RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Organic matters, to all of us. Red state, blue state, churchgoer or atheist, soccer mom or single bachelor, what our society does to the soil (or allows to be done to it) directly affects our health. Sure, eating organic has long been a battle cry of environmentalists trying to protect the land, but as more and more science is telling us, we need to eat organic to save ourselves. As Maria Rodale, CEO of Rodale Inc. and author of the book Organic Manifesto, points out, "the planet will be fine without us." We're the ones in trouble if things don't change.
Rodale, a third-generation advocate for organic farmers and farming practices, spent the last two years poring over peer-reviewed scientific research, traveling all over the country to meet with and learn about chemical and organic farmers, and interviewing the world's leading environmental health experts. What she found is that we're all living in a "great chemical experiment in which we are all guinea pigs."
The warnings in Organic Manifesto apply to you if you are:
Do you know of any mother who would purposefully feed her child a plateful of food contaminated with residue that could lead to early puberty, ADHD, and increased cancer risk? How about a glass of poison-spiked water, or meat and dairy products raised in a way that makes our medicines useless?
The levels of atrazine, a common farm crop weed killer, routinely spike in drinking water and are linked to learning disabilities in children, miscarriages, and fertility problems, along with the feminization of males. Other recent research has linked the chemical to the castration of male frogs that live in atrazine-polluted waters, raising questions about the chemical's effects on human development. And there have been huge jumps in the number of cases of ADHD, autism, asthma, diabetes, and childhood obesity. "Scientists can't explain why the number of children with food allergies has increased 18 percent in the last decade," Rodale writes. "Is it a coincidence that the prevalence of these problems has increased as we have increased the use of chemicals to grow our food?"
Read on to find out how your demanding organic will help protect you and your family.
Chemical farmers face all the health problems listed above, but also suffer in other ways. They are lied to by chemical companies like Monsanto, who convince them they need genetically engineered seeds and toxic sprays to increase yields, when this really isn't the case at all. Pesticides kill all the beneficial life in the soil that help store carbon (a climate change solution), retain water (reducing runoff and flooding during storms and storing more water for times of drought), and keep plants healthy and more resilient against pests and diseases. United Nations studies have found that organic farming methods increase yields over expensive and intensive chemical methods, even in places like food-starved Africa. Organic farmers also earn more livable wages, according to a USDA survey.
As Rodale points out in Organic Manifesto, perhaps nowhere is the sad case of chemical farmers more evident than in India, where desperate farmers, nearly run out of business because of U.S. farming subsidies, turn to "magic" GM (genetically modified) seeds. "After the first year, they find out that it costs much more to maintain their crops due to the ever-increasing prices of seeds and chemicals," Rodale writes. "Yet they are still plagued by insects and, like all promises of magic, the yields are disappointing at best. Before long, the money lenders are knocking on their doors and there is not enough revenue from the crops to pay the debts."
"More than 160,000 Indian cotton farmers have killed themselves in the past decade," she continues. "The favored method of suicide? Ingesting chemical pesticides."
A grocery store owner—or shopper.
Farmer's markets are great places to find healthy, organic food, but not everyone has a farmer's market or backyard organic garden available year-round. (Visit LocalHarvest.org to find farm-direct organic food.) The more that consumers vote by purchasing organic food, the more stores will be inclined to carry it. If your grocery store's organic section is scant, talk to the manager, lay out the health risks involved with chemical food, and tell him or her you'll take your business elsewhere unless the situation improves.
A policy maker.
Sales of organic food and products are growing, but they still represent just a sliver of the market. Complicating matters, the corporate domination of soy and corn seeds (ingredients in tons of food products) makes it impossible for all farmers to go organic tomorrow, even if they wanted to. There just aren't enough non-GM seeds. Science has associated eating food grown from GM crops with an increase in food allergies and autoimmune disease, and even accelerated aging. And the GM crops are built to withstand very heavy sprayings of synthetic pesticides, chemicals that science has tied to everything from autism, ADHD, sexual development problems, some cancers, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, and obesity.
To build up a bank of non-GM seeds in the next few years, we have to take action now, Rodale told an audience at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim last Friday. And that needs to start by ending broken farming policies that reward chemical farming methods that are poisoning us all and contributing to the healthcare crisis. Leading her list of "Five Solutions that Might Save Us," Rodale demands a government ban of agricultural chemicals and GM seeds. "We need to demand that the government stop rewarding businesses that harm people and the planet by giving them subsidies and tax breaks and easing regulations," she writes in Organic Manifesto.
Our existence—our children's existence—depends on how we farm our food. Organic farming methods keep toxins out of our food and water, help mitigate global climate change, keep GM crops—which have barely even been tested for safety—out of the food supply, and can feed the world in a sustainable way. "We must restore the earth's natural ability to absorb and store carbon," writes Rodale. "Going organic will not only do that, it will also heal many other major ills as well: the poisoning of our children, our water, our wildlife, and our world."
Visit DemandOrganic.org to learn more about how buying and growing organic can improve your personal health and help heal the planet. You can also become a fan of Organic Manifesto on Facebook, and follow Rodale's blog, Maria's Farm Country Kitchen.
Why does organic matter to you? Share your comments below, or on Rodale.com's Facebook page.