The “we were here first” argument and why this is so stupid


Many Washington apple growers get defensive about their pesticide use and farming methods.

Some Eastern/Central Washington apple growers especially hate it when people from Seattle come over to Eastern Washington and complain about their methods. They see Eastern Washington as “their turf”. They look at city people as “206-ers”, or perhaps more ignorantly a common term is “from the coast” or “coasties”. It’s borderline derogatory in nature, and a racial slur.

Some less educated Washington apple growers think that because they live in a rural area or “the country” that rules and laws don’t apply. They think somehow being more rural that urban makes it OK to spray toxic chemicals up in the air to make their “food”…. sending fruits laced with pesticides right into the grocery stores.

One common argument is “well we were here first!”.

It’s perhaps the dumbest argument that a person could make for the apple industry. Lets take the Lake Chelan valley as a prime example because there is often a lot of clash in this area between the apple orchards and the so-called “206-ers”.

Here is where we employ logic. Ready for this growers? See the infographic below if you can’t understand what I’m about to say. According to the Washington Apple Commission’s website, the commercial apple industry started up by 1889. So the apple industry has been here for about 127 years. Native Americans were here for thousands of years before that. In fact, History Link reports they have been in the region for about 12,000 years. Do you know what that means? The Indians were here for more than 100x longer than the Apple Industry has been in existence. So who was really here first?

If you are in the apple industry, you were most certainly not here first. Not even close. Eastern Washington is not the sole domain of the Apple Industry. You don’t have any more rights over this area than somebody with a summer home, or who is vacationing from Portland, Seattle, Boise, or anywhere else. The land you grow your “food” on was taken from Native Americans forcibly and many were murdered, raped, and pillaged to get it. They were shoved onto reservations. We all know the story. It’s a sad truth that nobody wants to talk about (kind of like how apples are made).

History Link reminds us about Native Americans, “They evolved complex cultural, social, and economic structures, which the invasion of Euro-American settlers in the mid-1800s almost erased, but which continue today as the tribes struggle for their survival, respect, and renewal.

You may feel entitled to Eastern Washington, and you may feel like its your turn, being invaded by “city folk” with nice summer homes, but 120 years is just a small blip in the timeline.







Washington Apples: why we don’t like them, and the proof you asked for

Dursban(TM). Lorsban(TM). Chlorpyrifos. Whatever trade name you want to call it, the evidence against it is overwhelming. It’s a chemical made by Dow that is widely used by Washington State apple growers. And that is just ONE of many toxic substances used to grow apples. Growers use a whole chemical cocktail of nasty things in conventional apple growing.


Sometimes you can’t directly see the effects of chemicals. Kind of like smoking. You can’t actually see the cancer that smoking can cause. Or a lot like sun burns. You may not be able to readily feel the cancer cells growing. This is called a latent danger. Humans are terrible judges of latent danger, because they are not available to our senses of sight, sound, smell, or taste.


That gives a lot of ignorant people excuses. “Well spraying chemicals on apples is fine. I don’t see any problems. I’m fine.”

When I hear that I have to wonder… Do you have X-ray powers? Are you a human microscope? Or are you a great substitute for an MRI machine?

Let’s take a look at some of the proof, both scientific and legal, that chlorpyrifos is bad, and hence the conventionally grown apple is also bad.





Proof 1:  Here is a study on the effects of chlorpyrifos Chickens titled “Patho-biochemical studies on hepatotoxicity and nephrotoxicity on exposure to chlorpyrifos and imidacloprid in layer chickens

. It outlines the hepotoxicity of the chemical on these animals. There are 1,000,000 milligrams in a kilogram. It took only 55mg/kg to mess up these test chickens to the point they started drooling and convulsing, and OH YEAH…. DYING.



Proof 2: The EPA banned chlorpyrifos (trade names Lorsban and Dursban) for household use in the year 2000. This should be a simple concept to understand: our own US government does not want this stuff in our homes.


Proof 3: As of the writing of this blog post, the EPA is currently about to revoke ALL chlorpyrifos tolerances for in our food. That pretty much means farmers will have to cease using it. If the government thinks its that bad, do we want this stuff used in or around our food? No way! More than 80,000 people have urged the EPA to ban it.

Proof 4: Lawsuits We don’t have to look very hard here to find lots of big lawsuits regarding chlorpyrifos. The EPA was sued to ban this stuff. The State of California just recently made it a highly restricted material “due to potential human health and surface water concerns“.

Lets not forget the children whose health has been negatively affected. A $23 million dollar judgement was awarded to a family because Dursban, an insecticide containing chlorpyrifos, caused major health problems for their children. It gets really sad: “their 5-month-old was hospitalized for uncontrollable seizures, and their 3-year-old was hospitalized for a seizure three months later”.


I could go on for a long, long time. But I think you get the picture.



Why are there “DANGER” signs when you enter a Washington apple orchard?

While they may look pastoral and picturesque, Orchards are anything but.

Ever notice those signs along the orchards? They say things like “DO NOT ENTER” and “DANGER/PELIGRO”. That’s because of the disgusting pesticides that they spray to grow apples. Washington State isn’t such an environmentally friendly place, is it? At least not when you cross the Cascade mountains and get over to the Eastern or Central part of the state of Washington.

The apple growers are legally required to post these signs. IS THIS WHAT YOU CALL GROWING FOOD?

If you have to put up a sign because of toxicity issues, why would I want to eat what you are growing in that orchard?



sprayer3 sprayer4 sprayer5 dran2 tinymicro apple-sprayer-orchard

Apple Industry Excuses for Using Toxic Chemicals

So why are apple growers tainting the paradise that is Eastern Washington (beautiful areas like Lake Chelan, Manson, Yakima, Wenatchee, Orondo, Brewster, etc) with the continued use of toxic chemicals?
When I think of an apple grower (and I have met plenty) I think of a really hard-working and salt-of-the-earth person. Usually these people are full of common sense, and have extremely great character and moral values. So why are they clinging to this form of agriculture that is really “chemo-culture”; so heavily reliant upon chemicals?
It’s partly driven by the almighty dollar, and partly by willful blindness and a tendency to want to look the other way. Most growers see their farming as a nobel “way of life”. It’s hard for apple growers to admit that this “way of life” largely involves the use of toxic chemicals. And there are plenty of excuses to help look the other way.
Here are some common excuses I have heard from orchardists about the use of chemicals and pesticides, and my rebuttals:
1) We’ve been doing this a long time. Ahh… the time argument. Because you have been doing something for a long time, it somehow makes it right? Didn’t the South use that argument for Slavery in the 1860s? They sure did, but it did not make Slavery any more morally right. People smoked cigarettes for a “long time” and it took decades of awareness campaigns, and governmental intervention to bring out the truth. Now people recognize that smoking is a disgusting and cancer-causing habit. Just because people have done something for a long time, does not make it right.
2) This is a farming community. Deal with it. Well, farming may take up more physical size in the Chelan area, but actually all those million dollar vacation homes dotting the hills and the shores of Lake Chelan are the major donors to the local tax base.  I know of some people who pay upwards of $20,000 a year single-family vacation home property taxes. Who is really paying for the local police, schools, and infrastructure? Vacation homes.  Lake Chelan isn’t just a “farming community”. Don’t forget the service and hospitality industries, which attract thousands of tourists per year. Local Chelan restaurants and hotels like Campbell’s, Wapato Point, Darnell’s Resort, Peterson’s Waterfront Resort, add millions to the local economy.
3) We’re growing your food. Ahh, the “noble cause of farming” argument. Can you really call it “food”? I don’t eat non-organic apples. You could not pay me enough to eat them. I don’t eat apple pie that’s made from them. Nada. I don’t consider something laden with pesticide residue as “food”. Also, humans don’t need apples to survive, so your crop isn’t ‘mission critical’.
For most of human history, apples have been a luxury product; a treat to be savored. Apples don’t need to be super-cheap, and they wouldn’t be super-cheap if it weren’t for pesticides. Americans have become accustomed to the abundance that chemical-centric farming has provided.
It’s more than just apples. The American addiction to cheap “food” is killing and harming us. We end up with pesticide residue in our food, and we end up with “food” that is high in volume and low in nutrient density. If you are interested in learning more, be sure to check out Michael Pollan’s New York Times Bestseller In Defense of Food.  All sorts of studies are showing negative effects of GMOs and toxic pesticides. Consumers are becoming aware and shunning GMOs and pesticides, and the organic movement is growing rapidly.
4) We need to make a living. I definitely feel for people in this regard, because everybody needs to make a living. However, your personal financial needs don’t justify the negative impact of what you are doing. You’re selling a product with pesticide residue. In fact, Apples are #1 worst on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list of foods not to eat. You “making a living” does not justify spraying clouds of toxic chemicals into the air and all over your “food” in order to create a cost-effective product to sell.
Maybe it’s time to look on the bright side? If you live in Chelan, Orondo, or even Wenatchee, your real estate is valuable beyond orchards. There are lots of people looking for vacation homes. Sell out, and reinvent yourself in cleaner industry. Or, go Organic and get ahead of the curve, and joint the booming organic movement. You may have to learn new growing methods, you still have to spray things, but they’re better and safer than the way you’re doing it. The future is here already. You’re reading it right now. It’s time for growers to grow up, step into the modern age, and get with it!
5) We have the right to farm. Yes you do, but does “farming” mean involvement with toxic chemicals? Supporting Dow Chemical Company? Is that what “farming” means to you? That doesn’t sound like farming to me. It kinda sounds like the growers are slaves to the big chemical conglorates; addicted to cheap solutions for growing apples.
The “Right to Farm Act” is also usually invoked as an excuse by growers. This act gives certain allowances to farmers, certain protections from suburban development. It does not give you the right to spray your chemicals onto other people or their land. Frankly, why would you want to anyway? It’s disgusting and harmful to you, your family, and the community to be around these chemicals. Shame on you.
6) It’s a multi-billion dollar industry. Yep, I have heard that argument from one very wealthy orchardist. Are we really using the almighty dollar to justify the use of toxic chemicals?
The Washington apple industry produces only $2.18 billion dollars in product. That’s actually not a large part of the economy. Let’s compare. The US spends a $3 trillion on healthcare. Yeah, that’s trillion (with a T). That means the national healthcare industry is over 1400 times larger than the Washington Apple industry.
Or how about cancer treatment? Cancer treatment is estimated by the NCI to be about a $125 billion dollar industry.
You’ve got people like local reporters noticing the high cancer rates in Manson area of Lake Chelan. Maybe it’s time to take a look at historical farming practices, see what we can learn, and curtail the use of anything that may be harmful to humans, animals, and the environment. For our children at least?


6) You have to spray Organic crops too! Yeah, but not with the same toxic crap that you use on your non-organic crops. It’s way different, guys.



Lake Chelan: would you like some DDT in your trout?



Thanks again Washington Apple industry…. for polluting beautiful Lake Chelan (and surrounding smaller lakes). Ugh. This disgusts me and I hope more people learn about it.


The Washington State Department of Ecology did an extensive study of DDT and PCB in the Lake Chelan fish. Check out the DOE’s report from 2006:



The place you REALLY don’t want to fish? Roses Lake! One of the picturesque smaller lakes in the hills of Manson. They STILL dump glyphosate (commonly known as the product RoundUp) into the water to clear up the algae. Makes all the lake home owners happy because they don’t want a stinky lake. Do they know that the means to achieve this end are courtesy of poison? They put a little sign up by the boat launch telling people it’s probably a bad idea to swim in there for a few days… UGH. Dumping chemicals into lakes. Why are people so stupid?


There is some good news. Well, not really. It’s only good news if you live uplake in the 25 Mile Creek region, you’ve got pretty clean water. The Lucerne Basin is not really impacted by this issue. Why? The study makes the curious point that there has been minimal AGRICULTURE there!



The orchard industry has kinda destroyed some beautiful lakes. I wouldn’t eat the fish from Lake Chelan or Roses Lake for a very long time.