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Food Essays Posted on Environmental Health Policy Institute

Posted by Molly Rauch, MPH on February 28, 2011

Last week we posted essays to the Environmental Health Policy Institute addressing the question: “How does our food production system drive our exposure to toxic chemicals?” It’s a bumper crop for the Institute: we’ve posted eight essays on food, more than we’ve posted for any one topic since the launch of the Institute in September 2010.

I urge you to explore the essays from experts across the country on the entire food production system and the implications of how we eat today. You will find essays from Steve Gilbert, toxicologist and PSR board member; Brad Heavner, Senior Policy Advisor for Environment America; Susan Kegley, organic chemist and pesticide specialist; Joanne Perron, OBGYN and breast cancer survivor; Kathy Pryor, Program Coordinator for Washington PSR; Lucia Sayre, Co-Executive Director of San Francisco PSR; Ted Schettler, Science Director of the Science and Environmental Health Network; and Boyce Thorne Miller and Niaz Dorry, both of the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance.

These essays are already changing how I eat. Yesterday in the grocery store I was on high alert for “organic” and “local,” and was much more attuned to the life cycle costs of choosing foods that are bathed in chemicals from seed to shelf.

Take, for example, Susan Kegley’s “The Story of Strawberries.” She explains how strawberries are actually produced in our country:

Instead of rotating crops to clear the soil of disease, conventional strawberry growers inject highly toxic fumigant pesticides such as methyl bromide, Telone, metam sodium, and chloropicrin into the soil at hundreds of pounds per acre. These chemicals are gases (or nearly so) at ambient temperatures and rapidly escape from the soil and the tarps placed on top of the soil, drifting into neighborhoods, schoolyards, workplaces, and parks at concentrations that have not infrequently been high enough to cause mass evacuations and hospitalizations.

I think I will never look at a gleaming grocery store clamshell of cosmetically perfect red strawberries again without also thinking of the fumigants injected as gases into the soil before planting. It’s not a system I want to support.

How are the essays changing the way YOU eat?

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