Mothers and Others
For the past 12 years, the environmental group Mothers & Others has been providing consumers with valuable information about the dangerous chemicals that have become ubiquitous in our consumer society. In perhaps its most famous fight, Mothers & Others, with actress Meryl Streep as spokesperson, led a campaign in the late 1980s against the use of the chemical daminozide. This suspected carcinogen, also known as alar, was sprayed on apples so they'd ripen simultaneously. The group also created regional Shoppers' Campaigns, launched the CORE Values eco-label and led campaigns against genetic engineering and for organic cotton. "Mothers and Others" deceased in 2001.
About Meryl's involvement
In 1989, having read a Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) report about pesticides on fruits and vegetables, Meryl Streep founded Mothers and Others. Meryl and a few neighbors recruited started handing out informational flyers in the neighborhood and making pests of themselves in local grocery stores demanding they do their part in keeping kids safe.
What prompted me to begin the organization was that I had become aware of this report that the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) had commissioned on a wide range of pesticides that were on fruits and vegetables and the fact that it was particularly dangerous to children because they consume more for their body weight and also that their systems were more vulnerable as developing systems, as are expectant mothers, obviously. So, I had very small kids then who were mainlining apple juice, among other things, and there was one particular substance that was on apples called Alar that was something you couldn't wash off the fruit. It was not a pesticide - it was something that kept apples from dropping early. And people said you couldn't grow apples without it, that the industry would collapse in Washington State without it, it was impossible - if we did this that there would be such economic wreckage and that had to be measured against these human health issues.
On March 7, 1989, Meryl Streep held a Washington new conference to announce the formation of NRDC's Mothers and Others for Pesticide Limits. The announcement was met by great media interest - Sixty Minutes ran an exlusive story on the NRDC report. Meryl Streep attended the Today Show, The Philip Donahue Show (10 million viewers) and Entertainment Tonight, accompanied by lengthy reports in People Magazine, Women's Day, USA Today, and others. Newsweek and Time did additional stories, on both covers the same week - about the safety of the food system, with more coverage of the NRDC report.
Humans are very self-interested, I became interested in all these things when I was consciously feeding a baby and had a sense that everything you do is going to have an outcome further down the road. So I was very conscious to try to do the right thing and do well by our kids. Being naturally sort of slovenly, I had to sit up and pay attention, because I really think about my work most of the time, and I love that. When kids come into the picture, everything I read made me think "yes, you are right, you are right," and everything we know now about the developing brain, young children, the first things even in utero that you introduce into their little fragile developing systems will bear an outcome later on.
To get national attention and raise awareness in support of this initiative - which would provide clean air, water, and food in California - a television variety special called " An Evening with Friends for the Environment" was produced in 1990 and broadcast on ABC. It starred Meryl Streep, Olivia Newton-John, Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, Cher, Lilly Tomlin, and Robin Williams.
Links & Research
Natural Resources Defense Council official website
People Magazine Ms. Streep Goes to Washington (March 1989)
An Evening with Friends of the Environment (1990) video at Simply Streep
NRDC Simple Steps interview on Mothers & Others (February 10, 2010)
EcoMall: A Place to Help Save the Earth interview with Meryl Streep (October 20, 1996)