13. THE U.S. IS STILL POISONING THE REST OF THE WORLD
American companies export somewhere between 400 and 600
million pounds of pesticides a year. Unfortunately, no one knows the exact amount,
not even the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which is supposed to monitor
the exports. Of the total, the General Accounting Office (GAO) says some 25 percent
have never been tested or have been banned or suspended from use in this country.
Why have they been banned or suspended? Because they have been diagnosed as hazardous
to human health or to the environment. Apparently, however, hazardous only to
Recent investigations by the GAO and a congressional subcommittee
show that the EPA has inadequately monitored exports of those dangerous pesticides,
has made collection of basic information about the exports nearly impossible,
and has failed to inform foreign governments of hazardous products entering their
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), up to one million
poisonings and 10,000 deaths a year can be attributed to worldwide use and misuse
of pesticides. And the U.S. is not immune. Exported U.S. pesticides contaminate
food which is then imported into this country. For example, chlordane, whose use
is prohibited in the United States, is produced and exported by an American company.
Last year, 84,000 pounds of Honduran beef tainted with the highly toxic pesticide
were consumed in the U.S. The beef contained chlordane levels three to eight times
the amount permitted by the Food and Drug Administration.
none of this information is new. A Rolling Stone article, which-reported that
an estimated 500,000 people were poisoned yearly by banned pesticides and drugs,
was named the third "best censored" story of 1976. What is new in this
case is that WHO now estimates up to one million poisonings annually.
1980, The Nation, in the sixth "best censored" story of the year, reported
that 25% of U.S. pesticide exports are products that were banned, heavily restricted,
or never registered for use here. Common Cause magazine reports the same statistic
It is obvious that the EPA has failed miserably in its responsibility
to monitor pesticide exports; it is equally obvious that the mass media have failed
to hold the EPA responsible for this international tragedy.
RESEARCHER: TAHD FRENTZEL
SOURCE: COMMON CAUSE MAGAZINE 2030 M Street, NW Washington, DC 20036
DATE: July/August 1989
TITLE: "A FEW BUGS IN THE SYSTEM"
AUTHOR: PETER MONTGOMERY
SOURCE: ROLLING STONE 745 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10022
TITLE: "BANNED CHEMICALS EXPORTED TO THIRD WORLD COUNTRIES"
AUTHOR: DAVID WEIR
SOURCE: THE NATION 72 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10011
TITLE: "THE CIRCLE OF POISON"
AUTHORS: DAVID WEIR and MARK SHAPIRO
COMMENTS: As noted in the synopsis, this is not a new story;
in fact, it was the "third best censored story" in the first
year of Project Censored. At the time, investigative journalist David
Weir, who had spent two years researching the issue, said the article
was unique among all he had written for Rolling Stone since it "did
not get mentioned or quoted by a single other media outlet." Then,
in 1980, when it was apparent that the media were still ignoring the
problem, "The Circle of Poison," by David Weir and Mark Shapiro,
was cited as the sixth "best censored story." The article
revealed how dangerous pesticides create a circle of poison by endangering
the workers in American chemical plants, injuring Third World workers
in the fields where they are used, and, finally returning to the American
people in the food we import. And now, a full 14 years after David Weir
and Rolling Stone tried to alert the public to the issue, Congress is
making an effort to break up the "circle of poison." In early
June, 1990, the Senate Agriculture Committee voted to prevent U.S. companies
from exporting pesticides that can't be used in this country.