The Hypocrisy Living in Your Garden

If you eat organic apples, but use weed killer on your lawn, you're missing the point

Here’s a message to parents: If you buy organic food for your kids but you use toxic chemicals in your yard, you are a big fat hypocrite.

I say this as a public service. I’ve been reminded lately that some folks don’t make the connection between pesticides that farmers put on their fields and pesticides that homeowners use to make their lawns or gardens golf-course lush. If you’re going to buy your family organic food because you think it’s healthier, rock on. But remember that all of the health claims around organic food rest on the fact that organic food is grown WITHOUT PESTICIDES. So if you buy organic but use weed killer on your lawn or garden, it kind of defeats the purpose.

I was reminded of this particular bit of hypocrisy the other day when an acquaintance posted a weed photo on Facebook. I only comment on two kinds of Facebook photos: photos of new babies and photos of plants. Babies because they’re cute and my friends keep having them, and plants because this is the time of year I spend 90 percent of my time thinking about my garden. I spend the remaining time weeding.

This acquaintance, a Main Line supermom who I like quite a bit, put up a picture of a spiky plant that she claimed was taking over her vegetable garden. She asked for help identifying it. I jumped in with the other horticultural hounds: it looked like a Canada thistle, a particularly noxious weed that can regenerate from teeny tiny pieces of root. The only way I know to stay on top of the Canada thistle is to yank it or dig it, then smother the spot in mulch so the weed is reluctant to regenerate. But then one of the other commenters suggested squirting the thistle with weed killer, and someone else chimed in that they always use Preen Weed Killer on these weeds, and suddenly it was a whole love fest about the wonders of various herbicides.

Now, I don’t know any of these commenters personally, and I don’t know what their personal shopping habits are, but I’d bet a Prius that they’re among the demographic who buy organic Sesame Street cereal for their kids at Whole Foods and get the organic bananas at Trader Joe’s and wear those organic cotton t-shirts that cost more than conventional t-shirts. The kind of people who pack their kids recyclable boxes of organic milk for lunch. My people. (Except for the t-shirts.)

But the chemical romance I saw on Facebook reminded me that many health-conscious people forget that the weed-killing chemicals at the hardware store are just like the crop-enhancing chemicals used on farms. If you put herbicide on your own garden, then eat the vegetables, you’re eating the same residue that’s in the conventionally grown produce. If you put pesticide on your lawn and let your kids play on the grass, you’re letting them roll around in chemicals designed to destroy biological matter. Which is why I say to my fellow parents: If you buy organic food but you put Round-Up on your garden, you’re a big fat hypocrite.

Just admit it.