Saturday, March 17, 2012

Why Fear Pesticides?

I had a commenter ask this:

"I've gone primal, but I still don't buy into the organic movement. Maybe it's its association with PC elitism, or its suspect health benefits, but I think tomatoes are tomatoes. Pesticides are good because they keep plants disease free. I understand the opposition to hormone treatments, but not the antipathy to pesticides. If science enables us to create more from less -- and we can always wash our fruit/veggies -- what's the big deal?"  Tom from NY

Excellent question, Tom!  So I've spent the last five days trying to research answers for you. Not that I don't know in my own mind the answers, but I tried to find real meaty answers (cause we're primal, and that's how we roll), but all I could find were the extremes. Either way too fluffy "so, like, yeah, stay away from pesticides!" or way too difficult and technical.

So I'm linking you to a blog: Why Organic? which has the best of both worlds, simple, yet serious. 

And also to a radio show--The Robert Scott Bell Show. He's so well informed about foods, medications, hormones.. everything! that it's always worth listening to his shows. Even if you don't agree with all he says, you will find something in every show.  The episode I link to is not an in-depth discussion, but it does some some good bits. You might--if you're interested--go through his website and see if you can find anything else of interest. 

Deciding about whether or not you're going to ingest pesticides is like, everything else in life, a personal decision, but should be a well-informed one. 

I personally believe they are the cause of a many metabolic issues. The fact that the bags the pesticides come in have huge warning labels saying to keep it away from kids, makes me worry, since they don't taste great, and kids wouldn't eat handfuls of it, I'm going to assume that even small amounts of it is harmful to children. Why would I feed my kids something that is harmful? 

Also, I would suggest you watch the movie Food, Inc. An eye-opening documentary on how food is handled, grown, manipulated here in America. I really couldn't believe how much I learned from this movie. 

Thanks for reading and thanks for the comment!


  1. It isn't about deciding whether you are going to ingest pesticides - unless you aren't washing your food properly.

    The difficulty I have is often "organic" foods have the same pesticides that blow from nearby fields. Or they are using "organic pesticides". The label "organic" isn't quite meaningless, but you should still wash your food thoroughly, or you might still be eating pesticides or fertilizers (remember what organic fertilizer is). I forget where but someone studied it and found a lot of pesticides on "organic" produce - again blown or some other way got on the organic produce. Then there were the "farmers markets" where someone would just go to the local grocery store, get a quantity of on-sale produce, and mark it as locally-grown-organic so they could sell it at a premium. Fraud does happen.

    If "Processed foods" are cleaned better and don't have detectable pesticide levels, do they become better?

    There are "organic grains" too.

    It is very good to know exactly how your food got there from the point it was a seed, and what kind of seed. Looking for a label of organic, natural, something-free, or something else does not tell you enough. You should be fully informed.

    1. Yes, I think with our choice of produce these days, the goal is to more-or-less buy the least bad thing. At least here in America the term "organic" is used very loosely. So you really do need to know what the different "healthy words" really mean and what goes into it.

      For instance, now instead of looking for beef and butter that is "grass fed" we're supposed to find labels that say "grass finished."

      It's all a lot to keep up with!

  2. I'm not sure about the situation in other parts of the world, but in Australia "certified organic" means a lot more than just "not sprayed with pesticides". For me the three main reasons I buy organic are health, animal welfare and the environment.

    Health - as well as being pesticide-free, buying organic assures me that I am not ingesting GMO foods or any synthetic food additives (preservatives, colours, flavours etc). There have also been studies showing that organic foods can be higher in nurients and antioxidants than their conventional counterparts.

    Animal welfare - certified organic animals are raised in humane conditions, with ample access to pasture, shade and shelter. Battery farming and cattle feed lots are prohibited. Organic animals are also free of antibiotics, hormones, growth promotants and preservatives (whether injected directly or given through feed).

    The environment - certified organic farms must use sustainable farming methods. They do not disrupt ecosystems by using synthetic pesticides/herbicides/fertilisers or pollute local river systems with chemical run-off. The use of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser is prohibited, which massively reduces the carbon footprint of organic food. Because synthetic fertiliser is not allowed organic farms must use traditional methods to build healthy topsoil, which regenerates farmland rather than stripping it. A percentage of organic farmland must be set aside for natural vegetation, to protect biodiversity. Water usage must also be sustainable, which helps to reduce the issues of salinization and riverland distruction associated with agricultural irrigation.

    As I say, I don't know the situation around the world. But in Australia there are so many more reasons to buy organic than just trying to avoid chemicals. I only discovered this recently. Before that I was ambivalent - I would try to buy organic for my baby, as I reasoned that his immature system would be less able to handle chemicals, but didn't worry too much for myself. Since I learned about the ethical and environmental impacts of conventional farming and agriculture, and the fact that the organic certification prohibits the worst of these, it has become a no-brainer.

    1. Very well written, I am reposting a blog post. Thanks!

  3. Pesticides are applied multiple times through the growing season. You can't really wash it off. You can reduce the amounts by washing but the chemicals are inside the produce by the time the plants are mature.

    1. Yes, that's my understanding as well, Polly. Blech