Even the most adamant cynic of junk food might occasionally fall for McDonald’s’ golden, delicious French fries, but not when they start killing farm animals and poisoning wildlife via pesticides, and then harm people as diverse as students to farmers.
It isn’t the high cholesterol in Maccy D’s fries that have Minnesota activists waving the warning flags. It isn’t even the GMO oils and sugar that help make this food chain’s French fries an abomination. It’s the pesticides that are sprayed on commercial potato fields making these taters so toxic.
McDonald’s purchases over 3.4 billion pounds of USA-grown, pesticide-laden potatoes every year. In the Northwestern region of the US, and certainly in Minnesota, potato fields cover the landscape. More than 45,000 acres help provide fries to every man, woman, and child. Pesticide drift, however, is causing residents that live near potato fields to develop serious and chronic health issues, and many farmers have lost their livestock to pesticide-induced illness.
The evidence of pesticide drift and its effects are published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. It points to rare skin, lung, and intestinal irritations.
All of this has created a group called the Toxic Taters Coalition, or the ‘drift catchers’ – a group of concerned citizens gathering field data to submit to authorities and the public to help convince them that pesticides should no longer be used. One chemical they have documented in pesticide drift is called chlorothalonil. It is categorized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as “highly toxic” and a “probable” carcinogen.
There are other toxic chemicals, too:
These were present in 66 percent of all samples taken throughout central Minnesota. No wonder potatoes are listed as one of the top 12 fruits and vegetables to avoid for pesticide residue.
McDonald’s laid out a plan to reduce the use of pesticide potatoes in 2009, but clearly whatever they’ve done, if anything, isn’t working. The Toxic Tater Coalition, along with Pesticide Action Network (PAN), has attempted to work with state agencies, and one of the region’s top potato growers – R.D. Offutt Company, but according to PAN:
“McDonald’s made a big public show of their commitment to reduce pesticides, winning them quite a bit of positive attention. The company had their producers take a survey about sustainable practices, but instead of publicizing actual reductions in pesticide use, they simply launched an ad campaign praising their potato producers.”
The concerns of citizens were unheeded.
“Now we are turning to consumers and the public to help us demand change,” says White Earth Indian Reservation resident Robert Shimek, a founding member of Toxic Taters Coalition. He and other activists are trying to get McDonald’s and R.D. Offutt Company to stop spraying toxic chemical pesticides. He says, “Its’ up to us to make some noise.”
You can join them, and tell McDonald’s to do the right thing. No one wants to eat a toxic tater.