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Pacific Northwest
Hawai'i CFS

Organic Foods: Not a Lifestyle, But a Lifesaver

By Rebecca Spector, West Coast Director

February 12, 2019
Center for Food Safety


A groundbreaking new study published in the journal Environmental Research found that switching to an organic diet for just one week significantly reduced the levels of synthetic pesticides found in all human participants. On average, the pesticides detected dropped by 60.5 percent after six days of eating an all-organic diet. The study found significant reductions in pesticides that have been associated with increased risk of autism, cancers, autoimmune disorders, infertility, hormone disruption, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease.

And that's not all. A 2018 study published in the The Journal of the American Medical Association followed 70,000 adults for five yearsâ??most of them womenâ??and found that the most frequent consumers of organic food had 25 percent fewer cancers overall than those who never ate organic food. Those who ate the most organic fruits, vegetables, dairy products, meat, and other foods had a particularly steep drop in the incidence of lymphomas, and a significant reduction in postmenopausal breast cancers.

As Center for Food Safety (CFS) has been advocating for more than 20 years, choosing organic foods isn't a lifestyle, but a lifesaver. And now the facts are clearly on our side.

We know that organic food is better for our health, especially for children and pregnant women. We know that pesticide residues are detected four times more often in conventional food than organic food. And we know that eating organic food lowers the risk of impairment in the physical and mental development of children.

For the general population, exposure to pesticides is predominantly through food. Consumption of organic food reduces our exposure to pesticides. Organophosphates, like chlorpyrifos and malathion, and pyrethroids, which have several harmful impacts on humans, are particularly reduced by eating an all-organic diet.

Chlorpyrifos, a pesticide widely used on corn, wheat, apples, and citrus, is linked to lower IQ, poorer memory, and ADHD in children. Pyrethroid pesticides are also linked to ADHD. Just last year, CFS and our allied community organizations were able to ban the use of the toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos in Hawaii, and we will continue to advocate for bans of this toxic pesticide in other states and at the federal level.

Despite the affirming results of recent studies, the integrity of organic foods is under threat by our government agencies that regulate these foods, and the multi-national corporations pressuring these agencies to weaken the national organic standards. Many popular organic food brands on the market today are owned by some of the largest multinational food and beverage companies in the world, whose organic products represent only a tiny fraction of their total company revenue. For many of these companies, less than one percent of their U.S. sales and revenue come from organic products. The rest of these multimillion dollar food corporations' market lines originate from chemically-dependent farming systems that could not be farther from meeting organic standards. This creates an inherent conflict of interest.

These companies spend millions of dollars lobbying to change and weaken organic standards so they do not have to adapt their procurement practices or production systems to fit organic standards. They use multimillion dollar advertisement campaigns and high-paid lobbyists in Washington D.C. to influence and mislead policymakers, the media, and the public into believing that there are no health or environmental advantages to eating organic foods. By propagating this myth, these companies offer no reason for consumers to change their purchasing patterns or for policymakers to incentivize, expand, or protect organic standards. Chemical and biotech companies like Monsanto (now owned by Bayer), Syngenta, and DuPont also attack organic eating from the same angle in an attempt to defend their use of chemicals such as glyphosate (Roundup), 2-4D, and dicamba, as well as the genetically engineered (GE or GMO) crops that are now dependent on these chemicals.

CFS will continue to defend organic standards through advocacy and litigation. One of our current lawsuits to protect strong organic standards challenges the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) attempt to gut protective rules for organic livestock production. Another recent successful case closed a loophole that was unlawfully allowing pesticide-contaminated compost to be used in organic farming. We also are in the middle of several lawsuits that we filed against the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) challenging the approval of the toxic pesticides 2,4-D and dicamba. If successful, these lawsuits will result in a massive decline in pesticide use on our farms and in our food.

We know it's not always easy, convenient, or affordable to buy organic foods. But for your own health as well as the health of your family, prioritize buying organic whole fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy products. No one deserves the adverse health consequences that come with eating food produced by chemically-dependent farming systems. Tell your representatives that every American deserves organic, pesticide-free food. In the meantime, we at CFS will work to maintain strong organic food standards and increase access and availability of organic foods for everyone.

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