Fifteen years ago, I got the kind of call from my doctor that began with, “I have some news.” The kind of call that resulted in a hastily scheduled visit with an oncologist and two surgeries less than two weeks later. The kind of call that saved my life, and at the same time changed it forever.
A year later, Christopher and I packed up everything we owned (almost) and drove down to Costa Rica. It was an incredibly intense time for me, of being angry at and grateful for and in awe of my body for the first time. Before, I’d taken it for granted. But now I had an intense, almost motherly, instinct to nurture it.
I became more aware of how much my body hurt when I didn’t get enough sleep. I could discern a calm confidence when I practiced yoga regularly. I noticed how fresh foods made me feel clean and balanced and energized. And I felt, in my gut, a strong conviction to switch over to organic food. Something just felt wrong about putting chemicals—even if I was told they were safe—into my body.
Why do I bring all this up? Because in the last two weeks a couple of reports have come out that make my decision look not just intuitively right, but scientifically sound too.
The first, a report on reducing environmental cancer risk released by the President’s Cancer Panel (which was appointed during the Bush Administration), found that “the risk of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated.” It goes on to give several recommendations for reducing exposure, including choosing organic food. The second, a study by researches from the University of Montreal and Harvard, found a link between ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and organophosphates (i.e., agricultural chemicals). Nothing definitive, but enough to make my ears perk up on the heels of the cancer risk study.
Gary Hirschman, former president and CEO of Stonyfield Farm suggested yesterday at the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Cooking for Solutions that organic isn’t really the “new–”organic practices have worked for thousands and thousands of years–the chemicals used in agriculture are what are really unproven over the long haul. We are, in essence, in the midst of a 60-year experiment.
It seems to me that this is a good time for a gut check. Not an extended analysis or time spent poring over the latest studies—we’ll forever be inundated with contradictory data from varying sources—but a simple, 30-second reflection on what feels to you like the right thing to do.
What feels right to you?