When the evil queen gives Snow White the apple in the classic Disney fairy tale, we know she shouldn’t eat it. Its ruby red skin is enticing, but lurking underneath is something we know will hurt her.
The red apple found in most kids’ lunch boxes today may not contain an evil spell, but it likely tests positive for as many as 47 pesticide residues, even after it’s washed. This includes 6 known or probable carcinogens, 5 neurotoxins, 6 developmental or reproductive toxins and 16 suspected hormone disruptors.
Unlike Snow White, when we eat our apple, we don’t immediately feel sick. Yet autoimmune diseases like celiac, Crohn’s and inflammatory bowel disease are on the rise. Girls are showing signs of puberty as early as age 7 and gluten and dairy intolerances have become the new normal. Our grandparents didn’t experience this. Why is it happening to us? Is there something about the way we grow and package our food that’s poisoning us like Snow White’s apple?
The answer to that question is very likely yes. Our crops are sprayed with a concoction of chemicals, some cancer-causing. Often the plants can’t survive the bombardment so rather than reduce the amount of chemicals we use, we genetically engineer them to withstand it.
Commercial manufacturing plants prepare our food with artificial flavors, colors and preservatives. Some of them are considered so unsafe they are banned in other countries.
Our food and water is packaged in plastic, despite the fact that a chemical in plastic (bisphenol A) can be absorbed into our bodies and alter our hormones, which regulate digestion, breathing, energy, sleep, mood, reproduction, growth and development.
“The nightmare scenario is that we one day find out that a lot more of our current disorders, including infertility and cancer, may be due to bisphenol A and only show up after cumulative exposure. But by then, we all have accumulated so much exposure that it’s too late to reverse the effects.”– Karin Michels, Harvard School of Public Health
Long gone are the days of “Old MacDonald Had A Farm,” even though we continue to sing the cherished nursery rhyme to our children. Large-scale conventional farms today confine animals in cramped cages, force them to eat food they wouldn’t eat in the wild and pump them full of antibiotics and hormones so they are fattened up before slaughter. No one wants to sing about that. So we push it out of our minds and hold onto the past. A past we could make our present.
We’ve overfished our oceans so completely that now we farm fish just like we do our livestock. We cram them into tight cages and pens and feed them unnatural diets of poultry bi-products, wheat, GMO soybean and corn. When salmon can’t eat their natural diet they don’t turn pink, so we dye them. When they don’t grow fast enough, we genetically engineer them. Our oceans are so polluted with industrial chemicals that even the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recommends pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children avoid certain types of fish.
Healthy, nutritious food is our best natural weapon against disease. If we stay this course, it could become harder and harder if not impossible to find food that’s not contaminated in some way. If we can’t use pure, nutrient-dense food to fight cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and many other diseases, will our only option be to take a pill with a host of side effects?
It’s easy to have “this could hurt me” burnout and do nothing, but if we continue to buy conventionally grown food, we allow these practices to continue and get worse. We unconsciously support a world full of more harmful chemicals and the inhumane and unnatural treatment of animals and the environment.
When Snow White bit into her apple she didn’t know what was in it, but we do. It’s time to stop turning a blind eye to what’s happening in our food industry. It’s unethical, immoral, unsustainable and ultimately unhealthy for our bodies and the environment.
What You Can Do
If you want to support more sustainable farming practices, buy USDA certified organic or biodynamic food from local farmers. Shop for wild-caught or sustainably-raised fish. Ask your favorite restaurants and local markets to consider adding organic options and tell them why you are concerned.
Organic food is more expensive because it reflects the true cost of farming without the use of GMOs and toxic chemicals. If we we continue to buy conventionally grown food, the use of these chemicals will continue and get worse.
If you can’t afford to buy all organic food, use this guide from the Environmental Working Group to help avoid produce with the most chemicals.
Need help finding sustainably-raised fish? Look for these logos when you shop.
The Cornucopia Institute – “Closing Comments of Francis Thicke at End of NOSB Term”
BuzzFeed – “8 Foods We Eat In The U.S. That Are Banned In Other Countries”
Medical News Today – “Could processed foods raise the risk of autoimmune diseases?”
Multiple Sclerosis News Today – “Rise in MS and Autoimmune Disease Linked to Processed Foods”
The Wall Street Journal – “For More Children, Puberty Signs Start at 8”
NPR – “How Girls Are Developing Earlier In An Age of ‘New Puberty’”
Pesticide Action Network – “What’s on my food?”
Forbes – “Living in Color: The Potential Dangers of Artificial Dyes”
Time – “These Plastic Chemicals May Be Just As Dangerous As What They Replace”
Scientific American – “Widely Used Herbicide Linked to Cancer”
National Geographic Magazine – “Can the blue revolution solve the world’s food puzzle?”
New York Times – “Genetically Engineered Salmon Approved for Consumption”
The Huffington Post – “FDA Sued Over Approval of Genetically Engineered Salmon”
The Atlantic – “The Costliest Part of Feeding Farmed Salmon: A Pill That Turns Them Pink”
NRDC – Mercury in Fish “The Smart Seafood Buying Guide”
FDA – “What You Need to Know About Mercury in Fish and Shellfish (Brochure)”
Forbes – “GMO Crops Mean More Herbicide, Not Less”
The Guardian – “Ministers reject second request to use banned bee-harming pesticides”
Vancouver Sun – “Vancouver bans bee-killing pesticide”
Science Daily – “Pesticides make the life of earthworms miserable”
Curious about what fish farms look like? National Geographic – “How to Farm a Better Fish“
Feature image Soberve @iStock