The Organic Debate

Organic Fruit

This morning while I was washing my hair with my organic shampoo and conditioner I found myself thinking about organic products. Particularly the fact that the jury is still out on weather organic foods/products are really any better for you than non-organic. My thought was that even if they’re not (though I do believe they are) they are certainly better for the environment.

My newest project is buying organic cotton over normal cotton as it one of the worst things we grow on our planet. I’ve found I can get a bit of organic cotton clothing at Target so it’s still affordable. I saw an add last week for organic cotton towels so I’ll buy them when mine need replacing. And I recently bought organic cotton balls – when I thought about the fact I was going through 3-4 each day during my skin care routine.

My regular blog readers will already know that we get organic fruit & veg (what we don’t grow ourselves) delivered by Doorstep Organics and I buy whatever I can organic from the supermarket. I would say at least 2/3 of  our diet is organic – maybe more. We buy organic milk but not organic butter (I did for a while but it was a bit too expensive with amount we go through – i.e. one dd who has buttered toast for ALL main meals). Even if it is no better for us – it is better for the environment ( and the cows in the case of milk). And I do really notice that the organic fruit and veg last MUCH LONGER than that bought from the supermarket. I’m guessing that’s cause it’s straight from the grower to me and not hanging around in a cold room somewhere.

I was also very excited the last time I was at the beauticians to find out they will be stocking an organic skin care range. At the moment the one i use is natural but not organic.

Anyway, if you do don’t buy organic yet I challenge you to have a think about it. If not for your health, then do it for the health of the world.

4 Comments to “The Organic Debate”

  1. By Annie Adams, September 5, 2008 @ 2:26 pm

    I didn’t know that regular cotton was bad…… come?
    We buy organic randomly…….not consistently…..I like the idea of having it delivered, that is awesome! I don’t remember reading that! Hope you are having a fun week!

  2. By Libby Withnall, September 5, 2008 @ 3:36 pm

    I just sent this to Annie and thought I’d post it here for anyone wanting some more info on cotton

    When produced with conventional agricultural practices, cotton generally requires the use of substantial amounts of fertilisers and pesticides.
    Globally, cotton accounts for 11% of all pesticides used each year, even though the area of production is only 2.4% of the world’s arable land.

    High consumption of agrochemicals
    With regard to the subset of insecticides, cotton producers use 25% of all insecticides used each year. In developing countries, estimates suggest that half of the total pesticides used on all crops are applied to cotton.

    Forty-six insecticides and acaricides (compounds used to control mites and ticks) comprise 90% of the total volume of all pesticides used on cotton. Five of these are classified as extremely hazardous, 8 as highly hazardous, and 20 are moderately hazardous (Soth 1999).

    Risks of using highly toxic pesticides
    The use of pesticides poses health risks to workers; to organisms in the soil; to migratory species such as insects, birds, and mammals; and to downstream freshwater species. Research on the cause of fish deaths in the United States showed that pesticides, even used with the proper application, harm freshwater ecosystems.

    Serious water contamination from runoff
    Endosulphan is a pesticide that is classified as highly toxic. In August 1995 endosulphan contaminated runoff from cotton fields in Alabama resulted in the death of more than 240,000 fish along a 25-kilometre stretch of river (PANUPS 1996). In another instance, gulls in Texas were killed 3 miles from cotton fields where parathion was sprayed when they ate insects that had been poisoned.

    Effects on humans
    Studies have estimated the human impact from pesticides used on cotton to be as high as 20,000 people killed and 3 million poisoned every year (IISD/WWF 1997). In addition to direct contamination in fields, people are also affected through water runoff, drift of sprayed mist, the use of empty pesticide containers for other purposes, and inadequate or illegal disposal of expired or unused pesticides (Banuri 1999).

    The shift to chemical control of pests is relatively new, beginning after World War II. In the United States, for example, in 1950 cotton pests were controlled by agricultural management and tillage practices. Pest cycles were taken into consideration before planting and at harvesting. Crop rotations were used, sometimes unprofitably, to avoid insect infestations. Planting in lower densities also allowed producers to reduce the impact of pests.

    Pesticides – perceived as cheaper alternative to other inputs
    From the 1950s on, pesticides were seen as a cheaper alternative to the use of labour and machinery. Use peaked in the 1970s. By the late 1990s in California, an average of 9.1 kilograms (20 pounds) of pesticides (active ingredients only) were used each year per hectare of cotton production.

    Aldicarb – frequently used, acutely toxic
    This rate of usage has not changed in the past decade. The most acutely toxic pesticide registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is aldicarb (sold under the trade name Temik), which is frequently used on cotton. In fact, 85-95% of all aldicarb used in the United States is used on cotton. Aldicarb has been detected in the groundwater in 16 states (Monsanto 1999).

    Pesticides make up by far the largest share of the agrochemicals used on cotton (67%). Herbicides make up about a quarter of all agrochemicals used, and fungicides a relatively small amount (5%). In many parts of the world the use of chemicals in cotton production is an even more recent phenomenon, but one rapidly increasing in scope.
    Statistics of Cotton

    * Of all insecticides used globally each year, the estimated amount used on traditional cotton: 25%.
    * Five of the top nine pesticides used on cotton in the U.S. (cyanide, dicofol, naled, propargite, and trifluralin) are KNOWN cancer-causing chemicals. All nine are classified by the U.S. EPA as Category I and II— the most dangerous chemicals.
    * In the U.S. today, it takes approximately 8-10 years, and $100 million to develop a new pesticide for use on cotton. It takes approximately 5-6 years for weevils and other pests to develop an immunity to a new pesticide.
    * 600,408 tons of herbicides, insecticides, fertilizers, fungicides, and other chemicals were used to produce cotton in 1992 in the 6 largest cotton producing states. (Agricultural Chemical Usage, 1992 Field Crops Summary, USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service)
    * Number of pesticides presently on the market that were registered before being tested to determine if they caused cancer, birth defects or wildlife toxicity: 400. (US EPA Pesticide Registration Progress Report, 1/93)
    * Amount of time it takes to ban a pesticide in the U.S. using present procedures: 10 years. (US EPA Pesticide Registration Progress Report, 1/93)
    * Number of active ingredients in pesticides found to cause cancer in animals or humans: 107.(After Silent Spring, NRDC, 6/93)
    * Of those active ingredients, the number still in use today: 83.(After Silent Spring, NRDC, 6/93)
    * Number of pesticides that are reproductive toxins according to the California E.P.A.: 15. (After Silent Spring, NRDC, 6/93)
    * Most acutely toxic pesticide registered by the E.P.A.: aldicarb (frequently used on cotton). (After Silent Spring, NRDC, 6/93)
    * Number of states in which aldicarb has been detected in the groundwater: 16. (After Silent Spring, NRDC, 6/93)
    * Percentage of all U.S. counties containing groundwater susceptible to contamination from agricultural pesticides and fertilizers: 46%. (After Silent Spring, NRDC, 6/93)
    * The Sustainable Cotton Project estimates that the average acre of California cotton grown in 1995 received some 300 pounds of synthetic fertilizers or 1/3 pound of fertilizer to raise every pound of cotton. Synthetic fertilizers have been found to contaminate drinking wells in farm communities and pose other long-term threats to farm land.
    * One of the commonly used pesticides on cotton throughout the world, endosulfan, leached from cotton fields into a creek in Lawrence County, Alabama during heavy rains in 1995. Within days 245,000 fish were killed over 16 mile stretch. 142,000 pounds of endosulfan were used in California in 1994.
    * In California’s San Joaquin Valley, estimates are that less than 25% of a pesticide sprayed from a crop duster ever hits the crop. The remainder can drift for several miles, coming to rest on fruit and vegetable crops, and farm- workers. One year more than one hundred workers fell ill after a single incident of such drift onto an adjacent vineyard.
    * In California, it has become illegal to feed the leaves, stems, and short fibers of cotton known as ‘gin trash’ to livestock, because of the concentrated levels of pesticide residue. Instead, this gin trash is used to make furniture, mattresses, tampons, swabs, and cotton balls. The average American woman will use 11,000 tampons or sanitary pads during her lifetime.
    * The problems with clothing production don’t stop in the field. During the conversion of conventional cotton into clothing, numerous toxic chemicals are added at each stage— silicone waxes, harsh petroleum scours, softeners, heavy metals, flame and soil retardants, ammonia, and formaldehyde— to name just a few.

    OTA’s “2006 U.S. Organic Production & Marketing Trends” report.
    Allen Woodburn Associates Ltd./Managing Resources Ltd., “Cotton: The Crop and its Agrochemicals Market,” 1995.
    American Crop Protection Association, “1997 Total U. S. Sales by Crop Protection Product Type and Market,” 1998 ACPA Industry Profile.
    California Department of Pesticide Regulation, “DPR Releases Data on 1999 Pesticide Injuries,” 2001.
    U. S. Department of Agriculture, “Agricultural Chemical Usage: 2003 Field Crop Summary.”
    U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, “List of Chemicals Evaluated for Carcinogenic Potential,” 2001.

  3. By Bel, September 5, 2008 @ 10:43 pm

    Thanks for that, Libby! I never thought of cotton balls. We use those cotton makeup pads too – do they come in organic, do you know? I love Target’s organic underwear – lovely to wear!

    We eat organic fresh food, most dry goods, tinned food and jars. About half our dairy intake is organic. We don’t eat meat, but if we did I’d buy local organic beef. Our chickens don’t get organic grain because the cost is prohibitive, but most of their food intake is organic, so our eggs are “fairly organic’, LOL.

    I use some organic skincare and makeup, some not. Have just switched to a new shampoo, so we’ll see how this one goes. I’m a bit fussy when it comes to personal care products, and trying to find the best natural, organic ones for us.

    Thanks again!

  4. By Claire, September 8, 2008 @ 2:55 am

    Yay! A like minded Mum. I just stumbled across your blog from somewhere else … can’t actually where it linked from :-S But I love it! We started out with organic food and then progressed onto clothing and other products due to littlest DD’s allergies, but we now try to go organic where ever possible because, like you say – so much better for the environment. In my recent experience the organic children’s clothes we have bought have been so much better than normal kids clothes too, so well worth the extra expense, plus the peace of mind!

    Would you mind if I linked your blog from mine?