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McDonald's Urged to Keep Promise On Reducing Pesticide Drift

PHOTO: A coalition of citizens and environmental groups is launching a "No Toxic Taters" campaign, saying McDonald's is not doing enough to reduce pesticide use by its potato producers. Photo credit: Evelyn Giggles
PHOTO: A coalition of citizens and environmental groups is launching a "No Toxic Taters" campaign, saying McDonald's is not doing enough to reduce pesticide use by its potato producers. Photo credit: Evelyn Giggles
February 21, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Concerned citizens in Minnesota are urging the fast good giant McDonald's to follow through on a promise to reduce pesticide use in the production of potatoes used to make its French fries.

Under pressure from shareholders, McDonald's laid out a plan in 2009 for reduced pesticide use.

But that effort has fallen flat, according to Norma Smith, who says nothing's changed on the potato farms near her home in rural Frazee.

"They are still spraying the fields every five to seven days, all summer long,” she says. “Still planting next to places where a lot of us live, when we have no choice about it."

Smith says the pesticide drifts have made her and her husband ill and sickened their sheep to the point that they had to give up the flock.

In response to the launch of the new Toxic Taters campaign, McDonald's says it's working with its suppliers on more diligent use of all inputs, including pesticides.

Another person urging McDonald's to change its practices is Robert Shimek of the White Earth Reservation.

Shimek says with the pesticide drift and before that, contaminated groundwater, many of those who live near potato production areas have almost become accustomed to the negative impacts.

"It's normal to be sick,” he says. “It's normal to have these peculiar types of cancer.

“It's normal to have immune system disorders in many of these communities, because it's just been going on for so long and crept in so gradually, that people think it's a normal way of living."

Research published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that skin, lung and intestinal irritations are linked to some incidences of pesticide drift, with the most acute reactions among children.

With little changed in the five years since McDonald's rolled out its pesticide reduction plans, Shimek is now hoping consumers will become better educated about the consequences.

"Now, it's time to move on to the consumers and let them know that, as they roll through the drive-through at these McDonald's restaurants, that they're contributing to the harmful health and environmental impacts," he says.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN