When the US government bans a pesticide – deeming it too harmful for the American people – you would imagine that to be the end of it. What you would not expect is it to then be exported freely aboard for profit. In recent years countless harmful pesticides have been spread around the world’s less-developed nations, causing immeasurable damage to populations and ecosystems: many are then imported back into the United States on infected foodstuffs, creating a Circle of Poison.
“People keep dying and people keep getting richer…it is the poor people that go to work, it is all at the expense of the poor” explains Diana, a member of a Mexican farming community. In recent decades the United States has exported increasing amounts of dangerous pesticides into her community – along with countless other communities throughout the developing world – with devastating consequences for the crops and the people that farm them. “There is no security -there is no regard for the safety of the employee, there is no interest in protecting the human being” explains Paco, a pesticide consultant.
Back in the United States, powerful lobbies for the pesticide companies have ensured the continued production and export of these dangerous chemicals, and with close ties to the federal government, the industry’s financial interests have been protected despite all scientific and ethical arguments. Repeated attempts to curb the exports of these chemicals have been thwarted; even President Jimmy Carter failed to tame them when in office, despite repeated attempts: “we had all the material to show that we were doing something unscrupulous, or even illegal as far as international law goes, but the manufacturers of these dangerous materials were so powerful that they obstructed what I did” he explains.
There is a growing anxiety among many in the United States that these pesticides are infecting crop yields that are then imported back into the country and being consumed in the domestic market, and the risk to the American people remains unknown. “There is a contradiction here” argues Jay Feldman, director of the coalition Beyond Pesticides, “when you look at nuclear technology, we worry that an abuse of that technology will come back and hurt the United States, and we are very careful in our exports. We need to have that attitude with pesticides”.
“When I step back and think about the scope of what we’ve done it’s been a giant, tragic experiment” explains David Weir, “to contaminate our planet is a terrible sin”. Circle of Poison explores the worrying truth as American corporations exploit our planet for profit.
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