A common question many of our patients ask us is “Why is it important to buy organic”? Buying organic is very important to us and almost on a daily basis, we are continuously reminded through research findings and news articles.
For quite some time, I have not felt comfortable trusting conventional produce – those grown with ever increasing levels of herbicides and pesticides. It is not the farmers or grocers I don’t trust, but the industry that pushes these chemicals into agriculture.
To be even more clear, it is not about the chemists, geneticists or other scientists working on fundamental science with these companies who are simply trying to advance science. It is those within the company itself that puts its own profit and interest ahead of the public.
The last few months have seen the publication of some more rather frightening research regarding these chemicals, and I would like to share these with you to highlight some of the reasons that conventional produce can be detrimental to our health and well-being and why we should be supporting the organic produce industry.
First in the news is DDT, a pesticide used on crops for decades before being banned in the 1980s due to its harmful effects on the human body. Unfortunately, DDT persists in our food and environment and its levels have recently been measured in pregnant women. This study found that women with higher levels were significantly more likely to have children with autism. We all know autism has a dramatic impact on lives, and there are likely several causes and contributors, but this is just one chemical that has now been clearly implicated. And DDT isn’t even in use in North America any longer. One must further wonder if DDT has been linked to autism, could there be links to other neurological conditions? Anxiety, ADHD, OCD, Tourette’s syndrome? It cannot be ruled out, at least for certain susceptible individuals.
Secondly in recent news – and this speaks to our ability to trust companies that produce chemicals of all sorts – Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the very popular weed killer RoundUp, has been held responsible for the devastating deterioration in health of a groundskeeper using the product in the United States. Monsanto, the producer of glyphosate, was required to provide the courts with all of their internal documentation regarding the safety of glyphosate, and after reviewing all of this data a jury found that Monsanto failed to warn consumers about the severe health hazards including cancer. The jury also found that Monsanto acted with malice, oppression and fraud and should be punished for its conduct.
These kinds of revelations worry me the most. I find it unlikely that this is an isolated case within the chemical industry. Contrast what has now been revealed versus Monsanto’s historically adamant stance about the safety of glyphosate and them strongly protesting science that demonstrates any harm. If this is reflective of the typical actions of the chemical industry, pesticides and herbicides included, how can we trust the safety of any chemical used on our foods or in our environments?
Thirdly, another pesticide currently of concern is chlorpyrifos, one of the most widely use pesticides in North America. Studies by the US EPA determined that chlorpyrifos poses a risk to neurological health and should be banned. Chlorpyrifos was first used in 1965, and the studies to suggest its harm have only now become sufficient to act upon. That is far too long a duration for a post-market safety study to finally establish harm. In the US, a ban was planned to be enacted in 2017, but with industry and political pressure, the EPA’s own substantial evidence of harm was put aside and the action to institute a ban shelved. It continues to be used as it always has.
DDT, glyphosate, and chlorpyrifos are not the only toxic chemicals applied to our foods, and unfortunately the toxicity of chemicals such as these only becomes apparent after they have been used and consumed by a trusting public for decades.
Avoiding these chemicals by eating organic is to me the only reasonable course of action. It is reasonable to assume many other current and future pesticides and herbicides will be found to cause harm as well. Just the possibility of toxic harm is enough to sway me toward buying organic.
~ Dr. Colin