Pesky Pesticides | Food News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Pesky Pesticides 

Published May 16, 2007 at 1:54 p.m.

I interrupt my food stamp diet posts to present: The Evil of Pesticides. Yep, those chemicals that are sprayed all over our foodstuffs, but which the government holds to be safe for human consumption.

This morning, I came across an article called, "Pesticides May be Making Kids Sick at School." One of the first paragraphs explains, " Associated Press investigation has found that over the past decade,hundreds, possibly thousands, of schoolchildren in California and otheragricultural states have been exposed to farm chemicals linked tosickness, brain damage and birth defects."

Many of these cases are caused by pesticide drift. The chemicals are sprayed on farmer's fields and the wind catches the residue, bringing it along for a ride. I would imagine that farm workers (many of whom, in California anyway, may not speak English and may not have adequate medical care), are also affected. 

I understand that U.S. agriculture is currently dependent on pesticides, but there are so many problems with their use that I get all riled up when I think about 'em. Just a few of the myriad concerns: potential, undiscovered health risks, farmer and citizen safety, preservation of pollinating insects in a country where bees are dying for unknown reasons, the health and safety of birds and other animals, etc.

Here's more from the article:  "Research on pregnant women exposed to common pesticides has suggestedhigher rates of premature birth, and poor neurological development andsmaller head circumferences among their babies."

And even more: After a sixth grader collapsed at school, her problems were dismissed as dehydration. But then it happened again. "Investigators found her clothes were soaked in the pesticide EndosulfanI; it had been picked up from residue on the grass and absorbed intoher bloodstream through her skin. Officials later found five otherpesticides on school grounds..."

Even if, as we're told, the pesticide residue on our fruits and vegetables isn't harmful at all, that doesn't mean the manufacture or use of the products is benign. It's just another reason that opting for non-sprayed produce, whether certified organic or not, is a political act.

I'm going to stop before my head explodes. Oh wait, one more thing...experts also think that pesticides (and herbicides) may be one cause of Parkinson's disease.

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About The Author

Suzanne Podhaizer

Suzanne Podhaizer

Former contributor Suzanne Podhaizer is an award-winning food writer (and the first Seven Days food editor) as well as a chef, farmer, and food-systems consultant. She has given talks at the Stone Barns Center for Agriculture's "Poultry School" and its flagship "Young Farmers' Conference." She can slaughter a goose, butcher a pig, make ramen from scratch, and cook a scallop perfectly.


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