Pesticide use is widespread in the world and responsible for some of the more persistent dioxins and furans in the environment. Making more organic choices in both food and non-food products help to reduce environmental pollution and personal exposure to dioxins.
Since the 1940’s there has been a dramatic increase in the manufacture and use of chlorinated organic chemicals, insecticides and herbicides (weed killers). When these chemicals are manufactured, dioxin is produced as an unwanted (but inevitable) by-product.
Like the pesticides such as DDT, dioxin accumulates in the fat cells of animals, and re-appears in meat and milk but can also come from sources you might not expect. A typical hamburger today has as much as 100 picograms of dioxin in it. Conventionally grown produce needs careful attention before eating and it is suggested that fruit and vegetables are washed carefully to remove chlorophenyl pesticide residue. Avoid grapes and raisins except if the packaging says they are grown on an organic farm, since they are usually sprayed and cannot be washed effectively. Avoid all products that have cottonseed oil as an ingredient (such as potato chips), since cotton is often sprayed with chlorophenyl insecticides. Do not use soaps containing tallow (most soaps), as it is made from animal fat. Avoid soaps and deodorants and toothpaste containing “triclosan,” which is a chlorophenyl.
Did you know that conventional cotton (non-organic) is the most extensively sprayed crop in the world. Pesticides and insecticides are used that not only affect the ecosystems of the countries where they are sprayed and the water supplies, but also the health of the farmers working the land.
For instance, in Benin in Africa, 37 people died over the 99/2000 season due to pesticide poisoning, while another 36 people experienced serious ill health. One particular pesticide, Callisulfan, was found to be responsible for around 147 cases of which 10 people died. Younger people are the most affected. 85% of the victims were less than 40 years old.
Ecosystems are destroyed. Earthworms die, birds and frogs eating contaminated worms die, owls feeding on the frogs die within 10 minutes! Even snakes die. Fish die as the pesticide residuals run off the fields into the water supplies. Food crops growing in amongst the cotton crop becomes poisoned, and washing does not remove the poison. Poor farmers in the developing world re-use the packaging material from pesticides as food cans. These farmers are not protected from the sprays, nor adequately informed as to how to do so. Inappropriate use of cotton pesticides in West Africa is well known to cotton research institutes.
The consequences of spraying with pesticides and insecticides are far reaching. In 2008 in Delhi, India, 12 brands of soft drinks sold in India, which included major global brands, were found to contain residues of four extremely toxic pesticides and insecticides: lindane, DDT, malathion and chlorpyrifos according to tests conducted by the Pollution Monitoring Laboratory of CSE. Total pesticide residuals were on average 36 times higher than the EEC limit of total pesticides. The groundwater used for making soft drinks is infested with pesticides. PML tested the cold drink samples for 16 organochlorine pesticides, 12 organophosphorous and four synthetic pyrethroids -- all of which are commonly used in India as insecticides.
The pesticide DDT, banned decades ago in much of the world, still shows up in penguins in Antarctica, probably due to the chemical's accumulation in melting glaciers. Adelie penguins have long shown evidence of DDT in their fatty tissues, but researchers were surprised to see that the level of the pesticide in Adelies' fat had not declined, even after DDT was banned for exterior use in the 1970s in the United States and elsewhere.
And the most important insect of all, the bee, which is necessary for the pollination of our crops, are dying from chemical poisoning all over the world. In Germany, scientists at the Julius Kuehn Institute traced the cause of mass deaths among bees to a pesticide that coated maize seed. Vast numbers of the bees were killed in the Rhine valley area of Germany by the chemical clothianidin. Out of 30 dead bees that were checked, 29 had been killed by contact with the pesticide.
Endosulfan is a highly toxic pesticide, linked to birth defects, intellectual impairment in children, epilepsy and Parkinson's disease and is handed down to the next generation across the placenta and in breast milk. Already banned in 55 countries, it is still being used in New Zealand on a range of vegetables and fruit as well as being used to kill earthworms on sport fields, cricket pitches, golf courses and bowling greens. The European Union is proposing a global ban under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. Endosulfan, is an endocrine disruptor, mimicking the effects of oestrogen. The residuals found on food grown in New Zealand, is enough to cause breast cancer cells to grow. New Zealand has one of the highest breast cancer rates in the world.
So what is the best alternative to this global poisoning of crops, animals and people? Organic agriculture is an ecological method of farming that relies on crop rotation, green manure, compost, biological pest control, and mechanical cultivation. The primary goal of organic agriculture is to optimize the health and productivity of interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals and people. The term "organic" is defined by law.