Believe it or not, pesticide use in and on our food is not easy to understand. With organic produce often being double, triple or even quadruple times more expensive than conventional produce, a very common question comes up a lot from my readers.
“Can’t I just soak my non-organic produce and wash it really well to avoid pesticides?”
I don’t blame you for asking, but oh, if it were only that easy, my friends.
How Pesticides Really Work
- Pesticides are not only used ON our crops and IN our soil, but they are also implanted INSIDE our crops. That’s right, non-organic crops have been genetically engineered or “stacked” to express multiple traits that are resistant to multiple herbicides. So all that soaking and washing will do no good for the cause.
- This genetically engineered practice makes crops “pesticide resistant”. Pesticide resistance, the ability of an organism to withstand a poison, is a predictable consequence of repeated pesticide use. How quickly pesticide resistance develops depends on: the frequency of use, the mechanisms of resistance, the genetics of the resistance mechanism, the size of the gene pool and how quickly the organisms reproduce.
History of Pesticide Tolerant Crops
- Glyphosate tolerant crops, or “Roundup Ready” crops were introduced in 1996 with the soybean and then to corn, but have expanded to even more crops since then.
- In American agriculture, 93% of soybeans, 82% of cotton, and 85% of corn planted are engineered to be glyphosate resistant. This increase in glyphosate-resistant crops has led to an increase in herbicide use, herbicide-resistant weeds (also known as “superweeds”), and numerous other environmental and human health impacts.
- Pesticide use has increased dramatically in the past decade.
- A recent USDA report found that herbicide use on GE corn increased from around 1.5 pounds per planted acre in 2001 to more than 2.0 pounds per planted acre in 2010. Herbicide use on non-GMO corn has remained relatively level during that same time frame.
Do Pesticides Really Harm My Health?
- Short answer, YES. Long answer….glyphosate-formulated herbicides have been linked to numerous health problems including cancer, particularly non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in three separate peer-reviewed studies. Here is another study on pesticides and hormone disruption.
- The health effects of pesticides depend on the type of pesticide. Some, such as the organophosphates and carbamates, affect the nervous system.
Others may irritate the skin or eyes. Some pesticides may be carcinogens. Others may affect the hormone or endocrine system in the body. EPA’s human health risk assessments for many pesticides are available on the web.
- Short term health effects include lung congestion and increased breathing rates. Chronic exposures at levels above Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCL) are likely to produce kidney damage and reproductive effects. Click here to see Beyond Pesticides’ comments to the EPA concerning the re-registration of glyphosate.
What Can I Do?
Always go organic. Stay informed and take control of your health. You have the right to know everything that goes into your food, including all chemical treatments and pesticides. The Pesticide Action Network has created the “What’s On My Food?” searchable database designed to make the public problem of pesticide exposure visible and more understandable. Visit www.whatsonmyfood.org to search any food in their database.