May 18th, 2010 - Laura Klein
Just one week after President Obama’s Cancer Panel recommended consumers choose food grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides, antibiotics and growth hormones to decrease exposure to environmental chemicals that can increase the risk of cancer, the journal Pediatrics published a study that concludes exposure to organophosphate pesticides at levels common among America’s children are more likely to develop attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that is common in today’s children.
Researchers measured the pesticide byproducts in the urine of 1,139 children and found children with above-average levels had roughly twice the odds of being diagnosed with ADHD. This is the largest study of its kind.
Christine Bushway, Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association states in a press release, “Studies have increasingly shown the importance of minimizing young children’s exposure to even low levels of chemical pesticides. This study adds to that wealth of knowledge and arms parents with information that helps them reduce their children’s pesticide intake.”
This is a great reminder of organophosphates original intended use – they were developed for chemical warfare. Organophosphates are toxic to the nervous system and are used in today’s conventional agriculture to kill pests.
Pesticides act on a set of brain chemicals closely related to those involved in ADHD explains Maryse Bouchard, Ph.D., the lead researcher in the study from the department of environmental and occupational health at the University of Montreal. Bouchard states, “so it seems plausible that exposure to organophosphates could be associated with ADHD-like symptoms.”
The study cited a 2008 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture stating that detectable levels of pesticides are present in a large number of fruits and vegetables sold in the U.S. . The agency tested a representative sample of produce and found 28 percent of frozen blueberries, 25 percent of strawberries and 20 percent of celery, contained traces of one type of organophosphate. 27 percent of green beans, 17 percent of peaches and 8 percent of broccoli contained another type of organophosphate.
Bouchard states that kids should not stop eating fruits and veggies if they are not organic, but it is a good idea to eat organic or local produce whenever possible.
“Organic fruits and vegetables contain much less pesticides, so I would certainly advise getting those for children,” she says. “National surveys have also shown that fruits and vegetables from farmers’ markets contain less pesticides even if they’re not organic. If you can buy local and from farmers’ markets, that’s a good way to go.”
Certified organic foods cannot use harmful pesticides like organophosphates or synthetic fertilizers in their soil. Additionally, these foods can not contain any artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or irradiation.
“Organic food production and processing is the only system that uses certification and inspection to verify that these chemicals are not used,” Bushway stated. “Those seeking to minimize their exposure to these chemicals can look for the USDA Organic label wherever they shop.”
Read More:Study Links ADHD to Pesticide Exposure from Conventional Produce
April 30th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Buy tickets for Disney’s Oceans, and you’ll see sobering footage of a shopping cart on the ocean floor—a sure sign of consumerism run amok.
This simple image conveys an incredibly important message: We’re destroying our environment. Climate change may garner more headlines, but ocean pollution remains a considerable concern.
What can you do to reduce your impact?
- Don’t Litter. Litter is a huge contributor to ocean pollution because it ends up in storm drains that eventually empty into rivers and streams. Even if you live miles away from the ocean, your litter will likely contribute to water pollution.
- Follow the Three R’s. How committed are you to the environmental mantra reduce, reuse, recycle? Your answer has a direct effect on the health of our oceans. Failure to embrace the three R’s leads to ocean pollution and mile-high landfills.
- Increase Your Sewage Awareness. Anything that goes down your dishwasher, washing machine, toilet and sink drains will eventually make its way into the ocean. This often leads to oxygen depletion that harms marine life, as well as nutrient loading, which occurs when excessive nitrogen and phosphorous are deposited into the ocean’s ecosystem. Sewage also increases ocean bacteria and parasites, creating a ripple effect that endangers the fishing and tourism industries.
- Understand the Dangers of Toxic Pollutants. Arguably, nothing is more detrimental to the world’s oceans than toxic pollutants, which have been linked to birth defects in wildlife and may contribute to cancer in humans. Lead and mercury collect in marine animals’ tissues, causing reproductive problems and nerve damage. World Wildlife Federation researchers have found that other wildlife, including polar bears and frogs, have experienced decreased fertility, thyroid dysfunction and demasculinization (in males)—a result of exposure to pesticides and industrial chemicals. Other toxic ocean pollutants include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which are typically used to manufacture electrical equipment and have been known to cause reproduction problems in marine life. Genetic abnormalities have also been seen in marine animals exposed to polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are caused by burning wood and coal, as well as oil pollution.
- Participate in Community Cleanup Programs. Many seaside communities offer volunteer beach clean-up programs to keep their beaches clean and safe. By volunteering for such programs, you’re not only doing your part, but you’re also giving yourself an excuse to spend a day at the beach.
For Your Organic Bookshelf: The Culture of Flushing: A Social and Legal History of Sewage
Read More:5 Ways to Help Save Our Oceans
November 10th, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
Georgia might have nice peaches, but apples are a pain in the butt, especially growing organic apples.
Heat in humidity isn’t great for farming apples. The muggy weather means nasty fungus, moth larvae, and bacterial disease, so farmers say in order to grow a marketable product they have to spray.
Meaning local farmers can’t go totally organic, but they’ve come up with a compromise.
They call it Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, which involves targeted use of chemicals, computer modeling, and monitoring weather and insect populations.
Farmers say IPM has helped them cut spraying by 25%, and some crops go 30 days without being hit with chemicals.
I’m not sure how much of a compromise it really is. If you want organic, you only buy organic. But maybe if you live in Georgia, where peaches are local, and apples are not, just eat more peaches instead–right?
Via Access Atlanta.
Image credit: Harvest Wizard.
Read More:Growing Organic Apples is Hard in the South
October 14th, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
When you buy organic foods, especially fruits and vegetables, you dodge a lot of undesirables, like pesticides, chemicals, hormones and other Frankenstein stuff.
But you hear a lot of bellyaching about organics being more expensive, which more often than not they are.
In a down economy this sounds like the kiss of death, but maybe not, being organic might actually help stimulate sales.
People like the word “organic” because it gives them a wholesome image of healthy food, and or a lush farm-like atmosphere that makes them feel good.
Either way, marketing products as organic—and hopefully they really are—is a great way to keep people buying them, even when the economy stinks.
Plus, in our new “green” world, people like the idea of buying and using products that go easy on the environment, i.e. low carbon footprint, sustainable production, recycling, etc. So advertising this message is another win-win.
Normally, I am very skeptical of marketing—even though I have a degree in it—but I think when it comes to luring people in with the organic message, it’s a cool idea.
Via The Blue Banner.
Image credit: ginnerobot
Read More:Calling Something “Organic” Helps Sales
August 2nd, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
I don’t smoke weed, but lots of people, like college kids, English teachers and rappers all dig a doobie or two. Most of them would say it’s harmless, but is it really?
Claims of “getaway drug” aside, the marijuana grown in California by Mexican drug cartels is actually harming the Sierra National Forest.
Obviously, these hidden ganja plantations are illegal, so it’s not surprising that the way the plants are being grown creates a severe danger for local environments.
The plants, which have tremendous street-value, are painstakingly cared for, which often involves pesticides and fertilizers that are many times stronger than the stuff allowed for commercial use and the runoff ends up in local waterways.
This can ravage wetlands. Harsh pesticides can kill important insects and cause algae and weeds to build up, which blocks water flows and chokes out animals, like frogs and salamanders. This is why legal agriculture has so many rules and regulations.
But federal agencies are busting these plantations in California. In February, agents seized over 300,000 marijuana plants, worth about $1.1 billion. Good news for the environment, bad news for potheads and drug cartels.
Read More:Drug Cartels Growing Marijuana on U.S. Soil, Poisoning California’s Parks
August 1st, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
The organic system in the United Kingdom was worth roughly $5.2 billion in 2008. A nice number, but officials want to fix one teeny-tiny problem.
Apparently, British organics lack one unified message—very unlike the orderly and proper Brits—organic farmers and grows want to develop a joint, essential message to share with consumers.
The heart of the initiative is to inform that organic products are free-range, local, pesticide-free, fair trade, seasonal and natural. They want no confusion.
A spokesperson said, “To cut through the confusion the organic movement needs to demonstrate more forcefully than ever that organic principles encompass all these single issues and deliver a set of interlocking benefits that can and will still motivate consumers.”
Officials hope a new cohesive approach will help grow the organic market by 15% each year. To hammer out the plans a conference will be held in October.
Via Food Navigator.
Read More:U.K. Organic Market Needs Cohesive Message
July 20th, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
I have friends who are vegan—I’m sure you do too—and most of them are pretty ardent about it, which is great. If you’re going to do something, go all the way with it.
But this might be taking it a little too far. Farming with no animals involved, not even poop! That means no manure fertilizer.
Using poop seems totally natural to me, but for the Vegan Organic Network, it’s got to be totally animal-free.
The vegan agriculture movement promotes farming methods that involve no “animal inputs” which excludes many common kinds of soil-enrichments, such as fish meal, bone meal, manure or the remains from slaughterhouses.
That seems a little weird to me. I don’t know about the other stuff, but using animal poop is perfectly natural and it doesn’t hurt the animal. They have to poop! So why not use it? That’s where I think vegan farming is a little kooky.
But this part is cool. Since it’s an organic movement, it involves no artificial chemicals or pesticides. The group says the overall approach is for the well-being of humans, social justice, animal welfare, biodiversity and environmental sustainability.
This is all well and good, but you have to show poop some love!
Read More:What is Vegan Organic Farming? It Means No Poop!
June 23rd, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
I have to admit. I never heard of Marion Nestle before. Turns out, she’s a foodie and a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, as well as an author of many books, such as Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health.
Marion also writes a column for The San Francisco Chronicle and in her latest article, she answers some questions about organic food. Here are a couple good ones:
Q: What is the difference between “100% organic” and “organic”?
A: Organic has a precise meaning under the USDA’s organic program. Certified 100% Organic means that all the ingredients in a product have been grown or raised according to the USDA’s organic standards, which are the rules for producing foods labeled organic. Certified Organic requires that 95 to 99 percent of the ingredients follow the rules.
What, exactly, are those rules? Summarizing what’s in hundreds of pages in the Federal Register: plants cannot be grown with synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, genetic modification, irradiation or sewage sludge.
Q: Which is worse: eating nonorganic produce full of pesticides or not eating produce at all?
A: Research demonstrates substantial health benefits from eating fruits and vegetables. Although I wish we had more definitive research, these benefits appear to greatly outweigh any risks of pesticides.
If you want to compromise, you can save your organic dollars for the foods most likely to be high in pesticides. These, according to the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org), are peaches, nectarines, apples, bell peppers, strawberries, cherries, pears, raspberries, imported grapes, celery, potatoes and spinach.
In contrast, foods that you peel – onions, peas, bananas, sweet corn and tropical fruits, for example – tend to be low in pesticides.
Read More:Q & A with Foodie Marion Nestle…
June 22nd, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
Results of a new study show workers who spray pesticides have double the risk of a blood disorder called Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance.
MGUS is characterized as abnormal levels of plasma protein that can lead to multiple myeloma, a cancer affecting the plasma cells in bone marrow.
Printed in the journal Blood, experts examined 678 men, ages 30 to 94, who apply pesticides, taking blood samples and having them fill out a questionnaire asking about pesticide exposure and application methods.
Researchers compared this data against a similar group from a large MGUS-screening study taken from the general population. The comparison revealed MGUS was 1.9 times more prevalent in pesticide workers older than 50.
Certain chemicals heightened risk more than others. The insecticide dieldrin increased MGUS risk 5.6 fold, while the fungicide chlorothalonil only raised risk 2.4 fold. Either way, scientists insist people should be more aware of the dangers.
Fortunately, most of us aren’t spraying pesticides, but to help safeguard yourself, try buying organic cherries, strawberries and peaches, these fruits are among the most contaminated.
Read More:Pesticide Sprayers at Risk for Blood Disorders
May 1st, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
Ontario joins Quebec by enacting stringent regulations against pesticides. The new mandate prohibits the sale and use of more than 80 chemicals and 250 products.
Health officials say scientific uncertainty about the dangers of pesticides to human health is no reason to delay action, but the ban has angered and drawn a lawsuit from a major chemical manufacturer:
[Quebec and Ontario] have even banned weed killer 2,4-D even though it has been deemed safe by Health Canada – a move that sparked a NAFTA challenge of Quebec’s ban.
Dow AgroSciences LLC, which manufactures 2,4-D, has decided to sue the federal government and seek $2 million in damages, arguing that Quebec’s rules violate Canada’s trade obligations because it prohibits a product without any scientific basis.
The company wouldn’t say whether it will go after Ontario’s ban as well.
“Our legal action is focused solely on Quebec at this time, and I won’t speculate on any other action that we might take in Canada,” said spokeswoman Brenda Harris.
“What I do think is important is that when provinces or jurisdictions are considering these types of things, that they really look closely at science, and making sure that science is part of the process.”
However, Ontario’s environment minister says they’re not worried about any possible lawsuits and that pesticides can still be used for farming, forestry and any health and safety reasons, such as preventing West Nile virus.
Read More:Canada Cracks Down on Pesticides, Hardcore!