Nerve Poison War on Bugs…

By Will Allen

Summarized with permission of Chelsea Green.
All rights reserved.

Introduction

The author, raised as a “farm kid” to believe that the use of chemicals was “Necessary, Critical, Essential, Modern, Progressive, Profitable, Economical, Miraculous, even Heroic”, began to question the necessity and safety of their use when he became part of a group of farmers attempting to convert their farms from chemical to organic production. While he knew that chemicals were effective, he also knew that they were extremely dangerous, and that he could obtain good crop yields and high quality without them. Drawing on his own experiences in the Marines, as a university researcher into forest farming, and eventually as a farmer himself in a pesticide-friendly culture, and through his extensive research on the history of the promotion and use of pesticides and other agricultural chemicals, he made the following discoveries:

  • Most of the chemicals in common use on farms were modified versions of the nerve poisons and antipersonnel weapons that he had learned about when studying chemical warfare in the Marine Corps.
  • Analysis of farm chemicals is not required to be on the labels or in the advertisements, and so most farmers actually know very little about the dangers of these chemicals.
  • Some bankers require farmers to use the chemicals in order to protect their loans.
  • In spite of tests required by the California Environmental Protection Agency in the late 1990s that finally proved how hazardous pesticides were to farmers and their families, the chemical corporations continued to block the cancellation of deadly birth-defect- and cancer-causing chemicals.

The author believes that because the FDA and the EPA were more allied with big chemical and corporate farming interests instead of the taxpaying consumer or the health of the farmers, neither of these agencies took the necessary steps to eliminate the use of these dangerous chemicals.

At the same time, the tradition of using chemicals has existed for generations in the farming community, and their use has been promoted by the editorial boards, advertising, and propaganda of many farm magazines such as California Farmer. What follows is the author’s eye-opening exploration of the deep roots of chemicals in agriculture, and a vision for a future free of these harmful substances.

Colonial Farming in the Americas

During the large-scale European land grab of the 1500s known as the enclosure movement, royalty, nobles, and the capitalist merchant class began evicting peasants from the common lands and claiming the land as their private property.

  • This resulted in the creation of a new entrepreneurial class with huge amounts of capital, as well as an abundance of slave and cheap labor from the ranks of the now-impoverished peasants.
  • A similar appropriation followed in America, as the European monarchies and land speculators, aided by plenty of free and cheap labor, crossed the Atlantic and took over land previously farmed by the indigenous Americans, whose populations were rapidly decimated by disease and war with the European settlers.
  • By 1700, few indigenous farmers were left, and their innovative and complex ways of farming the land were for the most part wiped out with them.

As in Europe, a very small minority now had control of almost all the good land in both eastern and western North America. The land speculators who had grown prosperous often exploited the slaves, serfs, and servants who did the work that kept the large colonial farms running. As a result:

  • After the Revolutionary War, between 1785 and 1820, small farmers on the American frontier revolted numerous times.
  • Much of this social uproar focused criticism on privileged tax schemes, large-scale estates, and the labor abuses and destructive farming practices that the landed gentry employed.
  • Most of the farmland in Virginia and Maryland was badly abused and suffered long-term damage from nearly two hundred years of continuous production of tobacco, corn, cotton, jute, and hemp.
  • Scientists and farmers on both sides of the Atlantic began to question the effectiveness of the traditional farming techniques.
  • Aristocratic American farmers became interested in the new scientific farming methods, while other colonial farmers argued that soil protection and recovery strategies were most important.
  • From this time, two classes of farmers emerged, each with different attitudes toward farming.

The First Farm Revitalization Movement in America

After the turn of the nineteenth century, criticism of America’s aristocracy and its farming practices became much more widespread, and even some of the aristocratic farmers became early critics of large-scale agriculture. While the first American agricultural reformers drew largely on the agricultural writings of the aristocrat John Taylor, agricultural reform actually had its roots in practices employed by ancient European farmers, including:

  • Spreading animal manure and other fertilizers on the soil to revitalize it and produce a better crop
  • Replenishing essential nutrients and the soil conditions for optimum plant growth by planting a variety of plants, which acted as fertilizer for future crops

In spite of the revitalization movement, soil loss and degenerating farmland continued to be an issue in the early 1800s, as large-scale farms owned by aristocrats still mainly relied on methods that exploited rather than revitalized resources.

Early Farm Journals

Due to the demand for magazines that directly served the farm community, a number of farm journals had their start in the early 1800s, including American Farmer, the most influential of the early magazines. In the beginning, these journals contained limited advertising. However, they soon began to increase the amount of advertising, in spite of complaints from farmers.

Many large-scale farmers ignored the advice offered by these journals, as they felt they had an unlimited supply of land at their disposal and therefore had no need to worry about replenishing the soil they farmed. Often, when they had used up the fertility of one area of land, they simply moved on to another tract. This sometimes involved taking over land from small farmers, who did not have the resources to protect their land from being taken over by these large-scale farmers and by the encroaching development of canals and railroads. As a result, soil fertility in general continued to decline and pasture land became overgrazed.

The “Guano Craze”

Guano, or bird manure, had been used as a fertilizer by the Peruvians for thousands of years. In the middle of the nineteenth century, mining and shipping companies entered the agricultural market by importing it as a miracle fertilizer for large-scale use in America. Urban journals joined the hype by including propaganda supporting its use as a miracle cure for worn-out soil in their articles and advertisements. Farmers, however, remained skeptical, even after the rural farm journals had eventually succumbed to the pressure of the large-scale commercial interests behind the promotion of guano.

To combat this skepticism, the large companies employed the following tactics to sell their product:

  • Promoteed a belief in the naturalness of guano.
  • Established a belief the effectiveness of guano.
  • Questioned the value of manure and composts from local sources.

Eventually, 20 years of propaganda, coupled with the effectiveness of Peruvian guano as a commercial fertilizer broke down farmers’ pessimistic attitudes toward advertisements and farm journals, and toward commercially-sold fertilizer.

Liebig and the Beginnings of Chemical-Industrial Agriculture

Justus von Liebig, a German organic chemist, was the first to assert that nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium were the most essential plant nutrients. He blamed the decrease in crop yields on the depletion of one or more of these essential minerals or nutrients in the soil. His ideas:

  • Caught the attention of American industrialists
  • Ushered in the era of agricultural science and soil chemistry that began in the 1840s and 1850s
  • Fueled the propaganda that the fertilizer merchants used to convince farmers to replace animal, mineral, and plant-based nutrients with highly toxic chemical fertilizers
  • Led to the wide-spread use of testing soil for essential minerals, which was used to sell large quantities of chemical fertilizers to trusting farmers

While the “soil-sampling” craze was debunked in 1852 by American chemists and Liebig eventually fell out of favor with American farmers, the idea of chemical fertilizers had taken root. The chemical-industrial agriculture market continued to be promoted by most chemists, who tried to convince farmers not to reject science or synthetic fertilizers just because some mistakes had been made in the past. Scientists and industrialists of the latter half of the nineteenth century began to talk about food shortages, and to argue that if the world’s population grew exponentially, the world would soon be short of agricultural nitrogen and other fertilizing materials and thus headed for starvation. Fertilizer merchants added to the propaganda by coming up with even more innovative and often misleading advertising campaigns for chemical fertilizers.

The New Fertilizers

The next big fertilizer discovery of the 1800s was nitrate from Chile, followed by discoveries of other extensive mineral deposits such as potassium from Germany, rock-phosphate from South Carolina, and phosphorus from Florida. These discoveries, combined with farmers’ new openness to purchased, scientifically-based fertilizers, created the perfect environment for the development and rapid growth of an enormous worldwide commercial fertilizer industry. Consequences of the emergence of this industry included:

  • Tons of toxic waste being used to fertilize both barren and fertile farms all over Europe and America
  • An increase in large-scale commercial farms
  • The mechanical challenge of moving and spreading large quantities of manure over larger commercial farms, which made it easier to market synthetic fertilizers because they were concentrated and easier to apply to large tracts of soil

Slave labor, guano, and sodium nitrate had fueled the initial agricultural expansion in the first half of the nineteenth century. With the exhaustion of Peruvian guano in the late 1860s, the fertilizer merchants convinced farmers to use endless amounts of these new “discoveries,” mixed with Chilean nitrate, in order to continue the expansion of the commercial fertilizer industry.

Early Medicine and Pest Control: The Origins of Pesticides

The early 1500s saw the first use of poisonous metals as healing drugs. Since that time, chemists and alchemists attempted to turn lead, chemicals, and other substances such as mercury, arsenic, antimony lead, and vitriol into medicine. Eventually, these same substances would be used in pesticides.

Along with the urbanization and industrialization of the United States in the nineteenth century came an increase in disease and pest problems, resulting in the following developments:

  • European pharmaceutical firms aggressively sold medical concoctions in America.
  • Dozens of new and complex potions and practices were developed to deal with the most horrible battlefield injuries.
  • After the Civil War many patients chose to die rather than take concoctions such as arsenic or mercury, because of the terrible side effects of these “heroic” medical cures.
  • Although 90 percent of Americans still lived in rural areas where they could rely on gardens and forest gatherings for the ingredients of natural cures from both European and Native American cultures, patent medicines continued to be promoted and sold in large quantities in the towns and cities where people had less access to these traditional natural sources of medicine.
  • The use of highly toxic heroic medicines survived well into the twentieth century, in spite of skepticism and resistance.
  • The first solutions to pest control to appear in crowded urban areas and in early rural magazines included rat-control dogs, rat traps, and rodent poisons.
  • Urban recycling and sanitation systems existed, but weren’t able to keep up with the growing cities’ needs.

The Struggles of the Populist Farmers

Multiple economic depressions throughout the nineteenth century resulted in farm foreclosures and land loss for small and medium-sized farmers, already struggling to get back on their feet after the war. In response to these economic pressures and to the failure of mechanical agriculture to bring widespread prosperity, farmers in the United States mounted a second populist effort to reform agriculture and society.

  • The Farmers’ Alliance started in the 1870s as a revolt of Kansas farmers against land rip-offs by the railroad trusts.
  • The Kansas revolt quickly spread to New York, where farmers had also been dispossessed of land they had cleared and developed.
  • The movement then spread to Texas.

Throughout this populist period of American farming, several rural magazines became proactive participants in these farm revitalization movements. Some of these farm journals and the Farmers’ Alliance movement promoted biological agriculture, including natural fertilizer advice and biological pest-control strategies.

Many populist farmers:

  • Used natural forms of pest control and land management strategies
  • Advocated the development of a long-term fertility plan and the use of naturally occurring pesticides as well as some promising new pest-control strategies
  • Struggled to promote techniques and practices of biological agriculture against the policies of the administration of the newly formed University of California land-grant college

The Farmers’ Alliance movement and others endorsed the safer biological pest controls, and rural journals continued to be critical of large-scale agriculture methods. However, by the 1860s many new pesticides began to appear on the market, including some very dangerous ones. At the same time, agricultural chemistry professors encouraged the use of industrial fertilizers, large-scale farming, and experimentation with toxic pesticides. During the second half of the nineteenth century, the chemical corporations began to accumulate significant wealth and political power. Their advertising money and growing political clout changed the attitudes of many farm journal publishers, who were then happy to have the chemical corporations spend their advertising dollars on ads in their journals. By the end of the nineteenth century, advertisements and editorials for chemical solutions to pest problems eventually came to dominate farm publications.

The use of toxic pesticide on a large scale in America began in the late 1860s with the use of arsenic to control the Colorado potato beetle, which at the time was threatening commercial potato farms in the west and quickly spreading east and north. In spite of the skepticism of the general public toward the use of arsenic, and the ongoing debate in journals about its safety, the fact that arsenic worked both as a medicine and as a pesticide ensured its ultimate success in the marketplace. Its success paved the way for all the poisonous pesticides that followed, helped by the chemical companies’ aggressive promotion of pesticides and the unregulated market they enjoyed, which allowed them to make unsubstantiated claims and minimize the risks of these poisonous substances.

“Regulation”

However, there was still resistance to the widespread, unregulated use of toxic substances. Multiple poisonings that occurred in the mid 1890s as a result of unsafe amounts of arsenic and lead residues in farm produce led the 1906 Congress to create the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to deal with the national uproar that resulted. And in 1912 the Congress established the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to deal with the massive amount of fraudulent advertising complaints. These new regulatory agencies, however, fell short of their stated purpose and goals due to the following reasons:

  • They failed to protect the public from the health dangers of pesticides in the food, only guaranteeing a certain level of toxic potency in the pesticides to ensure that they were effective.
  • While the ads were just as deceptive as before and the products still dangerous and often useless, the public believed that the new regulations protected them.
  • The large-scale farmers were by now hooked on arsenic and other quick-fix chemicals for their survival.
  • At the same time, the FDA and the FTC protected the large chemical corporations and large-scale farmers and largely ignored the consumers they were purportedly created to protect.

The War on Farms

Since the introduction of guano in the mid nineteenth century, constant propaganda by magazine editors, chemical merchants, and scientific experts had been pushing farmers to rely on commercial sources of nitrogen instead of natural manures and fertilizer crops. In the early twentieth century, a series of world-wide events, including World War I, further increased the use of artificial means of fertilization by farmers, both large and small:

  • Peruvian guano supplies were depleted and sodium nitrate from politically unstable Chile was the only significant supply of munitions, industrial, and agricultural nitrogen.
  • Prominent fertilizer experts worried that the planet was dangerously short on nitrogen fertilizer.
  • German scientists discovered processes for creating nitrogen for fertilizer and for explosives.
  • Some of these processes produced cyanide gases as a by-product.
  • Eventually, both agriculture and the military in the United States and abroad came to depend almost exclusively on the new nitrogen supplies.
  • Many of these synthesized chemicals and waste products were used as antipersonnel weapons for the first time in World War I by both sides, resulting in at least 100,000 deaths and over a million serious injuries.

After World War I, the domestic advertising emphasis shifted to synthetic nitrogen and mixed fertilizers, as U.S. companies joined the synthetic fertilizer market. As a result of this and other economic and ideological pressures of the times, an attempt was underway to reduce farming to mechanical military strategies, in spite of the fact that many farmers still preferred to use animal manures and crop residues for fertilizer throughout the 1930s and 1940s. This push to mechanize farming played a part in the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, both of which drove great numbers of farmers off their land. While the populist movement on farms had held strong throughout the first two decades of the twentieth century, harsh economic realities and the hopelessness of the depression eventually took its toll on working people and small farmers. Meanwhile, the industrial capitalists increased their monopoly of resources all over the world.

Origins of the Modern Organic Movement

In the early 1920s, government interference distorted the real markets and caused the prices farmers were paid to fall. As a result:

  • Many farmers began to go bankrupt by the mid-1920s, prior to the Wall Street crash of 1929.
  • Rural families moved to cities and became factory workers, bringing the rural populist movement with them.
  • Many factory and farm union organizers, from the 1890s to the 1950s, came from small farm families.

In the first three decades of the twentieth century, most of the major farm magazines were preoccupied with both chemical agriculture and the Red Scare that they thought was behind all of the populist demands for labor protection and civil rights for farm workers. Because of their preoccupations, some very significant advances in biological agriculture that occurred during this time were virtually ignored. For example, a small number of researchers and farmers rediscovered forgotten practices, developed new strategies, and wrote about organic techniques, including:

  • The importance of organic soil management
  • The idea that calcium was the most important of soil nutrients
  • The concept of the farm as a self-sustaining system or organism
  • The importance of using carefully composted manure for nitrogen, because where nitrogen came from and how it was composted made a difference to its effectiveness and safety

The Use of Pesticides Increases

While potentially important organic strategies got lost in the atmosphere of disarray and desperation that characterized life on the farm during the Depression era, the chemical advertisers kept right on going with their propaganda campaign throughout this time. Immediately after chemical firms began to promote pesticides to American families for house and farm use, equipment manufacturers began to produce and advertise pesticide applicators. The development of effective spray devices to apply the poison on the plant, on the pest, or under the sink followed closely behind.

  • The earliest pesticide applicators were a folded piece of paper or cardboard from which a person blew the poison onto the plants, or a simple flour sifter to spread the poison over a larger area.
  • Pump applicators were the next development, for use in spreading the poisons at home and in the fields.
  • Over time, these canister pumps were endlessly modified for household use and to be pulled by horses through crop fields, orchards, and vineyards.

In spite of an attempt by some journalists to raise warning flags about the dangers of pesticides, the chemical merchants, aided by the non-action of the FDA and FTC, mounted an increasingly aggressive marketing campaign, including domestic households in their push to spread the use of these chemical products. As insects became resistant to arsenic and lead, new poisons were recruited for use as pesticides throughout the 1930s and 1940s. During World War II, militaries on both sides of the conflict tested thousands of old and new chemicals for their toxic potential for use as pesticides, antipersonnel weapons, and explosives.

After the war, a large portion of this taxpayer-funded technology and industrial capacity (especially for chemicals, electric devices, and farm equipment) was given to corporations to manufacture products to sell to America’s farmers and householders, rather than given to the farmers as they had been led to believe would happen. This post-war period marked a major shift in U.S. agriculture towards chemical dependency.

  • DDT and DD were released in 1945.
  • Organophosphates like parathion and malathion, originally researched and developed by the Nazi’s during the war, became accepted and defended, not only by the chemical companies that manufactured them, but by chemically dependent farmers, corporation-dependent university professors, advertising-dependent farm journals, and government farm agents dependent on corporate projects and grants.

In spite of research showing the harmfulness of these chemicals, their widespread use became an integral part of large-scale farming in the United States.

Antibiotics, Hormones, and the Industrialization of the Small Farm

In the post-war era, many small farmers attempted unsuccessfully to compete with the further consolidation and expansion of the highly integrated farm monopolies. The discovery that feeding small amounts of antibiotics to young livestock caused them to significantly increase their weight had the following effects:

  • Animals could be kept in close quarters without being affected by the stress of the crowded conditions of confinement.
  • The confinement strategy for farm animals soon came to dominate agricultural practices in the U.S.
  • The extensive use of antibiotics led to the emergence of bacteria that were resistant to the antibiotics.
  • Generations of bacteria succeeded in developing resistance to the drugs being fed to cattle, and the continued large-scale use of these antibiotics threatened to eliminate the effectiveness of these antibiotics for human illnesses.
  • The successful marketing of antibiotics encouraged the use of hormones to increase the size of livestock (including DES, the now-banned form of synthetic estrogen), with far-reaching consequences for public health.

With the introduction of antibiotics, confinement management, and growth hormones, the raising of meat and the production of milk became highly industrialized.

Public Resistance to Second-Generation Pesticides

The environmental movement of the 1960s was vocal in its criticism of DDT, and led in part to the organic populism that surfaced after the Vietnam War. With pressure from the public and publications such as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, the chemical corporations eventually gave up the fight to keep DDT on the market in the United States, though they continued to sell it in other countries. Other harmful chemicals quickly took its place, however, and the struggle to prohibit their use continues to this day. In spite of public pressure and research showing the danger to ecosystems and humans, many highly poisonous chemicals that were thought to be almost eliminated from farming are still widely used.

On the other hand, some important breakthroughs in the biological control of pests have taken place during this period of widespread pesticide use.

  • Farmers began using “trap crops” which are more attractive to pests than the crop they were designed to protect.
  • A study finding that organic growing methods used in India, which make use of nonchemical fertility and cropping strategies such as cover crops and composts, were the most effective soil-health and production practices when compared to Europe’s chemical-intensive programs.

The Twenty-First Century: Organic Farming and the Anti-Factory-Farm Movement

Throughout the last century, safer and increasingly more effective biological pest controls had become more widely available, but their price was high, relative to that of the chemical poisons. The school of agriculture of the University of California served as a major promoter of poisonous pesticides and fertilizers, and in the late 1990s finally eliminated its Division of Biological Control, the one department that had been committed to biological pest control and organic strategies such as trap-crop and cover-crop research, worldwide searches for beneficial insects, farm-habitat enhancement, and biologically based integrated pest management (IPM).

In spite of receiving little government or university support, from the 1980s until the present, the organic movement and organic markets have continued to grow.

  • Farmers all around the world and in the United States cooperated with each other and overcame many shared problems.
  • Research has shown that small- and medium-sized farms are more efficient than large-scale farms, and that both animals and the land are cared for better on smaller-scale farms.
  • By 1995, organic farms had attained yields equivalent or nearly equivalent to yields of conventional farms on an acre-for-acre basis in most crops.
  • Organic farming has flourished in recent years and today it represents the fastest-growing sector in U.S. and international agriculture.

The Rise of the Supercrops

The chemical discoveries and research breakthroughs of the last two hundred years had all run their course by the late 1970s. Chemical-corporation propagandists used the increasing regulatory decisions against chemical poisons as opportunities to promote genetically modified crops and animals. Early propaganda emphasized the altruistic and economic potential of genetic engineering. Some of the potential benefits that were touted for these genetically modified organisms (GMOs) included:

  • A significantly diminished need for farm chemicals
  • A reduction in the criticism and constant oversight from environmentalists, health experts, and government regulators
  • More profit for farmers
  • Increased agricultural production
  • The ability to feed the world’s rapidly expanding population
  • The opening up of new markets

The chemical corporations that invested heavily in GMOs needed to make promises to large-scale farmers to keep their place in the market. Somehow, the press got ahead of the reality, and stories about genetic manipulation successes appeared before there were any real successes or actual products. Consequently,

  • There was no time for public debate
  • There was no vote as to whether or not such taxpayer-funded research was a good idea
  • There was a lack of widespread public understanding of how the current transgenic crossing of species differed significantly from the breeding experiments based on “classical” Mendelian genetics

In the traditional method of genetic improvement, conducted for ten thousand years by Native American, Middle Eastern, Chinese, Hindu, and Japanese farmers, as well as by more modern breeders, both closely and distantly related plants and animals are bred to produce more desirable traits. In transgenic or genetically manipulated (GM) breeding, genes are taken from unrelated species of plants or animals and literally “shot” into the genes of the target organism. However, instead of explaining this difference, the chemical corporations and their advertising agencies created ad campaigns that announced every achievement and denied any failures. These propaganda campaigns also promised that farmers would be the main beneficiaries of this new technology. In the late 1980s the GMO revolution kicked into high gear, with little or no regulation or even government oversight. Corporate researchers have since:

  • Cloned sheep, monkeys, pigs, and dogs
  • Created monster salmon and inserted flounder genes into tomatoes to ward off frost
  • Completed a sheep-goat cross called the “geep”
  • Created artificial-growth hormones for milk cows
  • Increased the density of pulpwood trees
  • Merged pharmaceutical production and agriculture to create “pharming”
  • Cloned pigs to grow replacement organs for human transplants

Each of these new techniques got patented with hardly any questioning. As a result, hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against the chemical/seed corporations by foreign governments for filing illegal patents on their native crops and by farmers who claim that they got hurt financially when the gene giants’ products failed.

Powerful Advertising

Prior to the twentieth century, conservationism was much more the national ethic than consumerism. However, after their experience selling the war, advertising agencies realized that they could change the impression of the consuming public on almost any issue or product. At the same time, large-scale farmers had become dependent on pesticides and synthetic fertilizers to manage their large farms, reduce labor costs, and avoid labor strife. The combination of these two realities resulted in the following consequences to agricultural marketing beginning in the post-World War I period:

  • Large-scale farmers who used the “most advanced” farm products were increasingly paraded before the farmers and the general public as the ideal.
  • Mega-farmers became the beacons of progress to the rural and national media.
  • Farm ads emphasized the importance of being modern, and advocated replacing horses, antiquated equipment, and outmoded practices with modern tools and techniques.
  • Most corporations exploited the parallels between the themes of war and the farmer’s struggle with nature.

From the mid-1920s until about 2000, the war with nature was the most important sales theme in the world of agricultural marketing. The toxicity of artificial fertilizers and pesticides has been known to the chemical companies and to those agencies attempting unsuccessfully to regulate them since the 1920s; however, these companies and the ad agencies have consistently defended these terrible toxins and alleged them to be safe, if used correctly. Now, in the new millennium, the chemical merchants are making an effort to portray their products as environmentally friendly and safe, and to portray themselves as good stewards of the earth. In spite of the fact that these corporations have fought for decades against public demands for pesticide regulation, cleanup of toxic spills, and environmental protections, some of the biggest chemical corporations have now funded propaganda campaigns touting their efforts to clean up the environment.

In the face of this powerful wall of denial and resistance to safe substances and practices, the following steps can ensure that the public can assert its will to be protected by effective regulation of pesticides, fertilizers, and GMOs.

  • An important national publication or farm magazine, such as Farm Journal, Atlantic Monthly, or Newsweek needs to make a bold move against chemical ads.
  • Chemical corporations should be prosecuted for their reckless criminal behavior, which includes:
    • Falsifying tests
    • Obstructing or employing the regulators
    • With their congressional allies, watering down the laws that we had passed to protect ourselves from their poisonous products

Where do we go From Here?

We are now at a crossroads similar to the ones farmers faced at the beginning of the last two centuries. Farmers and consumers must decide what kind of future environment they want and what kind of food they want. The choice is between more ecological and biological systems, which are still used by most of the farmers in the world, versus the large-scale industrialized agriculture that pays off in the short term for corporate farmers and the Wall Street investor class but is unfriendly and often dangerous to the lives and livelihoods of real farmers and consumers. We must reinvest in the farms and we must do it now. U.S. consumers, who pay taxes for all the farm programs, must demand a shift in agricultural policy.

It is hoped that this book will inspire consumers, researchers, investigative journalists, lawyers, and whistleblowers in corporations and government to voice their own interests and help win those victories. Perhaps then safe food will be available to us—wherever we live, whatever our incomes—and poisonous products will stop showing up as unwanted guests at our dining room tables.

 

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