Monday, February 23, 2015

Organic grains come to Invercauld

*Warning: my nerdy science past may come out to play in this post.*

Although I love my planet and I care deeply about the health of our family, I don't always buy organic. I know that I should, but I don't.  Supporting organic farmers is very important to me, but I often make my purchasing decisions based on budget and not my values.  One thing that I was consistently not buying organic was grain products, most specifically, flour. We don't have a flour mill on PEI, but there is an organic grain mill in Woodstock, NB, which is about 415 km from where I live.  Maybe not close enough to qualify for the 100 mile diet, but when you think about it, in Canada that isn't really a huge distance is it?

I was added to a bulk buying group for that company about a year ago but I stalled on putting in orders.  The pickup was a bit of a hike from our old home, and the price, while reasonable, was a little high for my slim student/mother budget.  I meant to put in an order, but I just didn't, for the time being.

Then I started to read articles, on blogs, mostly, about the spraying of glyphosate on wheat crops just before harvest.  I didn't relish the idea of a fresh dose of Round-Up on my wheat just prior to being turned into flour, and I hoped that since this was information from the blogging world (which we all know is full of scientific hogwash) and from the US (I like to pretend to myself that we make better choices in Canada, which is a bit of a fairy tale in so many ways!) that it probably wasn't an issue here.  I started to look into it and found this link from the University of Saskatchewan regarding the pre-harvest application of glyphosate to wheat crops.  I take the word of a university in the wheat capital of Canada as fairly solid when it comes to how crops are grown.  The government of Saskatchewan also notes this as a common practice on its website, and explains when and how to apply it.

I understand that weeds are annoying and problematic, far more so for a large crop of one species than for a small diverse garden, so I don't want to vilify those who use federally regulated substances.  Farmers are just trying to make their living, after all, and I believe that they care about the soil that they tend.  However, I don't really trust the regulating bodies or the pressure that big pesticide and processing corporations can exert on governments and farmers.  I also don't trust non peer-reviewed articles.  So I tried to look a little harder at the issue, and while I haven't conducted any major research, I easily dug up a few articles from peer-reviewed journals containing studies that showed that there are concerns for human health related to the use of glyphosate.

It isn't even so much the glyphosate, but the chemicals that are added to it to improve its function that are the problem.  These studies show that the adjuvants (or added components) can make the glyphosate accumulate in human tissues more easilycan harm placental, embryonic and liver cells, and act as endocrine disruptors (mess up hormone function) at levels lower than those used agriculturally.  These studies came out of France, which isn't surprising since Europeans are far more conservative with their regulation of pesticide products and their use in crop production and are likely making more of an effort to study the harm that these substances can do.

I think scientists need to look at these effects more conclusively over the long term, but this reading is enough for me to decide to exclusively purchase organic grains from now on.  In our world we come into contact every day with things that can harm our health.  We can't worry about it too much, I don't think, because we have to just live, and an over-thinker like me can end up with major bouts of anxiety!  But we can take steps where possible to minimize our exposure to things that can harm us, and in particular, our little ones.

So all this to say, I was super excited to scoot out to the country, to the hills where I was raised, to pick up my first (finally!) order of local-ish, organic grains today, and I'm even more excited to begin baking with them!

I promise the next post will be more fun.  I just felt I had to explain my lengthy decision-making process.  I can be long-winded like that.  Sorry!

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