A few days ago, while hanging with friends, NOW publisher/editor Michael Hollett asked me to write a piece about why I'm organic and where I can find it in Toronto.
My buddy Bradley said, "I don't care about organic."
This surprised me, because Bradley is very sharp and progressive in many ways, but he went on to say, "I smoke cigarettes, I drink and I'm gonna die anyway. Why worry about organic?"
Now, I have heard that statement made before in various forms from people who consider organics a low priority. Maybe you feel the same way. So I'll tell you what I told Bradley.
If you're not worried about organic, your kids should be. Pesticides came about after the first world war. Some brainy petrochemical money maker said, "Hey, that mustard gas worked great on people, maybe we could dilute it down and spray it on our crops to deal with pests."
But it wasn't until after the second world war that pesticides came into widespread commercial use. In the U.S. alone from 1991 to 97, pesticide use averaged 972 million pounds a year, much of it washing down into our water table to be ingested by us through drinking water or bathing. That's nearly four pounds of toxic chemicals for every man, woman and child.
Some scientists feel this is one of the reasons why so many children's hospitals have popped up all over the place. Our kids are much more susceptible to the effects of these poisons, all of which are molecular cousins of mustard gas.
I remember Donald Rumsfeld doing an interview, badly wanting to say this white powder found in Iraq, which turned out to be pseticides, was nerve gas so as to justify their oil war. But a simple field test could not tell them, and more extensive testing was necessary because nerve gas and pesticides are so similar.
In fact, I remember reading that the U.S. army dropped several tons of pesticides on Iraq (purchased from Iran during Bush War I) - I guess using weapons of mass destruction is only wrong when the enemy does it. But the point is, we are spraying nerve gas on our food. One apple gets hit with 26 types of pesticides.
Economically, many folks don't feel they can afford organic. While this may be true in some cases, I think more often than not it's a question of priority. I feel it's one of the most important areas of concern ecologically, because the petrochemical giants - DuPont, Monsanto - make huge money by poisoning us.
Also, if foods are organic, we can be sure they're not genetically modified, and who wants to eat food that comes from a patented Monsanto seed. The Beast (I'm referring to the highly subsidized, tax-breaked industries that perform a daily rape of Mother Earth - timber, petroleum, mining, nuclear, etc) has a stranglehold on our politicians, our economy and our food. Eating organic is a powerful tool for those who care to fight back. It's voting with your dollar.
In Toronto there are several vegetarian restaurants. But I know of only four places that concern themselves with organic. All of them are raw. One is Ra Ra Raw (319 Augusta, 416-961-2727) in Kensington Market. Others are Super Sprouts (720 Bathurst, 416-977-7796) at Bathurst and Bloor and Live (258 Dupont, 416-515-2002, see review page 43). And last but not least, Livia (55 Mill, Building 35, 416-413-1410) , a juice and salad bar in the Distillery District (see review, page 40).
I try to apply the organic concept to my clothes and bedding as well. There's nothing like swimming in organic cotton sheets. A great place to find them is Grassroots (408 Bloor West, 416-944-1993; 372 Danforth, 416-466-2841). For hemp/organic cotton clothing, check out THC (637 Yonge, 416-920-1980) and Roach-O-Rama (191A Baldwin, 416-203-6990) in Kensington Market.
By the way, there aren't four raw restaurants in L.A. and San Francisco combined. That's one of the many reasons why Toronto is my favourite city in North America.
Number one is the people. As the end of my second summer here draws near, I want to thank all of you for making this city great.
Keep it organic and natural.