(Beyond Pesticides, November 19, 2015) Thanksgiving offers an opportunity for family and friends to eat, drink and be thankful for the bounty of the organic harvest. Unfortunately, conventional Thanksgiving meals are more common, which include a host of pesticides, genetically engineered foods, and can affect ¬†the health of consumers and agricultural workers alike. Read below to find out why now, more than ever, it‚Äôs important to go organic, and how you can combat the shortcomings of conventional agriculture with an organic Thanksgiving Day feast.
Now, more than ever, it‚Äôs important to go organic.
- The most widely used weedkiller, glyphosate, has been classified as a probable carcinogen to humans, based on laboratory animal studies.
Glyphosate, produced and sold as Roundup by Monsanto, is touted as a ‚Äúlow toxicity‚ÄĚ chemical and ‚Äúsafer‚ÄĚ than other chemicals by EPA and industry and is widely used in food production and on lawns, gardens, parks, and children‚Äôs playing fields. However, IARC‚Äôs recent classification of glyphosate as a Group 2A ‚Äúprobable‚ÄĚ carcinogen finds that glyphosate is anything but safe. According to IARC, Group 2A means that the chemical is probably carcinogenic to humans based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. The agency also notes that glyphosate caused DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells. Further, epidemiologic studies have found that exposure to glyphosate is significantly associated with an increased risk of non-Hodgkin‚Äôs Lymphoma (NHL).
- Genetically Engineered (GE) crops and herbicide-resistant weeds are increasing.
2,4-D Enlist Duo ¬ģ, a new 2,4-D and glyphosate formulated product to be exclusively used on GE 2,4-D tolerant crops, was registered in October 2014. In response to Enlist Duo‚Äôs registration, new 2,4-D tolerant crops were approved for U.S. cultivation by USDA in April 2015. Over 70% of all genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are altered to be herbicide-tolerant. Increased planting of herbicide-resistant GE crops has led to a dramatic increase in herbicide use. The over use of herbicide-resistant crops has also led to “super weeds,” and the destruction of pollinator habitat.
According to GMO Inside, some common GE foods used during Thanksgiving include: Campbell‚Äôs Tomato Soup, Wesson Canola Oil, Bruce‚Äôs Yams, Hershey Milk Chocolate, Pepperidge Farm Crackers, Kraft Classic Ranch Dressing, Rice-a-Roni chicken flavored rice, Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce, and Kraft‚Äôs Stove Top Stuffing.
- Appropriate responses and protective measures by ¬†federal agencies are limited at best, especially when it comes to consumer health, pollinator health and agricultural worker protections.
According to a 2014 Government Accountability (GAO) report, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not test food for several commonly used pesticides with established tolerance levels ‚ÄĒincluding glyphosate, one of the most commonly used pesticides in the U.S. This and other disturbing findings documented in GAO‚Äôs report, ¬†Food Safety: FDA and USDA Should Strengthen Pesticide Residue Monitoring Programs and Further Disclose Monitoring Limitations, sounds an alarm that GAO initially sounded ¬†in the 1980‚Äôs in several reports that identify shocking limitations of ¬†FDA‚Äôs monitoring of ¬†pesticide residue violations in food.
On May 19, 2015, ¬†the White House released its much awaited plan for protecting American pollinators, which identified key threats, but fell short of recommendations submitted by Beyond Pesticides, beekeepers, and others who stress that pollinator protection begins with strong regulatory action and suspension of bee-toxic pesticides. A major component of the federal plan is the creation and stewardship of habitat and forage for pollinators. Although well-intentioned, the Strategy ultimately works at cross-purposes by encouraging habitat, but continuing to allow systemic pesticides that contaminate plants ssand causing indiscriminate poisoning of pollinators. Without restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids, pollinator habitats ¬†are pesticide-contaminated and provide no real safe-haven for bees and other pollinators.
On September 28, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally released its new regulation regarding farmworker pesticide safety, revising the Agricultural Worker Protection Standards (WPS), which are designed to provide protections from pesticide exposure to farmworkers and their families. Farm work is demanding and dangerous physical labor. As the scientific literature confirms, farmworkers, their families, and their communities face extraordinary risks from pesticide exposures. Application and pesticide drift result in dermal, inhalation, and oral exposures that are typically underestimated. In Beyond Pesticides‚Äô comments to EPA, Beyond Pesticides ¬†made clear that the exemption, incorporated in WPS, for farmworkers that results in their ¬†children’s exposure to dangerous chemicals is unacceptable.
How can you combat the shortcomings of conventional 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‚Äôs 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, protection of farmworkers and farm families, and stewardship of the earth. 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 has 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
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‚Äôs Gone Crackers or Nature‚Äôs 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‚Äôs Stove Top stuffing, can ¬†be replaced with homemade stuffing or organic stuffing mix from Arrowhead. Simply Organic has tons 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‚Äôs Farming Systems Trial ¬ģ (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‚Äôt 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‚Äôs 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.