Are Those Veggies Safe to Eat?

At the supermarket, I usually see an abundance of fresh, flawless vegetables. The vegetables are uniform in size and shape, and completely untouched by insect marks of any kind. As a organic farmer though, I can attest to the voracious appetite of nature. I have seen lettuce leaves pecked clean by birds, cabbages and corn devoured by insect larvae, cucumber and tomato plants infected by disease, and many crops damaged by slugs, snails and beetles.

In conventional farming, the solution is to apply vast quantities of pesticides. Pesticides are substances that prevent or destroy insects, weeds, and diseases that affect crops. This is chemical warfare against nature. In fact, many modern pesticides are chemically similar to chemical warfare agents developed during WWI and WWII.

For example, organophosphates are the basis of many insecticides, herbicides (that are approved for agricultural use) and nerve gases. According to wikipedia “They are of concern to both scientists and regulators because they work by irreversibly blocking an enzyme that’s critical to nerve function in both bugs and people. Even at relatively low levels, organophosphates may be most hazardous to the brain development of fetuses and young children. They can be absorbed through the lungs or skin or by eating them on food”.

The “safety” of approved pesticides is also commonly compromised by misuse. Farmers may apply more than the recommended amount or they may apply it too close to harvest time. Imagine you are the farmer, and your crop will be harvested in the next two weeks. Months of hard work are about to pay off! But then you see those pesky insects leaving their bite marks on your crop. Do you spray the insecticide, even though the instructions  say “do not spray within 14 days of harvest” or do you simply refrain from spraying and accept that you will earn significantly less or sustain a loss from your now insect damaged crop? Continue reading “Are Those Veggies Safe to Eat?”