Preservatives, Pesticides, and the Power of Choice

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Our society is struggling with overwhelming health issues. Our children are suffering just as much as the aged. And despite the money and research devoted to prevention, treatment, pharmaceuticals, and education, disease rates are increasing.

We all know something is wrong. Something is making us sick. Consider the statistics.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in 150 children has been diagnosed as autistic by the age of eight, which is a tenfold increase over the last 20 years. Autoimmune diseases such as Chrohn’s and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Graves, Celiac, psoriasis, eczema, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis (MS) affect eight percent of the population and have increased significantly in the last few decades.

A whopping one in 10 kids has ADHD, and four percent have food allergies severe enough to require medical attention, which is an 18 percent increase in just 10 years. One in 10 children has asthma.

And that's just the A-list.

Obesity is not only a disease in and of itself, but a precursor to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and some cancers. Ten percent of preschoolers, 19.6 percent of kids ages 6 to 11, and 18.1 percent of adolescents in America are classified as obese.

Most of us suspect that our environment plays a significant role in these trends. And all good people idealistically support pollution prevention, rehabilitation of polluted water and soils, stricter air quality standards, and responsible recycling. But, most of us don't understand that every time we eat, we are making a choice about where we stand on environmental contaminants.

When was the last time you ate something that came out of a box or a bag? Where are you casting your vote?

In general, some of these additives are synthesized from industrial solvents like benzoate or byproducts of ammonium fertilizers. Some have been tested on rats with results pointing to various forms of cancers, neurological problems, and hypersensitivity reactions, only to have the studies declared insufficient, inconclusive, or irrelevant.

More importantly, none of the studies looked for synergistic effects created by the mixture of all this crap, as it is inevitable in our factory-processed, brand-named foods.

Consider: Bright red juice, low-fat pretzels, and oddly-orange Go-gurts are not health food.

The bottom line is that you do have a choice. And you don’t have to become an extremist. You can start with one easy step: Look for the USDA organic label.

The term "organic" gets a lot of confusing press. The bottom line is that it is more expensive, there is less of it, and it can be hard to find. That's because conventional farming is big business. Mass producing crops in a profitable way that satisfies shareholders of large agricultural and food processing corporations requires insane amounts of fertilizers, pesticides, and genetically modified (GMO) seeds before they even add the synthetic ingredients to attract your appetite.

Organic by definition means that the USDA has certified farming and processing by high standards:

  • No synthetic fertilizers or pesticides (herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides)
  • No hormones or antibiotics in livestock or dairy production
  • No genetically modified crops or livestock
  • No artificial ingredients, preservatives, or colors

Fertilizers and pesticides pollute the waterways and our drinking supply, harm wildlife and ecosystems, add to soil erosion, and are detrimental to the vitality and productivity of the soil. And as they are everywhere, you can guarantee that they are in your family's food.

A study published by the National Institute of Environmental Sciences in 2006 found a significant decrease (“dropped to zero”) of malathion and chloropyrifos (pesticides) in the urine samples of school-aged kids after just one week on an organic diet.

According to the National Cancer Institute and the EPA's Agricultural Health Studies, it has been proven that chronic low-level exposure to pesticides in children contributes to neurological and developmental maladies, asthma, and cancers.

Our food comes from our environment, and our environment directly affects our lives. Smog, ozone depletion, heavy mineral contamination, and water pollution are all incredibly complex and difficult issues that must be handled in our communities, through our governments, and with global initiatives.

But the most immediate and direct influence our environment has on us is through the food we eat. We may not be able to change the world all at once, but we are in charge of our next meal. That's really good news.

To read the extended version of this article, visit Waking Up Vegan.

 

Photo by Tony Frantz