In 1982, the luster of the “Green Revolution” was beginning to fade. The promised increases in yields from “miracle” hybrid grains that required high inputs of water, chemical fertilizers and pesticides had failed to appear. The global pesticide trade, however, was thriving — yielding dramatic profits for chemical corporations as farmers were lured onto a dangerous pesticide treadmill.
The "Circle of Poison" was a growing global concern, as pesticides banned in some countries were exported to others, only to return as health-harming residues on food imports.
That was the world when PAN International was founded as a global network, at a meeting of activists from around the world in Penang, Malaysia. Two years later, PAN North America was born — and, this year, we’re thrilled to be celebrating 35 years of working to end pesticide reliance and achieve health, resilience and justice in food and farming.
Looking back on what we have accomplished in 35 years, we see how our work has grown. Here are just a few highlights:
- We started off by targeting The Dirty Dozen — twelve of the most harmful pesticides, including DDT — spurring global attention to pesticide poisonings. Our campaign led to action on persistent pesticides, laying the groundwork for the first international chemicals treaty, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. Under this treaty, we won global phaseouts for several of the Dirty Dozen persistent pesticides, including DDT, endosulfan and lindane.
- We shone a spotlight on money the World Bank was spending on pesticides, partnering on campaigns around the world to document the harms of these chemicals, and win improved policies at the Bank.
- We co-authored a UN report on agriculture with 400 other scientists from around the world—The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) — which led to global experts calling for ecological farming, and FAO hosting two international forums on agroecology.
- We helped (and continue to help) communities measure pesticide drift in their homes, schools and farms with the invention of the Drift Catcher. PAN scientists also worked with California partners to measure drift and pesticides in the bodies of community members, eventually leading to EPA acknowledging the hazards of pesticide drift. We then worked with communities to win protective buffer zones and reporting requirements.
And the work continues. Today, we’re working with Iowa farmers to tackle herbicide drift, winning groundbreaking protections for pollinators in Minnesota, and building on the ban of brain-harming chlorpyrifos in Hawaiʻi to press for similar state laws in California, Oregon and Maryland — as well as a national ban. We continue to spotlight the undue influence of pesticide corporations like Bayer (Monsanto) and Dow (Corteva), while they continue to merge and rebrand to avoid accountability.
But it’s the way we do this work that makes us successful. We work in partnership with communities on the frontlines of industrial agriculture, support grassroots and coalition organizing, and facilitate relationships and networks of partners and other allies — state, national and international — in order to build a more powerful movement.
Time to celebrate!
Our dedicated community of supporters helps to make it all happen. We would love for you to join us in celebrating 35 years of PAN North America! PAN staff have been hard at work planning celebrations around our 35-year milestone with a number of special events and programming both on and offline. Keep an eye out for the following:
- Guest blogs from former PAN staff, board members and partners, sharing stories from their time working with PAN and what they have been working on since.
- A special video and audio project commemorating the anniversary. See below for a chance to contribute.
- House parties across the country hosted by PAN board members and friends. If you’re interested in hosting a house party, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Two big celebrations this fall, in the Bay Area and in Iowa, featuring speakers, music, food, and you! Details to come.
We’d love to hear from you about why you support PAN’s work. If you’d like to be included in a video/audio project we’re putting together, please email email@example.com, telling us how you became involved, and why PAN’s work is important to you.