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Category: Features

Organic foods are foods produced by organic farming.

Organic farming and locally grown produce. Instead of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, organic farmers rely on biological diversity in the field to naturally reduce habitat for pest organisms. Organic farmers also purposefully maintain and replenish the fertility of the soil.

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Conventional vs. organic farming

The word "organic" refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat. Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution.

Farmers who grow organic produce don't use conventional methods to fertilize and control weeds. Examples of organic farming practices include using natural fertilizers to feed soil and plants, and using crop rotation or mulch to manage weeds.

 

Here are links to Organic Restaurants in Russia

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The whole picture
Organic food contributes to better health through reduced pesticide exposure for all and increased nutritional quality. In order to understand the importance of eating organic food from the perspective of toxic pesticide contamination, we need to look at the whole picture—from the farmworkers who do the valuable work of growing food, to the waterways from which we drink, the air we breathe, and the food we eat. Organic food can feed us and keep us healthy without producing the toxic effects of chemical agriculture.

Who benefits?
Farmworkers- reduced pesticide exposure in organic agriculture
Consumers- increased nutrition and reduced pesticide contamination in organic agriculture
Children- why organic food is important for all kids

Farmworker health
The population groups most affected by pesticide use are farmworkers and their families. These people live in communities near the application of toxic pesticides, where pesticide drift and water contamination are common. Farmworkers, both pesticide applicators and fieldworkers who tend to and harvest the crops, come into frequent contact with pesticides. Their families and children are then exposed to these pesticides through contact with them and their clothing. Pregnant women working in the fields unwittingly expose their unborn babies to toxic pesticides. Organic agriculture does not utilize these toxic chemicals and thus eliminates this enormous health hazard to workers, their families, and their communities.

There is no national reporting system for farmworker pesticide poisonings. In California, one of the few states to require reporting pesticide poisonings, there was a yearly average of 475 reported farmworker poisonings from pesticides in the years 1997-2000 according to the report Fields of Poison 2002: California Farmworkers and Pesticides. As discussed in the paper, this probably drastically underestimates the true number of poisonings, since many cases are never reported for myriad reasons including rising health care costs that have heightened reluctance to seek medical attention, misdiagnosis from medical professionals, and the failure of insurance companies to forward reports to proper authorities.

Acute pesticide poisonings for farmworkers are only one aspect of the health consequences of pesticide exposure. Many farmworkers spend years in the field exposed to toxic chemicals, and some studies have reported increased risks of certain types of cancers among farmworkers. The emerging science on endocrine disrupting pesticides reveals another chronic health effect of pesticide exposure (for more on endocrine disrupting pesticides, read the spring 2008 article in Pesticides and You).

Children living in areas with high pesticide use are at great risk of health effects because of their high susceptibility to pesticides. In 1998, a groundbreaking study by Elizabeth Guillette published in Environmental Health Perspectives showed the severe developmental effects of pesticides on children in an agricultural area of Mexico. The full text of this study including the innovative methodology used is available here.

Pesticide exposure for pregnant women working in the fields can have devastating effects on their babies. One study compares three case studies of birth defects caused by probable pesticide poisoning. In one case that was brought to court and decided in favor of the plaintiffs, a mother exposed illegally to pesticides gave birth to a child without arms or legs. For the full story in Beyond Pesticides' Daily News Blog, read here.

Looking only at pesticide residues in food as a measure of pesticide exposure ignores the fact that many foods that do not end up with high pesticide residues nonetheless involve toxic chemicals in production that put workers' health at risk. Pesticide use in production and farmworker exposure is a necessary consideration in looking at the whole pesticide problem. A shift to organic agriculture is the only way to eliminate toxic pesticide exposure for everyone.

For more on the health risks that farmers face, read Baldemar Velasquez's article in Pesticides and You titled
Oppression and Farmworker Health in a Global Economy as well as our page on buying organic and labor