Famed labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez once said, “the fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people.” When we eat organic, it’s not the health of the kale or the blueberry that we worry about. It’s the health of our own bodies that concerns us. There are many reasons why Goose Organic buys organic cotton over conventional cotton. It's not only because it looks and feels better. We buy organic because we refuse to contribute to the poisoning of farmworkers and communities. It’s about people.
According to a 2013 report by Farmworker Justice, there are an estimated 5.1 billion pounds of pesticides applied to crops each year. This leads to all kinds of acute health issues. Farmworkers experience headaches, nausea, shortness of breath, and seizures. Anyone who has used a weed killer in their garden can attest to the nastiness of working with these chemicals. Prolonged exposure to pesticides can lead to chronic issues like cancer, infertility, and neurological disorders. Pesticides (meaning pest-killers) are designed to kill, and that’s what they do.
Around our very own city of Santa Cruz, we have seen how pesticides can do harm, even miles away from a farm. A recent study released by The California Department of Pesticide Regulation concludes that out of 67 pesticide-related illnesses recorded in Santa Cruz County in 2014, 85% were a product of ‘drift’. Sprayed pesticides picked up by the breeze and drifting onto our homes, our schools and our parks.
In 1962 Rachel Carson wrote about a silent spring. A season of renewal that is instead shockingly quiet. A spring devoid of chirping birds and singing crickets. Killed off by humans’ indiscriminate spraying of pesticides. Silent Spring was a wake-up call to environmentalists, scientists, farmers, and politicians. A fierce public debate around the use (or overuse) of pesticides erupted. This debate helped jumpstart the nascent environmental movement in the US. Culminating in some major victories like the Environmental Protection Agency. This agency created in 1972, banned one of the most dangerous pesticides ever created, DDT. But now, we seem to have lost momentum.
Today, the use of pesticides is still commonplace. There are even foods we eat named after them. Roundup Ready® soybeans first hit the market in 1996. Now there is a whole host of seed varieties genetically engineered to resist the poison in pesticides. But the people who work in the fields and who live next door have not been genetically engineered. They are vulnerable. We are all vulnerable. Rachel Carson preferred to call pesticides ‘biocides’ because they affect the whole biosphere, not only pests. “In nature, nothing exists alone,” she reminded us.
At Goose Organic we know we don’t exist alone. We know that the worker who sews the t-shirt is not separate from the person who buys it. Which is why we use ethically-sourced, sweatshop free labor. Dangers of textile production run deeper than the factory, all the way back to the cotton field. Cotton is often called the “world’s dirtiest crop” due to the amount of very dangerous pesticides used (like Aldicarb). According to the Environmental Justice Foundation, cotton crops account for a staggering 16% of the world’s pesticide use. Those who work in these conventional cotton fields are at risk.
It is important that people have the right to work with dignity and safety from farm to factory. That’s why we use 100% organic cotton in all our clothing. Organic cotton is grown without the use of dangerous chemicals. There are no harmful ‘-cides’ of any kind in our t-shirts, polos, and hoodies. And that’s a good thing.
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