More and more Americans appear to be taking an interest in the food they eat, and we’re not just talking how much it costs and how many calories are in a given item. People are asking “Where did this come from?” and “How was this grown?” and “Is this good for me and/or my children?”

It’s easy to take food for granted in this “Land-of-Plenty.” Great varieties of most every product await us as we stroll through grocery store aisles. In fact, many of us urban and suburban shoppers can now find in fairly close proximity a great variety of community grocery stores, big supermarkets, and specialty markets including local summer farmers markets that cater to the organic consumer, the frugal shopper, and the “just-feed-me-anything” eater.

We also take the safety of our food supply for granted. Until very recently, Americans have rightly had confidence that the food from their gardens, from local farms, and from grocery stores are clean from contaminates and pollution. Very few countries have strong, federal public health and safety agencies like ours does. It’s easy to take for granted the work that scientists and investigators do at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), for example, or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and other agencies of the executive branch of government that ensure the safety and quality of our food, and the health and safety of our water supply, soil composition, and atmospheric chemistry. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that what goes up in the air as pollution eventually comes down in our water supply and soil, contaminating the water we drink and the food we eat. For those living in Southwestern Pennsylvania — an area with ongoing air and water quality problems that add to its long legacy of industrial pollution — taking food and water safety for granted is no longer advisable. (Perhaps it never was.)

The problem with pollution and environmental degradation is that it is almost entirely self-inflicted — an unforced error that puts everyone at risk. It is almost entirely preventable, too, particularly with the scientific knowledge and technological advancements we enjoy today in the first quarter of the 21st century. It is in everyone’s health, economic, and moral/spiritual interest to demand clean air and clean water, especially for our children who have the most to gain when environmental protections are in place, and the most to lose when they are rolled back. It’s important for everyone to recognize that the old and tired argument pitting environmental health vs. economic health is just not relevant anymore (in fact, it never was) when we and our children are sick and dying from breathing the air (12-24 times every minute depending on your age), drinking the water (6-8 cups a day if you’re being good), and eating food (hopefully three “squares” a day with a healthy snack thrown in).

We all breathe the same air, drink the same water, and eat the same food. What goes up comes down. It’s a small world; what happens here stays here. Any way you slice it, we’re all in this together. We all hold the health of this planet and its passengers in our hands and (this should surprise no one) we’re on the verge of dropping it.

As we did last March, we will look at this year’s annual “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce” report from the Environmental Working Group tomorrow on The PediaBlog.


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