Editor’s Note: We’ve gone on a search-and-rescue mission to find amazing stories and essays published in earlier print editions of Rootstock. Today’s throwback, excerpts from “The Organic Manifesto of a Biologist Mother,” was written by Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D., for the Spring 2003 edition of Rootstock. It highlights the importance of organic food, especially for mothers and children. This topic is still of great importance even 11 years later. 




Organic food contains fewer pesticide residues than conventional food. This might seem a self-evident truth. After all, organic farming prohibits the use of synthetic pesticides and intends to offer crops virtually free of residues.

Pesticides, by design, are poisons. The science shows us that most organic produce is free from pesticide residues and most conventionally grown produce is not. The science shows that children fed organic produce have significantly lower pesticide residues in their bodies than children fed conventional produce. Whatever we do or don’t know about threshold levels for harm, my intuition tells me that food with no poison is better for my children’s developing minds and bodies than food with some.


We have much to learn about the reproductive effects of pesticides in use today. In the meantime, organic farming—like sobriety, seatbelts, and not smoking—makes good prenatal sense.

Pesticides do not adhere to the fields in which there are sprayed. They evaporate and rise into the jetstream. They drift for miles in the wind. They fall in the rain. They are detectable in fog. They insinuate themselves into the crystalline structures of snowflakes. They follow storm run-off into gullies and streambeds. They descend through soil into groundwater. Organic agriculture does not poison wells and reservoirs. It does not bring ruin to vineyards and orchards. It is respectful of snow, fog, wind, and rain—our life support system.



“The Organic Manifesto of a Biologist Mother” was originally printed in the Spring 2003 edition of RootstockClick here to read the article in its entirety.


Sandra Steingraber

Ecologist, author, and cancer survivor, Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D. is an internationally recognized authority on the environment links to cancer and human health.

Steingraber’s highly acclaimed book, Living Downstream: An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment presents cancer as a human rights issue. Originally published in 1997, it was the first to bring together data on toxic releases with data from U.S. cancer registries and won praise from international media including The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, The Lancet, and The London Times.

A columnist for Orion magazine, Sandra Steingraber is currently a scholar in residence in Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. She is married to the artist Jeff de Castro, and they live in a 1000-square-foot house with a push mower, a clothesline, a vegetable garden, and two beloved children.