Minnesotans living near crop fields sprayed with pesticides are getting sick.
Children at Pine Point School are particularly vulnerable, as they now attend during the summer months when spraying is heaviest. Part of the White Earth Indian reservation, it sits next to an RDO farm that supplies McDonald’s with potatoes for fries.
MN residents are using drift-catchers to show that pesticides are reaching their yards, their houses and their schools. Most often detected are chlorothalonil, a potato fungicide, and chlorpyrifos, a WMD nerve agent banned for use in residential areas and schools in 1999.
Dubbed the “Lord of the Fries,“ Ron Offutt is the largest producer and supplier of potatoes to McDonald’s and has so far refused to work with the community to lessen the use of pesticides or even notify residents before spraying.
Said one resident, "Customers should know” that "Mickey D's fries come at a price." Tell McDonald’s to use organic potatoes and stop supporting cancer-causing pesticides.
We, the undersigned, believe it will benefit many, including McDonald’s, if the company switches to organic potatoes for its fries and hash browns.
McDonald’s enjoyed a higher than expected third quarter profit last year, and it can afford to buy organically grown potatoes, which, when purchased in bulk are not that much more expensive than conventional potatoes.
Furthermore Michael Yoshikami, founder and CEO of YCMNET Advisors, told Reuters that one reason for the company’s success is its willingness to listen to its customers. He said the company delivered on demands for things like healthier kids’ meals and premium hamburgers and is “now reaping the benefits.”
With McDonald’s behind the effort, certainly farmers will be able to profitably grow potatoes without using dangerous pesticides like the ones the MN communities collected in their drift-catchers - chlorothalonil and chlorpyrifos.
Ron Endelman with The Delicious Truth says McDonald’s has put out a PR video making it appear that growing the potatoes it uses is all about rich soil, enough water and the farmer’s experience, failing to talk about the serious health effects of the pesticides used.
According to the Wedge it’s exactly expansion of fast food establishments like McDonald’s that is fueling the monoculture farming methods of growing potatoes, vs. the more natural and less pesticide-intensive approach.
"These monocultures of potatoes encourage the development of resistant pests and viruses and increase the likelihood that one pest infestation will wipe out the entire crop," says Wedge.
In collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund, Wisconsin potato growers have shown that potatoes can be grown while still cutting the use of eleven high-risk pesticides, adds Wedge, which also details how potatoes can be grown organically in a way that is “more profitable than conventional due to the reduced cost for off-farm chemical inputs.”
Though some say this pesticide drift is not a big deal, for those who know the science, it’s not a surprise that many are experiencing ill effects. Clement Furlong at Washington University has for years done research that shows young children and growing fetuses don’t have the enzyme capability to detoxify organophosphate pesticides like chlorpyrifos, and these very toxic pesticides can cause brain damage and changes to the endocrine systems of young or developing children, at very very low exposure amounts - as low as one part per billion. Furthermore even adults in certain ethic groups are more deficient than others in the enzyme that is protective of certain pesticides.
Potatoes can be very beneficial to the diet, IF not contaminated with pesticides. The Wedge reports: Researcher Judith Wurtman of MIT says that potatoes raise the level of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain, decreasing the likelihood of depression, binge eating, and insomnia. Kathleen Des Maisons, a nutritionist and author of the book "Potatoes, not Prozac," claims potatoes protect against overeating and addictions such as alcoholism.
So McDonald’s is in position to make an important contribution to consumers’ diets at a reasonably low cost, if it stops canceling out the nutritional benefits by using potatoes produced with and containing toxic pesticides
Since McDonald’s is the main supporter of farming methods such as Offutt’s, it must be the one to start demanding potatoes that are grown without the cancer-causing and systemic pesticides, and the best way to do that is to go organic.
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