Teaching Green

With Carol Baxter

Tips for teachers, parents and kids on how to live "greener" everyday lives. >

Hi! Thanks for stopping by. Every month, I will answer your questions onhow to bring environmental studies into the classroom, how to deepen ourenvironmental awareness and how to live more "green". I'll suggest seasonalactivities that can help our children get closer to nature and givesuggestions on how to encourage them to be loving caretakers of our greatplanet earth. I want to encourage our children (and ourselves) to fall inlove with nature. When you love something, you will take care of it.

I look forward to hearing from teachers and parents about environmentalprojects that you've done that have been successful. E-mail me at teachgreen@aol.com and I'll share with others what you are doing.


WHY CONSUMERS SHOULD CONSIDER AND CHOOSE ORGANICALLY GROWN FOODS

Over fifty years ago, most farming was "organic". Synthetic chemical pesticides and herbicides were first introduced on a large scale in the 1940's for the purpose of eliminating farming "pests", insects and weeds. These pesticides were described as "miracle" treatments. Today, their use has exploded into a multi-billion dollar business for chemical companies. For decades, their negative impact on human health and the earth had been over-shadowed by what the pesticide could eliminate. But, according to the extensive medical and scientific data that has been collected over the last ten years, there is founded cause for concern of pesticide use.

Waiting for policy changes

Since 1990, the National Academy of Science (NAS) and recommendations of other concerned organizations have put pressure on the government to increase their efforts of promoting and supporting alternatives to chemical intensive farming. Chemical companies, however, in attempt to protect their profits, want the government and the public to believe that pesticides are necessary to produce the abundance of food the United States (and the world) needs. It is estimated that farmers spent $6.1 billion dollars for pesticides.

Consumers who are concerned about the negative impacts of pesticide use are not waiting for the government to make policy changes. They are changing the way they shop and are seeking pesticide-free alternatives. Organic food sales have increased steadily.

Reasons to consider organic products

  1. For our children's health. Two major studies, the 1989 report "Intolerable Risk: Pesticides in Our Children's Food.", by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the "Pesticides in Infants and Children.", by National Academy of Sciences (NAS), concluded that children were being exposed to pesticide residues in food that were well above government safety levels set for adults. Adult levels are especially hazardous for infants and children because of their low body weight. Children under two are at special risk because their immature and rapidly developing systems can not properly detoxify these chemical residues. Also, children's unusual eating habits lead them to eat large quantities of one fruit or vegetable for weeks.

    Jay Feldman of the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides (NCAMP) states, "Existing literature links low level exposure over time may result in chronic health effects such as cancer, birth defects, genetic damage, neurological, psychological, and behavioral effects, blood disorders, reproductive effects, and abnormalities in liver, kidney and immune system."

  2. For our health. According to Dr. Debra Davis of the World Resource Institute, it was estimated that 50,000 American women died of breast cancer. Many pesticides are hormone-mimicking, "... which mimic the action of estrogen produced in cells or which alter the hormone's activity." There is compelling evidence that these hormone-mimicking chemicals are linked to the increase of breast cancer. Endosulfan, one such insecticide, is widely used on carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, and spinach. Also, extensive data links the worldwide decrease in male sperm count to these toxic chemicals.

  3. Healthy farming. Healthy soil is made up of millions of micro-organisms. Pesticides not only kill pests, but destroy these micro-organisms, eventually leaving the soil "dead". Crops grown in an organic way, are growing in a "living" soil.

  4. Healthy farm workers. Farm workers, especially migrant workers, are exposed to high levels of toxic chemicals daily. There are documented incidences of entire farm worker communities whose health is in crisis.

  5. Conserving natural resources. All petro-chemical pesticides and fertilizers are made using oil. Oil is a natural resource that is not renewable. When oil is depleted, it is gone forever.

  6. Pesticides leach through soil, and ground water, and "drift" through the air contaminating untreated areas. In "Tap Water Blues", a report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) every spring, more than 14 million people in cities south of Chicago, are drinking herbicide-laced tap water. 150 million pounds of chemical herbicides used on corn and soybean farms are carried by rains to rivers which empty into reservoirs.

    Water treatment facilities can not remove these toxic chemicals. Three of the five chemicals, atrazine, cyanozine and simozine are linked to birth defects, genetic mutations, breast and other cancers, and developmental abnormalities.

  7. Preservation of wildlife. DDT, the miracle pesticide used heavily in the 1950's and 60's, was banned in the U.S. in 1972. In Maine alone, residues of DDT can still be found. DDT is linked to the reproductive problems of their local eagle population and DDT is found in their tissues.

  8. Negligent use of pesticides. Corporate negligence of pesticides often appears in the news. For example, General Mills had been selling Cherrios and ten other cereals, for over thirteen months, that were contaminated with the pesticide, Dursban. Discovered in a routine check by the FDA, it was learned that Dursban, which is unapproved for use on oats, was sprayed on over 21 million bushels of oats, in place of the more expensive Reldan. Both are nerve poison-type insecticides.

  9. Current "safe" pesticide levels do not take into account that more than one pesticide is used on a particular food product. USDA found residues of eight pesticides on washed and ready to be eaten apples, six on grapes, and seven on peaches.

  10. Food tastes better. It's not official, but many say that organic foods are more flavorful. Organic produce is not bred for appearance, like conventional produce.


How to lower pesticide residues

Current advice is that you wash, peel, and remove outer leaves and layers of your produce to avoid pesticide residues, but Mr. Wiles, of EWG says, "In general, these residues will not be substantially reduced by washing and peeling. But people should still wash their produce." Betsy Lydon of Mothers & Others for a Livable Planet adds, "The most effective way to limit residue is to focus our attention on how food is grown and produced, not just on how to take it off the end product."

Some ways to avoid pesticide residues are:


EARTH PATROL KIDS


READ PAST TEACHING GREEN COLUMNS


READ PAST TEACHING GREEN COLUMNS


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