PestDecide

Have you always been told to “wash your fruit and veg”? It seems that the concern regarding pesticides used in foods never really caught the attention of the public and has been handled with a simple gesture from the government to “wash away the concern”. Ironically pesticides cannot be washed away as they are induced into the product but no one (even the people who are aware) seems to bother. I think there are multiple reasons as to why society does not shine more light on pesticides and the fatal effects they can cause in people http://www.green-blog.org/2010/05/19/5-reasons-why-pesticides-are-bad/ and animals; we need them! If pesticides were banned, fruit and veg would grow pests which means waste and eventually shortage of food. With the population expected to increase with 30% by 2050, we simply cannot afford to lose pesticides.

Another factor that feeds the ethics of using pesticides is that if banned it could pose a huge threat to agriculture as farmers and producers would be involuntarily involved in a complete change in production methods and that will not go without expenses. Eventually some foods would become more expensive. Lots of people argue that people’s well-being should be considered a higher priority and that the law governing pesticides need alteration whereas others believe that pesticides are necessary for sustaining balance between a growing population and food production.

I recently sat down with some study colleagues and asked them if they were aware that pesticides can lead to the development of diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer, birth-defects, reproduction difficulties and more. None of them had heard of this. None of them had even given much thought to what pesticides are. Is this not a bit absurd? I myself was not aware of these pesticide-induced diseases until recently and I am wondering why this is. To go back to the introduction: the ignorance towards the effects of pesticides stem from the attention it has been given by the government and resellers. We often have a tendency to connote impressions in a way that suggests mirroring of the behavior of others. We also interpret danger based on the intensity of media attention it is given.

I think that one of the reasons why i.e. BBC http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/493469.stm sheds more light on the usage of pesticides is because many people are unaware of the use of the chemicals and therefore not left with an informed choice when doing groceries. Is it our responsibility to stay informed? Is it ethically correct to use pesticides which are proven dangerous to our health without being properly informed?

Buying organic food is one way of avoiding pesticides and is therefore also a choice given to us consumers. But especially in times of recession most people are likely to go for the cheaper option – some are even forced to. The point that I am trying to make here is that instead of leaving people in the dark when it comes to the production of foods and other products, the consumer should be able to make an informed choice of the product they purchase let alone be educated in the potential dangers of consuming it. I asked the same course mates to identify to what extend they trust the producer’s labeling of products. I asked the question twice, in the beginning and after our discussion; Once made aware of the facts about pesticides most of them stated that they had lost trust.

My final question is: Who bears the responsibility of keeping the public informed?

By: Ida Gall Jørgensen

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8 thoughts on “PestDecide

  1. Really intersting article on the dangers of pesticides in our fruits and vegetables. It is really unfortunate that this still occurs. This was an issue that is still very important. I switched to buying my produce from the farmers market, a few years back and haven’t looked back since!

    • Dear Mel, Thank you for your comment. I agree with you that the usage of pesticides in some cases is unethical and I understand your urge to buy your fruits and vegetables from local farms and markets. Not only can you trust that the products you consume will not pose a threat to your health in any way, you also support local businesses. As much as I agree with the trend of Glocal consuming, there are other factors to this trend that you might be interested in knowing about. Diana will soon post an entry here on FoodFrap which deals with buying products from local or organic farms and what how this might affect the environment. Ida

  2. The fact that we as a planet cannot manufacture enough food naturally without using pesticides even before the suspected thirty percent population increase begs the question should we really be playing god with our food supplies? In the future i’d imagine there would be far more consumer interest in organic products being met with far less ability to provide it.
    Whatever happened to the good old fashioned vegetable patch or allotment?

    Personally I never give a second thought to the processes my food goes through before I eat it. But it is interesting to know the risks of not washing my mushrooms!

    • I agree with you Hannah, and thank you for your interest. I believe that one of the reasons why a lot of people do not care to know where their products come from and how they are produced comes down to the fact that we are not properly educated about this topic. The other reason probably being that organic foods still are more expensive as they take more effort to produce than pesticide treated foods. In my next blog post, which will be posted later today, I deal with how our products are labeled and some of the ethical issues related to that. I think you might find this interesting too!
      Ida

  3. Due to the fact that I did some research about this issue myself in the past, I am probably one of the few people that knows about the dangers of pesticides. However, I keep eating my apples, kiwis and mangos everyday without even thinking about it. That is my informed choice, because as little as you can trust brands and their labeling on food products, I don’t think that you should always trust blown-up dramatic articles about the life-threatening, disastrous world of pesticides and companies that try to kill us all to make profit. Often (not always), the media is using this strategy to get people’s attention. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that consuming pesticides might go with dangers, but the necessity of pesticides for mass production and waste avoidance outweighs the few hundredths percent of risks. In the end, isn’t our health threatened by so many things? Eat enough salt but don’t dare to eat to much, microwaved cooked food is bad, meat can cause cancer, rice is bad for you, salad causes colon diseases… Yes, informing people is good, but scaring them in an era where people are scared about anything they consume already is only causing mass anxiety and people eating shit or stopping to eat anything which in the end is making you more sick than pesticide treated fruit. To cut a long story short, finding a balance between creating a “pesticides kill us all” hype and leaving people in the dark is tough.

  4. Another thing that crossed my mind: When reading your article I kept thinking…How would it work, this “informing consumers”. Interestingly enough, you asked the question of who is responsible of informing people in the end of your article which is exactly what I was wondering about… is it the farmers? But they are not the ones who are in contact with the consumers. Should it be the supermarkets and retailers, but they have not been in production. And then the how: Should there be a sticker with information with every apple you buy? I doubt that any party (farmers/production/distributors/retailers) would want to put stickers on their products that stop people from buying them. Or should the government be involved?

    …all in all, very interesting and well-written article, Ida.

    • Thank you for your very interesting insight. I am very pleased to read your reaction to my post as I can tell that not only have you researched the subject yourself, you raise the question “isn’t everything dangerous to us today?”. That question highlights the fact that not only may some people overreact to the usage and potential health issues related to pesticides, we are constantly faced with articles and other media generated information trying to “catch our attention”, as you wrote, telling us that pretty much anything we consume today pose a threat to our health in some way. So in the end, I think it comes down to the way the products are labeled which I have just posted a second blog entry about – check it out Lara, you might find this interesting: Information Label or Emancipation Label?
      Ida

  5. I personally don’t like the thought of eating chemicals, when I eat my fruits. It kind of distorts the idea of healthy for me, but after reading this article I have to say that I do see the point of having them. Certainly, we all know how our apples, bananas and peaches have to look like in order for us to buy them at the supermarket, but I reckon many forget that nature would never produce this many beautifully-shaped fruits by itself. Society’s request for perfect products in mass is simply too pressuring to stop using pesticides. However, I am concerned about my health reading about them.
    On the other hand, it is probably more likely to get cancer from smoking or simply through genetical habits. What, in our world today, isn’t perfected in order to please us? The price we pay seems to be our health.

    In my opinion, this topic should finally stay on the surface of public discussion, since technology has gotten so far. Only when crises occur is this topic actually taken seriously. This should change and I think you really contributed to that!
    Well done!

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