Volume 94, Issue 5


Campaign mounting to ban cosmetic use of pesticides

Chemical in your food:
A case for organic produce

Chemical in your food:
A case for organic produce

By Stephanie Croft
Gazette Staff

Since the Walkerton incident, people in Ontario are becoming much more concerned about what chemicals touch their organic food.

Dan Field, owner of Danfield's Organic Market in London's downtown Covent Garden Market, said prior to the Walkerton E.coli water contamination, people probably did not give as much thought to what they were ingesting. He said the demand for and the awareness of organic food has increased since he started his business seven years ago.

"For the most part, in North America, people just want cheap food," Field said. "And to get food to people's plates cheaply, shortcuts have been taken."

According to Field, these shortcuts include the intensive use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.

"Pursuing a cheap food policy all these years may not be in our best interest," Field said. "If you go back to the beginning of the last century, when it was a more agrarian based society, people spent a lot more of their disposable income on food. And there was a higher priority placed on food."

However, Field said bigger corporations such as Dole and General Mills are starting to see a market niche in organic produce.

Brian Zakharia, a produce clerk at Loblaws Supermarket on Southdale Road, said organically grown produce does not sell well in London because it is costly.

"We carried it a couple of weeks ago, but none of it really sold. There's not really a wide demand for it here. If customers asked for it, we'd supply it."

He also said most people are probably not aware there is a difference between conventionally and organically grown produce.

Professor of agricultural and rural geography at Western Michael Troughton, said organic farming is carried out without the use of inputs of fertilizers and pesticides and it relies on natural products, such as composted manure.

Field said when conventional farmers started adding chemicals to their fields two to three generations ago, the results were dynamic.

"Just like a junkie that shoots up for the first time it seems great, but the dependency that develops over time is not good."

Troughton said organic farmers have argued organic production is much more ecologically sustaining and less likely to cause health problems. "Meanwhile, conventional farmers argue that the use of pesticides and fertilizers protects the crop and perhaps gives a higher level of yield and that the health problems are minimal at best."

Jennifer Gill, a Master's student in geography at Western, said a third of radiation received is from the food consumed daily.

"Most conventionally grown food, especially the imported variety, is picked under-ripe and the nutritional value of under-ripe food is significantly less. I think common sense prevails that organic food is better for you, health wise," Gill said. "Is an extra 20 cents on bananas worth the environment, worth your health, worth the health of your children?"

Field pointed out that by buying organic foods, the effects can be positive and wide ranging, influencing areas such as farming and well water.

"You're encouraging farmers to continue doing what they're doing. And, what they're doing creates long term fertility in the soil, prevents soil erosion and prevents run-off into the streams and well water."

"Maybe this Walkerton crisis will wake people up and help them realize what happens when you start cutting corners in the environment," Gill said.

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