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Daily News Blog

19
Nov

Go Organic this Thanksgiving and Keep the Toxic Turkey and Fixings Off Your Plate

(Beyond Pesticides, November 19, 2021) Thanksgiving offers an opportunity for people to come together and give thanks for the bounty of an organic harvest. Unfortunately, many Thanksgiving meals are produced by chemical farming practices that utilize hazardous pesticides, genetically engineered (GE) crops, and petroleum-based synthetic fertilizers. These inputs, apart from being unnecessary, degrade ecosystems and affect the health of consumers and agricultural workers alike. It’s never too late to start a new tradition – for this year and into the future, make your Thanksgiving feast sustainable by going organic.

Now, more than ever, it’s important to go organic:

For Our Own Health

Going organic drastically reduces the amount of pesticide in a person’s body. Although Thanksgiving is generally no time to think about dieting, we’ll aim to make it instructive: recent research finds that one of the biggest health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet comes when you go organic. Compared to individuals on a Mediterranean diet filled with chemically farmed foods, those that ate organic had 91% lower pesticide residue. This finding is backed up by a considerable body of prior research.

A 2015 study based on self-reported food intake found that those who eat organic generally have much lower levels of organophosphate insecticide metabolites in their urine. Additional research published in 2015 conducted an intervention study with children, finding that switching children to an organic diet decreased organophosphate metabolites in urine by 50% and 2,4-D by 25%. Research published in 2019 found that switching to organic reduced urine levels of certain organophosphates by up to 95%, and dropped neonicotinoid insecticide levels by 83%. A 2020 study found that switching to organic reduced glyphosate levels in the body by 70% over just a one week period.

Pesticide levels in our body have important implications for children’s health. A 2013 study found that children with higher levels of pyrethroid insecticides in their urine were more likely to score high on reports of behavioral problems like inattention and hyperactivity. Many pesticides are also considered obesogens, which may modify an individual’s response to diet and fasting, and promote weight gain across generations.

On the other hand, recent data indicate that children who eat higher amounts of organic food score higher on cognitive tests measuring fluid intelligence and working memory.

To Protect Pollinators

Pollinator population declines show no sign of stopping, and in many ways the crisis is entering a new phase. After over a decade of consistent losses in managed pollinators (2021 being the second to worst year ever), driven by acute and chronic exposure to neonicotinoid insecticides, many beekeepers are being forced out of their profession. And with wild pollinators, researchers are now seeing the devastation caused by leaving pollinator-toxic pesticides on the market despite overwhelming evidence of their hazards. The Rusty-patched bumblebee was officially listed as endangered, as were monarch butterflies, and the American bumblebee is now under listing consideration.

One in three bites of food rely on the tireless pollinating efforts of these small and mighty insects. Combine that with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) assessments that pollination contributes between $20 and $30 billion in economic value to agriculture each year and you have not only a necessary link of the food production chain, but an incredibly economically valuable one as well.

Imagine if you will your Thanksgiving dinner without the help of this small but invaluable worker. That tangy and sweet cranberry sauce? Gone. Those crispy morsels of onion on top of the green bean casserole? History. Those honey-sweetened carrots? Extinct. And last but not least, the pumpkin pie and cup of coffee you somehow make room for in your stomach? A figment of your imagination. As strange as a Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie or any of these staples might seem, it is an all-too-real scenario we might face if pollinators are not protected. To stop this crisis, we must stop the use of toxic pesticides that harm these important species. Supporting organic agriculture, which never allows the use of neonicotinoids or other toxic synthetic insecticides, helps grow the market for pollinator-protective practices.

In Solidarity with Farmworkers

Farmworkers are the backbone of the American agricultural economy. As we sit with friends and family this Thanksgiving, let us appreciate how our delicious meal got to our tables. The turkey, potatoes, stuffing, and cider all originated in fields far from our homes, and those working in those fields deserve our appreciation, and engagement in their struggle. Many of these workers work long hours, under deplorable conditions, and are exposed to pesticides that put them and their families’ health at risk. So, as we enjoy our pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, and apple crumble, remember all the hardworking farmworkers who worked to bring our meal to the Thanksgiving table. But don’t just give thanks, work to improve their conditions.

Our food choices have a direct effect on those who, around the world, grow and harvest what we eat. This is why food labeled organic is the right choice. In addition to serious health questions linked to actual residues of toxic pesticides on the food we eat, our food buying decisions support or reject hazardous agricultural practices and the protection of farmworkers and farm families. See Beyond Pesticides’ guide to Eating with a Conscience to see how your food choices can protect farmworkers. To complement the contribution you are making by purchasing organic food, consider contacting the following organizations to learn what more you can do; Campesinos sin Fronteras; Centro Campesino; Coalition of Immokalee Workers; Domestic Fair Trade Association; Farmworker Association of Florida; Farmworker Health and Safety Institute; Farmworker Justice; Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO; Farmworker Support Committee (CATA); Lideres Campesinas; Northwest Treeplanters and Farm Workers United; United Farm Workers.

How can you combat the shortcomings of chemical agriculture? Go 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 food labeled organic 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.

Fortunately, the majority of common Thanksgiving products can easily be substituted with organic counterparts. Canned yams, for instance, often contain GE ingredients, 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 GE 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. 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 a range of organic recipes posted to their website if you need more ideas.

The turkey is the symbol of a traditional Thanksgiving meal. However, turkeys are often fed grains treated with pesticides, medicated with antibiotics, and engorged with steroids and hormones. Additionally, turkeys are often fed an inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen, which is used to promote growth and for pigmentation. In order to avoid all these, your best bet is to invest in an organic free-range turkey.

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 (approximately 75% less than conventional agriculture) and the significant increase in carbon sequestration in the soil.

Eating organic is a first step as committed consumers, but we still must protect the true core values and principals of the organic label, as they are meant to be.

This Thanksgiving, you can avoid exposure to harmful chemicals like glyphosate, steer away from genetically engineered food, and protect your family, pollinators, and farmworkers from the shortcomings of federal agencies by striving for a 100% organic, healthy meal.

And don’t stop there!

It is important every day of the year to look towards organic to keep your family and friends safe from toxic chemicals. You can continue to fight for the well-being of organic by helping to defend organic standards against USDA changes that will weaken public trust in the organic food label. Organic practices follow tough 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.

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