On April 10-12, 2005, approximately sixty activists and scientists were invited to the National Pesticide Strategy Summit in Washington, DC. In preparation, we were assigned five readings, four articles and a short book, all submitted by the panelists, for background reading.
the word, "pesticide" makes you think that this product will kill a "pest"—however defined—so, of course, it must be heroic and helpful. Actually, the word, "pesticide," was not in the English language before World War Two! The manufacturers of chemical warfare weapons just went on producing their products, probably slightly modified, and called them "pesticides," so that they could continue their profitable production.
DON'T THINK OF AN ELEPHANT! KNOW
YOUR VALUES AND FRAME THE DEBATE by George Lakoff1 is the book
that we had read. It is delightful and stimulating-telling us how the words
that we use and the pictures that come automatically to mind are extremely important.
In our case, thinking particularly of the pesticide industry, we know that the
corporations, the poison producers and their government supporters, have over
many, many years deceived the public by advertising and other means into thinking
that their poisons are necessary. For example, the word, "pesticide"
makes you think that this product will kill a "pest"—however defined—so,
of course, it must be heroic and helpful. Actually, the word, "pesticide,"
was not in the English language before World War Two! The manufacturers of chemical
warfare weapons just went on producing their products, probably slightly modified,
and called them "pesticides," so that they could continue their profitable
production. They had already been using insects to develop their products because
insects have the same neurotransmitters that we do. Before the Second World
War a few toxic heavy metals were sometimes used in agriculture and called "economic
poisons," obviously not a good term to generate widespread sales!
Lakoff points out two widespread "frames" or paradigms in our American society:
"PESTICIDES CAUSE PEST PROBLEMS!"
Of course, this is true because the living balance in the soil is destroyed and unwanted organisms can proliferate. Also, all pesticides actually fail individually because pest resistance develops to them. Then, the manufacturer takes the opportunity to develop and sell more new poisons to the unfortunate farmer. Sadly, the soil of the chemical farmers is so depleted of beneficial organisms that, if they try to get off the chemical treadmill, it takes years for their soil to recover so that they can have great production and no problems with "pests."2
Man (and the United States) are considered supreme and the greatest living things in the universe. In this world view, any other living things (countries or cultures) that annoy us can be considered "pests" (terrorists or imperial dictatorships) that we want to destroy.
Lakoff points out that, for success in promoting our agenda, those of us with mostly the nurturing parent perspective need to reframe the way problems are perceived in society. In the case of "pests" and "pesticides," we need to get completely away from the use of those words. As we said above, the word, "pesticide," makes one think of a hero getting rid of something we don't want. Instead, we need to remember that pesticides are poisons, specifically "designed to kill." We need to talk about "POISON PREVENTION" and "TOXICS RELIEF." The public is woefully mislead and ignorant of the awful health effects. Many of those chemicals are endocrine disrupters. Years ago, one scientist described the resulting 3Ss, "sick, sterile, and stupid." [See NOHA NEWS, Summer 1999, "Dreams of Adequate Pesticide Testing," page 4.]
Most people automatically think that the government protects them. Long ago I certainly thought that myself. Actually, of course, "no pesticide is 'safe' because pesticides are, by their very nature, designed to be biologically active and kill various kinds of organisms." 3 However, the vast majority of the public want to feel that the low pesticide levels in foods, on lawns, and in buildings are "safe." Unfortunately for that complacent attitude, we are learning more and more about the awful health effects from the exceedingly low levels that we are regularly exposed to in our food, air, and water. For example, one of the scientific articles that we read for the Summit showed vividly how completely inadequate government testing is in showing risks. Specifically in regard to our exceedingly low exposure to endocrine disrupters, which impinge on the estrogen hormone receptors, the government estimates for effects are 10,000 times too low! Talk about being misled!
. . . one of the scientific articles . . . showed vividly how completely inadequate government testing is in showing risks. Specifically in regard to our exposure to endocrine disrupters, which impinge on the estrogen hormone receptors, the government estimates for effects at exceedingly low levels are 10,000 times too low!
Professor Tyrone Hayes of the University of California at Berkeley attended the Summit. After the herbicide atrazine has been applied in farm fields, he has found that levels in nearby rivers can cause male frogs to produce ovaries! Other scientists have found similar appalling reproductive disruptions. When Professor Hayes has told government toxicologists, who set levels of exposure to these poisons for all of us, about these problems and even invited them to a gathering of scientists, he has been ignored. However, on the April 27 public TV episode, "TROUBLED WATERS," Professor Hayes and some of students were shown in the river water and the wetlands gathering frogs and then in their laboratory getting these results.
Pesticide use continues with most people unaware of their UNINVITED EXPOSURES and many of them actually using the poisons thoughtlessly around their own homes and choosing the regular supermarket food that has been directly poisoned by pesticides. Perhaps they still think they are protected or perhaps they don't think at all about how foolish their choices are for their own health and that of their descendents.
1Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, Vermont, 2004.
2Chemical farming also has a surprising and truly disastrous effect on global warming. We forget that healthy soil is full of live organisms, which, by their very nature, contain carbon. Pesticides and chemical fertilizers kill the organisms and release their carbon into the atmosphere. Professor Rattan Lal, The School of Natural Resources, Ohio State University, has written, "Restoration of degraded soils can effectively mitigate the current rate of increase of atmospheric CO2 [carbon dioxide] concentration." See NOHA NEWS, Winter 2004, "Global Warming and Agriculture," pages 7-8; also, NOHA NEWS, Spring 2000, "Food for Life," page 5.
3Nonagricultural Pesticides: Risks and Regulation, United States General Accounting Office Report to Congressional Requesters, Chapter 3, p. 35, April 1986.
QUOTE OF NOTE*
"There is little satisfaction for a family doctor in knowing that a patient's infertility, tumor, or Parkinson's disease was probably caused by pesticide exposure. The severity of many pesticide-related illnesses is a reason to focus on prevention rather than diagnosis."
*Ontario College of Family Physicians,
Systematic Review of Pesticide Human Health Effects