The other day I was talking to a woman I know who confessed she was having trouble getting pregnant. It was her birthday, and the look of longing on her face as she told me how much she wanted children tore at my heart. Fortunately, she is still young and has a great chance of having children—either the old-fashioned way or with all the new “technology” available to women these days. However, that morning I had also just read a new study about the weed killer atrazine and how it is believed to be causing all sorts of reproductive problems in the women of farm country (and Pennsylvania is still farm country, even if you live in a city or a suburb). This isn’t the first study to link atrazine with infertility, miscarriages, birth defects, and who knows what else.
Atrazine is so toxic it was supposed to be phased out by the newer herbicide Roundup. But with Roundup Ready GMOs losing their effectiveness, more and more farmers are returning to using atrazine to “control” weeds. If you remember from my book Organic Manifesto, I tell the story of how atrazine is made by a company named Syngenta in Switzerland. In Switzerland, atrazine is banned.
Here’s the dilemma: People, not just women, but people everywhere, tend to assume that everything will go as planned in their lives. And so short-term priorities are things that I hear coming out of people’s mouths every day. “I’d love to eat organic food, but I can’t afford it.” Or, “What’s the difference, anyway—how about if I just eat a few things from that list that comes out every year, and then I’ll be fine?” We tend to live as if anything is possible—until it isn’t. Sure, tons of people can eat chemical food their whole lives and then have lots of children with no problem. But some people can’t. And for those couples, it’s heartbreaking. Other couples have no problem having kids, but those kids are born with life-long challenges like autism and ADHD.
Here’s my point: By the time you try to have kids and can’t, or have kids and they have autism (remember, the incidence is 1 out of 100 now), it’s too late. It’s too late to go back and choose organic. And think about it: It’s not just what you are putting in your mouth that counts; it’s what the farmers are spraying on their fields, which is going into EVERYONE’S water. So even if you are only eating organic, atrazine could still be polluting your water. Everything is linked in a long chain, from the farmer in the field to the hearts of women everywhere. We need to make that chain visible so that we can choose to break it—or better yet, make it a healthy, valuable chain that connects us all in a good way, rather than a chain that pulls us all down together.
OK, this is a scandalous image, but I’m going to use it: Whenever a farmer sprays RoundUp or atrazine to kill “weeds,” think of those weeds as our future babies. I’m pro-life; I’m pro-choice; but most of all, I’m pro-organic.