Possible exposure to toxins on imported produce
Health Sciences Institute e-Alert
Vanessa Bogenholm remembers the exact moment she decided to make the change from conventional farming to organic farming. One day, while preparing to inject a gas pesticide into the soil on her 65-acre berry farm, she dressed herself in protective clothing and put her dog in the car so he wouldn't inhale the chemical fumes.
Suddenly she thought to herself: This is an insane way to make food.
If only more farmers experienced that moment of enlightenment we might live on a far healthier planet.
Farmers who change from conventional to organic don't have an easy go of it. Since the day Vanessa put harmful pesticides, herbicides and fertiliser in her past and converted her berry farm to organic, her harvests are smaller and the demands of plant management are much more difficult.
On the plus side, she no longer has to handle methyl bromide, the soil fumigant and pesticide she was using on the day she decided to make the change. Farm workers who inhale methyl bromide are at risk of developing convulsions, impaired cognitive function, neurological damage and even coma and death.
I found Vanessa's story in a recent Associated Press article that illustrates how farm hands aren't the only ones who suffer from methyl bromide exposure. People who live in the vicinity of farms where methyl bromide is used have reported flu-like symptoms, headaches, nervousness and vision problems.
On a global scale, this gas has also been shown to contribute to ozone layer depletion; a drawback that prompted the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty that banned the use of methyl bromide as of this year.
In the past, the main users of the chemical were growers of open-field strawberries, including pick-your-own, accounting for around 75 percent of the methyl bromide used for UK outdoor soil-grown crops. The use of methyl bromide is now banned in the UK.
Under the Montreal Protocol countries have agreed to phase out methyl bromide usage by the year 2010. All strawberries grown in Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark are already produced without methyl bromide but it is still used in other countries, including Spain and the US, from which we import produce.
This poison gas is just one of many toxic agents we might come into contact with at any given time without ever knowing it. According to US HSI Panellist and First Lady of Nutrition Ann Louise Gittleman, Ph.D., C.N.S., more than 80,000 pesticides, pollutants and chemicals are currently in use worldwide. And the combined effect on our health can be devastating.
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