Happy Mothers Day! Be grateful for your original environment
May 11, 2008
P R E A M B L E
Whereas we are, literally, what we eat, and
Whereas food is the largest route by which chemical pollutants, including pesticides, trespass into our bodies, and
Whereas pesticide residues are now routinely detected in human amniotic fluid, umbilical cord blood, breast milk, and the urine of school children, and
Whereas pesticide exposure is a suspected contributor to childhood cancers, infertility, miscarriage, preterm labor, birth defects, and learning disabilities, and organic agriculture provides us food with demonstrably lower residues of toxic pesticides, and
Whereas organic farming methods also protect our air and water from toxic contamination as well as enriching the soil for future generations,
We the mothers and we the children, in order to form a more perfect communion between our bodies and the biological environments we inhabit, establish environmental justice, insure ecological tranquility, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of a bountiful, sustainable harvest for ourselves and our posterity, hereby declare our abiding support for the farmers who produce organically grown foods.
We the mothers and we the children
1. recognize that women’s bodies are the original environment for us all.
In the words of Native American midwife, Katsi Cook, women’s bodies are the first environment. During pregnancy, a woman breathes more air, drinks more water, and eats more food than at any other time in her adult life. As they stream across the placenta, these molecules of food, water, and oxygen rearrange themselves to form a new human body. The placenta, which does such a marvelous job of barring bacteria and viruses from entering the womb, is ill-equipped to recognize and turn back agricultural chemicals. Indeed, when it comes to pesticides, the placenta is an open doorway. And in some cases, the placenta actually transforms pesticide residues carried in the mother’s blood into even more toxic chemicals. Organic farming does not traffic in toxic chemicals. It honors the symbiotic relationship of mother and child at the beginning of life and respects the need to protect prenatal processes from the toxic trespass of harmful chemicals.
2. believe that organic farming upholds basic human rights to safe food and security of person.
As esteemed environmental educator David Orr has recently pointed out, the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees all citizens the right to be “secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects.” The right to security of person, as well as the right to safe food, is also enshrined in the Conventions of the United Nations. The presence of pesticide residues in our food supply violates these rights and poses risks to our health to which we did not consent. The ubiquitous presence of pesticides in mother’s milk especially troubles us. While breast milk still remains the very best food for human infants, its adulteration by agricultural chemicals compromises its goodness and infringes on a child’;s right to pure food. Recent evidence suggests that some pesticides can even jeopardize a mother’s very ability to produce sufficient milk for her infant. The disruption of human lactation by farm chemicals further violates the sacred bond between mothers and their children.
3. know that the very young require special protection from toxic contamination.
Infants and children are biologically unique. Like all mammals, human babies come into this world lacking a functioning immune system and dependent on antibodies in their mother’s milk to provide them temporary immunity for the first months of life. Likewise, the blood-brain barrier does not fully develop until six months of age. The brain itself requires three full years to finish wiring itself together. In these ways, infants are far more vulnerable to immune-suppressing chemicals and neurological poisons than adults. In addition, children subsist on fewer food items and in proportionally larger quantities than their elders. Whether breast milk, cow’s milk, peaches, pears, graham crackers, grapes, string cheese, apples, or bananas, the foods that children eat should be free of toxic residues.
4. are willing to take precautionary action to keep ourselves safe.
We buckle seatbelts and install gates at the tops of stairways. We change the batteries in our smoke detectors. We leave the pool when lightning flashes. We avoid dogs without leashes and strangers offering candy. We stop, look, and listen at every street corner. We do these things not because we possess absolute proof that harm will befall us if we don’t but because we know that it is foolish, not courageous, to take chances when a situation is inherently dangerous. We support organic farming for the same reason we wear bicycle helmets: it makes the world a safer place to live in.
5. assert our right to eat anywhere on the food chain, as our cultures, dietary preferences, or level of morning sickness dictates.
Eating low on the food chain by choosing a diet largely derived from plants is an often-recommended way of lowering one’s exposure to pesticides. Compulsory veganism, however, is not the answer to the problem of pesticide-contaminated foods. Many of us live in communities where animal-based diets are part of our cultural and ecological heritage. Arctic peoples and certain native American tribes, for example, rely heavily on fish and game. The ongoing contamination of these fish stocks and wildlife populations with agricultural chemicals is a violation of their cultural rights. And breastfed infants of any culture feed one rung higher on the human food chain than adults. Finally, many of us mothers, after years of steadfast vegetarianism, discover during our pregnancies that the only form of protein we can keep down is, say, pork chops and strips of crispy bacon. All of us, no matter where on the human food chain we dine, deserve organic options.
6. are alarmed that agriculture has become the number one polluter of fresh water.
We are all part of the water cycle. The rain that falls on farm fields eventually finds its way into drinking water reservoirs. This is the water with which we fill tea kettles, soup pots, ice cube trays, bathtubs, and vaporizers when our children are sick. This water becomes our blood plasma, the amniotic fluid in which our unborn children swim, and the breast milk we feed them later. Our public water supplies should not contain traces of fungicides, insect poisons, weed-killers, and fertilizers. And we would rather invest our household money in organic food than in the purchase of bottled water, filtered pitchers, and other contraptions to keep agricultural chemicals from pouring out of our kitchen taps after the fact.
7. count frogs, bats, bees, and earthworms among our friends.
The growing rates of deformities among frogs in Minnesota, the decline of bat populations in Indiana, and the demise of bees in California all have a common cause: poisoning by pesticides. Organic agriculture not only spares wildlife such a fate, it actively recruits them in the cause of pest control and pollination. A recent Swiss study, more than two decades in the making, found that soils under organic cultivation have more fungus to help plants take in water, more microbes to help plants absorb nutrients, and more earthworms to assist in making those nutrients available to the crops. We believe our human destiny is entwined with that of the myriad other species we share this planet with. The more earthworms, the better.
8. refuse to be fooled by supermarket price tags.
The price of organic food reflects, more or less, the full costs of making it. The price of chemically grown food does not. Among the costs not included in the bar codes that beep their way through the check-out lane: eroded soil, toxic algal blooms from fertilizer run-off, contaminated groundwater, and antibiotic resistance from the overuse of pharmaceuticals in factory farming. We all ultimately pay for the externalized costs of conventional agriculture—in the form of higher taxes, higher insurance premiums, higher water bills. Because we prefer to pay just once for our food, we support organic farms.
9. entreat our public institutions to buy organic.
We acknowledge that we mothers alone—as individual shoppers on household budgets, commandeering grocery carts overflowing with diaper bags, impatient toddlers, and a week&’s worth of dinner, breakfast, and snack items—are a powerful but limited voice for social change. But we also know that we are more than the sum of our weekly grocery bills. As citizens, we call upon our public schools to include organic purchases in school lunches. We call upon our hospitals to partner with local organic farmers to bring fresh, organic produce to patients and cafeteria patrons. We urge our places of worship to buy organic as well.
10. pledge to learn about the farmers who grow our food and the problems they face.
As we redirect our food dollars to support the efforts of organic farmers, we desire to know more about the lives of the men and women who grow the food that we serve our families. We plan to seek out farmers at marketplaces and farm stands or by joining a community-supported agricultural project. Once we have educated ourselves, we intend teach our friends, neighbors, and political leaders all that we have learned.