They had me with their branding – the Toxic Taters Coalition. In my world potatoes are equated with manna from heaven. And any pesticide that comes between me and potatoes is toxic by definition! So when I heard that the Toxic Taters Coalition will be visiting Minneapolis on Wednesday, June 4, it was a call to action. It didn’t take long for me to discover I had much to learn.
The Toxic Taters Coalition has been gaining strength and fighting toxins in the potato-growing areas of central and north central Minnesota for over a decade. Their focus is on preserving the massive potato crops of these regions from “pesticide drift.” Their concerns are the health effects on residents and on domestic and wild animals and the water pollution, the results of pesticides sprayed on potato crops. Their broad focus is on the 45,000 acres of potatoes grown in Minnesota every year. Their immediate focus is on the potato fields owned by Ronald D. Offutt, (RDO), the largest potato grower in the world and one of McDonald’s leading potato suppliers.
Providing support for the Toxic Taters Coalition are Minnesotans for Pesticide Awareness and a committed group from the White Earth Nation. Volunteers have been monitoring the problem of pesticide drift that spreads the toxins far beyond the immediate target. After lengthy studies in 2012, the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) released a report documenting the findings from their Drift Catching test in which local residents had collected massive amounts of data.
The data showed that residents and livestock are inhaling a host of chemicals, particularly chlorothalonil, a fungicide widely used on potatoes. The fungicide is touted as protection against late blight, the fungus that is purported to have caused the 1850s potato famine in Ireland. Toxic Taters Coalition members hold that chlorothalonil is but the tip of the pesticide iceberg – they warn of the “chemical cocktail” we are breathing in our air and drinking in our water.
They hold, too, that the use of the fungicide is not necessary to grow a robust crop of spuds.
Members of the Toxic Taters Coalition are on a speaking tour this summer. They will be in Minneapolis Wednesday, June 4, 6:30 p.m. at Walker Church, 3104 16th Avenue South. Their Minneapolis stop is sponsored by Pesticide Action Network and the Land Stewardship Project.
Future stops are set for Tuesday, June 24, 5:30 p.m. at Rail River Folk School in Bemidji and on Tuesday, July 8, at a site TBA in Duluth.
Catch the non-toxic and people/potato friendly updates on Facebook and Google Toxic Taters Coalition for details on the project, the studies, and the summer speaking tour.