Tips for an Organic, Least-Toxic Thanksgiving

Beyond Pesticides
Waking Times

Thanksgiving offers an opportunity for family and friends to eat, drink and be thankful for the bounty of the organic harvest. Unfortunately, there are a host of pesticides, genetically engineered materials, and others in conventional Thanksgiving foods that not only impact human health, but threaten the environment. Read below for some easy tips and suggestions for a healthful Thanksgiving day feast.

Organic, free-range, and local turkeys

The turkey is the symbol of a traditional Thanksgiving meal. However, turkeys are often fed grains treated with pesticides, medicated with antibiotics, and engorged with steroids and hormones. Additionally, turkeys are often fed an inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen, which is used to promote growth and for pigmentation. In order to avoid all these, your best bet is to invest in an organic free-range turkey (pictured right), which is free of hormones, steroids or antibiotics. Want to forgo the turkey altogether? Be sure to choose an organic meatless option.

Avoid Genetically Engineered Food: Go Organic

There are additionally, a number of Thanksgiving products that probably contain genetically-engineered (GE) ingredients (although the formulations are often considered proprietary trade secrets). According to GMO Inside, some common GE foods used during Thanksgiving include: Campbell’s Tomato Soup, Wesson Canola Oil, Bruce’s Yams, Hershey Milk Chocolate, Pepperidge Farm Crackers, Kraft Classic Ranch Dressing, Rice-a-Roni chicken flavored rice, Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce, and Kraft’s Stove Top Stuffing.

  • Thankfully, the majority of these products can easily be substituted with organic counterparts. Canned yams for instance often contain GE ingredients, but can be replaced by fresh organic yams. Another staple like Pepperidge Farm Crackers can be substituted for organic crackers like Mary’s Gone Crackers or Nature’s Pathway Crackers. Consider substituting GE cranberry sauce with home-made jellies made with organic cranberries and fair trade sugar. Organic jellied cranberries, such as Tree of Life or Grown Right, are fast alternatives. Finally, pre-made stuffing, like Kraft’s Stove Top stuffing, should be replaced with your own home-made stuffing or organic stuffing mix from Arrowhead.

    Cleaning with Non-Toxics

    An easy way to improve the health of your Thanksgiving guests and the environment is to use non-toxic or least-toxic cleaning materials. Mixing baking soda and water can quickly take out carpet stains, while vinegar can be applied to newspaper and used to clean your windows. If you don’t have time to make these at home, simply shop in the non-toxic aisle of the grocery store can significantly decrease exposure to toxics like triclosan, which is known to disrupt reproduction and development.

    Cutting Wastes

    Outside of pesticide exposure, a responsible Thanksgiving should include a range of waste-cutting measures. Planning your meals for the number of guests will reduce food waste. Instead of covering your table with plastic or disposable centerpieces, decorate lightly with potted plants. When waste cannot be eliminated, make sure to recycle your plastic bottles and cans and compost if possible.

    Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks in a way that eliminates exposure to toxic chemicals in food, supports environmental and public health through least-toxic materials, and reduces consumer wastes.

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    Beyond Pesticides advocates through its Eating with a Conscience for consumers to choose organic because of the environmental and health benefits to consumers, workers, and rural families. The Eating with a Conscience database, based on legal tolerances (or allowable residues on food commodities), describes a chemical-intensive food production system that enables toxic pesticide use both domestically and internationally, and provides a look at the toxic chemicals allowed in the production of the food we eat and the environmental and public health effects resulting from their use. For more information on the benefits of organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food program page.

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