Organic farming is sustainable, and its products are healthier because they are grown without chemical pesticides and fertilizers. We all agree on those points. More toxins = less healthy; less toxins = healthier. Right?
Current discussions include the debate over the superior (or not superior) nutritional value of organically-grown produce, meat and other products. I have another reason to buy organic:
I care about farm worker health.
When I eat that organic banana, orange or lettuce, I think about the farm worker that cultivates and harvests that food product. When I buy organic, those farm workers are not exposed to dangerous chemicals (hopefully).
In an article available on the PubMed from the Archives of the Environmental and Occupational Health by Payán-Rentería et al (2012) entitled “Effect of chronic pesticide exposure in farm workers of a Mexico community,” 20% of farm workers from Mexico showed acute pesticide poisoning along with other negative effects.
In another article about how well the U.S. government is protecting farm workers from pesticide poisoning, “NIOSH Pesticide Poisoning Monitoring Program Protects Farmworkers,” there is a case study discussing three farm workers who gave birth to children with birth defects linked to pesticide exposure. When I buy organic, I am supporting an agricultural system that protects pregnant farm workers and their children.
It is common sense that exposure to chemical pesticides and fertilizers poses a health threat to farm workers. This is no mystery. But what is not common sense is how the industrial agriculture spin machine can argue over whether an organic carrot contains equal amounts of Vitamin A when the real issue is much more complex.
When I buy organic, I am supporting a sustainable system that cares about farm worker health. I am supporting a system of life, not illness and death.
Farm worker health should be the number one reason to buy organic.