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Charles Harper Writing Sample .pdf



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ENDING THE EXPORTATION OF BANNED PESTICIDES
Charles Harper
Background
Pesticides are manmade chemicals that are used to kill weeds, insects, fungi and
other pests. One of the first pesticides was DDT, first used extensively to fight insectspread diseases like Typhus and Malaria in World War II. Soon, pesticides like DDT
were used on farms to control agricultural pests, allowing larger yields and more food
production. Between 1947 and 1949, the budding chemical industry invested $3.8 billion
into expanding its production facilities.1 DDT and other carbon-based pesticides became
increasingly common until the devastating environmental and health consequences of
such pesticides started to come to light in the 1960s. Besides killing insects, these
pesticides were killing insect-eating birds and running off into rivers and lakes, killing
huge numbers of fish and aquatic animals; furthermore, these pesticides were proven to
cause cancer, diabetes, nerve damage, and even death in humans exposed to them either
directly or through residue remaining on food.2 Although DDT and the most toxic
pesticides have since been banned outright in the US, many other pesticides remain in use
in America. Only pesticides registered with the Environmental Protection Agency are
allowed to be sprayed on crops in America.3 Every registered pesticide has a “tolerance”
or limit of how much residue can remain on food before it is deemed unsafe for human
consumption. Extremely dangerous or new chemicals are not registered with the EPA and
cannot be used in the US.
A problem arises, however, with exports of unregistered pesticides. Currently,
American companies are allowed to produce as much of a banned, unregistered pesticide
as they like, as long as it is for export. Between 2001 and 2003, the United States
exported “nearly 1.7 billion pounds of pesticides” and “nearly 28 million pounds of those
pesticides were products forbidden in the U.S.”4 Under the international Rotterdam
Convention, a company exporting an unregistered pesticide is required to receive written
consent from the importing country before the pesticide is allowed to be sold.5 America
has signed the convention, but it has not been ratified by Congress; the EPA, however,
still follows its provisions.6 This Prior Informed Consent is supposed to ensure that a
country knows what it is doing when importing dangerous pesticides, but many of these
importing countries are less-developed and have neither the scientific knowledge and the
necessary health regulations nor the required bureaucracy in place to make effective
decisions.7 These developing countries have minimal or non-existent protections to
ensure that these pesticides are applied and disposed of properly or that affected food will
not poison the consumer. The World Health Organization estimated in 1990 that “up to
25 million workers in developing countries” suffer from pesticide poisoning every year.8
Often unaware of the dangers, citizens of these countries misuse the chemicals we sell
them. From “Thai farmers testing the potency of chemical mixtures by licking a finger
dipped in the mixture” to those who use empty pesticide containers for food and water
storage, there is a severe lack of knowledge regarding safe usage of pesticides.9 Even
though “developing countries use only 25% of the pesticides produced worldwide, they
experience 99% of the deaths.”9
If the poisoning of workers and consumers in developing countries weren’t
enough, the poisonous pesticides we sell abroad are coming back to America via residue

on imported food. The U.S. imports 25% of its food from other countries, many of which
use pesticides banned in America.11 The dangerous chemicals we sell to make a quick
buck are coming back to us in what is sometimes described as a “circle of poison”. Out of
all the shipments of food imported in 1989, the FDA only conducted 10,719 tests; of
these, 3% of samples contained violations, most of which were for pesticides banned in
the U.S.12 This means the vast majority of imported food goes untested and banned
pesticides are consumed by Americans relatively frequently.
Policy Proposal
It is unacceptable that the United States allows companies to supply carcinogens
and poisons to unaware foreigners; however, it is not the only country that exports these
most dangerous of toxins. An effective policy solution should not only ban export from
the U.S. but also attempt to limit production in other developed countries; a successful
policy should also provide education and support to developing countries to discourage
their import of dangerous pesticides and promote the proper usage of pesticides they do
import.
The simplest part of this process is banning the production of all non-registered
pesticides in the United States. Whether they have been registered and unregistered,
banned, or simply never been considered for registration, all pesticides that are not
registered by the EPA for domestic use should be banned for export as well. A problem
of enforcement arises that could be solved by allowing any citizen to file a lawsuit
against the producing company even if he or she is not directly affected by the
production. This way, environmental watchdog groups or socially and environmentally
conscious citizens could ensure this ban is followed with little cost to the taxpayer. Any
penalties levied against chemical companies could be used to help fund the next part of
the proposal.
A new office of the EPA should be created to help other nations transition to safer
and more sustainable agricultural practices. This office would disseminate information to
current importers of restricted chemicals about pest-control alternatives such as less toxic
and more easily degradable pesticides, crop rotation, and the production of more diseaseresistant crop strains to name a few.13 More knowledge about chemicals’ labels and the
importance of Pre-Harvest Intervals, the necessary wait time between spraying crops and
harvesting them, would also improve safety if spraying is necessary.14 This office would
also help foreign governments to establish comprehensive regulations concerning
pesticide usage and tolerances in food and advise them in the formation of an effective
bureaucracy to this effect. Many countries look to the United States as a world leader in
science and technology; the creation of an office to educate and advise other countries
would also reduce their usage of dangerous pesticides produced in countries other than
the U.S.
The United States, despite signing the Rotterdam Convention in 1998, has yet to
ratify it in Congress. One of only eight countries not to have done so, the United States
should ratify it so as to promote Prior Informed Consent (PIC) in more countries
worldwide.15 Although the U.S. would no longer export the most dangerous of the
pesticides on the list, ratifying the treaty would show that the U.S. is acting in good faith
to reduce the usage of dangerous pesticides and hopeful promote more countries to ratify
the treaty. As a country that has ratified, America would have more influence as to which

pesticides are covered under PIC and could promote the banning of exporting dangerous
pesticides to other signatories of the treaty, reducing the amount of the most toxic
pesticides available to even the countries that would give consent for their import.
Conclusion
Developing countries all over the world are suffering from environmental
destruction and poisoning of workers and consumers due to the sale of extremely toxic
pesticides by the United States. With a poor image in so many countries already, “from a
marketing perspective, it does not make sense to associate ‘Made in the USA’ with
sickness and death.”16 Rather than contributing to the problem, the U.S. could take the
lead in promoting health and wellness worldwide by helping developing countries craft
their own pesticide regulations. Although deaths are bad enough, destruction of the global
environment hurts not only Americans but also organisms of every species, today and far
into the future. Pesticide export reform is a necessity to protect all citizens of Earth, at
home and abroad.

1. Ganzel, Bill. "The Dawning of the Chemical Age for Pesticides during the 1940s."
Wessels Living History Farm. Accessed February 2, 2015.
2. "Pesticides: Children's Health and the Environment." World Health Organization. July
1, 2008. Accessed February 2, 2015.
3. "Import and Export Trade Requirements." EPA.gov. March 25, 2013. Accessed
February 2, 2015.
4. Peeples, Lynne. "Lead Paint, Other Toxic Products Banned In U.S. Still Exported To
Unsuspecting Customers Abroad." The Huffington Post. March 25, 2013. Accessed
February 2, 2015.
5. "Export Notifications: Overview." Rotterdam Convention. January 1, 2010. Accessed
February 2, 2015.
6. "Import and Export Trade Requirements." EPA.gov. March 25, 2013. Accessed
February 2, 2015.
7. Albers, Nancy, and Betsy Gelb. "Hazardous Exports: An Update and a Framework for
Policy." Journal of Public Policy & Marketing 10, no. 2 (1991): 130-44. Accessed
February 2, 2015. JStor.
8. "EPA06: Stop the Export of Banned Pesticides." National Partnership for Reinventing
Government. Accessed February 2, 2015.
9. Pesticides: Children's Health and the Environment." World Health Organization. July
1, 2008. Accessed February 2, 2015.
10. Albers, Nancy, and Betsy Gelb. "Hazardous Exports: An Update and a Framework
for Policy." Journal of Public Policy & Marketing 10, no. 2 (1991): 130-44. Accessed
February 2, 2015. JStor.
11. "EPA06: Stop the Export of Banned Pesticides." National Partnership for Reinventing
Government. Accessed February 2, 2015.
12. Ibid.
13. Helsel, Zane. "Energy and Alternatives for Fertilizer and Pesticide Use." In Energy in
Farm Production, edited by R.C. Fluck, 177-201. Vol. 6. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2012.
14. Galt, Ryan. "Regulatory Risk and Farmers' Caution with Pesticides in Costa Rica."
Transaction of the Institute of British Geographers 32, no. 3 (2007): 377-94. Accessed
February 2, 2015. JStor.
15. "Status of Ratifications." Rotterdam Convention. January 1, 2010. Accessed February
2, 2015.
16. Albers, Nancy, and Betsy Gelb. "Hazardous Exports: An Update and a Framework
for Policy." Journal of Public Policy & Marketing 10, no. 2 (1991): 130-44. Accessed
February 2, 2015. JStor.


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