The Purchase of Public Opinion Happens in Canada, Too
Dow Chemical Sponsors Canadian Football League
I’ve had numerous people tell me that Canadians are not as moved by celebrity as we are here in the United States. Lobbyists don’t hold as much sway, the judges are not politically appointed and, in general, it’s a more pure society.
I would say that, at least based on my experience, all of that is generally true.
A two-week old news item caught my attention today, though, that gave me pause and brought back a bitter year-old memory. It seems that Dow AgroSciences, the American pesticide manufacturer, has become a sponsor of the Canadian Football League and has launched a contest to promote a weed killer known as Simplicity. It was reminiscent of last year, when the Scotts Miracle-Gro company sent millions of dollars to Major League Baseball to become the official fertilizer of America’s pastime. Those of us in the health and environmental communities tried to point out the rather obvious problem of promoting the applications of poisons to playing fields, but the relationship persists between Miracle-Gro and the Commissioners Office.
Football, not baseball, is most definitely Canadians’ favorite non-winter pastime, especially in the western provinces where farming is still a primary way of life. The Canadian Football League was more than happy to accept the check from Dow AgroSciences, which supplies many chemicals to the region’s farmers and homeowners.
“We share many of the same customers, a passion for serving them well, and some great ideas for working together to bring them even closer to our league and our game,” CFL commissioner Mark Cohon said in a DowAgro release. “We’re confident our partnership will be as fun for our fans as it will be productive for our businesses.”
Dow, you may remember, is the same American company that is suing the Canadian federal government to overturn the bans of lawn and garden pesticides that began 20 years ago in Hudson, Quebec, and have since swept nationwide. In that suit the company that reportedly nets $4.5 billion per year on sales of $45 billion is asking the courts to award $2 million in damages for lost sales.
People around the world, meanwhile, are asking Dow to pay up. Among the most sued companies in the world, Dow’s environmental rap sheet stretches from Canada, to the United Kingdom, all the way to India — where, according to Wikipedia, “to this day, Dow has contributed nothing towards its obligations to clean up after the gas leak that killed more than 20,000 people, and it continues to shelter fugitives from law from standing trial for criminal negligence for this event.”
I was stunned last year during a trip to western Canada by how casually the locals dropped the phrase “old farmers’ disease” in reference to non-Hodgkins lymphoma that was killing their fathers, grandfathers and uncles. I wonder how many of these farming football fans will look at the Material Safety Data Sheet for the Simplicity herbicide promoted in the Dow/CFL contest. In the document, produced by Dow, it states clearly:
“Effects of Repeated Exposure: For the active ingredient(s): In animals, effects have been reported
on the following organs: Liver. Based on information for component(s): In animals, effects have been
reported on the following organs: Liver. Kidney. Lung. Bladder. Bone marrow. Thymus. Gastrointestinal tract. Thyroid. Urinary tract. Cataracts and other eye effects have been reported in
humans repeatedly exposed to naphthalene vapor or dust. Cancer Information: For the active ingredient(s): Has caused cancer in some laboratory animals. For the solvent(s): Contains naphthalene which has caused cancer in some laboratory animals.”
How can a football promotion possibly align with a product with that kind of toxicity? But, then again, how can a Major League Baseball promotion be accepted for Scotts lawn products that all say, “Caution: Keep Out of the Reach of Children?”
Concerned Canadians really ought to stand up and say something about this. Maybe you’ll have more luck making your voices heard than we are down here.