BUY, GROW, AND EAT ORGANIC FOOD
"No pesticide is 'safe' because pesticides are, by their very nature, designed to be biologically active and kill various kinds of organisms.." 1
"A very large proportion of all the pesticides used today are neurotoxic, and many are expressly designed to disrupt nerve function." 2
"The mind is the human's most precious possession and, collectively, society's greatest resource. Threats of its destruction, erosion, or deterioration should be considered emergencies. . . . The brain, which has evolved specialized and extraordinarily sensitive receptors to perceive the environment, appears more susceptible to chemicals than are other organs." 3
"Despite the lack of required testing, research indicates that certain pesticide ingredients and contaminants can and do cause behavioral and learning deficits. An unknown number of pesticide chemicals and their contaminants are involved in effects on learning. Our children therefore deserve zero exposure to pesticides." 4
We can greatly reduce our own and our family's exposure to pesticides by buying organic food. These purchases help society at large, as well as ourselves directly. By creating a demand for the products of organic farmers, their distributors, and the stores selling their products, we are helping those committed to no pesticide use (including no insecticides, herbicides, nor fungicides). We should, of course, be alert to false claims and deceptive actions: For example, the regular grocery store that advertises a small section of "organic produce" although they have contaminated their entire store by employing exterminators.
Even with a tiny plot of land we can grow a great deal of our own food organically. First, we need to build up the humus in our soil by leaving on the earth all so-called "yard waste," which consists of leaves and cut-up prunings. Also, we can use vegetable parings and sections of spoiled fruit from our kitchen for a compost pile. Fresh things in the pile can supply nitrogen and produce smelly ammonia unless balanced with brown things like dead leaves and twigs that supply carbon. (Ashes and sawdust also supply carbon--—if you have a convenient, uncontaminated supply.) For a quick start in the buildup of humus, we can buy organic fertilizers, such as mushroom manure, which can make plants seem to explode with healthy growth. Also, humus in the soil has a loose texture, which retains moisture and at the same time makes it easy to pull up any plants (so-called "weeds") that we do not happen to want in our garden.
From our own garden it can be a delight to eat fresh herbs, vegetables, and fruits at their peak of ripeness and wonderful flavor. We avoid all the wilted produce and unripe fruits and vegetables that are transported to market. There are excellent books explaining how to grow food in tiny spaces, for example, in The City People's Book of Raising Food by Helga and William Olkowski, Rodale Press, 1975, they even include instructions for using roofs and balconies. They have also written a delightful booklet, put out by the Rachel Carson Council, Inc., How to Control Garden Pests without killing almost everything else. In it they point out the complex interrelationships between plants and insects and that many of us have an irrational fear of insects, which we need to overcome. By just spraying insecticides people not only poison themselves and the environment, they can kill other organisms that would have controlled the insect that scared them. This also hastens the development of resistance to the insecticide in the target insect population.
Professor Stuart B. Hill from McGill University in Canada explained to us that many insects are essential to our survival. "Only 0.1 percent are pests, 99.9 percent being neutral in their effects or essential to our survival, as pollinators, decomposers, regulators of pests, and as food for other beneficial animals, such as many fish and birds."5
Dr. William Olkowski, a University of California entomologist, and his wife, Helga, carefully explained "bug against bug" to students and visitors at the Integral Urban House6 in Berkeley. The Olkowski booklet has a number of cartoons from Punch. One in particular seems amusing until you think about it-. A homeowner is lifting dead fish from a pond and shouts, "Have you been spraying your roses again?" When I first saw this cartoon I had just read that fish in the ponds in Sri Lanka were dying from pesticide runoff. Unfortunately, those fish were the principal source of protein for the people.
The Integral Urban House in Berkeley was dedicated to "self-reliant living in the city." When our daughter Dorothy was a student there, the front "lawn" consisted of strawberries; many vegetables were grown, as well as chickens, rabbits, and turkeys. In the corner of the garden there was a fish pond with a bee hive high above. Thus, a great deal of the food eaten by the people living in the house was supplied by the small garden. Professor Joan Gussow, who spoke for NOHA last April, recommended growing much of our own organic food. To help us she suggested a book by John Jeavons, How to Grow More Vegetables than You Ever Thought Possible in Less Space than You Can Imagine.
Last March Eliot Coleman, author7 and farmer from Harborside, Maine, was the opening speaker at the Eleventh National Pesticide Forum, "The Fruits of our Labor: Safe Food and Sustainable Agriculture," put on by the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides (NCAMP) in Alexandria, Virginia. He pointed out that chemical fertilizers stress plants and provide unbalanced nutrition, causing free amino acids to develop. These amino acids are a wonderful invitation for insect infestation. Next, the farmers apply insecticides, essentially "killing the messengers," instead of correcting their counterproductive cultural practices.
In June we received an interesting news release from the laboratory of Doctor's Data, Inc. in West Chicago, Illinois:
1Nonagricultural Pesticides: Risks and Regulation, United States General Accounting Office Report to Congressional Requesters, Chapter 3, "The General Public Receives Limited and Misleading Information on Pesticide Hazards," p. 35.
2Young, Bambi Batts, "Neurotoxicity of Pesticides," Journal of Pesticide Reform, 6(2): 6, Summer 1986.
3Kilburn, Kaye H., "Editorial: Conserve Brains First, Else All May Be Lost," Archives of Environmental Health, 48(3): 199, May/June 1993.
4O'Brien, Mary, "Are Pesticides Taking Away the Ability of Our Children to Learn?" Journal of Pesticide Reform, 10(4): 8, Winter 1990.
5Hill, Stuart B., "Responsible Pest Control in Gardens and Homes," Ecological Agriculture Projects, Macdonald College of McGill University. In December1987 Dr. Hill spoke for NOHA on "Soil, Food, and your Health."
6Farallones Institute, The Integral Urban House: Self Reliant Living in the City, San Francisco, Sierra Club Books, 1979. The Olkowskis and Sheila Daar have come out recently with an excellent reference book, Common-Sense Pest Control: Least-toxic solutions for your home, garden, pets, and community, The Taunton Press, 1991.
7Coleman, Eliot, The New Organic Grower, Chelsea Green, 1989.
Article from NOHA NEWS, Vol. XVIII, No. 4, Fall 1993, pages 1-2.