Bad News about Pesticides

Friday, April 11, 2014

Reporter Susan Freinkel talks about what happens to brains of children who have been exposed at a young age to pesticides. She’s joined by Lee Fang, who reports on how the pesticide companies have influenced regulations in Washington and at the local level. Both Freinkel and Fang are contributors to The Nation magazine. Freinkel is the author of the book Plastic: A Toxic Love Story and her article Warning Signs: How Pesticides Harm the Young Brain and Fang’s article The Pesticide Industry vs. Consumers: Not a Fair Fight appear in the March 31, 2014, issue of The Nation magazine.

Find consumer guides about pesticides and produce and more at the Environmental Working Group's web site:


Lee Fang and Susan Freinkel

Comments [11]


To Farmer in NY from Hudson Valley: In fact you are wrong, please see EPA website for definition of pesticide - Just curious - as a farmer, if you have concerns about glyphosate (separate from pesticides) it would be interesting to hear about those concerns.

Apr. 30 2014 01:05 PM
Farmer in NY from Hudson Valley

@JW you are wrong about the definition of "pesticides". Pesticides is a broad term that includes all herbicides, insecticides, fungicides etc.

Apr. 14 2014 04:20 PM
andrea from nj

Washing transfers the problem into water systems, just as farm run-off. When you wash toxins from your produce, your body and your clothes, it does not disappear. It goes down the drain.

Apr. 12 2014 12:42 AM

It was shocking to hear the authors of the article - so-called investigative journalists? - identify glyphosate as a "pesticide" when in fact glyphosate is an "herbicide". What this means is glyphosate kills plants (e.g., crop killing weeds) not pests. This is not a trivial mistake as the basic thesis of their introduction was that glyphosate (and one other chemical they cited) was a nasty, over-used "pesticide" that is causing brain damage. Glyphosate is biodegradable and heavily studied over the last 30+ years of use - it has been shown to be an incredibly safe and effective ag-chemical with many pro-environmental consequences (e.g., conservation tilling, minimal soil erosion, etc...). Also, a little less significant but nevertheless showing their appalling ignorance once again, the authors identified the brand name for glyphosate as "Round-Up Ready". In fact, the brand name for glyphosate is actually "Round-Up" - "Round-Up Ready" refers to the brand of genetically modified seed trait that confers resistance to Round-Up (Round-Up Ready soybeans, corn, cotton, etc...). While I know a bit about the ag-biotech industry from my business endeavors and am strongly pro ag-biotech science, I actually do worry about the over-use of ag-chemicals, particularly pesticides. I just wish provocative journalism could get the facts straight because when done properly and accurately it can serve a real public good. The authors owe WNYC listeners a humble apology for their abject ignorance.

Apr. 11 2014 03:06 PM

@Henry, "If this conversation is specifically about human made synthetic pesticides, then it should be specified."

I think it is clear to functioning non-robots that "pesticides" here means human made synthetic ones.

Apr. 11 2014 03:03 PM
Deborah V (Vansau) McCauley from Newark, NJ

Re: Domestic weaponization of crop dusting in America's post-1964 race wars. In 1976-77, I taught in a school in Clarksdale, Mississippi, that was founded in 1947 by a teaching order of women religious (nuns) from the North to provide black children growing up in Jim Crow Mississippi a chance at a good education. The school's small cluster of buildings were surrounded on three sides by cotton fields. The standing agreement (whether by statute or MOU or some other form, I don't know which) with the cotton fields' owner was that no crop dusting be carried out during school hours. Additionally, when dusting on days and hours children were not at I.C. (Immaculate Conception) School, the pilot was to close the dusting vents during his direct school flyovers to minimize the school's residual exposure to the duster's pesticides spraydrop. More than once, during crop dusting season the year I was at I.C. School, crop dusting was carried out during school hours on school days and with no attempt by the duster pilot to shut off the vents during the school flyover. Such actions were deliberate, intentional, and malicious.

Apr. 11 2014 01:23 PM
Henry from Manhattan

The anti-pesticide organizations get their money from the rapidly growing organic and health foods industry. The more the organic producers can convince people that non-organic pesticides are dangerous, the more customer’s they’ll gain.

Is the organic industry as large as their established big agribusiness? No. But let’s dispense with this notion that anti-pesticide movement is entirely grass roots.

There are a number of prominent organic industry mouthpieces on the Internet that make absolutely outrageous claims regarding the science of pesticides, and it doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to trace back much of their funding sources. Also, there’s income to be made from the cult of personality of being an activist and giving speeches, writing books, etc.

Sure, I don’t doubt that an organic company has a genuine ideological motivation to support pro-organic activism, but it’s just a reality that the more scare mongering generated against big agribusiness, the more organic businesses grow.

Apr. 11 2014 12:52 PM
Henry from Manhattan

Answering mariareidelbach’s question:

Using synthetic pesticides isn’t always about yield or having food without blemishes. For example the herbicides reduce labor requirements and can offer environmentally beneficial no-till practices.

Also, organic production use pesticides as well. Sure, they are regarded as “natural “ pesticides, but some do carry risks with application procedures similar to synthetic pesticides.

Organic pesticide doesn’t necessarily mean it is safer or environmentally friendlier (etc.) compared to synthetic pesticide. In general? Perhaps. But it really depends on a lot of factors: the makeup of the pesticide, amount used, frequency of application, etc.

Apr. 11 2014 12:50 PM

Is it possible to feed everyone without using pesticides? What about those who can't afford organic food?

Apr. 11 2014 12:28 PM
Henry from Manhattan

The Environmental Workings Group dirty dozen list is not without it’s legitimate critics who have examined their claims and methodology and find it bordering on scare-mongering.

All the produce listed by the EWG's dirty dozen list are well below reasonably established safety limits.

Apr. 11 2014 12:15 PM
Henry from Manhattan

It would be nice to back up a little.

All plants contain pesticides. That’s what plants do.

If this conversation is specifically about human made synthetic pesticides, then it should be specified.

Apr. 11 2014 12:10 PM

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