Let's take a step back and think about the production of the food we eat and recognize how the process affects farmers.
Say No To Synthetic Pesticides & Herbicides
In order to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, we need to develop the skill of stepping into our neighbors shoes. It requires that we attempt to imagine how an event would affect them, how they would react to such an event, and what sort of emotions they would feel. Statistics do a great job of describing a situation, but a poor job of conveying the impact upon the individuals included in the statistics. Just as God became man and experienced what we experience, we too need to attempt to experience what others are experiencing.
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrew 4:15-16
While we often focus on pesticide/herbicide effects upon us and our families, we must remember that there are other people and families that are being affected. Farmers and farm workers receive the highest exposure to pesticides due to the use, handling, and proximity to the chemicals.
After a mother's child died of a rare disease, she started seeing a trend in her community. By hand-creating a map of the illnesses, diseases, and birth defects in her region, she was able to convince the local authorities to investigate. Her town, Ituzaingó, Argentina (the 3rd largest exporter of soybeans), was found to have cancer rates "41 times the national average". The federal government investigated the claims and confirmed that low concentrations of glyphosate were also causing birth defects.
One of the main push backs against purchasing organic food is the price difference. In some situations, organically grown produce is significantly more expensive than industrially grown. How does God view our calculating the extra cost vs the safety of the farmers producing our food? What does He think of me as I weigh, on the balance scales in my mind, money on one side and farmers' children's neurological diseases on the other? How could money be so significant to me? How much money would be equivalent to my neighbor's child's birth defects?
2,014 cases of acute occupational pesticide related illnesses and injuries were reported during the CDC's 2007-2010 SENSOR Program. This report only covered 11 states and only measured reported cases (immigrant and temporary workers are much less likely to report incidents).
The debate rages on between people who are against pesticides and people who think they are necessary. We as Christians should take a step back. For a price increase and habit change, there are options that present no health controversy or hazard to our neighbors. The decision for us should already be made without the government having to make a law.
California has moved to ban the pesticide Chlorpyrifos, which is linked to neurological problems in infants and children. See the map below for more usage information. The EPA has moved to ban the pesticide nationwide, however the current EPA chief continues to stall.
Some attempt to debate toxicity for consumers, but there is little debate around the toxicity for communities that surround farms sprayed with pesticides and herbicides. As we try to love our neighbors, let's try to imagine that we are a part of these communities. These are our friends, our family, our kids. In the communities surrounding the fields where chemicals are sprayed, there is a significant increase in:
Say No To Banned Substances
In 1979, President Jimmy Carter signed an executive order that made it illegal to sell banned pesticides outside the USA. This standard was created to establish equality. If it wasn't safe for the American people, it wasn't safe for anyone else either. Shortly thereafter, newly elected President Ronald Reagan revoked that order and made the sale of banned pesticides outside the USA legal again. If anything reeks of being unethical, it is the sale of something to someone else for profit that is too harmful for the seller to use. It is also important to recognize that the imported, non-organic produce we buy at the grocery store may have been produced using chemicals banned on American farms. If you are buying imported produce, it is even more critical to purchase organically grown items.
Buy Organic Produce
While claims like "All-Natural" don't have any requirements, USDA Organic actually holds some weight. For starters, it requires adherence to organic weed and pest control strategies. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used in anything labeled organic. It isn't a perfect system, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. Read more about the strict requirements and third party testing.
Meet Your Farmers
Talk to actual farmers, visit their farms, and ask them questions. We recently took our daughter to a local farm to meet the cows that make the milk we drink. She had a great time and we learned a lot. We like knowing exactly where the farm is that produces our food, how the animals are treated, what the animals are fed, and how the business operates. Talking to the producers of your food face-to-face is a fantastic opportunity to know first hand whether they use pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, etc.
Look for Local Health Food Stores
Another resource is your local, non-chain, organic or pasture-raised food stores. A store near us has personally investigates and maintains strong relationships with all of the farmers they source from. They help us understand more about the food we buy and eat by sharing their valuable research and knowledge. Our local store has given recommendations of their favorite farms, explained the farmer's agricultural philosophies, and provided insight into local produce that is in season. Some stores also coordinate with CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), which virtually eliminates any processing from the farmer to the consumer. It also allows a group of consumers to create a set of standards that local farmers work within.
Let's love farmers by demanding safe organic crops for them to grow. Let us be mindful, as we use God's money to feed our families, that the system we participate in is also feeding more than just us.
Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered. -Proverbs 21:13