In the dead of night, pesticide-packing planes are spraying their chemical cargo on the produce fields of California’s Monterey Peninsula in hopes of fighting a crop-destroying moth. Residents are complaining that the spray is making them sick with asthmalike symptoms, and demanding to know just what’s in it. But state regulators claim “trade secrets” prevent them from revealing that information.

As the Los Angeles Times reports in “Pesticide Spurs Free Speech Flap” (registration required), “Only the active ingredients in pesticides are routinely disclosed. Other components that make up the formula—so-called inert ingredients—are not.”

So if, say, a controversial ingredient like polymethylene polyphenyl isocyanate (a substance believed to be in the CheckMate pesticide sprayed on the Monterey Peninsula) is considered “inert,” the pesticide maker is under no obligation to disclose its presence to consumers—even if it’s suspected that said ingredient is making people sick.

In other words, our own government is valuing the privacy of corporations over the health of citizens. Why doesn’t this surprise me? If only there were a chemical spray to kill my bitterness. Thanks for looking out for us, EPA.

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