Yep, you are probably sitting there right now chewing on some delicious 2,5- dichlorophenol (2,5- DCP), the most commonly used pesticide in the world. Yummy... I bet you are looking at your apple right now and saying "no I'm not, I washed it before I started eating." Well, that is a good thing, you probably washed off some of the things sprayed on the apple to keep it pest free (pesticides), help it grow (fertilizer), make it look fresh and shiny (wax coating), and whatever else it came in contact with on its journey to the grocery store and then to your kitchen, But true pesticides can't be washed off that easily, the permeate the plant, trees and fruits. The fact that our foods are laden with pesticides is actually something we need to think about- it is a public health issue. Now, my goal here isn't to scare you, simply inform you. This is an issue that you can actually do something about by being aware, knowledgeable and making educated choices. Then, if you get fire up and decide you want to take more action to help others be more aware and possible take action, then that makes this all the more worth it. There are in fact, many public organizations that focus on education regarding GMOs and the use of pesticides as well as fertilizers on our foods and some that are more political and litigative in nature. That is total up to you, but here I will armor you with at least more information that will pique your interests.
When you are asked by a skeptical friend why you buy organic or drive by several groceries stores in order to get to Whole Foods or a natural food store, do you get tongue-tied or embarrassed? You don't need to. There are many reasons to shop organic, even though there are naysayers out there. Hey, there are still people banging on the table saying that global warming is a farce, or that pollution isn't a problem, so on this matter that inspires passion in many people, there will be disagreement. Just let them know that you are making the decision that you feel is best for you and your family. And if you aren't convinced yourself, then gather some knowledge (there is a lot of info out there) and make the decision that you feel is right. One of my favorite reads is One Billion Hungry- Can We Feed the World? by Gordon Conway. It has put a lot of food related issues into perspective for me- it is a wealth of information- and is backed by decades of research and data. I also recommend the documentary Food Inc, for those who are interested in learning more. Finally if you love info the way I do, check out www.nongmoproject.org and www.helpguide.org for lots of knowledge and further links to scientific and study data. As described in an earlier post, non-GMO does not mean organic, but organic does incorporate non-GMO and that site covers both, the help guide simply discusses organic.
One of the many reasons that I shop organic, is the extreme over-use of pesticides on non-organic produce, which makes its way through the food system into milk, meat, fish, our water system, etc. It has had an immense impact on the whole of our environment as well as our food systems. There are at minimum currently more than 260 active large group studies being performed on agrochemicals and their effects on humans (for more info, check out the CDC). Some of these studies have been running for years to assess long term effects, but honestly I am not willing to wait another decade to get confirmation from them, that what many scientists already believe is true.
Pesticides and agrochemicals are currently not being used in a responsible manner in the US. Their use is not being regulated appropriately, and they are being drastically over used.
Some of the problems that they are linked to the use (and over-use, which causes runoff into our water systems) include:
- Short-term issues such as headaches, migraines, and nausea.
- Acute issues such as skin, nerve and eye irritation, fatigue, and digestion issues.
- Cancer- both direct (living within a ½ mile radius form farms spraying) and indirect exposure (consumer foods laden with pesticides) has a direct correlation to the increased risk factor of several types of cancer including but not limited to breast, prostate, brain, bone, thyroid, leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, colon, liver, and lung- According to Environmental Health Perspectives. Studies by the National Cancer Institute found that US farmers, who in most respects are healthier than the population at large, had startling incidences of leukemia, Hodgkins disease, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and many other forms of cancer.
- Obesity and Diabetes- use of agrochemicals has been linked to both factors, and researchers have found higher instances of pesticides in urine samples of patients.
- Parkinson's Disease- more than 60 national studies have linked Parkinson's with pesticides and herbicides.
- Infertility-there is mounting evidence that exposure to pesticides in food systems disrupts the endocrine system, wreaking havoc with the regulation of hormones, the reproductive system, and embryonic development. Examples of known endocrine disrupting chemicals that are preside in large quantities in our environment include DDT (which still persists in abundance more that 20 years after being banned in the US!), lindane, atrazine, carbaryl, parathion, and many more. The thing is, scientists often find these links years later after we have been exposed. It might be time to get proactive.
- Autism- a July 2007 study conducted by researchers at the Public Health Institute, the California Department of Health Services, and the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, found a 6-fold increase in risk factors for autism spectrum disorders for children of women who were exposed to organochlorine pesticides (one of the most commonly used pesticides in the US).
The solution to our pest and weed problems lies in the non-toxic and cultural methods of agriculture and not relying solely on pesticides. Organic foods and sustainable methods of pest control are key to our families health and the health of the environment. You can make a difference simply by how you shop and eat. Yes shopping organically can be a bit more expensive, but take the long-term view. Spend a few extra dollars at the grocery store and avoid spending much more in medical care later. A worthwhile investment in my view- why gamble with health?
Start slowly with the foods that are known to have the most pesticides, and switch to buying organic, then slowly add on as your budget allows. The diagram below should help guide you.