Fruits and vegetables are a crucial part of a healthy diet— duh! In 2015, a report on government dietary guidelines concluded that high levels of fruit and vegetable consumption are strongly or moderately associated with decreased risks of chronic diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity and cancer. The report also cites emerging evidence that suggests that dietary patterns with high fruit and vegetable consumption may decrease the likelihood of congenital anomalies as well as neurological and psychological diseases. Unfortunately, not all produce is created equal, and a key part of understanding the health of the produce we eat is to understand how it is produced. Since the industrial revolution, chem- ical-based pesticides have been used extensively in crop production. Farmers use nearly 700 million pounds of pesticides every year. 2 Not the type of cocktails we think about or want in our bodies.
IT’S A BIGGER PROBLEM THAT TRICKLES DOWN.
Widespread use of pesticides in crop production comes with a range of consequences that should impact our thinking on how crops should be produced. It also highlights the connections between practices on the farm and what ends up on our table. In an ideal world, pesticides sprayed on a farm eld would kill only the targeted pests, then disappear. That, unfortunately, is not the case. Pesticides can harm their intended targets as well as nontargeted living organisms. Pesticides used in agriculture can contaminate not only our food but also the environment, and they’re widely present in the air, rain, and rivers.
When chemical pesticides became widely available in the mid-20th century, the dominant approach to pest control in agriculture shi ed. Farming practices that nat- urally prevent and control serious pest problems, such as rotating crops, planting cover crops, providing habitat for pest predators, maintaining diversity on the farm, select- ing crops suited for particular growing conditions and regions, scouting for pests, and labor-intensive weeding, fell out of favor. Farmers no longer needed to rely on those farming practices. They could plant vast fields of single crops—monoculture—and focus on exterminating pests through chemical means, which als0 has affected the value of the crop from a nutritional perspective.
The chemical approach to pest control, however, has back red. It has been shown to be unsustainable because it ignores a basic reality that governs the natural world: adaptation. Within a decade, many pests will adapt and develop resistance to the pesticides designed to kill them.8
Unlike other chemical products that are designed for a certain purpose and may have toxic properties as an unintended side e ect, pesticides are inten- tionally toxic—toxic by design. They are made to interfere with biological functions in living organisms and are manufac- tured and released into our environment and food supply not in spite of their toxicity but because of their toxicity.
Fully understanding and documenting the full range of negative e ects on nontargeted living organisms—including humans—requires long-term and in-depth study. Because of the inherent toxicity of pesticides, medical and public health experts have long raised concerns. For example, the American tWeighing Human Health in Pesticide Approvals he epa approves and sets pesticide” must be consid- the environment be prioritized Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) points out that there is “a growing body of literature that suggests that pesticides may induce chronic health compli- cations in children, including neurodevelopmental or behav- ioral problems, birth defects, asthma, and cancer.”39
The President’s Cancer Panel of the National Institutes of Health writes that exposure to pesticides has been linked to brain/central nervous system, breast, colon, lung, ovarian, pancreatic, kidney, testicular, and stomach cancers, as well
as Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and so tissue sarcoma.40 Approximately 40 di erent EPA-registered pesticides that are currently on the market are classi ed as known, prob- able, or possible human carcinogens.41 Although 40 known, probable, or possible human carcinogens may be a discon- certing number in and of itself, it occupies a small percentage of the approximately 900 registered active ingredients in use today.42
I choose to side on the side of caution. Knowingly placing TOXIC CHEMICALS into my families body is NOT going to happen.
WHAT OTHER CHOICES DO WE HAVE?
Well, think about it. There are those great washed that you can use to remove external chemicals. Ponder this— those chemicals have sank into the soils and seep up through the roots of this plants and trees and “nourish” our food supply. My thoughts? Avoid like the plague as much as possible. The health risks, costs and lifestyle changes associated with disease is far bigger than the price tag of farm grown, buying organic or growing your (some) of our own.