Groundbreaking study on organic food and protecting ourselves from pesticides
by Anna Lappé
Colleagues from Friends of the Earth, in partnership with UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco, and Commonweal Institute have just published a study that tested for pesticides in the bodies of four families across the country on a diet of non-organic food who then switched to an only-organic diet. The results tracking the family on a non-organic diet for six days? Of the 14 chemicals tested, every single member of every family had detectable levels. Every single one. After eating an only organic diet for another six days, levels dropped big time, with levels across all the tested pesticides falling by more than half on average, with some more (way more) than that. Detectable levels for the pesticide malathion fell by an eye-popping 95 percent.
This study is more powerful evidence about the benefits (and there are many) of organic food. As a result, it’s going to ruffle the feathers of all the usual suspects: the chemical industry apologists and corporate front groups. Indeed, it already has.
Before the study was even published—or the companion advocacy website Organic for All went live—the notorious front group American Council on Science and Health published a blog claiming the study was a “sham.” Never mind that ACSH had yet to read the actual peer-reviewed study, but its premise was enough to get it slammed as a fraud.
We should expect responses like this to a study that raises alarm about chemicals in agriculture from a group like ACSH, which has come to the defense of tobacco, agrochemical, fossil fuel, and pharmaceutical companies.
Hopefully, misinformation and spin will not muddy the message, though. For what this study provides, yet again, is compelling evidence that what we eat matters and that choosing organic can drastically reduce the pesticide metabolites found in our bodies. And, in the case of this study, after just six days on an organic diet!
These findings should fire us up not just to look at our own plates differently, but to be outraged about the fact that most can’t make the choice for organic either because it’s not an option in our neighborhoods or because we are among the tens of millions of food insecure Americans who have virtually no choice about what food we purchase.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said that in a modern, moral, wealthy society, no person should be too poor to live. I’ve loved that line ever since I first heard her utter it on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. In such a society, I also believe that all of us should be able to choose food raised without toxic chemicals. That we all should be able to support a food chain that doesn’t threaten farmers, farmworkers, and others who would otherwise be exposed to pesticides. This study grounds us in the moral case for demanding organic for all.