Cleaner, Safer, Smarter: The Case For Organic Farming
Many people believe that while organic farming is preferable, it’s not an option if we’re going to feed large populations – when in fact, if we’re going to build safe, healthy communities then organic, sustainable farming practices are the only responsible path. The environmental harms caused by chemical pesticides in farming are far-reaching and could impact user and community health for decades to come.
Protecting Farm Workers
In the age of industrial farming, low-paid workers are among the most vulnerable workers. In 2014 alone, there were 58,000 adult farm injuries including injuries from tractors, balers, and other equipment, as well as chemical exposure. Workers may experience respiratory problems, rashes, and even cancers.
In the short term, workers have legal recourse against their employers. Personal injury lawyers can help you pursue a workplace injury claim, which can help individual workers secure healthcare and financial stability in the face of physical impairment. What a personal injury claim can’t do, however, is protect the wider community.
Community Chemical Infiltration
Industrial farming’s impact on the environment is similar to the impacts of manufacturing. Both involve a significant release of chemicals into the surrounding environment, including into community water sources. That means it’s not just farm workers who are impacted, but rather everyone who eats the foods from those farms or drinks water from the aquifers – in essence, everyone.
While farmworkers obviously have the highest level of chemical exposure, 75% of Americans have measurable levels of organophosphates – one of the most common types of pesticides used on our farms. Workers directly exposed to these chemicals can suffer organophosphate poisoning, but even those who experience very low, but chronic, exposure can experience serious symptoms.
Particularly among children, chronic organophosphate exposure increases the risk of neurological conditions, including ADHD. They may also increase the incidence of leukemia, impact the production of reproductive hormones, and negatively affect the thyroid and liver. If we care about our children and their future, we need to make a move towards exclusively organic farming. Already, we face “silent spring”-style repercussions down the road.
A More Sustainable Future
A move to organic farming is critical to protecting both worker and consumer health and should be considered a top priority among farmers, government officials, and consumers. And it’s important that we ignore fear-mongering tactics that suggest we would face food shortages by doing so. At present, the United States wastes 30-40% of our food supply – we even overproduce bread. The problem isn’t growing enough food; the problem is distributing it.
Eliminating chemical pesticides and shifting to organic solutions will prevent farm workers from suffering acute organophosphate poisoning and eliminate the risk of chronic, unseen exposure. It may also be the only way we can continue feeding the population. While organic farming may be more fragile in theory, pesticides are killing off bee populations and causing colony collapse. No bees mean no food – we need our pollinators. The whole system is a set of dominos. Traditional farming threatens to knock them all down.