Pesticides On My Plate: Are pesticides ruining our food? - KNOE 8 News; KNOE-TV; KNOE.com |

Pesticides On My Plate: Are pesticides ruining our food?

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MONROE, La. (KNOE 8 News) - You can view the building as a farmer's machine shop, or you can see it as a get-away.

Joe Mitcham, owner of Mitcham Farms, says, "I'm usually doing equipment maintenance, getting them all ready so that when we do have the actual work start, everything is ready to go."

It's here where Joe ponders the future. With an occasional glance outside at his baron, winter peach orchard, harvests images in his mind of what was.

"At one time we used to have 34,000 trees, we used to wholesale peaches then.", recalls Mitcham.

Looking back, it was a far more prosperous time - 15 years or more ago - when the family run business was booming.

"Wherever oak trees grew, ...wherever they grew even 75 years ago, that Armillaria Fungus grew.", Mitcham explains.

But things are different now...

One step into the orchard and you can't help but notice what's not here.

"There's a chemical called methyl bromide and they actually put it out to control nematode and as a side effect of that also, we got a good control over armillaria fungus.", Mitcham says.

"Starting in about 1995, the government started phasing out the methyl bromide and we couldn't get it anymore in the form that we needed it to treat the soil and so now we have a major problem with trees dying off."

At that time the health community feared ozone depletion from the chemical, though those notions were later unproven.

Over the past two decades a nation-wide health movement has taken hold, so tight, that family run farms are wilting. Dying out because of a seemingly invisible chemical on food.

The EPA and the FDA continue to pull certain pesticides from the market.

Pesticides that Choudrant produce farmer Brandon Watts, owner of Watts Produce, says keep life in his farm.

"... pea's and purple hole pea's are my biggest thing, I don't have to use near as much chemical on them, but watermelons, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, stuff like that, if you don't spray, you're not going to raise them.", Watts explains.

The regulations on pesticides have made keeping fruit on the trees and produce in the fields more expensive. The cost to raise your food has more than doubled for farmers in the past decade.

"My farms only one size, that's all I can grow, so you just have to go up on your prices, that's the only thing you can do", Watts says.

Each chemical has a minimum residual level, or time the product lasts on the plant. It's set at the minimal level that adverse effects are seen in animals.

There's an unknown factor to how it effects humans, so the government has reduced that level as much as 10-percent in recent years.

But are they low enough?

Inside Fiesta Nutritional Center, Angie says any pesticide is too much!

Angie O'pry Blade, Owner of Fiesta Health Food Store, says, "People are searching for clean food, with so many diseases that you've never heard before that people are looking for healthier way."

Melissa Moss, who is in favor of organic foods, says she was born without any allergies and now..."Things have just built up over the years with me being exposed to so much stuff."

Moss adds, "When I eat other food, I actually notice a difference, I start having a reaction in my throat. It's like a dramatic difference from when I eat organic food."

It's more than just peace of mind she says.

Rick Cavelle is the Chief of Internal Medicine at EA Conway Hospital.

Cavelle says we simply don't know the impact of these chemicals.

"so even though we have very low levels in the food supply we don't know first of all what is the cumulative effect over time, we don't know the effect of multiple different pesticides, if they act in conjunction or not.", explains Cavelle.

Cavelle says we're not sure how the pesticides may effect special populations like children or pregnant women.

"They may be more vulnerable to the adverse effects of these agents", Cavelle says.

Cavelle says no study has proven they're harmful or disproven their unhealthy.

Back at Mitcham Farms with just 30-percent of his orchard remaining, Joe has decided to focus on what he does have without knowing which spring blossom will be his last.

"The main thing is the loss of trees, not so much the loss of fruit, but the loss of trees, it's just going to eventually get to where it's just not profitable to continue here.", Mitcham says.

Health officials still believe that it's better to eat fruits and veggies with trace amounts of pesticides than avoid them all together.

They say pesticides or not, those who eat the proper foods have a lower risk of heart disease.

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