Once more, science shows that pesticide exposure is linked to serious health harms, and children bear the brunt of the cost.
Last week in Peru 90 people were poisoned and at least three children died from donated food contaminated with pesticides. A horrifying example of the on-the-ground consequences of broken policy.
I was born 20 miles from the Canadian border, as the crow flies. Childhood runs for a 'mack' and regular trips to the border were common. But this week, my Canadian journey was quite different: to Ottawa, seat of the Canadian government, and to a convergence of over 50 pesticide regulators from 30 countries, the global CEO of the pesticide industry, grower organizations, and PAN.
I had the honor of representing PAN at the 1stInternational Gathering of Heads of Pesticide Regulatory Authorities, convened by the Canadian government. The meeting offered a rare opportunity to think outside the box with pesticide rulemakers from around the world.
In some circles, it would be called a bribe, at best. Evidence revealed last week shows that Monsanto's former Chief Financial Officer admitted that the agrichemical corporation planned to spend $150 million in cash and trade incentives in Latin America, North America and Europe to spur the uptake of the pesticide glyphosate, better known as RoundUp. $150 million is no small change — and surely that's not all that's been spent.
The news came to light last week as part of an investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Sadly, small farmers around the world know all too well the carrot and stick approaches that Monsanto and other pesticide giants use to lure farmers (and nations) toward industrial agriculture and onto the pesticide treadmill.
The smell of earth is the first thing I always notice when I return to the Midwest. I grew up among the lakes and prairies of this region, and though I am intrigued by the salty, tangy smell of the sea that comes in with the fog where I now live, it's the smell of soil that grounds me, and brings me home.
Traveling to Oklahoma and through Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Minnesota this week, I have been honored to deliver 6,101 thank you notes from the PAN community, expressing sincere appreciation to farmers for their innovation and hard work to grow good food that nourishes us, while also stewarding the earth and keeping that soil alive.
It was chile peppers, not strawberries, that saw the first use of cancer-causing methyl iodide to sterilize California soil. And today, community leaders from Fresno and throughout the Central Valley gathered at the Fresno County Agricultural Commissioner's office to urge officials to stop any future use of the chemical in their community.
Cancer. Ironically and tragically, as I’ve experienced more and more cancer in the lives around me, I’ve begun to harden myself to its consequences. I expect it someday. I accept cancer as an inevitable part of life that we must battle and do our best to survive. I’ve even watched myself teach this to young ones as I attempt to soothe their fear. Despite my best intentions, I’m normalizing cancer.
But this much cancer — and the pain, fear, and enormous cost that accompanies it — doesn't have to be a normal part of life. Cancer used to be exceedingly rare. And we should just never be in a position of trying to make sense of rising rates of childhood cancer. Period.
On May 13th, the country's top scientists and 200,000+ ordinary people urged EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to prioritize scientific evidence over corporate influence and ban the cancer-causing pesticide methyl iodide. Called “one of the most toxic chemicals on earth” by Dr. John Froines, the chair of California's scientific review of the chemical, methyl iodide is promoted by Arysta LifeScience — the largest privately-held pesticide company in the world.
Last week, the nations of the world agreed that the pesticide endosulfan is too toxic for people and the planet to bear. As our staff scientist Karl Tupper reported from Geneva, 173 countries agreed to ban the chemical through the Stockholm Convention, recognizing that innovative farmers across the globe are already growing coffee, cashew, chocolate and cotton without a drop of the deadly pesticide.
At Pesticide Action Network, we mark Earth Day by reflecting on the work handed to us by our predecessors. We take stock of their predictions for our world, and pull lessons for moving forward.
I am reminded, in particular, of Rachel Carson's articulate science and clarion call on pesticides in Silent Spring. Of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers, and how their very first contracts demanded the decreased use of pesticides. Of farmers and eaters who have grown and harvested foods for millenia while protecting biodiversity and our earth. And of my own populist, upper Midwest heritage, and how the Wisconsinite Earth Day founders mobilized broad and diverse support for stewardship, 20 million strong in 1970, that led to some of the most important policies that safeguard our collective nest.