Resist toxic chemicals and corporate greed…

Note:  I wrote this blog post before all the drama with the Comey firing!  Goodness!  The plot thickens!  Since my MOCs are already on the right side of history on that particular topic, here’s something else to do to resist.

I’m getting tired of corporate greed.

Although I’m not universally frightened of chemicals in general, pesticides that cause neurological damage make me nervous.  And I recently read an interesting article about shareholder activism for the public good (or rather, the unfortunate lack thereof…) How do all of these pieces fit together?  Read on…  As you’ve likely noticed, I like lists, so this post is organized in numbered steps.  And it is long.  You are forewarned.

  1. Chlorpyrifos is a neurotoxic pesticide in a class of chemicals called organophosphates.  The chemical is  derived from a nerve gas and it attacks the nervous system of every species, including humans — especially children. Back in 2007, the National Resources Defense Council submitted a petition to the Environmental Protection Agency, asking that this chemical be, essentially, banned from use on food crops.
  2. The EPA has been studying this chemical since then, readying a response to the petition.  For TEN YEARS.  After a series of studies and assessments, and tons of input from scientists, chemical producers, food industry, and environmental folks, the EPA was close to readying their decision in November of 2016.  The EPA signaled their intention to “revoke all tolerances” for the chemical – which means, in laypersons terms, to ban its use as a pesticide on food crops.
  3. Dow Chemical donated $1 million to Trump’s Inauguration event.  Dow Chemical’s president and CEO, Andrew Liveris, is the head of Trump’s “American Business Council.” Dow Chemical makes chlorpyrifos.  Dow Chemical has publicly called upon the federal Administration to ignore the studies and the science, and deny the original petition altogether.
  4. A few weeks ago, EPA chief Scott Pruitt announced that the agency would do just that…  The EPA is denying the original petition, and will not ban chlorpyrifos.  Dow Chemical will now be allowed to carry on as usual, brewing up millions of gallons of this toxic substance in their toxic cauldrons, even though it’s pretty darn clear that this chemical is linked to brain damage in animals, children, and farmworkers.

So. How best to respond to this blatant corporate greed?  Well, here’s the thinking process I went through.  (In list form, again… )

1. I called the Environmental Protection Agency to find out more about the situation.  I talked to an extremely knowledgeable woman who “knows more about chlorpyrifos than anyone in the building.”  She pretty much explained all of the stuff listed above.
2.  I asked a local farmer friend that I respect about organophosphates. (He is not a crazy hippie farmer.  Conventional farmer-type.) I wanted to cross-check my information.  Is there actually a useful place for this chemical? Are the libertarians and the corporations right?  Is this whole issue actually a case of governmental over-regulation?  Does this chemical perhaps allow farmers to reduce pesticide load of other toxic chemicals? Here’s what my farmer friend told me about organophosphates:
“I haven’t needed to use them in a long time.  There are softer tools available now.  I am a proponent of applying pressure to chemical companies because it encourages new science that results in safer tools.”
So, that’s helpful.  He told me that the chemical might, in some very limited cases, be an appropriate choice.  But he also reinforced my suspicion that Dow Chemical’s lobbying is solely about profit margin, and will allow the company to avoid customer pressure to develop better, safer science.
3.  I did a little research on Dow Chemical.  Who are their primary shareholders?  This is what I found.  Their largest institutional shareholder is the Vanguard Group.  Well, heck!  I invest in Vanguard!  I have a meager retirement account with them, as well as Education accounts for my kids.

So now to get to the point… how to respond?

Here are a few options: (Yet another list!)

1) If you invest money in Vanguard, write a letter to CEO Bill McNabb. Here’s a link to a Word document of the letter I wrote, so you can just modify and print it yourself.  dow.chemical.letter.sample I’ll also put a photo of it at the bottom of this post.

Address:  Mr. Bill McNabb, CEO. Vanguard Group, 455 Devon Park Dr, Wayne, PA  19087
2) If you don’t feel like writing a letter, you can write a postcard to the CEO of Vanguard. Here’s a sample.
3) Comment on the EPA’s website about their decision to deny the original petition.  Say some version of this:  “I object to the denial of this petition. Chlorpyrifos is a dangerous chemical that causes neurological damage.  All tolerances for this chemical should be revoked.”  Here’s the link.  It’s super easy to do, and there are only a few comments so far.
4) Write postcards to the major food producers.  Say some version of this.  “I am concerned that the food you produce contains the residue of chlorpyrifos.  This chemical may cause brain damage to my family.  Please stop using crops that contain this chemical.”
Conagra, 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza, Chicago IL 60654
General Mills, PO Box 1113, Minneapolis MN 55440
Kellogg Company, PO Box CAMB, Battlecreek MI 49016
KraftHeinz, 3 Lakes Dr, Northfield IL 60093
Nestle USA, 800 Brand Ave, Glendale CA 91203
5) And finally, sign this online petition about this issue from the Sierra Club.  I’m not signing it, because I hate online petitions.  But you might not hate them like I do.