While walking the aisles of the closest supermarket and browsing the produce section, it’s easy to see how “conventional” food can be misconstrued as something “normal.”
But the cold, hard truth of the matter is that normalizing a system of toxic pesticides, genetically engineered, lab-created food like Roundup Ready corn and soybeans, and other pillars of “modern agriculture” are taking a tremendous toll on our health, and the health of our soil and environment.
Few would know better than Rudy Arredondo, the founder and president of the National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trader Association and a board member of the Rural Coalition.
Arredondo, who once worked as a “flag man” waving in crop-dusting planes to kill every bug in sight with toxic pesticides at age 12, is a lifelong farmworker who’s seen the damage these chemicals can do up close and personal.
And now, he is releasing an impassioned plea to the world at-large to switch to organic before it’s too late, in order to preserve the health of millions of people going forward.
In a powerful editorial published in the Sacramento Bee earlier this month, Arredondo recalled his experiences as a farmworker, a profession in which 10-20,000 people die each year due to direct pesticide exposure worldwide according to the United Nations.
Arredondo, who has been called the defender of Latino farmers in the U.S., said he and his coworkers were also directly sprayed by crop-dusting planes in the fields, but nobody ever told him these toxic clouds of pesticides were dangerous.
“I didn’t even wear a handkerchief over my face,” he said. “My father almost died one time when a hose broke and exposed him to toxic fumes while he was applying ammonia treatments on a farm.”
According to Arredondo, many thousands of farmworkers and some farmers have been hospitalized and developed chronic, life-threatening illnesses from the chemicals we use to grow our food.
Despite denial over the problem, it continues to rear its ugly head in all corners of the country, including in California where a verdict was just announced in favor of Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, who was the first person to ever challenge Monsanto’s Roundup in a federal trial.
Hardeman won a unanimous ruling against Monsanto, joining groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson in the legal winner’s circle against the controversial company, now owned by Bayer.
“There’s Nothing ‘Elitist’ About Toxic-Free Food”
Thousands more lawsuits are pending against the company, but meanwhile, farmworkers everywhere are suffering, and preparing for another growing season of being bombarded by chemicals, which Arredondo noted in the editorial. It’s a problem that will continue to grow unless more people vote with their dollars at the cash register and choose organic food free from these toxic, synthetic chemicals like Roundup.
“The farmworkers who plant and harvest America’s food are on the frontlines of pesticide harm. Protecting farmworkers from toxic pesticides will require reducing industrial agriculture’s dependence on synthetic chemicals while expanding organic farming.”
A new peer-reviewed study showed that four diverse American families who went on an all-organic diet reduced the chemical pesticide load in their bodies by an average of 60.5 percent, with drops ranging from 37 percent to 95 percent depending on each specific compound.
The study was published in the journal Environmental Research.
Unfortunately, organic food has a few problems to tackle before it can truly become mainstream: price, access, and image.
Arredondo believes the USDA organic seal and buying from local organic farmers is well worth it, however, having experienced the nightmares of a Monsanto and Bayer style agricultural system first-hand for many years.
“Having lived and worked in farming and migrant farmworker communities my whole life, I know many perceive organic food to be elitist,” he said in the editorial.
“But there’s nothing ‘elitist’ about healthy, toxic-free food: everyone has the right to safe, nutritious food and our society must make that a reality.
“In fact, low-income farmworkers are helping to lead the fight for organic agriculture because they know how dangerous our current industrial system is.”
Arredondo said that he knows farmers want to take care of people and the land as well, although many are currently subservient to Monsanto’s model of “modern” agriculture.
He called for a switch to organic food before it’s too late, because the stakes are too high (editor’s note: especially with Monsanto’s new multi-million dollar deal to flood the market with new “longer lasting” GMO foods).
“This new study is a powerful reminder that we must – and can – create a healthier food system for all of us,” Arredondo said.
“Choosing organic food reduces pesticide exposures in our own bodies and protects the health and well-being of the people who make our food possible: the farmworkers and farmers of America.”
It’s a transition that is happening as we speak, although there is a monumental amount of work to be done still, including changing public perception on organic food. Every purchase helps to build a new world and to support a sustainable and healthier new food system, he said.
“I know many farmers who are working hard to switch from so-called conventional food production using pesticides to organic farming that is in tune with what nature and our bodies require,” he said.
“Consumers, too, hold a powerful key to unlocking change,” Arredondo added.
“When consumers stop buying food grown with toxic pesticides, farmers and policymakers will follow those signals. All of us must demand that our food system produce healthy and environmentally-responsible food without toxic chemicals. I’ve spent my lifetime working and organizing in the fields. I know that we can, and must, transition to a system where healthy organic food is affordable and available to all.
“Given all we know about the damage pesticides do to our health and to our environment, isn’t it time to create this organic reality for all of us?”
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