After a 1998-2003 moratorium on testing pesticides on humans, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is about to legalize the abhorrent practice. One can probably tolerate human testing for medicines, but why should a civilized society test farm sprays on humans?
Most of these poisons came to agriculture straight from World War II. That fact ought to have been sufficient to ban them, thus avoiding the threat of the contamination of food and drinking water.
But agribusiness uses pesticides as lubricants in its power grab in rural America. The poisons farmers spray control insects, crop diseases and grasses only as an afterthought. This is because these toxins primarily are political. They enable landowners to be sole masters of very large farms and plantations while they empty rural areas of small family farmers.
Agribusiness maintains its power by co-opting the federal and state governments, including land grant universities, in making sprays the emblems of science and modernization.
So the owners of pesticides resort to "studying" the effects of their sprays on animals, most of the time showing the sprays innocent of cancer or other deleterious effects.
But the history of pesticides testing is full of fraud and uncertainty about their safety when industry is performing the tests. Nevertheless, the EPA has been approving pesticides for farms and lawns. Now the chemical industry wants to speed up that process of approval for their gold-making toxins by means of testing them on humans.
The EPA is going along with this unethical proposal because it has no choice. George W. Bush, and corporations that brought him to power, see nothing wrong in violating international norms such as the Nuremberg code that warns against falling back into the inhuman practice of making humans experimental animals.
The EPA's proposed rule says no pregnant women or children can be tested with pesticides but there's no guarantee that studies done on pregnant women and children here or abroad would never be accepted by the EPA. Also, how are powerless migrant farm workers, prisoners or other vulnerable people going to resist coercion or payment for becoming testing subjects?
The withdrawal of the EPA from its national mission of protecting public health and nature encourages similar sleazy policies among state governments. Governors have been "requesting" the EPA's permission for using untested or not completely approved pesticides. Sometimes, the spraying of these materials under fake "emergency" provisions covers huge acreage in more than one state for a year or more.
It's about time Americans become outraged about the EPA's unethical proclivities downgrading our sense of justice while threatening our health and the environment. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill last October prohibiting experimental pesticides in schools. That is a first step that responsible officials and the rest of us must take to end our tolerance of the political influence of agribusiness at the EPA and state governments.
We must resist the human testing of dangerous sprays, in time replacing them with the biological time-tested methods of family farmers.
E.G. Vallianatos, former EPA analyst, is the author of the just-published "This Land is Their Land: How Corporate Farms Threaten the World" (Common Courage Press) and the forthcoming "The Passion of the Greeks."