(Beyond Pesticides, November 23, 2016) With Thanksgiving just a day away, there is no better time to think about how we can more effectively join together as families and communities across divisions and different points of view to find a common purpose in protecting human health and the environment. Thanksgiving meals are commonly made with conventional agricultural products, which include a plethora of pesticides and genetically engineered (GE) ingredients that can affect the health of consumers and agricultural workers alike. Read below to find out how you can combat the shortcomings of conventional agriculture with an organic Thanksgiving Day feast.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to support organic and continue to demand agricultural practices that are protective of human and environmental health.
According to GMO Inside, some common foods with GE ingredients purchased during Thanksgiving include: Campbell’s Tomato Soup, Wesson Canola Oil, Bruce’s Canned Yams, Hershey Milk Chocolate, Pepperidge Farm Crackers, Kraft Classic Ranch Dressing, Rice-a-Roni chicken flavored rice, Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce, and Kraft’s Stove Top Stuffing.
Glyphosate, produced and sold as Roundup by Monsanto, is the most commonly used chemical in the U.S., primarily as a weedkiller in chemical-intensive agriculture. Glyphosate has been found to cause changes to DNA functioning, resulting in chronic disease, and has been classified as a probable carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Following the suspension of residue testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a report was released by Food Democracy Now! and the Detox Project, titled Glyphosate: Unsafe on Any Plate, which found high levels of glyphosate contamination in popular food brands, such as Cheerios, Oreos, Goldfish and Ritz Crackers, and Stacy’s Pita Chips.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to allow widespread use of GE crops that are dependent on toxic chemicals. This approval process has placed us on a pesticide treadmill, with recent decisions to reapprove and expand the use of the toxic herbicide mixture, Enlist Duo, and register a new formulation of dicamba to control weeds in GE cotton and soybean crops. Enlist Duo is an herbicide that incorporates a mix of glyphosate and a new formulation of 2,4-D, intended for use on GE Enlist-Duo-tolerant corn and soybean crops. In addition to environmental damage, these chemicals have been linked to a myriad of human health problems. 2,4-D has been linked to soft tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), neurotoxicity, kidney/liver damage, and harm to the reproductive system. Dicamba has been linked to damage of the kidney and liver, neurotoxicity, and developmental impacts. This chemical has a strong propensity to volatilize small particles of the herbicide into the air and drift far off-site.
How can you combat the shortcomings of conventional agriculture? Choose organic.
Our food choices have a direct effect on the health of our environment and those who grow and harvest what we eat. That’s why certified organic food is the right choice. USDA organic certification is the only system of food labeling that is subject to independent public review and oversight, ensuring that the toxic, synthetic pesticides used in chemical-intensive agriculture are replaced by management practices focused on soil biology, biodiversity, and plant health. This eliminates commonly used toxic chemicals in the production and processing of food that is not labeled organic—pesticides that contaminate our water and air, hurt biodiversity, harm farmworkers, and kill bees, birds, fish and other wildlife.
To help better explain the urgent need for a major shift to organic food consumption, Beyond Pesticides developed its Eating with a Conscience database, which evaluates the impacts on the environment and farmworkers of the toxic chemicals allowed for use on major food crops. For example, while sweet potatoes grown with toxic chemicals show low pesticide residues on the finished commodity, there are 48 pesticides with established tolerance for sweet potatoes, 22 are acutely toxic creating a hazardous environment for farmworkers, 44 are linked to chronic health problems, 13 contaminate streams or groundwater, and 46 are poisonous to wildlife.
Fortunately, the majority of common Thanksgiving products can easily be substituted with organic counterparts. The common centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal, turkey, is typically raised in conventional factory farmed conditions that rely upon synthetic inputs and are fed grains treated with pesticides, medicated with antibiotics, and plumped up with steroids and hormones. Additionally, turkeys are often fed an inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen, which is used to promote growth and to add pigmentation. In order to avoid these toxic inputs and factory-farm practices, your best bet is to invest in an organic free-range turkey.
Canned yams often contain GE ingredients and are dependent upon chemical-intensive growing practices, but can be replaced by fresh organic yams. Another staple, like Pepperidge Farm Crackers, can be substituted with organic crackers like Mary’s Gone Crackers or Nature’s Pathway Crackers. Consider substituting traditional canned cranberry sauce with home-made jellies made with organic cranberries and fair trade sugar. Organic jellied cranberries, such as Tree of Life or Grown Right, are fast alternatives. And finally, pre-made stuffing, like Kraft’s Stove Top stuffing, can be replaced with homemade stuffing or organic stuffing mix from Arrowhead. Simply Organic has many organic recipes posted to its website if you need more ideas.
While the organic label dramatically increases protection for consumers and agricultural workers from exposure to toxic pesticides, it also creates important benefits for environmental restoration. Research from the Rodale Institute’s Farming Systems Trial ® (FST) has revealed that organic, regenerative agriculture actually has the potential to lessen the impacts of climate change. This occurs through the drastic reduction in fossil fuel usage to produce the crops and the significant increase in carbon sequestration in the soil through improved soil fertility, cover cropping, and reduced tillage.
We must continue to protect the integrity and principals of the organic label.
It is important every day of the year to look to organic to keep your family and friends safe from toxic chemicals. You can continue to fight for the well-being of organic year-round by helping to defend organic standards against USDA changes that will weaken public trust in the organic food label. Organic practices follow strict standards that do not compromise the health of people and the planet. Let’s grow the organic food label as a symbol that honors this tradition. To learn more, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Save Our Organic webpage.
Best wishes for a healthy and happy Thanksgiving!
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.