the infra-individual level (gene expression and physiology), the individual and population levels (life-history traits, population density and behaviour) and the community level: community biomass and density. Our analysis shows that earthworms are impacted by pesticides at all organisation levels. For example, pesticides disrupt enzymatic activities, increase individual mortality, decrease fecundity and growth, change individual behaviour such as feeding rate and decrease the overall community biomass and density.

Two Midwest Butterflies Suffer Bee-like Declines

Federal listing protection has been finalized for two Midwest prairie butterfly species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) due to dramatic population declines. The Dakota skipper has been listed as a threatened species, and the Powershiek skipperling has been listed as an endangered species under the act, according to a final rule published Friday. The rule also specifies a special 4(d) exemption for the threatened skipper. The listing is the result of a 2011 settlement agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), one of the agency's most frequent litigants. The settlement created a five-year work plan to speed listing decisions for hundreds of species across the country. "It is great news that these remarkable little butterflies now have the Endangered Species Act protection that will save them and their beautiful prairie homes," Tierra Curry, a CBD senior scientist was quoted as saying in the group's response to the listing. "Protecting the last high-quality prairie habitats for the butterflies will keep these special places safe, along with all the other plants and animals that need them to survive."

Poultry disease spreading to wild grouse

A parasitical disease normally found in domestic poultry is rapidly spreading to our native Red and Black Grouse populations. Cryptosporidia is a respiratory disease of farmed chickens and turkeys caused by a parasitic protozoan called Cryptosporidium baileyi, and was first discovered in 'wild' gamebirds in 2010, in an infected Red Grouse on the North Pennine Moors. Birds with symptoms had already been reported from the same area the previous year. Since then several other moors had reported the disease, prompting scientists from the Game and Wildfowl Conservation Trust (GWCT) to circulate a questionnaire, asking shooting estate whether any of their shot birds had exhibited the symptoms of the disease: swollen eyelids and a mucus discharge from the nostrils and eyes. Their results have just been published in the journal Veterinary Record. About 68 per cent of the 150 landowners questioned responded, reporting that 48 per cent of moors had found birds with these symptoms. Clearly the disease is spreading rapidly, and appears to be currently present in about 3.7 per cent of Red Grouse (Lagopus lagopus scoticus) examined.

Vanishing Species: Local Communities Count their Losses

The Mountain Chicken isn’t a fowl, as its name suggests, but a frog. Kimisha Thomas, hailing from the Caribbean island nation of Dominica, remembers a time when she could find these amphibians or ‘crapaud’ as locals call them “just in the backyard”. Known also as the Giant Ditch Frog, these creatures form a crucial part of Dominica’s national identity, with locals consuming them on special occasions like Independence Day. Today, hunting mountain chicken is banned, as the frogs are fighting for their survival. In fact, scientists estimate that their numbers have dwindled down to just 8,000 individuals. Locals first started noticing that the frogs were behaving abnormally about a decade ago, showing signs of lethargy as well as abrasions on their skin. “Then they began to die,” explained Thomas, an officer with Dominica’s environment ministry. “People also started to get scared, fearing that eating crapauds would make them ill,” she adds. In fact, this fear was not far from the truth; preliminary research has found that Chytridiomycosis, an infectious disease that affects amphibians, was the culprit for the wave of deaths. Besides the mountain chicken, there has been a sharp decline in the population of the sisserou parrot, which is found only in Dominica, primarily in the country’s mountainous rainforests. Thomas says large-scale destruction of the bird’s habitat is responsible for its gradual disappearance from the island. Dominica is not alone in grappling with such a rapid loss of species. According to the Red List of Threatened Species, one of the most comprehensive inventories on the conservation status of various creatures, some 2,599 of 71,576 species recently studied are thought to be endangered.

To save the birds, look to the fish

Birds that dive for fish while wintering in the Salish Sea, located between British Columbia and Washington, are more likely to be in decline than nondiving birds with less specialized diets, according to a study led by the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis. Diving birds were 11 times more likely to be in decline than nondiving birds, according to the study, published in the journal Conservation Biology. Also, populations of diving birds that rely on forage fish, such as Pacific herring, are 16 times more likely to decline than those with more varied diets. The study lends credence to what scientists have long suspected: “If you want to recover birds, you need to recover the food that they’re eating,” said co-author Joe Gaydos, a UC Davis wildlife veterinarian and director of the SeaDoc Society, a program of the UC Davis Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center. “This could help puffins (Fratercula arctica), western grebes (Aechmophorus occidentalis), common murres (Uria aalge) and other diving species recover.”

Autism is linked to pesticide exposure during pregancy

The closer women live to areas of heavy agricultural pesticide use during pregnancy, the more likely that their children will have autism spectrum disorders, according to a study in Environmental Health Perspectives. The University of California researchers stated that this is the third study to find strong links between autism and proximity exposures to agricultural pesticides, particularly organophosphates, during pregnancy. The research was part of the population-based, case control Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and Environment (CHARGE) study and involved 970 children. Commercial pesticide application data was mapped in relation to the mothers’ residential addresses during pregnancy, and the children were tested for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and developmental disabilities. “Approximately one-third of CHARGE study mothers lived, during pregnancy, within 1.5 km (just under 1 mile) of an agricultural pesticide application,” wrote the researchers. “Proximity to organophosphates at some point during gestation was associated with a 60% increased risk for ASD.” The figures were even higher for third-trimester exposures and second-trimester chlorpyrifos applications.

Imidacloprid poisoning: a modern foe

Imidacloprid is a relatively new insecticide in the chloronicotinyl nitroguanidine class. Imidacloprid has a wide variety of uses; it is used on cotton and vegetable crops, turf grass and ornamental plant products, in indoor and outdoor cockroach control products and in termite control products. Imidacloprid acts as a competitive inhibitor at nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the nervous system resulting in impairment of normal nerve function. Scientific literature on human imidacloprid poisoning has been relatively sparse. We report three subjects who presented with imidacloprid poisoning.

Metabolic degradation of imidacloprid in paddy field soil

The metabolic degradation and persistence of imidacloprid in paddy field soil were investigated following two applications of imidacloprid at 20 and 80 g a.i. ha−1 at an interval of 10 days. The soil samples were collected at various time intervals. The limit of quantification for the analysis of imidacloprid and its metabolites was obtained at the concentration of 0.01 mg kg−1. The initial deposits of total imidacloprid were found to be 0.44 and 1.61 mg kg−1 following second applications. These residues could not be detected after 60 and 90 days following second applications of imidacloprid at lower and higher dosages, respectively. In soil, urea metabolite was found to be the maximum, followed by olefine, nitrosimine, 6-chloronicotinic acid, 5-hydroxy and nitroguanidine. The half-life values (t 1/2) of imidacloprid were worked out to be 12.04 and 11.14 days, respectively, when applied at lower and higher doses, respectively.

GM genes 'jump species barrier'

A leading zoologist has found evidence that genes used to modify crops can jump the species barrier and cause bacteria to mutate, prompting fears that GM technology could pose serious health risks. A four-year study by Professor Hans-Hinrich Kaatz, a respected German zoologist, found that the alien gene used to modify oilseed rape had transferred to bacteria living inside the guts of honey bees. The research - which has yet to be published and has not been reviewed by fellow scientists - is highly significant because it suggests that all types of bacteria could become contaminated by genes used in genetically modified technology, including those that live inside the human digestive system. If this happened, it could have an impact on the bacteria's vital role in helping the human body fight disease, aid digestion and facilitate blood clotting.

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