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The Price of Not Buying Organic

It could have been the other way. We could have enjoyed vegetables, fruits and food by growing them easily. When there would have been no need to look back over the shoulder, up, around – everywhere- for a tiny weed or pest or bug that can harm the farm.

As per WHO, more than 1000 pesticides are used around the world to ensure pests do not damage food and every pesticide has different properties and toxicological effects. Alarmingly, older, cheaper (off-patent) pesticides like dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and lindane, stay in soil and water for years. Their genotoxic damage (effects on DNA) has another alarm-bell about them. Is it any surprise that pesticides contribute to most of the deaths by self-poisoning in low and middle-income countries?

Yet, the world had to create an industry around them. But should their levels be as much as 99.5 percent of conventional produce, despite being tightly controlled by various regulators? They are way below recommendations set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as per the last count.

Now, add those numbers and multiply them and then put them on the next spoon and plate you hold in your hands. Pesticides and harmful-reckless-irresponsible processing of food products are not only on the surge, but they are also worsening in terms of repeated exposure to humans.

No prizes for guessing how this alarming level and frequency of exposure can wreck our bodies and well-being. Study after study has come up and warned about the dire effects of pesticides in areas like respiratory problems, reproductive issues, obesity, cancers, endocrine system disruption, neurological damage, attention disorders and toxic substances.

The effect reaches far and deep than we could have imagined. Children born to mothers with high pesticide-exposure have manifested mental delays of up to two years along with problems with coordination and visual memory. Also, expectant mothers who are in proximity to pesticides organophosphate, pyrethroid or carbamate have given birth to children with autism or Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) – as some other studies pointed out.

A recent report from Food and Drug Administration indicated that glyphosate - a widely used weed killer, known to have links with cancer, is turning up in nearly every common food in the US. If you think, you cannot be one of those because you eat what’s healthy, look at some more lists.

The Dirty Dozen

A 2018 list by Environmental Working Group (EWG), unravels that even the most healthy-sounding fruits and vegetables are now depicting the highest levels of pesticide residues. This ‘hall of horror’ now even houses strawberries (one-third of all strawberry samples contained ten or more pesticide residues as per a 2018 check); spinach (97 percent of spinach samples had pesticide residues like permethrin - a neurotoxic insecticide), apples (pesticide residues were found in 90 percent of apple samples, and traces of a banned (in Europe) pesticide diphenylamine were found in 80 percent), grapes (96 per cent tested positive for pesticide residues) and peaches (above 99 percent showed an average of four pesticide residues). The scenario is not different for cherries, pears and tomatoes. Also, pesticide residues were found in other farm categories like celery (95 percent), potatoes (chlorpropham herbicide) and sweet bell peppers.

WHO is working hard to ban pesticides that are most toxic to humans, those that stay for the longest time in the environment. The organisation is putting in lots of efforts and investments for the protection of public health by setting limits for pesticide residues in food and water.

What are your own efforts here? Organic’s real ROI

No doubt, organic alternatives come with a different price label but do not forget the expensive hospital trips they are saving for you and the priceless peace-of-mind with good health that they endow better than conventional food options.

A recent study on the comparative impact of organic diet showed that only six days on an organic diet brought significant drops in traceable pesticides for every single person studied. To add to this, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and Friends of the Earth who tested urine samples for 14 chemicals noted that after switching to an organic diet, these levels dropped dramatically for the family members who were study participants. Especially impressive for pesticide malathion, a major carcinogen as per the World Health Organization. This pesticide showed a drop of 95 percent!

These findings bring to fore the dangers of chlorpyrifos or the roughly 900 synthetic pesticides that are currently being allowed in non-organic agriculture. Cancer, harmful effects on fertility, developmental delay for children, Parkinson’s, depression, or Alzheimer’s – so much is at stake with making a food choice today. This study has numbers to prove that organic can dramatically bring down one’s exposure to pesticides.

Organic producers not only opt for low or pesticide-free farming in comparison to conventional practices but also practice a lot of crop-rotation. They also work hard to minimize the processing of food so that no extra chemicals or contamination can enter the fresh produce they make so arduously. Organic farming also has a reduced environmental impact when compared to existing practices.

It is not surprising to see that Americans spent only one billion dollars in 1990, but by 2010, the number surged to 26 billion dollars on organic produce.

There is, indeed, another way.

In other words, do not pay the heavier price of harming your body, family and planet by looking at price in a short-sighted way.

Let go of myopia. Embrace organic.


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