What were they thinking over at The Atlantic? Last week, the normally fact-focused magazine and media company hosted an event entitled "Harvest: Transforming the Food We Eat" in New York City — and the evening was wholly underwritten by the Agricultural Division of DowDuPont.
Event promotional materials touted innovators who are “making the global food system more sustainable and productive.” So why was Harvest sponsored by one of the world's largest pesticide manufacturers? And why weren't there any farmers on the panel?
Last gasp of a failing system
Just in case it's not obvious why linking DowDuPont with this event was a bad idea, here are a few things The Atlantic editors (and brand holders) might want to consider.
For years, Dow has promoted a chemical-intensive GE/herbicide cropping system that serves no one's interests but their own. Promises of increased yields have failed to materialize, farmers have lost all control of their inputs, and weeds and bugs are now resistant to these widely used chemicals — just as scientists said they would be.
Undeterred, Dow doubled down, bringing a new generation of seeds to market in 2014 that are engineered to resist an herbicide cocktail of glyphosate (aka RoundUp's active ingredient) and the antiquated, dangerous chemical 2,4-D. Just as with Monsanto's herbicide dicamba that's made recent headlines, Dow's drift-prone 2,4-D product is known to damage both health and neighboring crops, and weed scientists predict resistance will develop in short order.
No doubt DowDuPont will then offer yet another product to fix the problem they've created. This failing system — and endless pesticide treadmill — is the "future of food" the biotech/pesticide industry seeks.
Hands in the policy cookie jar
Dow has also been in the news recently for successfully pressing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reverse course on the planned withdrawal of their controversial insecticide chlorpyrifos, a pesticide known to harm children’s developing brains and put farmworkers and rural communities at risk.
This decision by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt by-passed his own scientists' recommendations, and was made just weeks after a closed-door meeting with Dow. Of course it's hard to say, but the fact that the corporation donated a million dollars to Trump's inauguration party might have had a little something to do with it as well.
Putting corporate profits so blatantly above the health of children and workers is outrageous and irresponsible. The American Academy of Pediatrics called the chlorpyrifos reversal "deeply alarming," and states across the country are setting rules in motion to protect their communities from this dangerous chemical. National legislation is even moving forward to fill the gap.
The actual innovators
Oh and by the way 'Harvest' organizers, it's not our food that needs transforming, it's our food system. The evidence is clear: it's time to shift away from reliance on failing, chemical-intensive technologies that feed the coffers of corporations like DowDuPont. The food future we actually need involves healthy soils and biodiverse cropping systems — and innovative farmers across the country are working hard to make that transformation happen.
Of course, none of them were on last week's panel in New York City.
Sadly, Dow has a long history of greenwashing, and I haven't even touched on their role in the infamous Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, India. As other colleagues in the good food movement have noted, DowDuPont hosting a forum on food is like Phillip Morris hosting a forum on health, or Exxon Mobile hosting a forum on climate change. It makes no sense.
It was unfortunate and embarrassing for The Atlantic to be associated with DowDuPont's ‘Harvest’ event. What were they thinking?