Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Other Side of the McDonald's Potato Story

There are three sides to every story, but occasionally you get a feeling that one of the two competing positions is a helluva lot closer to the truth than the other.

"Ladies and gentlemen, in the red and yellow corner, McDonald's, with an annual marketing budget comparable to a small country's GDP, used primarily to sicken the population and the environment! And in the green corner, White Earth Pesticide Action Network (WEPAN), a group of people on the front lines of pesticide exposure where the potatoes are actually grown."

McDonald's has launched a new video marketing campaign to help romanticize its product. Several farmers who supply the fast food giant with ingredients are highlighted, including Frank Martinez, who grows potatoes.

Here’s the video (click here to watch if you are receiving The Delicious Truth via email), which, of course, never mentions the pesticides needed to grow non-organic potatoes on a large scale. In McDonald's view, it's all about "the right amount of water, rich soil and, in Frank's case, a lifetime of experience."

But there's also another side to the McDonald's potato story (not involving Martinez), courtesy of WEPAN. Personally, I'm believin' it!

"Members of the Pine Point community have been battling an industrial potato farmer, Ron D. Offut, over pesticide drift affecting the air and drinking water on the White Earth Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota.

"Offut, dubbed 'the Lord of the Fries,' owns or leases more than 11,000 acres of land adjacent to Pine Point village. His company, RDO Holdings, harvests 1.8 billion pounds of potatoes annually, most of which are sold to McDonald's to produce French fries.

"RDO Holdings is the leading sprayer of pesticides in the region - including several likely human carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.

"WEPAN has worked for more than a decade to lessen the spraying of pesticides by RDO Holdings, or even to be notified when sprayings are happening. So far RDO Holdings has refused to change their practices.

"Community members from Pine Point worked with Pesticide Action Network (PAN) scientists to monitor the pesticides drifting from potato farms into the elementary school and other sensitive sites using the Drift Catcher technology developed by PAN. Their results found the air contaminated with the fungicide Chlorothalonil at 123 of 186 test sites in and around Pine Point. Chlorothalonil is a 'PAN Bad Actor' pesticide that is both acutely toxic and a known carcinogen."


Teejay said...

The thing is, I get it and so I refrain from eating at these large chain restaurants ALL THE TIME. The thing that confuses me is, what can you do about it? Donate to PAN and let them do the job? how do you fight with these megacorps when they have blessings from our leaders(?) Any thoughts?

Chef Rob said...


That's a good question and one, I think, that warrants answering in a full post (hopefully within the next several days).

Anonymous said...

Bolivia has banned McDonald's altogether. That seems worthy of study.

If each of us who cares boycotted McDonald's and disseminated this information (I just learned of this issue right now), it would be a great start.

Antares said...

the thing about bolivia is that people never liked it in the first place. people just wouldn't go and eat there as chips and hamburguers are not part of the food culture of the country.

they were willing to ban coca-cola, too, replacing it with a bolivian-made coke.

Lee said...

There would be nearly NO spraying of pesticides if idiots hadn't freaked out over GMO potato use. Nearly 20 years ago!

Chris said...

Given that a number of GMP crops are specifically bred to be pesticide resistant so that more pesticides can be sprayed on them, that's an argument that's pretty difficult to sustain, Lee.

Chris said...

That should be GMO of course.