To stamp out pesticides from our fragile food systems is to protect those most prone to ill health, Friends of the Earth’s senior staff scientist, Kendra Klein explains to Yasmin Dahnoun.
From seed to harvest, the food that arrives on our plates is far from its natural form. Whilst the majority of the population trust in farmers, supply chains and environmental regulations, we are often exposed to a toxic concoction of chemicals. This has the potential to affect our mood, health and bodily functions to a far greater extent than ever imagined.
In an interview with Kendra Klein, a senior scientist from Friends of the Earth US, Klein reveals how even the smallest of exposures to pesticides matter and how switching to an organic diet can dramatically decrease the pesticide build-up in our bodies by around 70 per cent in just six days.
Yasmin Dahnoun: How did you become involved in the field of organic farming?
Kendra Klein: My mother had breast cancer when I was a young girl and again while I was at college, and that has really shaped my interest in the connection between our health, the environment and toxic exposures. My work at Friends of the Earth brings together my background in both public health and organic agriculture.
I am not just working on what the problem is and talking about cancer and other health problems linked to toxic exposures. I am talking about the solution and where we need to go, and this allows me to remain hopeful.
YD: It’s often argued that our exposure to pesticides from food is so minimal it won’t affect our health. Would you disagree?
KK: Yes, there are a number of reasons why. At different points in our lives we’re more vulnerable to toxic exposures, and that’s in utero, childhood and adolescence when our bodies are rapidly developing. At those points of development very small exposures can actually lead to lifelong problems. These factors are often not accounted for by safety regulations because they are set for a healthy adult eater.
Regulations for ‘safe’ levels of exposure are also set chemical-by-chemical, as if we’re not exposed to a toxic soup of pesticides and other industrial chemicals every day.