How many horses did the Washington apple industry kill?

Back in the pre-1950 days apple growers sprayed some pretty nasty stuff on their crops. The dreaded codling moth was the main target. But there was also friendly fire, and resulting were causalities were horses. Yes, horses of yesteryear paid the price for the ignorance of the farmers. Or was it ignorance? It seems to me that there is evidence that people noticed their horses were dying from it. Did they care about the horses? Wellread on. They put muzzles on them to mitigate the problem. I came across this article in the Spokane Spokesman-Review from 1997 where they interviewed an old time farmer named Gene McManus, who was in his 80’s at the time. What he had to say about apple industry early knowledge of pesticide damage was shocking to me.

Check out this quote from the article:

The lead arsenate was considered more benign. When the weather got real hot, McManus and his brother Lyle would often hose each other down with the stuff, he said, shaking his head at an act that seems pretty stupid in retrospect. After all, it wasn’t good for the horses.

“I don’t know if it killed any (codling moth) worms, but it was deadly on horses.” The horses would lose their wind after a few years of pulling the spray rigs. They could hardly walk and would have to be put out to pasture or put to death. Orchardists later learned to muzzle the horses to keep them from eating the sprayed orchard grass.

From what Gene says, they could clearly see that this was deadly on horses.  The quote “After all, it wasn’t good for the horses.” Wait, what? You knew it was bad for them, and you…. didn’t really care?

The later farmers decided to muzzle them. Did they ever consider that the stuff they were spraying could be extremely hazardous to the people handing the apples, eating the apples, etc? Could they not connect the dots? Dead horses=bad chemicals.

The average lifespan of an equine is in their mid-20s nowadays. Draft horses are lucky to make 20. That’s a huge difference between “a few years” lifespan.

This brings up all sorts of questions. Mainly, why the apple industry always seem to turn a blind eye even in the face of strong evidence? Is the almighty dollar that important to them? What gives?


Washington State: they want to pass a bill about pesticide reform


Thank goodness we live in Washington State. Our state is socially more aware than many states.

They are trying to pass a bill that protects the health of our citizens:

Because, as they say in the article “Drift Happens!”. There are many good reasons to ban pesticide use. The article points out “Chemical pesticides drift onto unintended targets and can leach into groundwater, contaminating it.”

Is our water a good reason? Yes, I think so.

This is a great read, and makes so many good points like, “Drift is indiscriminate and has resulted in acute health injuries, economic impacts and other negative impacts in Washington. In the last 5 years, there has been an increase in acute illness cases in Washington’s agriculture fields.”




The CDC gets involved with pesticide use and the Washington orchard industry

The US Federal government just got involved with Douglas County, a place with a lot of apple orchards and other orchards. Hey, we know this site is called Washington Apples, but lets make a little fruit cocktail and throw some cherries and pears in! Why not? They all use pesticides.

A certain local newspaper’s article tipped off the CDC to a rash of illness. The CDC website says “20 farmworkers working in a cherry orchard became ill from off-target drift of a pesticide mixture that was being applied to a neighboring pear orchard. ”

I feel bad for those guys. The symptoms were nasty: “Sixteen sought medical treatment for neurologic, gastrointestinal, ocular, and respiratory symptoms. ”

spraying_apples_pesticide_washington_applesThe CDC goes on to point out what I consider to be thenegligence and carelessness of the local orchard industry: “Incidents such as this could be prevented if farm managers planning pesticide applications notify their neighbors of their plans.”

Nice, guys. Which excuse are orchard owners using this time? The “Right to Farm Act”? Does that allow you to spray toxic junk into the air and make people sick with your pesticides? It certainly does not.

And people are not only getting sick from your pesticides, they are getting sick of them! Oregon state residents recently initiated a lawsuit against pesticides use.  And guess what “the pesticide applicator and the aerial spray company he owns have been fined $10,000 each by the state and had their pesticide licenses suspended”.

Apparently, people don’t like toxic pesticides being sprayed. Go figure.





Rancid Apples, and a near $100 million dollar loss

I stumbled across this King 5 News segment about how the 2015 Washington apple crop was getting dumped in record amounts. Apparently dump trucks were just heading out near Pateros and dumping the crops. The local bakery in Pateros, WA even complained about having a big fly problem. Watch the news segment here, it is fascinating!



Lake Chelan’s “The Lookout” used to be an orchard (in the Lead Arsenate Days!)


PBS did a great documentary on contaminated soil as a result of historical apple farming. It made me think about the new developments going up in Chelan. Especially a very expensive development called “The Lookout”. They’re selling some really expensive homes (upwards of a million dollars!) up there. They have great views, but how is the soil? The land used to be an orchard, and 1946 is the farthest back data I could find.

The Washington State department of ecology has found that old orchard sites prior to 1950 are ripe with soil issues. If there was an orchard there before 1950, chances are the soil is contaminated with Lead and Arsenic.Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 2.18.46 PM

I found some great high res aerial photographs from 1946 at the USGS website. Sadly, it was indeed orchard in 1946, and sadly they used Lead Arsenate in those days to control Codling Moth.  Even worse, around 1950 the industry stopped using Lead Arsenate and switched to DDT. Now they use chlorpyrifos. It seems like the apple industry just switches from one toxic chemical to another! I can’t beleive they still use chlorpyrifos today. The EPA is about to ban it completely! Over 80,000 people contacted the EPA and urged them to ban it. WILL THE APPLE INDUSTRY EVER LEARN? DON’T USE TOXIC CHEMICALS TO GROW YOUR “FOOD”!!!!lookout2

I know folks who have just bought houses for upwards of $700,000 there. They might be interested to know the history of their land. Certainly, I would not buy here. I haven’t tested the soil, but the main reason being it is right next to current operating orchards and I HATE spray machines that blast chlorpyrifos pesticides, and other junk way up into the air.


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Washington Apples: the cheap manual labor that makes it all possible

Washington apple farms can sometimes be very depressing places. When you see how and where a lot of these farm laborers live, it can be pretty depressing. The orchard owners will often pack them in there as tight as possible, in conditions that most Americans would find deplorable. Some of them have public bathrooms that are shared among many units.

It’s a matter of opinion, but I see the Washington Apple industry using cheap labor. Sometimes these people are not US citizens, and do not speak English. One Apple grower, Broetje Orchards, was hit with a $2.25 million dollar fine for hiring illegal immigrants.

In 2007, the Department of Homeland Security estimated 260,000 illegal immigrants living in Washington State. This makes our state the 10th largest center for illegal immigration in the US. While not all agricultural laborers are illegal immigrants, the State decided that illegal immigration was a big enough problem that they did a study on how much it costs our state. It’s important to remember that many people are here legally, and they are working hard for the Apple Industry. It just doesn’t appear that they are being justly paid. See below for pictures of where some of them live.

Washington Apples are made with cheap labor and harsh pesticides. Is this a product you want to support? Not me.

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Lake Chelan: tons of soil deemed very toxic due to historical Orchard pesticides

Define “very toxic”. Ok, let’s do that. Let’s take a look at what the Chelan apple growers don’t want to talk about.


From about 1900 to 1950 the Manson area of Lake Chelan was an apple mecca. Sadly, the apple growers of this time widely used Lead Arsenate as a pesticide to control insect issues. It contaminated the soil badly. That was a long time ago, right? Wrong. Lead Arsenate–exactly what it sounds like: lead and arsenic, sticks around in the soil for decades.

The soil in the Manson area of Lake Chelan is so contaminated that the Washington State Department of Ecology initiated an in-depth soil contamination study for the area. What they found wasn’t exactly comforting. They took aerial maps from 1947 and traced out where they thought all the orchards were, and created a kind of Lead & Arsenic contamination map.

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 1.57.58 PM


You can see the full DOE report here:

Sheesh, look at that map! There’s my favorite vacation spotWapato Point, and Hyacinth Road, Roses Lake, Wapato Lake, and a whole lotta million dollar vacation homes!

The problem is so bad, they replaced the soil at the Manson Elemenary School to protect children’s health.

You know this problem is really bad when they have to scrape the playground soil from the local Manson Elementary School and replace it with fresh non-Arsenic and non-Lead tainted soil. In fact the Washington State Department of Ecology did its own official consultation report on the Manson Elementary soil contamination. There is a huge problem area-wide with Arsenic and Lead contamination on the school playground:

Apparently Manson isn’t the only school that is affected. Lake Chelan’s school district is also contaminated! Here is what the DOE recently had to say about the Lead Arsenateimpact, and the Toxic Cleanup site of the Lake Chelan school district’s recreational fields:


“Due to their chemical structure, lead and arsenic tend to bond with soil particles and often remain at or near ground surface level for decades, creating an exposure pathway through inhalation and/or ingestion.

Although lead and arsenic are naturally occurring elements, elevated concentrations have been proven to have a negative impact on human health. Young children are generally more susceptible than adults, which is why Ecology has focused remediation efforts on schools.”


The sad thing is, the apple growers are still using toxic chemicals to this day. They’re just using different ones like chlorpyrifos. They use giant spray machines to blast chlorpyrifos and other nasty things all over the trees. This, of course, can drift to neighbors and onto the general public. You can smell it in the air often times in Lake Chelan between April and August.


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?



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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.



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