Friday, August 21, 2015

People Have the Right to Know What They're Breathing



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Posted below is a recent letter I wrote to my congressmen:

Dear Senator Largesse:
For years, big chemical outfits such as Monsanto have paid for a substantial amount of the research at the University of Illinois and other land grant colleges. As a result, the farmers in this area have almost entirely abandoned conventional tillage for no-till farming. This means that farmers are using sprays instead of controlling weeds and pests by mechanical means such as disking and cultivating.
The problem with this is that pests and weeds have a high rate of reproduction and consequently a high probability of adaptive mutation. That is, they quickly develop 16079-a-man-spraying-a-pesticide-on-some-plants-in-his-garden-pvresistance to the sprays, requiring the farmers to use ever greater quantities of spray to keep the weeds and pests under control. Eventually sprays will cease to be effective against the new resistant strains of weeds and pests, but by that time, spray use will have increased to levels disastrous to the environment and human health.
Years ago, when I was getting my degrees in botany and zoology, I was quite taken by how very similar human cell machinery was to that of all other organisms. Our cells' structure and chemistry are not very different from those of agricultural pests and weeds.
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Already, we have resistant strains appearing, such as a resistant pigweed in beans, and spray use is increasing astronomically. So to hide this from the public, someone has allowed the chemical companies to sell sprays without the distinctive safety odor which has until now warned people that they were breathing something toxic. Now, the public no longer has a choice about whether they have to breath toxic fumes. The sprays are odorless and being sprayed with impunity.
After a career of teaching, my wife and I came back home to the farm I grew up on, PesticideSprayerlooking forward to enjoying being out of doors. And up until now, if we got a whiff of spray, we simply avoided it. This year, the bean fields have been inundated with odorless spray. Ditches everywhere have been turned brown with spray instead of being mowed. And before we know it, we find ourselves breathing the sprays long enough to be caught up in the throes of asthma attacks and convulsive coughing seizures and migraine after migraine. After waiting all year for warm weather, we now can not ride our tandem bicycle without getting migraines, strangling and chest pains. We have been forced to give up riding our bike, and now we scarcely dare to go outdoors.
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This has to stop! It is bad enough to base a new agriculture on a toxic and unsustainable chemistry in the first place, but it is utter insanity to allow greedy chemical companies to take away people's right to avoid exposure to their poisons. Please, PLEASE do something to make it illegal to sell or to apply odorless pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Please legislate it to be mandatory for all sprays to have a vile and easily recognized safety scent in order to allow their use.

Thank you for your time,
Tom Phipps
Please feel free to copy and use this letter to send to your Congressmen.