Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pesticides, bad state laws, a worthless EPA, dead bees, class warfare, and workers' rights…

I feel so welcomed to California. Yesterday they held an earthquake just for me, about 20 miles from where I live, and now I’m learning about the litany of problems facing my state’s agricultural industry.

This started this morning while I was listening to NPR; they were doing a story about a coalition of groups in Sacramento that is suing the EPA to outlaw the pesticide endosulfan in commercial agriculture. This particular pesticide has been linked to a variety of reproductive disorders and other health problems, and is banned in the EU and many other countries. The EPA, being the toothless shell of a regulatory body it ought to be because of its asshat appointees, has done little to regulate any pesticide manufactured by the Bayer Corporation. Today’s LA Times has an article about Bayer’s Gaucho and Poncho pesticides and their possible links to the death of large swaths of the California bee population (I’m not even going to get into the racist nature of Bayer’s nicknames for these farm chemicals…)

Why does the EPA need to be involved? In California, there is a fantastically horrible state law that bars local governments from enacting any kind of control over pesticides. Since the state agency refuses to do anything about endosulfan and local governments are prohibited by laws to protect themselves, the EPA is needed. Currently, there is a bill in the California Assembly to change this 25 year old law (bill AB977 for all of you Californians who want to send a quick message to your reps), but until this industry orchestrated law is changed, the EPA could (and should) be forced to help out.

Oh yeah, and for the real kicker—endosulfan is not legal for use in lawns and golf courses. This neurotoxin is only used in commercial agriculture (i.e., your cute little kids and your golfing buddies at the country club have nothing to worry about, but the EPA and State of California don’t give a shit about the people working the fields). So often the environmental questions of the day are framed in opposition to working class issues, but this example reinforces what is becoming increasingly obvious to more and more people—the survival of the working class and the environment are often tied together in the same struggle.