The choice between organic and conventionally grown produce seems arbitrary at times. Other than a label or sticker, the only visible difference seems to be the price. So why choose the higher priced produce? Why choose organic?
The decision for me is not made based on any information found in the grocery store isles but rather the rows and rows of manicured monocultures creating the pastoral scenes along the country roads I travel. It was here that I began noticing the small signs marking the verdant fields that will inspire a revolution on my own dinner plate.
At first they were barely seen as I drove down the ribbons of concrete trimming the patchwork plots of farmland. I began seeing more signs though. They moved, marking different rows and then different fields. The bold red caught my eye and demanded closer scrutiny. From the shoulder I could finally make out the lettering. DANGER PESTICIDES KEEP OUT. PELIGRO PESTICIDAS NO ENTRE. Let that concept sink in, much like the sprays on fruit. The beautiful food bearing plants are sprayed with such dangerous chemicals that even the act of walking through the fields is not permitted at various times of the growing season. How is it that the fields require a warning label but the plastic clamshells of strawberries do not?
If your strawberries (or any other produce) came with an ingredients list that had the names of the pesticides and other chemicals that were applied during the growing or processing period, would you still purchase them? Fumigants, fungicides, herbicides, nemicides, algaecides, microbiocides, adjuvants, and preservatives. Those additions to my fruit and veggies do not seem like something that I can really rinse off before adding to my meal. In fact I start to wonder how it is alright to safely handle this food let alone eat it.
Next is humanure. Not sure what that is? It is the solid sewage waste that is left over after the water has been removed and treated. In other words, it is the poop you flushed down the toilet. Now I understand China has been using humanure to grow food for a substantial amount of time, but America and Canada are also employing this technique as well. You might wonder what the difference is between using animal fertilizers and humanure. Consider all of the medications we as humans take. If hormones from women who take birth control are entering our water supply and affecting fish, what do you think all the other drugs will do when it is put into the soil that grows our food? Additionally, the seeming rise in E.coli affected food recalls leads me to wonder how exactly is our waste being managed before it is used to grow our food. Using my own poop for compost is one thing. I know what goes into my body and I would properly treat my own waste to ensure any unfriendly bacteria was properly destroyed. Yet even with all that, I still would not want to grow food in it but would rather use it to fertilize trees and the like.
My final concern is with the treatment of field workers. Poor or withheld pay, unsafe working and living conditions, sexual harassment, racism, physical abuse, and even slavery is part of our food industry here in North America. Ever eaten a tomato? Then you have at some point had produce handled by slaves.
The recent grand opening of Whole Foods in Bellingham was met with protest after the decision to carry Driscoll berries. Driscoll works with Sakuma Brothers Farms in Washington which has been called out on many abuse allegations against workers.
The Bellingham Food Co-op grocery store does not carry Driscoll berries because of the concerns regarding the producers. They understand that every nickel and dime can buy change in the world.
Does your dinner align with your beliefs?