It's Time to Stop Paying for Pesticides With Our Health: Organic for All Must Become the Norm
By Kendra Klein
A groundbreaking new study in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association reveals that you can cut your cancer risk by eating an organic diet. The findings are dramatic. In a study that followed nearly 70,000 people, those who ate the most organic food lowered their overall risk of developing cancer by 25 percent. The relationship was strongest for two types of cancer: participants who frequently ate organic had 76 percent fewer lymphomas and 34 percent fewer breast cancers that developed after menopause.
This research confirms what is intuitive and supports what the President's Cancer Panel told us nearly a decade ago: reducing exposure to cancer-causing chemicals, including pesticides, reduces your risk of cancer.
Here's why this is intuitive. First, we know that eating organic foods reduces our exposure to pesticides. Research has shown that the level of pesticides we can measure in people's bodies drops significantly within days of switching from a non-organic to an organic diet.
And second, we know that many of the pesticides commonly used on U.S. farms and found as residues on our food are associated with cancers and a host of other health problems, from ADHD and autism to infertility and Alzheimer's.
More than 90 percent of Americans have detectable pesticides in our bodies. The food we eat is the most significant way we're exposed for those of us who don't work with pesticides at our jobs. Farmers, farmworkers and groundskeepers are most at risk of exposure, like Dewayne Johnson, who just won a lawsuit against Monsanto linking his occupational glyphosate exposure to his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Some of us are more vulnerable than others. Infants are born pre-polluted with pesticides in the U.S., and nearly all children are exposed to pesticides through the foods they eat. Infants and children have unique susceptibilities to the harms of pesticides because their brains and bodies are developing so rapidly. Early life exposure can impact children for life. It can permanently decrease a child's IQ, increase the risk of autism or lead to cancers later in life. Another new study calls for a ban on all organophosphate pesticides, like chlorpyrifos, because of their link to brain damage in children.
That's why the American Academy of Pediatrics says that "children's exposure to pesticides should be limited as much as possible."
Other studies have shown that decreasing the amount of pesticides we're exposed to by eating organic can improve our health. Like this recent study, which found that women who ate more organic food had a higher likelihood of getting and staying pregnant. And the Million Women Study in the UK, which found that women who ate more organic food had a 21 percent lower risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
What these studies tell us is that small exposures matter—in other words, the amount of pesticides we consume as food residues matters. To understand why, consider the fact that scientists measure pesticides in our bodies at similar levels as drugs prescribed by doctors, like Ritalin. These small amounts of pesticides can act like drugs in our bodies, altering our brain development, hormones, immune systems and more.
And we're not exposed to just one pesticide at a time. When we eat non-organic food, we're exposed to a "cocktail" of different pesticides. Consider strawberries: the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that nearly one-third of non-organic strawberries had residues from 10 or more different pesticides.
Government regulations are inadequate to protect our health. Legal limits for the amount of pesticide residues on food are set as if we're exposed to just one pesticide at a time, but that is never the case. As this study shows, approximately 40 percent of U.S. children are exposed to a cumulative amount of organophosphate pesticides from the food they eat and water they drink at levels that exceed benchmarks for neurological harm. What's more, emerging data show that certain combinations of pesticides can have synergistic impacts greater than the effect of each individual chemical.
We are paying for this overuse of toxic pesticides with our well-being and our lives. The estimated environmental and health care costs of pesticide use in the U.S.—at levels that are legal according to government regulations—is estimated to be upwards of $12 billion every year. Meanwhile, the pesticide industry reaps over $150 billion in profit each year from pesticides and other agricultural technologies and spends tens of millions lobbying legislators and misleading the public about pesticides. What this amounts to is a chronic poisoning of the population for the financial gain of a few.
Our taxpayer dollars are being used to prop up this devastating system. Congress subsidizes chemical-intensive industrial agriculture to the tune of billions of dollars a year, while organic programs and research are woefully underfunded. As one example, less than one percent of federal agricultural research dollars goes toward organic farming methods or other sustainable farming approaches.
It is high time we flip this system on its head and make organic food the standard for all people.
A recent United Nations report debunks the myth that pesticides are necessary to feed a growing world population and argues that each of us has the right to food that is free of toxic pesticides. And people living in farm communities should have the right to be free of exposure to toxic pesticides, starting with the children who live and go to school near farm fields where pesticides are sprayed and farmers and farmworkers who are exposed daily.
Those of us who can buy organic need to continue driving the growth of organic food in the marketplace. And, together, we need to fight for public policies that make organic a solution for all. This means overhauling the Farm Bill, which will be up for renegotiation in 2019. In the meantime, some food retailers are taking steps in the right direction by increasing organic offerings and decreasing use of toxic pesticides in their supply chains.
The experiment in chemical-intensive agriculture that has metastasized across the world in the past 80 years must become a thing of the past. An organic food future is not only possible—it is essential.
Can Organic Farming Feed the World? https://t.co/Ojr5lw6vW1 @naturallysavvy @TheOrganicView— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1467494109.0
Kendra Klein, Ph.D. is a senior staff scientist for Friends of the Earth.
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By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.
1. Fragrance – Avoid It<p>One of the fastest ways to narrow down your product options is immediately eliminating any product that promotes a fragrance, or parfum. That scent of "fresh breeze" or lemon might initially smell good, but the fragrance does not last. What does last? The concoction of various undisclosed and unregulated chemicals that created that fragrance.</p><p>Many fragrances contain phthalates, which are linked to many health risks including reproductive problems and cancer.</p>
2. With Bleach? Do Without<p>Going scent-free should have narrowed down your options substantially – now, check the front of the remaining packaging. Any that include ammonia or chlorine bleach ought to go, as these substances are irritating and corrosive to your body. While bleach is commonly known as a powerful disinfectant, there are safer alternatives that you can use in your home, such as sodium borate or hydrogen peroxide.</p><p>While you're at it, check if there are any warnings on the label – "flammable," "use in ventilated area," etc. – if the product is hazardous, that's a red flag and should be avoided.</p>
3. Check the Back Label<p>Flip to the back of the remaining contenders and check out that ingredient list. Less is more, here. Opt for a shorter ingredient list with words you recognize and/or can pronounce.</p><p>You may notice many products do not have ingredient lists – while this doesn't necessarily mean they contain toxic ingredients, transparency is key. Feel free to look up a list online, or stick to products that are open about their ingredients.</p>
4. Ingredients to Avoid<p>We already mentioned that cleaners containing fragrance or parfum, and bleach or ammonia should be avoided, but there are other ingredients to look out for as well.</p><ul><li>Quaternary ammonium "quats" – lung irritants that contribute to asthma and other breathing problems. Also linger on surfaces long after they've been cleaned.</li><li>Parabens – Known hormone disruptor; can contribute to ailments such as cancer</li><li>Triclosan – triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals are registered with the EPA as pesticides. Triclosan is a known hormone disruptor and can also impact your immune system.</li><li>Formaldehyde – Causes irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; studies suggest formaldehyde exposure is linked with certain varieties of cancer. Can be found in products or become a byproduct of chemical reactions in the air.</li></ul>
Cleaning Products and Toxics: The Bottom Line<p>Do your research. There are many cleaning products available, but taking these steps will drastically reduce your options and help keep your home toxic-free. Protecting your home from bacteria and viruses is important, but make sure you do so in a way that doesn't introduce other health risks into the home.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649054624#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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Twenty-five years ago, a food called Tofurky made its debut on grocery store shelves. Since then, the tofu-based roast has become a beloved part of many vegetarians' holiday feasts.
By Jessica Corbett
A leading environmental advocacy group marked Native American Heritage Month on Wednesday by urging President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Kamala Harris, and the entire incoming administration "to honor Indigenous sovereignty and immediately halt the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines."
- Climate Crisis: What We Can Learn From Indigenous Traditions ... ›
- 10 Organizations Honoring Native People on Thanksgiving ... ›
- Biden Vows to Ax Keystone XL if Elected - EcoWatch ›
Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
By Jake Johnson
Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.