A few months ago we read about some then newly publicized studies showing that higher levels of exposure to organophosphates (a class of chemical pesticides) in pregnant mothers corresponded with lower IQ scores in their children at age 7. Here's one article on the subject:
These were interesting studies to us, not just because they highlighted yet another unforeseen and imprudent risk of using chemical pesticides, but especially because they drew our attention to unexpected types of risks. We consider it old news that chemical use is responsible for various forms of cancer and other diseases that will make you sick or kill you -- the only new news about chemicals making us sick is connecting each new generation of chemicals to the specific illnesses they cause -- but it's a little different to think about pesticides causing problems that aren't illnesses (like lower IQ's.) Last year we heard from a beekeeper that pollinates low-bush blueberries in Maine that consumption of low-bush blueberries and a pesticide used on them has been linked to much higher levels of behavioral disorders like ADHD in children. (Low-bush blueberries are different from the blueberries grown locally; if you want to avoid pesticides, local blueberries are actually a much better choice than peaches or apples, for example. Frozen blueberries and other blueberries from up North would be the ones to avoid.)
So what do we conclude from these kinds of reports? First, we conclude that the problems stemming from chemical use in agriculture are far, far too complex to try to navigate piecemeal. Trying to ban or avoid just the "bad chemicals" that we hear about in the news, etc., surely won't leave the "safe chemicals but rather simply other bad chemicals that cause less expected problems or chemicals that are more difficult to link to the problems they cause. In other words, we believe the only reasonable response is to avoid chemical agriculture (and lawn care, home pest control, household chemicals, etc.) in general. Regaining control of those things for which we've become dependent on the corporate system is the only response we find promising. For us that means, of course, not using any chemical pesticides (insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc.) in our own farming and accepting the ensuing costs and losses as our new baseline, but more to the point it means doing as much as we can for ourselves (instead of simply doing what's most profitable and then feeding that money back into the consumer economy), wild harvesting and buying directly from people we know (that likewise aren't using chemical shortcuts) those things that we aren't growing ourselves, and re-learning how to eat locally so that more and more we can do without the kinds of supermarket foods that we've grown up thinking of as staples. This means, for example, accepting the time and commitment it takes to hand milk or tether out a cow, even though supermarket-scaled dairies can produce milk far more cheaply. It also means we don't compare the cost of local, unofficially-organic strawberries to conventional strawberries (knowing that even five cents for a truckload of sweet, red lowered IQ's and behavioral disorders is no bargain), or compare the appearance of unsprayed apples to conventional apples, or the taste of homegrown fruit to chemical-intensive peaches, but rather we compare the cost of local, unofficially-organic strawberries to picking wild blackberries, and we compare the unsprayed apples to the alternative of unsprayed Asian pears, and we simply do without chemical-intensive peaches altogether and let that motivate us to plant more figs and to try making melon ice cream instead of peach and to freeze more blueberries for this winter.