Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Organic Farming Protects Communities from Toxic Chemicals

Food
Organic Farming Protects Communities from Toxic Chemicals
Pexels

By Allison Johnson

Most people who buy organic do it because they want to eat healthier. It's true – switching to an organic diet rapidly decreases exposure to a wide range of pesticides, including glyphosate (the main ingredient in Roundup). According to a new study published in Environmental Research, glyphosate levels in families' bodies dropped 70% in just one week on an organic diet. The researchers concluded that diet is a major source of glyphosate exposure and that eating organic reduces exposure.


Friends of the Earth / https://foe.org/the-study/

But the health benefits of organic agriculture extend far beyond our individual dinner plates. Organic farming offers a comprehensive alternative to chemical agriculture, and it protects our soil, air, water, wildlife, and critically – our farming communities – from toxic pesticides.

The purpose of pesticides is to kill. So it's not surprising that widespread use of these chemicals poses a serious public health threat. Diet alone exposes us to a frightening cocktail of pesticide residues, and toxic pesticides pose much more severe health threats to farming communities.

Food system workers and their families and communities – who are disproportionately Latinx and low-income – bear the brunt of harm from toxic pesticide use in agriculture. Farmworkers are at risk from direct exposure to harmful chemicals when mixing and applying pesticides, as well as while working in fields; as a result, they suffer more chemical-related injuries than any other U.S. workforce. Exposure also extends beyond the workplace. Workers can carry pesticides home on clothes, shoes, and skin, inadvertently exposing their children and other family members, and pesticide drift can harm people living, working, and learning near farms.

These exposure routes add up. And weaning our agricultural system off its addiction to toxic chemicals is an uphill battle.

We've seen recent wins on pesticide issues in the courts and in some states, but it can take decades of fighting to end the use of a single pesticide. For example, NRDC petitioned the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to end use of the brain-toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos in 2007; thirteen years later, we're still in court demanding that EPA protect public health. Meanwhile numerous similar organophosphate chemicals also remain in our fields and our bodies.

This pesticide "whack-a-mole" problem makes organic farming a potent addition to our public health toolbox, especially in farming communities: organic farmers do no use most synthetic pesticides, so organic farming eliminates a wide range of health threats posed by farming with toxic chemicals.

The health crises facing farm workers and rural communities needs urgent attention, particularly in light of the added burdens from the COVID-19 crisis. Kendra Klein and Anna Lappé got it right:

"As long as we treat organic food as if it's a shopping preference instead of a public good, we will miss the opportunity to fight for a desperately needed shift in how we farm."

We should all be able to eat without exposing anyone to toxic pesticides. That's why we support more public investment in organic in schools, in the Farm Bill, in climate policy, and beyond. The stakes are high – but the solutions are within reach.

Allison Johnson is a Sustainable Food Policy Advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Reposted with permission from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Ningaloo Reef near Exmouth on April 2, 2012 in Western Australia. James D. Morgan / Getty Images News

By Dana M Bergstrom, Euan Ritchie, Lesley Hughes and Michael Depledge

In 1992, 1,700 scientists warned that human beings and the natural world were "on a collision course." Seventeen years later, scientists described planetary boundaries within which humans and other life could have a "safe space to operate." These are environmental thresholds, such as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and changes in land use.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A 3-hour special film by EarthxTV calls for protection of the Amazon and its indigenous populations. EarthxTV.org

To save the planet, we must save the Amazon rainforest. To save the rainforest, we must save its indigenous peoples. And to do that, we must demarcate their land.

Read More Show Less

Trending

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres delivers a video speech at the high-level meeting of the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council UNHRC in Geneva, Switzerland on Feb. 22, 2021. Xinhua / Zhang Cheng via Getty Images

By Anke Rasper

"Today's interim report from the UNFCCC is a red alert for our planet," said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

The report, released Friday, looks at the national climate efforts of 75 states that have already submitted their updated "nationally determined contributions," or NDCs. The countries included in the report are responsible for about 30% of the world's global greenhouse gas emissions.

Read More Show Less
New Delhi's smog is particularly thick, increasing the risk of vehicle accidents. SAJJAD HUSSAIN / AFP via Getty Images

India's New Delhi has been called the "world air pollution capital" for its high concentrations of particulate matter that make it harder for its residents to breathe and see. But one thing has puzzled scientists, according to The Guardian. Why does New Delhi see more blinding smogs than other polluted Asian cities, such as Beijing?

Read More Show Less
A bridge over the Delaware river connects New Hope, Pennsylvania with Lambertville, New Jersey. Richard T. Nowitz / Getty Images

In a historic move, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) voted Thursday to ban hydraulic fracking in the region. The ban was supported by all four basin states — New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York — putting a permanent end to hydraulic fracking for natural gas along the 13,539-square-mile basin, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Read More Show Less