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Food and Faith is a blog of the Presbyterian Hunger Program.

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December 27, 2011

Power on our Plates

When my daughter was in kindergarten, she would inspect her friends' strawberries at lunchtime. “No no, you don’t want to eat that,” she would solemnly inform them. “It’s not organic. It might have yucky chemicals on it.”

Yucky chemicals indeed. Studies continue to pile up showing how pesticides on food can be harmful, especially to children's health. As we head into the home stretch of the holiday feast season, I've been thinking hard about the powerful ripple effects of our food choices. Turns out, what we eat matters. A lot. (from Pesticides Action Network's "Power on our plates")

boy with kale in the snowIt does matter because "you are what you eat" is not an allegory; it is literally true. The substances that pass between your lips become your very own skin, muscle, cartilage, ligaments, nails, bones, blood, lymph and cerebral spinal fluid. Not to mention your organs, nerve cells and the two dozen digestive enzymes that break down food.

Take, for example, my daughter's now-favorite veggie, spinach: USDA found residues of 48 pesticides on their official samples. Of these, 25 are suspected to interfere with human hormones, eight are linked to cancer, eight are neurotoxins and 23 are toxic to honeybees. Yucky. Knowing all this makes the organic spinach from our local farm taste especially good.

Unlike pre-WWII food, today's food typically delivers one or more poisons to our cells because industrial farming, and its chemical dealers -- Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, BASF, Dow, Dupont and others -- are at war with weeds and pests. But many pests keep winning as they develop resistence. Ever more toxins are needed. Children are most effected because they eat more fruits and vegetables and are more sensitive. But it is often when we are adults that the long-term effects hit us.
What to do?
1) First, educate yourself by finding out what's on your food (you can search by food item or pesticide)
2) Second. Consider joining Pesticides Action Network; becoming a PCUSA Earth Care Congregation and joining Presbyterians for Earth Care.
3) Third. Thank the next farmer you meet who is engaging in sustainable and organic practices and buy their last bunch of kale!