Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How To Reduce The Pesticide Risk

Every year, the toxicity level of pesticides and other toxins used in agriculture is being lowered. What was considered to be a “safe” level when I was a child is now considered to be unacceptable. My body may be a temple; but, at my age, I’m afraid to find out what it's a temple to.

We all know by now that pesticides have been linked to a variety of health problems:
- nervous system anomalies
- carcinogenic (cancer) effects
- hormone system effects
- skin, eye and lung irritations (possible precursors to other things?)

Pesticides are in a category unlike no other. We willingly release into the environment (more specifically onto foodstuffs we intend to eat) chemicals with the sole purpose of killing living organisms: insects, plants, and fungi that are considered pests.

We have no closer physical relationship with anyone or anything on this planet than we do with our food and drink. The old saying “You are what you eat” (ripped off from Brillat-Savarin) is absolutely true. What we eat and drink literally becomes part of our body. What is excess or unusable is discarded; and, the rest becomes our corporeal being. Even pregnancy does not duplicate this. The baby at all times maintains a completely separate environment from the mother.

Yet, pesticide manufacturers continue to defend the use of their products stating that the residue left on produce is not sufficient to harm anyone. They never seem to have any actual data to back this up since (conveniently) most safety tests are geared to find gross, obvious toxic effects. Since there are no real tests for studying the effects of low-dose pesticides, the pesticide and chemical manufacturers can claim safety since the full effects of exposure to these chemical mixtures have not been demonstrated. I suspect this might be because the tests that would give these results have never really been carried out.

While it may not surprise to learn that the majority of the US population has detectable concentrations of multi-pesticide residues in their bodies; it does surprise to learn they have also been found in the developing fetus. This information was gathered by scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during biomonitoring studies.

The risk is especially great for children. Exposure to pesticides and other chemical toxins starting in the womb can create changes, subtle or otherwise, in their development and growth through to adulthood. Since their bodies are so young and underdeveloped, they have a much harder time dealing with these chemicals than adults do. As a result, their tolerance level is much lower than an adult’s while their chance of being damaged is much higher.

There are several ways of addressing the risks of pesticide exposure.
- Buy organic whenever possible. If not possible, wash all fruits and veggies before use in a water bath of 3-4 tbsp. baking soda to a sink or pot of water.
- Exercise our right to be informed. Are you Canadian? Visit the Health Canada website. There is alot of information there plus a list of people to contact with questions, concerns, comments, etc. Another website to check out is the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Write to our Prime Minister Steven Harper demanding our right to know what pesticides are being used on our food.

Prime Minister Steven Harper
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
K1A 0A2

fax: 613-941-6900

Are you American? Visit the US Food and Drug Administration website. There's good information there plus links to contact them with questions, concerns and comments. Another good website is the Food Safety and Inspection Service. To keep up-to-date on recalls and health hazards, go to Write to President Obama to let him know this is a grave concern to Americans.

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414
FAX: 202-456-2461

TTY/TDD (for the deaf)
Comments: 202-456-6213
Visitors Office: 202-456-2121

You can email him via the website:

- visit your local markets where pesticide use may be less or non-existent. Ask questions. If enough people ask questions and voice their opinion, it will change.
- write your local produce supplier making your wishes for pesticide-free produce known.
- support local organizations working toward pesticide-free produce. There are many ways to show support without having to donate (it's a hard financial time for all).
- write a letter to the editor. Stimulate conversation. Talk with friends.

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