Organic products seem to be the latest trend, and maybe an excuse for charging more. By definition, “organic” means that the product is untreated with chemicals when grown. Basically, we leave things be and the way that nature intended it. No harmful chemical pesticides or insecticides need to be a part of the process of growing, which means less labor to actually disperse the pesticides and insecticides. Why should we be paying a premium for less work, and to ask the source of our products to simply leave the products be?
We first started using chemical aids with farming because we deemed insect and other rodents to be pests. Paul Müller, a Swiss entomologist, discovered that a chemical compound DDT developed for destroying louse-born typhus and malaria was also highly effective at eradicating the pests that plagued the fields and crops. It even managed to kill bugs that had developed a resistance to arsenic, the old go-to.
With the aid of propaganda, and an endorsement in Principles of Field Crop Production, chemicals started to become the norm for regulating pests on farms. It wasn’t until later, and after the discovery and development of countless more chemical aids to farming that these were highly toxic to humans and the earth: causing birth defects, destroying the stratospheric ozone layer being the most extreme examples. In addition, the very bugs we try to combat and eradicate with pesticides instead start developing resistance, which makes the pesticide industry develop stronger and more noxious products. As this war wages on, each side putting more efforts forward, the losers become apparent: earth, us, and the hardworking farm laborers who get directly exposed to chemicals.
Non-organic may be the cheaper, easier way out (with the way our society has made it the norm), but think about the long-term damage to yourself and the earth. When we introduce foreign, kill-all chemicals into the earth, it will stay there and forever impact the integrity of the soil. Also, when rainfalls, it will pick up the compromised soil in its runoff and bring it wherever it goes, impacting the earth beyond where the chemicals were initially placed. From there, the plants absorb the chemicals and will bring some of the chemicals along with it on its journey to harvest. When we make those into clothing, the chemicals don’t magically go away. Now they become a part of our daily routine and rub against our skin every day, causing allergies, respitory problems, and maybe more.
If we, the consumers, get some of these problems after wearing a refined version of the clothes, imagine how the farm laborers, who get directly exposed to the chemicals, must be. Up to 20,000 farm workers are poisoned each year by pesticides and insecticides, according to the EPA. Short-term health impacts include blisters, blindness, nausea, headaches, even coma. Long-term health impacts include infertility, birth defects, neurological disorders, and cancer. Beyond this, imagine how emotionally taxing it would be for farmers who do come down with one of these life threatening health problems, for them to deal with the hospital bills as a result. Sadly, farmer suicide rates are the highest of any occupation across all cultures. Efforts to create federally funded mental health programs for farmers have failed. But these lives are integrally valuable. In order to support farmers, we must support organic.
Regular cotton is the worst offender. It accounts for 25% of world’s insecticides and 10% of pesticides, but only uses 3% of the world’s farmland. That means we are just pumping that 3% of land chock full of chemicals, and nature has an equalizing algorithm, with water falling from the sky carrying the earth to other places (the runoff). These chemicals are pervasive, and eventually they will just become a part of our soil. All we can do now is try to minimize the impact by no longer partaking in the literally toxic process.
So now you know the real dark history behind nonorganic products. When you choose to purchase organic you are not just giving into an expensive fad, you are making a conscious decision to fight back against society and its constructed norm of pesticides and insecticides in its growing process, and you are making a tangible action to help the earth and its inhabitants.
The earth has been kind to us, and let us be kind to it and to each other.