Choose Chemical Free Food

Choose Chemical Free Food

There is a sign in a shop that I visit and it says

‘Try organic food – or as your Grandparents called it, “food”!’

It gives me a giggle, but it also brings to light the conscious effort we have to make these days if we want to eat clean and chemical free food.

We are all too aware of acute health issues and their immediate impact, but with our life’s focus being pulled in so many ways, it can be the insidious – gradual and harmful – that we often forget; things such as the effects of continual exposure to pesticides – in our foods, in our surrounding farms, parks and common areas and even the stresses that we face in our lives. These are not obvious on a daily basis, so the gradual impact of these on our bodies and health is often missed.

For some years now Derek and I have chosen to produce food using chemical free, organic production. As I research this article, it is strongly reinforced to me why we have made this choice – for both direct and indirect reasons – both for our health, as we manage our farm and for the health of the product we are selling to our customers.

Pesticides used in agricultural production have been linked to detrimental effects in humans as well as in the wonderful array of wildlife in our wider environment – the amazing diversity and complexity and services of which the human race is reliant.

Pesticides have also been linked to a range of human health problems – to the point that some pesticides used in Australia are not registered for use in the EU and other countries.

While I often say our health is a multipronged approach of limiting the stress in our lives, being active, eating well, avoiding hazardous chemicals, staying energised, as well as one’s inherent constitution, it is clear that the pesticide aspect is an important one.

The effects of pesticide exposure on humans have been linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, birth defects, neurological & reproductive risks and hormonal problems.

As an example, pesticides have been associated with brain cancer and other cancers as well as leukaemia and non-hodgkins lymphoma.  For a while I have been aware of the increased risk of non-hodgkins lymphoma for farmers. Studies show that women are 2.1 times more likely to contract non-hodgkins lymphoma if they had worked on a farm for 10 years and when living or working on a farm for 30 years, the incidence (regardless of gender) increases to 2.4 times the risk of the general population. I would love to see a study done where organic farmers are specifically compared with farmers of industrial agriculture.

Similarly since the 1980s, farmers and farm workers are disproportionally affected with Parkinson’s compared to other occupations.

The main risk of pesticide exposure comes with their use – those applying the chemicals, or to those who may come in contact with the pesticide in the application process – which is often farm workers.  Town dwellers may be exposed to such pesticides by use in their own gardens (eg. aphid and weed control) and common parks, or in homes for the control of things like spiders, termites and flies. (Buy a fly swat!)

Not only are farmers that use chemicals exposed to the pesticides, but also consumers as they eat the food treated with pesticides. There is much work done on the maximum allowable residue levels in food, so that levels deemed as unsafe to humans (through testing) are not exceeded, thus saving the consumer from some of the above described health issues.  My concern however, is that residue limits that may be acceptable to a healthy adult may be different than for those already compromised with digestion difficulty, other body stressors, hormonal imbalances or malnutrition. No two bodies are the same and they respond to outside influences differently.

Pesticides are also not tested for their effects when in combination with other chemicals or the surfactants they are applied with – which would truly reflect their presence in our environment and society’s exposure. What impacts might the combination of different chemical groups in our body have on our health? What difference might there be between the safe levels determined by testing on animals versus the human body? I also wonder of the impact of consumption over the length of a lifetime, and wonder if how the acceptable daily intake is calculated is appropriate.

Children are particularly vulnerable due to their small mass. Similarly, the elderly have the challenge of their body’s decreased ability to regenerate from any damage. And of course pregnancy is a particularly important time to limit exposure to pesticides as the baby develops – with some indications of links between pesticides and birth defects. Persistent chemicals may be stored in the fat of our bodies where they are out of harm’s way (away from circulating in the blood and reaching the brain), but under the high need for energy during the last trimester of pregnancy, the body can draw on fat reserves, liberating toxins that may be stored there.

As I stated earlier, while I do think that robust health is associated with a number of interrelating factors – low stress, a wholefood diet, genetics & a strong constitution – exposure to pesticides is just one piece of the puzzle, but certainly one I like to avoid where possible.  Every ‘body’ is different, that’s why some people can smoke cigarettes for years and be seemingly OK, while others don’t get away with this.

Writing this I am grateful that we do not use pesticides on our farm. I am concerned for my friends who are farm owners and workers, I am concerned for my family as we live in a rural region where pesticides are used, and I am concerned for the impacts on the biodiversity in our soils and ecosystems. Chemicals that have been used in the past are now banned due to their health risks – this might occur again in the future with pesticides being used today.

I do think we will look back on this era of agricultural and shake our heads at what is currently considered ‘best practice’ production systems.

But please don’t place blame or attack farmers that use pesticides in their systems. Farmers are in an industry where ‘best practice’ involves chemical use and advice to them is heavy with those trained in these systems. (I know, I used to be one of the advisors!) Instead, make a choice with your buying dollar – there is an immediate advantage. The presence of pesticides in children’s urine samples has been shown to be immediately eliminated upon the introduction of an organic diet.

If the food you want is chemical free, choose to purchase from farmers who are managing chemically free, who are building their farm biodiversity and restoring their land or who are moving away from industrial agriculture systems. Increasing demand for such foods will mean greater incentives for farmers to move to this style of production. You will also, in turn, influence the wider environment around you with your choices – the health of the soil, flora and fauna and of the biodiversity in our ecosystems.

You as a consumer have the power to change your environment through your buying choices.

I am heartened by the growing number of farmers that are seeking  cleaner, better ways of doing things – of introducing much needed diversity to farming systems, of looking at ways to improve soil health, and in turn, plant health, which will reduce the need for pesticides. It’s a slow and gradual rise – but I see and feel it happening and it’s exciting!

There are more choices of food increasingly available that’s production history is known – through direct marketing and farmer’s markets.  Seek it out! Buying organic produce can be expensive, so do your own research on which foods have greater pesticide levels. Things like spinach are highly sprayed, yet really easy to grow in the garden.  You might pick out a few fruits or vegetables that have higher pesticide use, of which to buy chemical free.

(This discussion could continue further to include genetically modified foods and antibiotic and hormone use in food production, but I’ll spare you that today! (And of course, we use none of these in our beef production or on our farm).

In practicing what we preach, our grassfed beef is produced on our farm without the use of ANY pesticides. You are welcome to our farm any time – to come and have us share what we do. We have an open farm gate policy – you just need to call us and arrange an appropriate time! Our details are at our website.

You can also see our choice of grassfed beef hampers here – which we can have delivered to, or nearby to you.