Thursday, January 31, 2008

Feeding our kids, without contamination

Did you need another reason to buy organic food for your kids? If so, yesterday's news from Emory University ought to do it.

Yet another study shows that kids who eat "conventional" diets -- that is, food grown in the standard way with chemical fertilizers and pesticides -- have significant levels of neurotoxic pesticides in their bodies. And when those same kids switch to an organic diet -- that is, no chemical fertilizers or pesticides -- the pollution disappears from their bodies. When they go back to "conventional" foods, the pesticide residues come right back again.

Researchers at Emory University followed a cohort of 21 elementary school-aged children and measured the pesticide metabolites for two common insecticides -- chlorpyrifos and malathion -- in their urine and saliva. These two pesticides belong to a larger family called "organophosphates," which target the nervous system. There is a wealth of evidence that exposure to organophosphates harms children, particularly their developing brains.

This study is important, not just because it's another sign that organically-grown foods really are different from conventional (and therefore worth the extra investment), but because it shows that federal laws designed to keep pesticides out of our kids' diets aren't working.

If you're one of those families who's looking for strategies to buy organic foods without breaking the bank, check out our article Organic on a Budget. But safe food shouldn't just be for families who have an organic grocer nearby and can afford to shop in it -- all our kids should be able to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables without contamination by neurotoxins. You can help make that happen, too:
  • Introduce some families you know to the local farmer's market.
  • Organize with your PTA to get your school's cafeteria buying local, organic produce. Check out for some neat resources.
  • Let your elected officials know that pesticides don't belong in our kids' bodies. Not only should we be lowering the "tolerated" levels of pesticide residues on our foods, but we should be promoting sustainable agriculture that reduces dependence on toxic chemicals for all growers.

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