I’ve been involved in environment movements all my life. But it was only when I had my first child that I really took the importance of organically grown food to heart. I came late to motherhood – life begins at forty.
In my twenties I had worked in Germany in organisations which raised awareness of North Sea protection (then and now, probably the most polluted sea on the planet). Our organisation was instrumental in stopping the dumping of acid waste in the North Sea. It was a long and complicated campaign – as a young person, I was filled with hope and excitement then, about being able to change something. And we did. Often.
It was in Germany I first learned about the links between pollution of the seas, artificial pesticides and agriculture. There’s a lot to say about the science, but here’s what happens in a nutshell: The substances contained in pesticides and artificial fertilisisers on the land and in agriculture don’t just disappear into the ether after they’ve been applied . They work their way into the human body, into the air, into the water supply, into the rivers and eventually end up in the sea. When they arrive there they disturb the marine eco-system balance, and lead to a process called ‘eutrophication’ which basically means the water becomes over-fertilised. This can lead to algal blooms becoming more frequent. The further down the food chain you go, the more accumulation you get of substances like organochlorines until eventually they reach human beings.
Of course these are not the only threats to marine eco-systems, there are other sources of pollution, oil spills, overfishing, tourism to name a few.
It was in Germany that I first read about studies that had been done to analyse human breast milk in various countries to determine how far it was polluted by organochlorines. I was shocked to discover the extent of this.
Which brings me back (or forward to motherhood and organic food). When I had a child, all this was no longer a theory or a campaign that affected me on an intellectual or even an emotional level too. It actually physically affected me for the following reason. My body had made a child that I loved dearly and wanted to look after. In the early days I was feeding her myself.
I knew that I would be taking responsiblity for food production for my family for a long time, and knowing what I knew from twenty years of reading and experience of the negative effects of pesticide use, I didn’t really have a choice. There’s no way that I would condone the use of pesticides if I could possibly avoid it. If I hadn’t realised it before, the importance of organic food became crystal clear to me at that point – and that’s why my kitchen garden plot stays strictly organic!