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Whoa, Is Organic Food No Healthier Than Non-Organic? Controversy Erupts Over Study

Here's an important thing to remember: Our food choices don't just affect us, but entire communities.

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The health impacts on those workers were serious and included “diverse alterations of the digestive, neurological, respiratory, circulatory, dermatological, renal, and reproductive system.” The researchers concluded: “there exist health hazards for those farm workers exposed to pesticides, at organic and cellular levels.”

There are  shelves’ worth of studies documenting the health dangers of pesticide exposure. A study published last year found that  prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides – which are often sprayed on crops and in urban areas to control insects – can lower children’s IQ. A follow-up investigation into prenatal pesticide exposure concluded that  boys’ developing brains appear to be more vulnerable than girls’ brains. A study by Colorado State University epidemiologist Lori Cragin found that women who drink water containing low levels of the herbicide atrazine are  more likely to have low estrogen levels and irregular menstrual cycles; about three-quarters of all US corn fields are treated with atrazine annually. British scientists who examined the health effects of fungicides sprayed on fruits and vegetable crops discovered that 30 out of 37 chemicals studied  altered males’ hormone production.

I think you get the point: many synthetic herbicides and pesticides are dangerous to humans and should be avoided. And the best way to avoid putting those chemicals into our surroundings is to buy organically grown foods.

Yes, the health benefit to you might be modest. But the health benefits to farming communities, farm workers, their children, and their unborn children can be huge. Reason enough, I think, to look for the organic label.

Jason Mark is a co-manager at San Francisco's Alemany Farm and the editor of the quarterly environmental magazine, Earth Island Journal. He is also a co-author of Building the Green Economy: Success Stories from the Grassroots.