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Eating Foreign Produce Kills Birds?

Posted Aug 24 2008 5:39pm

Sometimes the forces of sustainability, organics and eating healthy do not get along harmoniously. Take for example my recent article about eating cantaloupes in the winter where I reveal that I’m a fresh produce freak. I eat frozen only because I have to and I can only eat so many root vegetables before I start to lose my mind. Just like this guy at The Chicago Tribune .

One of my big comprises since coming to Chicago: I’ve become a little more flexible about non-organic produce. Sometimes, foods that I crave simply are not available in the organic form. Which is worse: re-hydrated starch or foreign-grown, non-organic fruit and vegetables?

More and more – and to my great dismay – it looks like the latter is worse. Biology Prof. Bridget Stutchbury warns that pesticide use in Latin American countries is skyrocketing to meet American demand for fresh produce year round. Worse, these countries use chemicals not approved in the United States, Stutchbury writes in The New York Times .

The chemicals are not only dangerous to humans, but to northern songbirds that travel south for the winter, reports Bridget. “Testing by the United States Food and Drug Administration shows that fruits and vegetables imported from Latin America are three times as likely to violate Environmental Protection Agency standards for pesticide residues as the same foods grown in the United States,” she writes.

This goes to my belief that resolving seemingly simple environmental, health and sustainability issues will not be easy by any measure:

  • How do you get cars and trucks off the road if cities are vast?
  • How do you build a computer without using toxic compounds?
  • How do we feed the world if we’re going to use corn and sugar to make electricity?

Every action has complicated, unpredictable chain reactions. It seems there is no white knight to slay the evil lord. After all, the white knight’s armor is made of hardened, non-recyclable, plastic.

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