Leukemia, nausea, diarrhea and death: Small price to pay for “fresh” fruits and veggies

By Alex Formuzis

Chemical agriculture’s defense of pesticides conjures up the image of the chain-smoking industry attorney Nathan Thurm slithering through a minefield of facts and figures about the causes of global warming in this classic skit from Saturday Night Live.

Stacks of scientific studies have documented serious health risks to humans from pesticide exposure, but pesticide makers and sprayers, like the fictional Mr. Thurm, ignore the research and stick with talking points or their own questionable “science” in their efforts to muddy the waters, create confusion and delay government action to protect the public. Meanwhile, we eaters are left to consume pesticides along with conventionally grown produce.

Pesticides are engineered to kill living organisms in a number of ways, including destroying the nervous system of the insects they target. They can’t be good for human health, either.

The most worrisome pesticides in wide use today are organophosphates, OPs for short. Earlier this year, three separate studies published at the same time reached very similar, and very disturbing, conclusions: Children exposed to organophosphates while in the mother’s womb had lower IQs when they reached school age than unexposed children.

Other health problems that have been linked to low-dose exposure to OPs include disruption of the endocrine (hormonal) system, lower levels of testosterone and other hormones, leukemia, lymphoma and Parkinson’s disease.

Here’s a rogue’s gallery of the most worrisome pesticides:

1. Chlorpyrifos:

One of the OP pesticides most widely used by chemical agriculture is chlorpyrifos, also known by the brand names Dursban and Lorsban. It’s applied in large quantities to a number of crops, including corn, oranges and apples. It was once heavily used as an in-home insecticide, but the Environmental Protection Agency banned it for home use in 2001 because of the risk to children’s health.

Most recently, chlorpyrifos was back in the headlines when it was linked to the deaths of several tourists in Thailand, who were apparently killed by a chlorpyrifos-based fumigant used to eradicate bedbugs from hotel rooms.

None of this seems to matter to sprayers and manufacturers, though. In the face of this and plenty of other evidence that chlorpyrifos exposure can cause serious and permanent health problems in humans, the statements of leading agribusiness representatives reveal their true colors:

“CAFA (California Alfalfa and Forage Association) has been working hard to oppose some people in the environmental movement who are trying to basically take all the organophosphates away from us, but in particular, chlorpyrifos.”– Philip Bowles, CAFA board member and president of Bowles Farming in Los Banos, Calif. Western Farm Press, January 17, 2009

“Chlorpyrifos has become a major target of environmental groups who are trying to take it off the market. Fortunately, Dow AgroSciences has stated its determination to defend the insecticide.” – Aaron Keiss, Feb.18, 2010 column in Western Farm Press

When environmental and community groups pressed EPA in 2010 to restrict Lorsban, one of Dow AgroSciences’ popular products, the company ran this (scare-tactic) ad depicting a world without fruits and vegetables.

Read more at Enviroblog

5 responses to “Leukemia, nausea, diarrhea and death: Small price to pay for “fresh” fruits and veggies

  1. Exposure to TEMEK was what triggered autoimmune disease in my own body. Ruined my life, but can i prove it? Nah.

  2. Great to see that individuals across the country and abroad taking interest in natural methods in agriculture instead of using outdated expensive chemicals or pollutants.

  3. Are there numbers to show what the food production would look like if everything went organic? I mean how dependent are we on pesticides and herbicides? Is this a hippie mystic pipedream? Can we even feed ourselves without all this crap? Are we completely dependent? Would the poor starve and only the rich be fed?

    When I moved into my apartment eight years ago I had these HUGE cockroaches. The exterminator put down a brown Dursban paste with roach pheromones in it. The way a pesticide is distributed effects the exposure levels.) That stuff would kill the roaches in seconds and took care of the infestation in about two months. Now, a couple weeks ago I spotted a couple smaller variety cockroaches on the floor. Time for more Dursban?

    The thing is that these pesticides ARE highly toxic and highly effective, yet most of us are completely ignorant about them. ESPECIALLY the people spraying them all over the place.

  4. It’s horrifying, what humans are willing to do to each other in the name of profit. I try to eat organic whenever I can, but options are limited, and the only way to open them up is to continue talking and writing about it. As it stands, eating food grown using pesticides is often unavoidable.

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