Many Pesticides are in Your Food?
Break down the word pesticide and youll notice
the Latin root -icide, which means to kill.
Simply put, pesticides are poisons designed to kill, injure or
impair an organism.
Pesticides were developed to protect crops from insects, rodents
and other pests, as well as to control weeds, mold, bacteria and
disease. The ideology is that this industrialized farming, complete
with chemical pest control and synthetic fertilizers, would allow
farmers to reap bigger harvests and larger returns for their crops.
However, it is becoming increasingly clear that traditional farming
is leading to declining yields due to soil degradation and there
are indications that eating foods laced with these chemical residues
are leading to a number of negative health effects in humans.
Further, organic farmers, who use natural methods such as insect
predators, barriers, crop rotation, hand weeding, and cover crops
to control pests and weeds, can produce crop yields and cash returns
that are competitive and even superior to crop yields and returns
produced by traditional farming methods.
Nonetheless, many farmers use chemical pesticides. There are
five basic categories of pesticides that are currently used on
crops. These include:
- Insecticides to control insects
- Rodenticides to control rodents
- Herbicides to control weeds
- Fungicides to control mold and fungus
- Antimicrobials to control bacteria
The Problem With Pesticides
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 60 percent
of herbicides, 90 percent of fungicides and 30 percent of insecticides
are known to be carcinogenic, or cancer causing. And as
written on the EPA site, laboratory studies show that pesticides
can cause health problems such as:
- Birth defects
- Nerve damage
- Blocking the absorption of important food nutrients necessary
for normal healthy growth in children
- Other long-term effects
Pesticides are especially dangerous to children since they are
still developing and may not be able to fully remove pesticides
from their body. There are also periods during development when
exposure to pesticides, or any toxin, can cause permanent damage
to their system.
Of course the EPA notes that the government does regulate pesticides
to determine that they will not pose unreasonable risks
to human health or the environment. For food items, the
EPA sets limits on how much pesticides can be used and how much
can remain on food. However, there is really no way to know just
how many pesticides are left on the food you eat aside from having
it lab-tested yourself.
Alarmingly, the EPA also says, You and your family have
a right to know under the law that in certain cases, such as economic
loss to farmers, a pesticide not meeting the safety standard may
be authorized. This means that in certain cases
unsafe, unauthorized pesticides can legally be sprayed on your
Pesticides are not only problematic on fruits and vegetables,
but also in animal products. Factory farm animals eat feed that
is loaded with pesticides, and these toxins accumulate in their
flesh over their lifetimes. If you eat factory-farmed meat, you
are also eating the pesticides that have accumulated in the animals
flesh (not to mention the antibiotics and hormones).
How to Reduce Your Risk
There are several ways to reduce your risk of pesticide exposure.
Buying organic food and naturally raised meat like free-range
organic chicken is the most effective way, as these foods are
grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and other chemicals.
However, if you dont have access to, or simply cannot afford,
organic food, you can use the following chart to determine which
fruits and vegetables have the highest and lowest amounts of pesticides,
and then buy accordingly. This is also useful if you can only
buy some organic items, as you will want to be sure to purchase
organic versions of the high-pesticide foods. Feel free to print
out the chart and keep it in your wallet for a quick and easy
Reference Source 116