Food, money & politics | Pesticide Action Network
Reclaiming the future of food and farming

Food, money & politics

Kristin Schafer's picture
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As is now crystal clear, a healthy democracy demands much more than simply showing up at the polls. But as we move into this fraught election year, let’s not forget just how important voting can be. It matters.

When it comes to the food and farming issues we care about at PAN, who’s in charge really does make a difference. Over the past three years, rollbacks of common sense rules protecting public and environmental health from pesticide harms have been dramatic and relentless.  

From blocking a national ban of the brain-harming pesticide chlorpyrifos, to putting the updated, more health-protective Worker Protection Standard for farmworkers on indefinite hold, to greenlighting Monsanto's (now Bayer's) drift-prone herbicide dicamba, this administration is putting corporate profits before the health of workers, farmers and families. Every. Single. Time.

Follow the money...

Corporate influence on public agencies has always been a problem, but under this administration the “backroom deals” are wide out in the open — they don’t even try to hide who they’re working for. When our agencies aren’t looking out for we the people, our work as advocates is a steeper uphill battle. 

The chlorpyrifos story is just one example, but it proves the point well. 

After years of litigation, in 2015 EPA scientists found that this neurotoxic insecticide was too dangerous to use safely, and the agency moved to withdraw the chemical from the market. Then we had an election. In March 2017, officials from the pesticide’s largest maker, Dow Chemical (now Corteva) quietly met with the new head of EPA after making a generous donation to the president’s inauguration. Three weeks later, the planned chlorpyrifos ban was reversed

Several states have since stepped up to ban chlorpyrifos, per the demands of organized communities. And with the now shrinking market, Corteva recently announced they’d stop producing the product at the end of the year.  

Good news, yes. But if EPA were doing its job instead of kowtowing to industry, families would have been protected years earlier, and all this organizing wouldn’t have been needed.

So, vote if you can! And do more.

In the midst of this year’s chaotic political landscape, farm policy is showing up in new, exciting ways — from highlighting the dangers of corporate consolidation (wait, more mergers??) to supporting survival of small farmers through parity pricing. Our friends at Civil Eats have done a great job tracking the presidential candidates’ positions, you can check them out here.  

The conversation is definitely shifting, as the problems created by our current industrial ag system are more widely understood — and increasingly urgent. It’s time to put leaders in place at every level of government who support a transition to healthy, resilient farming. Use the tool below to see what your options are this spring, and vote if you’re able! 

And do more. 

Find out what organizations and communities are working on issues you care about, and join them in their efforts (if you’re not already part of the PAN community, join us!). Send letters, make phone calls, protest, and show up to support priorities and initiatives that move us in the right direction — and block those that don’t. Remind public agencies that they work for the people, not corporations. Consider running for office yourself next time around!

One of my favorite takes on civic engagement is this Des Moines Register opinion piece from our former board member Kamyar Enshayan. Kamyar points out that polluting industries work very hard to make us believe that government is inherently bad – inefficient and wasteful — so they can be free to pollute as they wish. His call to action goes to the core of today's crisis of democracy.

 What I find amazing is that we have allowed ourselves to forget the most prized ideal of our nation — self governance — and have fallen for the falsehood that organizing ourselves to serve ourselves is bad.

It’s time to build a food system for the future that serves us all, and it will take all of us to get there. Voting is one good step. 

 
Kristin Schafer
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Kristin Schafer's picture

Kristin Schafer is PAN's Executive Director. With training in international policy and social change strategies, Kristin has been at PAN for over 20 years. Before taking on the Executive Director role, she was PAN's program and policy director. She has been lead author on several PAN reports, with a particular emphasis on children's health. She serves on the Policy Committee of the Children's Environmental Health Network. Follow @KristinAtPAN