I’ve wanted to write this blog post for awhile but I’ve been reluctant to write about environmental law. I just wasn’t sure about going down this path and if I could explain it properly, but here goes! I have a Master of Laws (LLM) in Environmental and Natural Resources law, which means I have two law degrees (but I’m not a lawyer so this isn’t legal advice). In addition, as part of my LLM studies I familiarized myself with a statute called the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), a very unsexy statute in environmental law but very applicable to organic and non-organic food.
FIFRA controls the regulation of pesticides applied on food crops. The way FIFRA works is this: in order to sell pesticides, companies, such as Monsanto, must submit a label to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). That’s it. Once EPA approves the label, the chemical company can sell it on the market. It’s up to the user to follow the directions on the label.
I find this fact disturbing because the actual use of any pesticide isn’t really controlled at all. It’s human nature to over fertilize – the more the better, right? People over fertilize their lawns all the time. There is no way to know how much pesticide was used on the food I ate yesterday. The only way to really know is to buy food grown without the use of pesticides – organic food, like these organic kiwis.
Of course this isn’t the only reason why I buy or try to buy organic as much as possible. I think the food tastes cleaner and I feel better when I eat organic food. I also think it’s a no brainer to choose food that hasn’t been treated with potentially harmful chemicals. I think it’s mostly cost that deters people. Cost does sometimes deter me as well.
From a legal perspective, the regulation of pesticides disturbs me. FIFRA regulates pesticides “on paper” but the practical use of the product is beyond its control. There are other reasons to buy organic food but none as compelling to me as knowing that there is really no way of knowing how much pesticide is actually in any non-organic food I eat.