Article: The Case for Going Organic

by Loretta Wallace

Several weeks ago while shopping in the new organic aisle in Thriftway, I overheard 2 women comment on the folly of organic food stating it "costs twice as much as regular food", "doesn't taste any different" and "isn't any healthier for you". I rushed to gather my thoughts to form a non-confrontational yet educational rebuttal but before I could get my lecture organized, the two has turned the corner of the aisle to the "regular" food.

My journey to organic living has been a long one which started in the early 1970's when I began studying nutrition. As I read and learned about the benefits of the food I was eating, I also began running across articles and books about the adverse effects on our bodies and our ecosystem of the pesticides, herbicides and chemical petroleum based fertilizers being used on our food supply and on the plants from which we manufacture our clothes and household textiles. The very first book I read on the subject was "Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson in which she argued that uncontrolled pesticide use was harming and killing not only animals and birds, but also humans. Its title suggested a future spring in which no bird songs would be heard, because they had all disappeared as a result of pesticide abuse. Since then, much more has come to light about the detrimental effects of non-organic farming methods. Insecticides work by attacking the central nervous system of the insect until it dies. Unfortunately, studies have shown that repeated exposure to pesticides by HUMANS has similar effects on OUR central nervous systems and on marine and wildlife who consume food and water that have been contaminated by runoff from the sprayed crops.

A scant sampling of some sobering statistics:
• DDT (now banned in the US) remains between 20 and 50 years in the fatty tissue of humans

• According to the EPA over 400 chemicals have been detected in human tissue; 48 were found in fatty tissue, 40 in breast milk, 73 in the liver and over 250 in the blood

• Over 600,000 tons of herbicides, insecticides, fertilizers, fungicides, and other chemicals are used annually to produce cotton in the 6 largest cotton producing states

• 700 million pounds of agricultural pesticides were applied in the United States in 2001.

• The most acutely toxic pesticide registered by the E.P.A. is aldicarb. Aldicarb has been detected in the GROUNDWATER in 27 US states

• Children whose homes and gardens are treated with pesticides have 6.5 times greater risk of leukemia than children living in untreated environments

• Pesticide poisoning remains a daily reality among agricultural workers in developing countries, where up to 14% of all occupational injuries in the agricultural sector and 10% of all fatal injuries can be attributed to pesticides.

• In 1995, pesticide-contaminated runoff from cotton fields killed at least 240,000 fish in Alabama

It has been estimated that pesticides unintentionally kill at the very least 67 million birds in the U.S. each year

• Approximately 300,000 farm workers suffer acute pesticide poisoning each year just in the United States

• In 1996, approximately 250 farm workers in California were accidentally sprayed with a mixture of highly toxic pesticides when a crop dusting plane applied the chemicals to a cotton field adjacent to a field where workers were harvesting grapes. Twenty-two workers were rushed to hospitals with symptoms of acute pesticide poisoning.

• We accidentally kill about 25,000 to 100,000 species of insects, plants and animals every year with pesticides and other toxic farm chemicals

Pesticides can be absorbed through the skin, swallowed, inhaled or ingested from sprayed foods. Washing sprayed foods has little effect on removing the pesticide because it is contained in the flesh of the food as well as the skins. During application, pesticides drift and settle on rivers, ponds, pools, cars and outdoor furniture. About 5% of sprayed pesticides run off into water or dissipate in the air with pesticide drift from farming ranging up to 14.5 miles.

While we can never totally avoid pesticides and other agricultural chemicals because they are in our air, rain, oceans, rivers, drinking water reservoirs and soil, we CAN avoid additional heavy exposure by not eating foods sprayed with these toxins. YES, organic food, clothing and textiles does indeed "cost" more, but if we examine the true cost of using and ingesting these toxins on our environment and on ourselves, sprayed foods and textile plants are no bargain.

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