The other day a good friend of mine sent me a link to an article declaring that almost half of all Manitoba produce was found to have pesticide residue. As with any topic on the face of the planet, there are many different views and voices clamoring for our attention when it comes to the organic versus non-organic debate. And in a world where many of us are striving to eat better, exercise more, be environmentally friendly, boycott cheap underwear manufactured in sweatshops, and juggle a household, marriage and children all while advancing our careers, this one-more-thing might just be that proverbial straw. I know it can be for me. Sometimes I think I was born without coordination but every once in a while I have all those balls juggling nicely in the air and I’m just beginning to enjoy my moment of smug satisfaction when a whiff of 0.0001 parts per million pesticide residue interrupts it all. Just when I think those wild blueberries are delivering life-saving antioxidants, I find out my anti-cancer commitment is comprised by a neighboring spray drift. Depending on the sort of person you are, this kind of information can have you Googling recipes for homemade produce wash or taking a fatalistic trip through McDonald’s drive thru.
But what if we take a different approach; we could call it a big picture approach. Generally speaking, we know that all these chemicals, pesticides and antibiotics are not a good thing. But most of us are not scientists, lobbyists, protesters or even farmers. We are regular Joes and Janes, and pesticides were taking up residue in our bodies long before we even knew what the word meant. Our children might even have been infected by pesticides before they left the formerly safe haven of the womb. At the same time that most of us are awakening to the fact that the evils of factory and industrial farming are killing us, we are proffered a solution: organic farming. Seems pretty simple, right? But the world is not simple and the complexities of trying to undo the harm that Franken-farming has, and is, perpetuating is daunting to say the least. So what’s a regular Joe or Jane to do?
I must confess, I am not an academic at heart; it hurts my brain. I am not overly interested in how many parts per million of pesticide residue is acceptable on organic produce and what percentage was found on what crop in what province. I like to think of myself as being a common sense kinda gal. Is the organic farming movement perfect? No. Is organic produce free of all pesticides? Clearly not. Is it even possible in today’s world to legislate that organic produce be 100% pesticide-free? Of course not. Has the organic farming movement grown and changed? Yes. Are there more organic and environmentally friendly products available in the stores in which regular Joes and Janes shop? You betcha. Are there scientists, lobbyists, protesters, and farmers (amongst others) working to raise awareness, expand the organic movement and ensure the least amount of pesticide residue possible? Without a doubt. So how can we regular Joes and Janes keep all our balls in the air and still support our health, our families, the animals and our local and global communities? Buy organic. Support those industries and organizations that are working, albeit imperfectly, toward change. Because these groups, and businesses, and farmers, are doing what we cannot. When we have consumer buy-in, it funds and propels those who are in a position to make a change.
Meantime, what do you do if you cannot afford to buy organic? For me this question is like the classic abortion argument: but what about the woman who was raped? An unexpected, and perhaps shocking, comparison I know but think about it. Does the exception to the rule undermine the entire principle? Undoubtedly not everyone can afford to buy organic produce and products; in fact it would probably be fair to say that the majority of people cannot afford to buy organic and amongst those who can, the percentage of organics purchased varies. So if you cannot afford organic, what can you choose? You can choose to buy more whole foods and less processed. You can eschew meat and dairy in favor of more beans and nuts. You can buy more in bulk and bring a lunch. We cannot all drive Porsches but we still drive – or take public transport, or bicycle, or walk. Either way, we can all make the journey.
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” Zechariah 4:10