Often times when the topic of organic produce comes up, it is almost inevitable that price comes up as well. Many people think of organic as being an elitist food product and it is of course on the list of “stuff white people like,” but it’s not all about the consumer, and it’s not even all about saving the planet. While organic may not be priced in a fiscally friendly way, appearing snobby and not the poor man’s produce, ask any day worker who picked it if they’d rather be picking strawberries in the beautiful fresh, clean air, or picking them surrounded by clouds of Methyl Iodide . They’d probably pick sunshine, right? So for those people who say organic is just for the rich, think again.
I bring up strawberries because the Safe Strawberry Campaign, founded by Californians for Pesticide Reform, Pesticide Watch Education Fund, Pesticide Action Network North America and the Center for Environmental Health, are calling Californians and all consumers to action, requesting that stores be held accountable for selling strawberries treated with Methyl Iodide. More than 80% of strawberries from California are sold throughout the county as consumers demand the berries both in and out of season makiing this both a local and national issue. The Safe Strawberry Campign explains:
Don’t let the pesticide industry override science. Pesticide methyl iodide causes cancer, late-term miscarriages, harms brain function and contaminates water. The country’s leading scientists have called it “one of the most toxic chemicals on earth.” Methyl iodide will be used primarily on strawberries, and will have tragic consequences for farmworkers and rural communities. Despite warnings from government scientists and Nobel laureates regarding its hazards, methyl iodide was approved for agricultural use in the final moments of both the [President’s] Administration nationally, and the Schwarzenegger administration in California.
Environmentalists and animal activists, including myself, often overlook the people who are the hands behind the production. I have been brought up to be very conscious of who the farmer is that is behind the animal products I consume and have always supported local organic farmers who treat the earth and animals with respect. I, myself, am guilty, however, of being caught up in the blaming of big agriculture for the run off and mistreatment of feed lot, factory farmed animals, not even thinking about the health effects their chemicals and pesticides may have on those who are the labor on the bottom of the corporate food chain.
Last week when I posted the film The World According to Monsanto, one scene that particularly struck me, was Pedro, a young boy in Paraguay who’s health was deteriorating, starting with skin discoloration and dwindling appetite, just from walking through the feilds of Monsanto’s GMO Round Up Ready Soy Beans sprayed with Round Up. He had to walk through those fields to support his family by selling his mother’s tortillas. If that can be the effect of just walking through crops, how much worse can the effects be on workers who spray, pick, breathe, and walk all day in fields of pesticide treated fields? This got me wondering about how day laborors in the U.S. are treated.
It is unfair for big ag to present their scientific “findings” through a filter that sways the EPA to appove chemicals that have not been proven safe enough to eat and breathe without getting cancer and other illnesses. The Strawberry Campaign lists the effects of Methyl Iodide:
Humans exposed to methyl iodide experience dizziness, sleepiness, nausea, diarrhea, slurred speech, lack of coordination, muscle convulsions — and in some cases, pulmonary edema. Listed as an EPA Hazardous Air Pollutant, methyl iodide also affects the the lungs, liver, and kidneys.
Currently the United Farm Workers of America is joining forces with the Safe Strawberry Campaign following the belief of Cesar Chavez who said, “Why do we allow farm workers to carry the burden of pesticides on their shoulders?”
If we, the consumer, are not willing to spray it ourself or expose our loved ones, why should we expect anything less from the farm workers that keep our country fed? Especially when there are known and practiced pesticide free methods to produce beautiful, delicious strawberries.
Check out this newscast for more info.