Politics of the Plate: In-Cide Information


Hundreds of residents of Monterey County, California, complained of respiratory problems and stomach ailments last month following aerial spraying of an insecticide designed to eliminate invasive apple moths, but so far they have been stymied in their attempts to find what chemical component in the spray is making them sick. Federal laws exempt insecticides from public records requirements, and officials at the Environmental Protection Agency, which okayed the use of the pesticide (called Checkmate) refused to reveal the ingredients in its formula, saying that they were trade secrets of the manufacturer.

The sickened Californians have taken the issue to court, where a judge will determine whether public interest trumps corporate coyness. One thing seems certain. They've made a convincing case that what you don't know can hurt you.

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