Tuesday, October 16, 2007

swallowing Silent Spring, part 2

For a while, I have been cautious of embracing the idea of eating only organic foods. I viewed it as a marketing ploy to somehow convince people that the fruits from farm A are better for you than the ones at farm B, and that you will be healthier as a result of choosing more expensive "organic" foods from farm A. There is a lot of muddiness with the organic certification process as well, and a lot of gray area in the definition. But the definition is as follows:

Organic foods are produced according to certain production standards. For crops, it means they were grown without the use of conventional pesticides, artificial fertilizers, human waste or sewage sludge, and that they were processed without ionizing radiation or food additives.

Now, needless to say I am a grad student without a lot of money, and I'm forced to make pretty frugal decisions when it comes to what I eat and where I live. So buying organic didn't seem to be "worth it" to me. But the section of Silent Spring that I just read may have changed my mind.

Throughout the book, Carson's been describing an effect known to biologists as bio-accumulation. Essentially, when a bug contains a little pesticide, and a bird eats a lot of bugs, they end up with an even higher concentration in them than if they had been exposed to it themselves. I couldn't help but make the mental correlation from the plants and crops that we grow with these chemicals and bio-accumulation in our own bodies. If it happens to robins, snakes, foxes... why would we magically think that we're not ingesting, and storing poisons in our tissues?

Again, I know that this is written in the 1960s, and we have learned a lot then. But I think I need to do more research on where my food comes from and what's done to it before I eat it. Rachel Carson's describing an effect of a particularly notorious pesticide, DDT.
"To find a diet free from DDT and related chemicals, it seems one must go to a remote and pr imitative land, still lacking the amenities of civilization. When scientist investigated the native diet of Eskimos in Alaska, it was found to be free from insecticide... When some of the Eskimos themselves were checked by analysis of fat samples, small residues of DDT were found. The reason for this was clear. The fat samples were taken from people who had left their native villages to enter the United States Public Health Service Hospital in Anchorage for surgery. There, the ways of civilization prevailed and the meals in this hospital were found to contain as much DDT as those in the most populous city. For their brief stay in civilization, the Eskimos were rewarded with a taint of poison."
I have to say that this will probably become a side research topic for me to look into. I'm curious as to what our current science and technology has to say about the chemicals in our foods. Could this be contributing to the increase in strange nervous system diseases, SIDS, autism? Are we being silently affected by what we eat?

For another great blog post on this, check this one out (not written by me).
Everyday toxins

I am not one to normally react to things like this, but it makes logical sense, really. I have to say, though, that I'm not to thrilled about deciding what to eat for breakfast this morning.

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