Organic farmers help cut exposure to toxic chemicals - Organic Trade Association
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Organic farmers help cut exposure to toxic chemicals


GREENFIELD, Mass. (April 9, 2001)—As toxic and persistent agricultural chemicals make headlines again, organic farmers have a message to share with concerned consumers. This message: consumers can make choices that will reduce their exposure to such chemicals.

In its "National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals" released March 21, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found measurable amounts of organophosphate pesticide metabolites in the people studied. Previously a recent National Academy of Sciences study suggested that one out of four developmental and behavioral problems in children may be linked to genetic and environmental factors, including exposure to lead, mercury and organophosphate pesticides.

A growing number of North American farmers have already taken steps to minimize the use of, and consumers’ exposure to, toxic and persistent pesticides. These growers have adopted organic agricultural practices that maintain and replenish soil fertility without the use of these materials.

"Organic farmers have the Earth’s welfare in mind. Organic farming is about building a sustainable future for every aspect of the planet, the soil, our water supply, and the health of animals and humans," according to Katherine DiMatteo, executive director of the Organic Trade Association. "Consumers who want to minimize their —and the Earth’s—exposure to toxic and persistent chemicals can do so by buying organic foods and organic fiber products, and by choosing organic agricultural methods for home pest control and lawn care."

In its report, CDC noted that organophosphate pesticides account for approximately half of the insecticides used in the United States. An estimated 60 million pounds of organophosphate pesticides are applied to about 60 million acres of U.S. agricultural crops annually, and an additional 17 million pounds are used per year for nonagricultural uses, such as in household pest control products and in lawn and garden sprays.

Organophosphates are not allowed in organic agriculture. Instead, organic growers use biological and cultural practices as their first line of defense against pests. Methods used include crop rotation, the selection of resistant varieties, nutrient and water management, the provision of habitat for the natural enemies of pests, and release of beneficial organisms to protect crops from damage. The only pesticides allowed in organic agriculture must be on an approved list, with restricted use.

April 9, 2001

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