I wrote last month about our increased efforts to buy organic foods. Erin and I have thought about it more, I’ve done additional research, and we’ve reached these conclusions.

First, we’re finished with non-organic fruits and vegetables except for those which don’t carry much of a pesticide load. Otherwise, we’re going wholly organic on the produce. It’s better for you and, except for the bizarre case of oranges, better tasting. Second, we’re moving to organic dairy products. We long been drinking only nonfat milk, the only difference now is that it will only be from dairy cows given organic feed instead of the hormone-laced crap they feed most bovines. We’ll be moving to organic cheese soon too. Third, we’ve switched to eggs from free range hens who are raised on hormone-free feed.

Finally, we’ve decided that despite all the benefits of vegetarianism (and there are several), our objections in that regard lie not in the eating of animals, but in the treatment of animals and safety of the meat being sold. If you remember my rants against the US beef industry from last April, I’ve lost none of my contempt for what they’re foisting on the unsuspecting general public. I’m convinced that most of the meat they’re serving is, minimally, profoundly bad for people.

Given some time, I’ve come to better understand my opposition. I oppose hormone-laced animals in the food chain. I oppose the prevailing capitalism philosophy that says it is OK to poison animals and ultimately people in order to make a buck. I oppose treating animals with anything less than the respect that they deserve.

I want to expound a bit on this last point. As I’ve said, I have no issue with eating meat per se. I think it can be done in such a way that honors the dignity of the creature to be eaten. If that sounds somewhat contradictory to the average American, I dare say that it wouldn’t to the average Native American. The tribes who hunted the lands of North America understand the symbiosis I’m hinting at. We’ve gotten away from that with our mechanized factory farms, and it’s to the detriment of us all that we no longer appreciate the sacrifices of the animals, the natural cycle of which we are inherently a part, or the dangers of the path upon which we’ve embarked.

When I talked about the US beef industry last year what raised my hackles was that some 76 million people a year get food poisoning in the United States. The more I research food, the more I think that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg with even greater long-term danger laying hidden in the additives, pesticides, hormones, and preservatives we inject into the food chain.

For example, early puberty is a condition that, according to a ground-breaking study published April 1997 in Pediatrics, now afflicts nearly 50 percent of all black girls and 15 percent of white girls in the United States. It’s the onset of puberty well before the historical norm. Nowadays the pubescent “norm” is 8 or 9 years old for black girls and 10 years old for white girls. The early causal speculation centered on “insecticides, growth hormones in meat and milk, estrogen-like substances in dental sealants used on children, and the plastic wrap used on sandwiches for kids’ lunches” (Premature Puberty: Is Early Sexual Development the Price of Pollution?).

By 1999, it looked like cow’s milk was a definite factor.

Cow’s milk has high fat content, high levels of biologically available hormones and growth factors, and other chemical contaminants from highly medicated cows fed environmental trash (chicken feces and diseased carcasses, for instance). These are all linked to early puberty and proliferation of cancer cells in human reproductive organs. Moreover, immune reactions to large bovine proteins are associated with gastrointestinal disease and cancer. When consumption of cow’s milk starts in infancy (via baby formulas), the consequences seem to be the most dire.

Coming of Age (Much Too Soon)

Other factors like child obesity and genetics have also been linked to early puberty, but I can’t fathom how drinking lots of growth hormone couldn’t play a role. (Got milk?)

The effect of pesticides in the food chain may be similarly terrifying from a health care perspective. Pesticides increase the risk of breast cancer, may increase the risk of Parkinson’s Disease, are linked to stillbirths, and may be implicated in male infertility. For a book on the subject, see Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence, and Survival? (I’ve not read it yet, but I’ve got it on hold at the Salem Library.)

If all this plays as a perverse testament to the adaptability of man, it probably should. God knows most of the populace adapted to use the kludge that is Windows. What’s so hard about downing a burger and fries in blissful ignorance? But the more I read about it, the more I’m convinced that the safety of the food we eat cannot be taken for granted. Like any great strength, adaptability is also a weakness. Here, perhaps with catastrophic consequences.