Many chemicals in use today are endocrine disruptors, which affect development during the critical time of puberty, increasing the risk of diseases such as cancer and diabetes later in life. And let’s not forget genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which account for more than 85 percent of all corn and soybeans grown in America today. Not only have these crops been engineered to withstand the onslaught of chemical pesticides; for the first time in human history, pesticides are being inserted directly into the genes of our food. And yet the agribusinesses peddling these altered food crops have convinced the government and scientific community that there’s no need to research what impact they might have upon human health.
How much will it cost to assuage our guilt over the fact that this generation of children is the first to have a lower life expectancy than its parents?
The current blame for these illnesses falls on things like “lifestyle” (which is why the American Cancer Society has come out in disagreement with the panel’s report). Poor diets, lack of fitness, and smoking are the evil sins of our time. And certainly, these factors play a major role. But the sad truth is that eating even “healthy” food that’s chemically produced puts our health at risk. We have chosen to live a life that is more convenient than conscious, where food is cheap rather than clean, and we all spend our evenings watching reality shows on TV rather than really engaging in the political fight necessary to defend our children from harm. Meanwhile, our scientists are searching for the answers to cancer in our DNA instead of examining the 80,000 largely unstudied, unregulated chemicals that surround all of us in our environment—even in the womb.
While we remain confused and distracted in a cloud of doubt and denial, the chemical companies will take their fight and their cash (siphoned straight out of the American farmer’s pocket) to Washington.
Unless we do something quickly, we will have to resign ourselves to being the ones responsible for the demise of our children’s future.
How do I know how this story so well?
I’ve seen it firsthand. My grandfather launched the organic movement in America in 1942. My family lived through the ridicule, denial, and intentional doubt. It was very much like the war against Big Tobacco, which my father also fought with Prevention magazine. Despite the billions of dollars chemical companies have spent trying to prove that the only way to feed the world is with genetically modified, chemical-laden food, and the lobbying dollars spent to protect their profits and mislead farmers, the truth will come out in the end.
The Rodale Institute’s Farming Systems Trial, initiated by my father Robert Rodale in 1981, is the world’s longest running study comparing organic agriculture with conventional chemical-farming methods. It’s demonstrated that modern organic farming is more productive and profitable for farmers. Year after year, the organic crops have performed as well as chemical crops, and often outperformed them, especially during periods of drought and floods. Our researchers have learned that organic soils store significant amounts of carbon, and if adopted on a wide scale, have the potential to combat global warming, whether you believe in it or not. We’ve seen firsthand that organic food is healthier for people and the planet.
In contrast, chemical agriculture destroys the soil and pollutes our waterways. Despite PR and advertising campaigns promoting it as the only solution for feeding the world, farmers in developing countries are rejecting the expensive seed and chemicals required to keep genetically modified crops on their artificial support system. Modern organic farming is the model that works best for them, and the only one that can feed the world (including us in America) forever.
There is only one thing that can prevent our story from having a bad outcome, and that is us. All of us: the vegans and the omnivores, the tea partyists and the coffee partyists, the Republicans and the Democrats, the farmers and the foodies.
Every American deserves food free of chemicals. Rich, poor, young, and old—but especially our young, since they are much more at risk. Our children are the next spotted owls, the next baby polar bears, and the next honeybees (which are still collapsing colony by colony).
It’s up to us to protect our children. And the best way to do that is to demand organic. Our future depends on it. Our children’s lives depend on it. Our country’s freedom depends on it. The true cost of doubt and denial is our lives.
I don’t know about you, but I’m fighting for a positive outcome. And this story isn’t a fairy tale, it’s a reality show. We get to vote on how it ends.
Maria Rodale is the CEO and Chairman of Rodale Inc., a global healthy lifestyle company with a mission to inspire and enable people to improve their lives and the world around them. Reaching more than 70 million people worldwide, Rodale publishes some of the best-known health and wellness magazines, including Men’s Health, Prevention, Runner’s World, Women’s Health, and Organic Gardening. The company is also one of the largest independent booksellers in the United States with a collection of bestselling titles that include Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, South Beach Diet, and Eat This, Not That!
Maria Rodale is founding editor of Rodale.com, the go-to source for smart news and ideas for healthy living on a healthy planet, as well as her blog, Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen. During 2012, Rodale is releasing Maria Rodale’s Organic Gardening Secrets, a seasonal e-book series offering easy-to-follow organic gardening basics. The author of several books, she is known for her recent title, Organic Manifesto: How Organic Farming Can Heal Our Planet, Feed the World, and Keep Us Safe. Written to cut through the confusion and misinformation surrounding the U.S. agriculture system, Organic Manifesto provides a highly readable look at why chemical-free farming holds the key to better health for our families and the planet.
Maria Rodale joined the family business in 1987, first working in circulation and direct marketing and eventually leading Rodale’s in-house direct marketing agency. In 1998, she served as director of strategy, where she led the strategic review, planning processes, and management changes that refocused the company on publishing information on healthy, active lifestyles. She also led the company’s Organic Living division, Rodale’s first integrated brand division, where she was the Editor-in-Chief of Organic Gardening and oversaw all of Rodale’s gardening books. She joined the Rodale board in 1991 and was elected Chairman in 2007.
She has won numerous awards, including in 2004 the National Audubon Society’s “Rachel Carson Award” and in 2007 the United Nations Population Fund’s “Award for the Health and Dignity of Women.” In 2009 she was named to Pennsylvania’s “Best 50 Women in Business” List. She is also a member of the board of Bette Midler’s New York Restoration Project, co-chair of the Rodale Institute, and a board member of The Association of Magazine Media (MPA).
Maria is a mother, an activist, and a businesswoman and has made promoting the benefits of an organic lifestyle both her personal mission and her business. She lives in an ecologically friendly house in Bethlehem, PA, with her family and several pets.