There are many important issues in the world regarding the environment and it’saffects on the average person. Though, the one that hits closest to home,worldwide, is the trust that individuals have in the food that they consume. Yetpesticides are still found daily in foods all around the world.
Pesticides aretoxins that are used by produce growers universally to control pests that candestroy crops. These toxins are being ingested by humans in the forms of fruitsand vegetables that have remaining toxins on them. How safe are these toxins tohumans and what is being done to safeguard the environment as well as the healthof individuals? Does the average person consume harmful amounts of poison atevery meal? If the levels are unsafe, why is this problem continuing to get ablind eye from the people who are supposed to protect society? These questionswhen asked only lead to more questions. Until things are done to change thesystems of pesticide usage universally, society can never be sure as to the longterm effects on our environment and what they are eating or giving to the futureof our world, the children. In some foreign countries pesticides are used morefrequently with legislative control than in the United States.
In Mexico andSouth America, for example, many of the pesticides that the United States andEurope have banned, wind up being used on a majority of their produce crops. Thelargest problem with this is that Europe and the United States import from SouthAmerica for produce all of the time. What good does it do to ban harmfulagricultural chemicals to be used on domestically grown crops if crops in othercountries are grown with these same harmful chemicals, and are then allowed tobe imported? Mexico and South America are the leading suppliers of produce forthe earth’s population because their climate is very conducive to year aroundcrops. Unfortunately those countries are also known for their large amount ofinsects of all varieties. These insects are steadily becoming more and moreimmune to toxins that are sprayed on crops. More than five hundred insects, onehundred and fifty plant diseases and two hundred and seventy weeds are nowresistant to pesticides. Results are that U.S.
growers as well, are steadilyforced to apply more and stronger toxins. As the amount and the strength of thetoxin increases, the immunity of the targeted insects to these toxins alsoincreases. Total U.
S. crop losses from insect damage has nearly doubled since1945. Insecticide use during this same time has increased tenfold. This war willgo on being waged until the game plan is changed. The produce export trade insome cities and countries constitutes the majority of their economy and theywill protect the resulting income at all costs. These places have very littlelegislation to control chemical usage, and follow up on almost none of itseffects. Officials do not care how it affects consumers, being adults orchildren. Even their own agricultural worker’s health is of no concern.
Theseofficials only care about producing crops and exporting them with as littleoverhead as possible. The bottom line is, always has been, and always will bemoney. In Villa Juarez, Mexico, many children who work in the produce fields arecoming down with mysterious illnesses and some people in this region put theblame directly on those children’s contact with the chemical acephate and otherpesticides that are used in that area. The use of acephate is illegal in theUnited States, but is perfectly legal in Mexico. Doctors in Juarez are treatingunusually high amounts of cancer and also fifty to eighty cases of chemicalpoisoning per week in their agricultural workers. This continues to happenbecause the government and the growers do not take these illnesses seriously;the workers are expendable.
Growers in Culcan Valley, Mexico use chemicals toincrease production of produce sold in the U.S. every winter. Unfortunately,studies that were preformed by the Government Accounting office in Mexico showedthat at least six pesticides that are illegal in the U.S. were still on theproduce when it was exported. Moving on to South America, in Chile there are noclear guidelines governing the use of agricultural chemicals on produce crops.In the city of Rancaga, a large fruit growing region, a study was done to checkthe risks that rural workers face, and what they found was astounding.
Dr. MariaMella found that there is an alarming amount of sterility and birth defects dueto exposure to chemical pesticides in agricultural workers. Congenialdeformities were five times higher, and multiple deformities were a shockingfour times higher than normal in this part of South America. These studies wereconducted by the Women’s Institute and were based on ten thousand infants bornin this region. Dr. Mella insists that these chemicals cause deformities ininfants, sterility in workers, and induced miscarriages. Horribly, sheapproximates that up to sixty percent of pesticides used on wheat in SouthAmerica are still present on the bread when it is consumed.
Seeing how harmfulpesticides can be to the workers who create the produce, one must wonder howmuch it can affect the consumer, maybe it depends on the strength and theharmfulness of the chemicals. In Chile, many pesticides are derived fromThalidomide, a sleeping pill used in the 1950’s, but it was removed from theUnited States when it was found to be responsible for severe deformities ininfants, infants born without limbs. Other pesticides that are used in Chile areparathon, paraquat, and lindane.
They have already been banned in most othercountries. Chile is among the countries with the weakest and least restrictivelegislation on the control of pesticides. They also use products likepentachlophenal, which is a highly toxic fungicide used on their crops. Itusually ends up seeping into ground water, which in turn is consumed byindividuals and attacks the central nervous system. We import strawberries andgrapes from Chile every day in America that probably contains one or more ofthese harmful chemicals. We also import a great percentage of our bananas fromCosta Rica. The banana industry runs the government there because bananaexportation is the major economic income for Costa Rica and they donate much oftheir efforts to keeping up the banana crops.
In Costa Rica, banana productionaccounts for five percent of the land, twenty percent of their export revenues,and a whopping thirty-five percent of their pesticide business. Workers startapplying toxins early in the production of bananas because they are susceptibleto insects. They apply about thirty kilograms of active pesticides per acre, peryear and they spray fungicide up to forty times per year.
This is ten timeshigher than the normal amount used on produce. The Worldwide Health Organizationsays that the pesticides used in South America are the most dangerous in theworld. Growers use chemicals like fenamifos, etoprop, and paraquat, all of whichare banned or are being reviewed. Exposure of workers to these chemicals hascaused blindness, sterility and even death. The growers use such high amounts ofchemicals because worm infestation is high in fledging bananas. Therefore,workers tie bags of pesticides directly on young banana bunches, but when thewind blows, the bags are swept into streams and rivers. It is the people ofCosta Rica who pay a high price for bananas. Many well-known names in the bananabusiness grow their bananas in Costa Rica.
Chiquita, Dole, and Del Monte arejust a few, for example, that have fields there. They claim that they areconcerned for the health of the consumers and workers, but they have actuallydone very little to change the way pesticides are being handled and tested. TheCosta Rican regulatory service is responsible for checking up on banana growers,but the head of the department has admitted that he has never visited a bananaplantation because he has no funding for vehicles. What kind of dummyorganization is this? The only checks that are being conducted are randomly donewhen they are exporting the bananas.
There has never been a case when thebananas entering the United States, were checked, did not exceed the limits ofpesticide residue. Growers are more concerned with how their bananas look thatif they are harmful to the consumer. This leads to the question, why does theUnited States allow the produce into its supermarkets? Who is getting paid? Overhalf of the U.S. House of Representatives has agreed to sign a new bill thatwill weaken the federal laws regarding high-risk pesticides in foods and water.
Maybe this is because these same representatives have been traced to thirteenmillion dollars donated to them in the name of campaign contributions. Whocontributed this money? The pesticide industry contributed most of the thirteenmillion, and they have steadily filled the pockets of our trustedrepresentatives for sometime. But what about Americans, they spend ten percentof their incomes and food for their families, but for what? To be poisoned? TheFood and Drug Administration and the USDA share responsibility for checking thelevels of toxins in the U.S. foods, but the toxins are still being allowed toexceed the U.S. definitions of safety for adults, but not for children.
Thetoxins that are included in these guidelines derive from an unlikely source. Notonly are the pesticides that we are using harming produce, the fertilizers aswell are just as harmful. Farmers think they are helping there are plants, butinstead they are really creating toxic foods. Pollution industries send millionsof pounds of toxic waste, which include lead, dioxin and arsenic. These arewastes, which would otherwise be subject to rigorous, and hazardous wastedisposal laws are sold to fertilizer and pesticide companies under the disguiseof “recycling.” These wastes are incorporated into commercialpesticides and fertilizers and then applied to the nation’s farmland.
TheEnvironmental Working Group discovered that two hundred and seventy-one millionpounds of toxic waste were delivered to farms, fertilizer, and pesticidemanufacturers between 1990 and 1995. There were sixty-nine toxins in all. TheEWG has identified more than six hundred companies in forty-four states thatsent toxic waste to farms in thirty-eight states. What is this saying aboutfarmers who purchase these products? Do they really know what they are buying?What is this saying about the fertilizer and pesticide companies? What is thissaying about our government for allowing this to continue? Is it fair thatignorance is forced upon parents who allow their babies to consume the fruit andvegetables, which are tainted with deadly poisons? Everyday children are pushedby their parents to eat more produce than anyone else is in the name of healthyeating. When thinking of children, if the levels of toxins in possible sourcesof food do not account for small children then what about infants? If a largeportion of our produce is imported from South America and Mexico, then some ofthis produce is ending up in baby food products. There is not enough protectivelegislation for the use of pesticides on produce that go into baby food, andwhat there is, is becoming more laxed every year. The Environmental WorkingGroup commissioned a laboratory test of eight baby food products produced bythree main manufacturers.
These manufacturers are Heinz, Gerber and Beechnut.They found sixteen different pesticides within them. There are three suspectedcarcinogens, five known carcinogens, eight neurotoxins, and the last five arethe most toxic chemicals. It is estimated by some doctors that everyday aboutone million children under the age of five ingest unsafe levels of pesticidetoxins. The American Association of Poison Control centers estimates that thereare one million human pesticide poisonings, and about twenty thousand of themresult in death every year. That is a statistic that the House ofRepresentatives would not like their constituents to know. Our heavy use ofchemicals and pesticides in the environment is not just harmful towards humans,our wildlife pays a heavy as well. Animal and insect reproductive patterns arebeing affected, populations are declining and many species are experiencing anextordinary increase in deformities.
Frogs for example, are being extremelyaffected. In the summer of 1995, a group of teenage students took a hike near apond in Minnesota. Suprisingly, these frogs were found to have an unusual numberof appendages. These frogs had anywhere from two to six legs total. In fact, onof the frogs spotted had three feet on one leg. Minnesota scientists have citedthe likely cause as being chemical toxins. Since this incident, deformed frogshave been found at one hundred and seventy-four sites in several northern U.
S.states. Aside from having deformities, the number of frogs in these areas aredwindiling in numbers. The frog population is also decreasing in countries likeAustralia, India, Europe, Central and South America, and in the majority of thewestern United States.
The Declinig Amphibians Population Task Force was set upby the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and has backing frommany governments, including the United States. Their scientists are continuillylooking for reasons for the mysterious population decreases. It has been thoughtthat pesticides used by nearby farms is the leading cause.
Scientists havediscovered that not only are the appendeges of frogs being affected bypesticides and chemicals, but the hormonal makeup of other wildlife is beingaffected as well. Many pesticides and other chemicles released into ourenviornment funtion as endocrine disrupters, alter the hormonal makeup ofwildlife and humans. Problems in the reproductive system have been discovered inharbor seals, snapping turtles, and double crested cormorants. Behavorialabnormalities have been cited in different species of gulls and terns, andimmune suppression in beluga whales, common terns and gulls has been documented,according to the National Wildlife Federation. An NWF study reprts thatendocrine Disruptors have resulted in animal offspring whose gender distinctionsare unclear.
“Alligators, western gulls and rainbow trout have emerged withrudimentary sexual organs, and western and herring gulls have been observedexhibiting mating behaviors of both genders..” Most people, no matter whattheir view is on pesticide usage, will agree that to maintain a healthylifestyle, eating properly outweighs the risk of ingesting possible residues.After all, society knows that fruits and vegetables are very important tomaintain a balanced diet.
So produce must be protected and maybe there are saferways of doing it. In some countries like China, they encourage the service andpopulation of spiders and other insect-eating creatures within their rice crops.When we spray poisons to kill pests, we are also killing that pest’s naturalpredators.
The only way individuals can protect themselves and their children isto rinse fruit and vegetables thoroughly under running water. Also peelingfruits helps to remove surface residue. Another way to prevent the intake ofpesticides is to throw away the outer leaves of vegetables.
Cooking and bakingfoods also helps to kill residues and bacteria. If society is going to stop theescalation of pesticides, then alternative solutions must be explored and putinto effect.BibliographyAdhous, Peter. “Ween Chemical: The Pieces Fall in Place.” Science 6Nov 992:893. Online. Internet.
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