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Agriculture Is One of the Most Polluting and Dangerous Industries

Industrial ag supplies most of our food, yet its lack of regulation may be more of a threat than Wall Street's.

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While we don't know how much was used, we do know that nearly 30 million people in the U.S. are drinking water contaminated with Atrazine, Simazine, Telone II, 2,4-D, or 2,4,5-T. All of these chemicals are related to DDT and were first sold in the 1940s, after they were developed in World War II. Simazine and 2,4,5-T had their EPA registrations cancelled more than twenty years ago because they were so deadly; yet millions of people in the U.S. still drink water contaminated with these two terrible war toys.  All these DDT relatives caused cancer and multiple birth defects in tests on laboratory animals. They continue today to greatly damage bird populations in farm country.

Two of these war materials, 2,4-D, and 2,4,5-T along with Dioxin were the poisons in Agent Orange, the defoliant that killed and crippled so many Vietnamese and American soldiers and turned jungle into denuded ghost lands.  Somehow, the officials at EPA and FDA seem to think that it is OK for millions of U.S. citizens to have these two killer chemicals in their drinking water.

Excessive Pesticide Use Today: Factory farmers continue to use enormous quantities of the most toxic poisons. In 2006, four of the six most used farm pesticides in California were among the most dangerous chemicals in the world. Farmers applied more than 35.7 million pounds of four pesticides: Metam sodium, Methyl bromide, Telone II, and Chloropicrin.

Metam sodium, the third most used California pesticide in 2006, is closely related to the chemical gas that escaped in Bhopal India in 1984 and killed 30,000 people and injured 200,000. Fourteen million, eight hundred thousand pounds were used in California in 2006. Metam sodium is a biocide, causes multiple birth defects, farmworker injuries, and is very toxic to birds and fish.

In 2006, California farmers used seven million pounds of Methyl bromide, the fourth most used farm pesticide in the state, and the notorious destroyer of the ozone. The EPA registration for Methyl bromide was scheduled for cancellation in 1995 as a result of Montreal Protocol agreements. But, wealthy and politically connected California strawberry, fruit, and carrot farmers found their way around those restrictions and still were allowed to apply 7 million pounds in 2006 (the last year for which we have records). Methyl bromide causes birth defects, cardiac arrest, nervous system damage, and is responsible for many thousands of deaths since 1936.

The fifth most used chemical in California in 2006 was Telone II (1,3-Dichloropropene). Telone II is a cancer and birth defect-causing fumigant that has been very deadly and dangerous to farmers, farmworkers, school kids, and rural residents since the 1940s. When it first came out it was called 666. This is supposedly "The Mark of the Devil". Telone II has lived up to that name, killing and injuring untold thousands. Its California registration was due to be cancelled in 1995 because it was a cancer causing air pollutant. But, with the pending loss of methyl bromide, it was reregistered for limited use. They didn't apply real strict limitations, hovever, because California farmers used about 7 million pounds in 2006.

The sixth most used farm chemical in California was Chloropicrin. This chemical is tear gas, the highly effective anti-riot gas that is released in major demonstrations. One might ask "Why are we using tear gas on our food?" The answer is that it is a deadly biocide. It is usually combined with methyl bromide to provide a warning taste and smell (that methyl bromide lacks) and because it greatly increases the fumigation toxicity of both poisons. It causes several birth defects, causes severe respiratory damage, and is very toxic to fish. California farmers used 6.9 million pounds in 2006.

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