Thanksgiving is a time for reflection and gratitude and this year I'm glad to say we're making progress on eliminating some of the hidden toxics in our Thanksgiving meals. Let's face it, Thanksgiving is about food; at this time of year, I'm thinking about how our food is grown and ways to avoid wasting it in addition to thinking about how my family cooks and the foods we eat together. In honor of the holidays I'm sharing a modern take on an old recipe that my family loves. For family gatherings, my Aunt Chris always brings big pans of cheesy rice and broccoli casserole. Over the years, I've lost her recipe and adapted it to account for my own tastes and ingredients already in my fridge. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
Last year, my colleague Dr. Singla wrote about pesticide residues left on food getting into people's bodies. As we give thanks for our meal, let's acknowledge the farmworkers who tend and harvest produce and are in contact with pesticides on the crops, in the air, and settling into their communities. We're especially worried about a particular neurotoxic pesticide, chlorpyrifos, which is used to grow many common crops that could end up on the Thanksgiving menu - as well as on our dinner plate any other time of the year - including broccoli, almonds and walnuts, citrus, and grapes. Exposure to chlorpyrifos during critical times during development is known to cause brain developmental delays and attention disorders. Not only is it particularly dangerous, but it is widespread as well; Dr. Singla talked about a 2008 study which found evidence of chlorpyrifos in the bodies of 91% of children tested. Kids and expectant mothers that live in rural and agricultural communities face even greater risks from pesticides because not only is it on their food, but they are exposed to pesticides drifting off fields near where they live, work, learn, and play.
In response to an NRDC, Earthjustice, and Pesticide Action Network petition, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a ban on the use of this brain-harming pesticide on food crops; if they follow through on the proposal it will be a huge win for public health, but especially for farmworkers and children in agricultural communities who are most vulnerable to the risks of chlorpyrifos use and face the greatest exposure.
Until the federal agency ensures that my food is not contaminated with harmful chemicals that endanger farmworkers and agricultural communities, I'm eating produce that is certified organic or grown by local farmers without the use of pesticides. Happy Thanksgiving!