A sign of hope: farmers take action which has beneficial consequences.
Richard Bruce, former farm manager, whose health has been seriously damaged by agro-chemicals, sent a link giving news of large-scale poisoning in Maharashtra, India. Further reading included an article with a medical report not given in other sources:
Three children died and around 250 people fell ill, with several in critical condition, after a dinner for a house-warming ceremony. Dr. Ajit Gawli, Raigad district civil surgeon, said “The serum test reports of two patients indicated presence of organophosphate compound in the food. The cholinesterase enzyme level was found to be around 800, which ideally should be around 1,200. It does confirm the presence of organophosphate compound found in insecticides and pesticides.”
Kate Mendenhall, director of the Organic Farmers Association USA, finds that farmers are ‘going organic’ because of concerns about pesticides.
Kate’s master’s degree thesis at Goddard College (Vermont) involved interviewing farmers worldwide who transitioned to organic, and she found that pesticides were a major concern. She says:
- Some farmers transition to organic production to earn premium prices paid for organic crops.
- Others switch to make their farms more sustainable.
- But for some farmers transitioning to organic is a necessity to save their health—and even their lives.
A 2017 report by Oregon State University and organic certifier Oregon Tilth, Breaking New Ground: Farmer Perspectives on Organic Transition, found that 86% of farmers surveyed said that concerns about health was one of the main motivations for transitioning.
Blaine Schmaltz, who farms in Rugby, North Dakota, is a good example. One day in September 1993, Schmaltz was spraying an herbicide on his field. He stopped to check the level in the sprayer tank. Looking inside, he started to feel lame and then passed out. He was later hospitalized for several months with asthma, muscle aches and pains, and insomnia. A doctor diagnosed him as having ‘occupational asthma’. While recovering, Schmaltz read about organic farming and decided to transition because he wanted to continue farming. The next spring he started the transition, and over time found it was the right choice. His symptoms disappeared. Schmaltz continues to farm organically, growing wheat, edible beans, flax and other specialty grains. “I didn’t switch to organic farming for the money or a utopian dream,” he said. “I did it for myself and my family in order to stay in agriculture.” Ken Roseboro gave this and other examples in a Responsible Technology article.
Other farmers in the U.S. and Canada have switched to organic methods because of a health crisis they had—or even the death of a family member—due to pesticide exposure.
There are many American visitors to the Chemical Concern website (right) and in May the top post was about the World Health Organisation’s statement that the herbicide glyphosate is ‘possibly carcinogenic’.
In Britain, a government document notes that the total number of organic producers and processors rose by 5.1% in 2016 to 6,363. The number of processors only rose for the third year running and now stands at 2,804, the highest number since 2008.
A move to organic cultivation is a sign of hope for a healthier future:
- There will be no herbicide resistant ‘superweeds’ which afflict some parts of the USA.
- Pests will not become resistant to pesticide requiring heavier doses of alternative brands to kill them.
- Costs will be reduced as these expensive agro-chemicals are no longer used.
- People living near farmland will no longer be affected by pesticide drift.
- The health of farm workers, farmers and their families will no longer be damaged
- The health of the food consumer will not be affected by pesticide/herbicide residues.
And on a larger scale . . .