Organic is often labeled as a solution for environmental issues. And while we know that responsible and sustainable production of our food addresses complex problems in nature, there is also a direct connection to public health. We believe organic practices provide a framework to care for our planet in a way that supports the well-being and health for all life, wild and human.
Our health is bound to the quality of air, water and soil. And when we produce food or manage landscapes using persistent pollutants, we put our environmental and personal health at risk. In addition to the degradation of the natural resources we depend on to keep us healthy, we’re seeing negative effects from overuse of antibiotics in farm animals to pesticides in our backyards and on our foods.
The organic movement has advocated for wide adoption of its ecosystem-first methods as a means to protect human health, most notably in farm workers. But despite overwhelming research that demonstrates harmful effects of pesticides in workers, farming communities and children, we still have not been able to push public health to the forefront as a main reason for organic practices to become the norm.
As long as public health, environmental health and food production continue to be viewed as separate issues, it will remain difficult to present organic management as a clear-cut preventative strategy focuses on all issues simultaneously.
Oregon Tilth has over 30 years of experience working with conservationists, health professionals, policymakers, food producers and consumers. We are well-positioned as an intermediary; our work convenes a diverse mix of perspectives and expertise to address the issues facing public health as it connects with food, diet and environment.
We believe that sensible solutions for safe, quality human and environmental health require courageous conversations between professionals of all specialties. Oregon Tilth understands that the best approach for a smarter and more secure public health system begins with prevention. Our goal is to find practical solutions that protect the basics of human health: keep our drinking water clean, keep our food safe and keep our greenspaces free from harmful toxins.
Our job is to work toward land management for food and beyond, emphasizing conservation to protect public health. But we need to go further. The interactions between the environment and public health issues require an all hands on deck approach for policy, industry and society to meet these problems head on. And the broader impacts to public health safety from environmental dangers such as resource contamination and pesticide pollution must become a larger part of an integrated approach for organic advocates. At Oregon Tilth, we believe that organic can lead the way for stronger public health through how we produce crops, food and manage our land.