I recently learned that the Atlantic, a publication which I read on a regular basis, is hosting a conversation on the future of food called, Harvest: Transforming the Food We Eat sponsored by DowDuPont. We at HAPA felt that it was important to express our frustrations to the Atlantic that a publication with such high journalistic integrity would choose to align itself with DowDupont, a company that has so recklessly endangered members of our community, by spraying large quantities of restricted use pesticides next to homes, schools and other sensitive areas. Below is our response in a letter to the editor:
February 11th, 2018
I’m writing to express my concern about an event this week, hosted by The Atlantic and underwritten by DowDuPont. The event is billed as a conversation about the future of food called Harvest: Transforming the Food We Eat.
I am the Executive Director of the Hawai`i Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA). HAPA is a statewide organization HAPA that emerged out of the community-led movement on Kaua`i to enact greater regulations around pesticide use and disclosure.
You may not be aware that Hawai`i, and in particular the island of Kaua`i, where we are headquartered, is the world epicenter for the testing of pesticides and genetically engineered seeds. The largest chemical corporations in the world, including DowDuPont, are using lands across Hawai`i to test pesticides and genetically engineered seeds near residential communities, schools, streams and the ocean. In many cases fields dedicated to generating experimental pesticide-resistant crops sit directly adjacent to schoolyards. Native Hawaiian communities are disproportionately impacted.
At this time, our communities do not have the most basic right to know what pesticides we are being exposed to, and when. We do not have the right to protect our children from Dow manufactured chemicals known to cause developmental delays by enacting modest buffer zones around our schools. Our communities located adjacent to Dowʻs test fields suffer disproportionately higher level of health impacts associated with pesticide exposure.
There are at least 27 schools in Hawai`i within a mile of commercial agricultural operations that apply large volumes of restricted-use pesticides (RUP), including DowDuPont’s. The American Academy of Pediatrics has found there to be a significantly increased health risk for children exposed to pesticides, and additional precautions must be taken to protect them from unintended exposure.
Your event sponsor, DowDuPont, is the lead manufacturer of chlorpyrifos, a dangerous neurotoxin. This pesticide is particularly concerning because several peer reviewed epidemiological studies have found that chlorpyrifos causes neurodevelopmental delays in fetuses and children. There is no safe level of exposure for children. This pesticide and many dangerous pesticides linked to adverse health outcomes are sprayed in large quantities next to schools, residences, waterways and other sensitive areas. In fact, the EPA was poised to ban chlorpyrifos for agricultural use prior to the Trump administration.
On two separate occasions in 2006 and 2008 Waimea Canyon Middle School on the Westside of Kaua`i was evacuated, and approximately 60 students were hospitalized, demonstrating symptoms of acute chlorpyrifos exposure. On each of those days, the pesticide application was so close to the school that teachers were able to capture cellphone videos of spray trucks from their classroom windows. In 2015, farmworkers on Kaua`i were sent to the hospital for chlorpyrifos exposure, leading the EPA to levy fines of $4.8M for farmworker safety violations.
Our community has repeatedly attempted to enact common sense regulations at the county and state level, only to be thwarted by DowDuPont and the agrochemical industry. In 2014, thousands of residents rallied on Kaua`i, Maui and Hawai`i Island to pass county level ordinances to regulate the agrochemical industry.
These regulations were not radical. For example, on Kaua`i, Bill 2491 required the largest users of restricted use pesticides to simply disclose what pesticides they use, to provide pre-notification prior to application, to respect modest buffer zones around schools and other sensitive areas, and to conduct environmental impact and health studies.
Following the passage of these county ordinances, DowDuPont and other agrochemical companies sued to overturn these regulations. In 2016, the Ninth Circuit court determined that only our state has the ability to regulate pesticides.
Our communities, healthcare providers, scientists and public health organizations continue to advocate at our state legislature for the basic right to know what pesticides we are exposed to and to protect our children and precious natural resources. However, this industry wields powerful political influence in our state government. Industry lobbyists outspend our grassroots community advocacy efforts and run their own slate of candidates. Industry representatives hold powerful positions in local government and on important regulatory boards and commissions.
As a reader of your publication, it is unsettling to learn that The Atlantic would align its brand with an industry that has so recklessly endangered the health and safety of our communities. I hope you will reconsider DowDuPont’s sponsorship, and stand in solidarity with our communities who are living on the frontline of these environmental injustices.
Thank you for your consideration.
Anne Frederick, Executive Director
Hawai`i Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A)