When President Donald Trump took office in Washington, D.C., many advocates of clean food had high hopes for his administration, considering a past tweet in which he took a dig at Monsanto’s GMO corn as well as his family’s long-rumored penchant for organic food.
But so far in D.C. it’s been more of the same, with Trump cozying up to Dow Chemical executives, hiring a big-time supporter of Big Ag as Secretary of Agriculture, and even officially coming out in support of GMOs during a recent speech.
Now the Trump administration is helping out one of the GMO and pesticide giants yet again, this time around in the form of a massive fine reduction for Swiss giant Syngenta.
Multi-Million Dollar Fine Pared Down to Far Smaller Level
According to this report from the website Mother Jones, the Swiss GMO and pesticide corporation Syngenta has had its fine reduced from $4.8 million in civil penalties to $150,000, along with a $400,000 commitment to pesticide safety training for workers.
The fine was originally handed down back in 2016 after the company got some rough news from the EPA of the United States in the form of a complaint that the company failed to protect its workers from exposure to a highly toxic insecticide on a corn farm in Hawaii.
The new fine is a “tiny amount of money for a very large company,” said Judith Enck, who worked as a regional EPA administrator under the Obama administration, according to the article. “To reduce (the penalty) by this amount is quite unusual,” she added.
She made the comments at a press conference for a new report by the Environmental Integrity Project showing a pattern of EPA fines being reduced sharply by the new administration.
The incident involved the highly toxic insecticide chlorpyrifos, which was banned in 2000 among residential areas and was nearly banned entirely in 2016, before the Trump Administration reversed it.
Nineteen Syngenta workers were sent into a cornfield that had been sprayed with the substance on the same day a Hawaii Dept. of Agriculture official was present, and the company did not provide adequate decontamination supplies or provide prompt transportation for medical attention, the Mother Jones article states.
It’s also noting that worldwide an estimated 200,000 deaths occur due to pesticide poisoning.
Hawaii a Testing Ground for GMOs, Chemicals
Unfortunately for residents of Kauai and other Hawaiian islands, paradise is being turned into a testing ground for Big Ag as companies like Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta and Pioneer have set up shop.
Mass sprayings are being undertaken and genetically engineered crop testing fields have been set up. Controversy has surrounded these companies in the recent years as protests have sprung up across the island including those as part of the yearly March Against Monsanto (May 19 is this year’s event), and the lack of regulation is troubling.
For example according to the Center for Food Safety, on Kauai 17 times more restricted pesticides are sprayed on ordinary cornfields than the U.S. mainland in many cases. Birth defects in surprisingly high rates are also being reported.