Maintaining the quality of the Earth’s water supplies is a challenge. Organic agricultural production helps prevent further damage to our precious water resources.
Researchers studying water quality in 20 of the largest and most important U. S. river basins found 83 pesticides and breakdown products in water and 32 pesticides in fish or stream bed sediment. More than half the streams sampled had concentrations of at least one pesticide that exceeded guidelines for protecting aquatic life. Currently, EPA has established standards and guidelines for only 46 of the 83 pesticides and breakdown products measured in the study. Some of the highest concentrations of nitrogen and herbicides (such as atrazine, metolachlor, alachlor, and cyanazine) were detected in samples collected from streams and shallow ground water in agricultural areas. Some of the highest concentrations of phosphorus and insecticides (including diazinon, carbaryl, and malathion) were found in urban streams. Contaminants found in the study included chemicals that are no longer in use, such as DDT. In addition, persistent insecticides such as dieldren and chlordane are still found at elevated levels in fish and stream-bed sediment in many urban and agricultural streams across the United States. ("The Quality of Our Nation’s Waters—Nutrients and Pesticides," U. S. Geological Survey Circular 1225, May 1999.)
A study analyzing over 127,000 tap water test results from Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas for 1993 through 1998 found atrazine residues in tap water delivered to 10.4 million people in 796 towns. In some communities, the lifetime cancer risk from average atrazine concentrations was more than 20 times higher than EPA safety standards. Peak daily atrazine exposures in tap water have been measured as high as 42 parts per billion, 14 times the legally allowed annual average amount. (Environmental Working Group, "Into the Mouths of Babes: Bottle-Fed Infants at Risk from Atrazine in Tap Water," Jane Houlihan and Richard Wiles, July 1999.)
An area of the Gulf of Mexico as big as the state of New Jersey is depleted of oxygen each year due to the heavy flow of nitrogen and other nutrients down the Mississippi River. Fertilizers used on Midwest farms are cited for much of the problem. A study completed by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy has concluded that the most cost-effective way to protect the Gulf is to reduce fertilizer use by 20% and to restore five million acres of wetlands. (Associated Press, August 1999.)
"Through each link in the food chain, the persistent chemical that has accumulated in one organism is passed onto the hunter. Considering that each zooplankton, fish, bird and marine animal eats hundreds of thousands of individuals from lower links over the span of its life, it is apparent that animals higher on the food chain (including humans) are at greater risk." (Fertility on the Brink, National Wildlife Federation.)
The Organic Trade Association is the leading business association representing the organic industry in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Its 1700 members include growers, processors, shippers, retailers, certification organizations and others involved in the business of producing and selling certified organic products.
© 2001, Organic Trade Association.