Stonyfield Organic Launches Half-Million Dollar Effort to Remove Pesticides from Parks

Image care of Stonyfield

In celebration of its 35th anniversary, Stonyfield Organic has announced a new initiative to help eliminate the use of pesticides and herbicides in parks and fields across the country. The company will contribute up to half a million dollars to eradicate these chemicals from the outdoor spaces of 35 communities nationwide.

“It’s encouraging to see the strides the organic food industry has made, helping educate around health and working towards making organic a mainstream and accessible food choice for families. But we’ve still got work to do,” says Stonyfield Organic co-founder and Chief Organic Optimist, Gary Hirshberg in a press release.

“We need to be just as concerned with what goes on kids’ bodies as what goes in them,” he continues. “This takes our mission of healthier people and a healthier planet to the next level by shedding light on an often overlooked issue and reminding everyone that they can make change locally to protect the health of our children and our environment.”

Pilot fields in some communities will already be converted this spring; the company will announce more about the initiative in the coming months.

The venture began in response to a new parent survey conducted by Stonyfield Organic, in cooperation with Lindberg International, that found that while 69 percent of parents actively seek out organic food for their children, 67 percent are not concerned with pesticides in the environment. Sports fields, parks, and other outdoor spaces are frequently treated with pesticides and herbicides, some of which are either proven or likely endocrine disruptors and can interfere with children’s healthy development.

“To put it frankly, the use of certain pesticides and other chemicals on playing fields should be banned, as children are much more susceptible to possible chemical side effects compared to adults,” says Philip Landrigan, MD, MSc, Founding Director of the Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and author of the book “Children and Environmental Toxins: What Everyone Needs to Know.”

“Children have a larger surface-to-volume ratio and more permeable skin, leading to greater skin absorption of toxic chemicals, not to mention that their developing organ systems are more susceptible to the impacts of pesticides and less likely to be able to detoxify harmful chemicals.”

It’s not always clear where these chemicals are being sprayed, even for those who do their research. A May 2015 report in New York City reported the application of glyphosate 2,748 times in the city in 2014, but according to data procured by a Freedom of Information Act request and published by EcoWatch, information related to some locations, such as areas managed by nonprofit conservancies, including Central Park, was not made public in the report.

The outlet pointed to data showing that the city had applied pesticides more than 162,584 times in 2014 alone, with nearly 8,000 gallons and more than 100,000 pounds applied city-wide. This marked a 21 percent increase as compared to 2013 levels.

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Emily Monaco is a food and culture writer based in Paris. Her work has been featured in the Wall... More about Emily Monaco