Sadly, the answer is very likely “yes”, your food may hold danger to your good health.
Why is this happening? Humans are always seeking the easy way to do things and have been indoctrinated into thinking that technology can solve all our problems. The insidious part of this equation is that in trying to fix one thing, the technology will often create new problems. This is often not relevant to those coming up with the new technology because the entire process is driven by a profit motive. The easiest way to make money is to find a problem that you have a solution for.
The healthcare industry is the most blatant with this strategy. How often do you see a drug for some problem you have never heard about touted as something you need to ask your doctor about because your life or a family member’s life will be so much better if you start taking the new medication? The fallacy of this strategy is that preventing is far more valuable than fixing a problem but there is not as much revenue in that approach for pharmaceutical companies. The most direct example of this is with antibiotics. If we were all focused on supporting our immune systems through good nutrition and good attitudes there would be much less need for antibiotics and many of the other medications we are told over and over again that we need. In fact, the antibiotics are often damaging the ability of our natural immune systems. Our bodies are filled with trillions of microorganisms that when healthy can work together to handle all but the most virulent of attackers. But here is the fault in the system: the antibiotics indiscriminately kill off good microorganisms along with the bad ones. The living organisms in your gut are crucial for proper digestion and absorption of the nutrients in your food. Good nutrition – possibly supported by adding “probiotics” to your diet – can help assure you rarely if ever need an antibiotic.
So, what’s the problem with food?
Due to the same “problem – technology solution” scenario, Agribusiness uses the same strategy as the drug companies. After depleting the soil health so crucial to nutritious food products the solution is to dump chemicals onto the ground and crops for a “quick fix” to a farming strategy that has been killing off “living soil”. Every square inch of healthy soil is filled with trillions of microorganisms and other creatures like earth worms. These organisms as they live, eat and die, naturally provide the nutrients needed for nutritious healthy plants. Here is where we get to the money in agribusiness – by going for higher yields and “cash” crops the living soil on most farmable land has become very sick if not dead. The chemicals – kind of like steroids building muscle in the body without regard to side effects – have killed off many of the microorganisms vital to soil health and the ability of plants to pull nutrients and minerals from the soil and into the plants. If you do a little research you will find that the nutrients available from most any piece of fruit or vegetable grown today are on average considerably less than plants from those same fields ten or twenty years ago.
But even more serious, the chemical fixes have also made much of what we eat dangerous to our good health. The most obvious evil is:
Glyphosate (IUPAC name: N-(phosphonomethyl)glycine) is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide and crop desiccant. Farmers quickly adopted glyphosate for agricultural weed control, especially after Monsanto introduced glyphosate-resistant Roundup Ready crops, enabling farmers to kill weeds without killing their crops. In 2007, glyphosate was the most used herbicide in the United States’ agricultural sector. An increasing number of crops have been genetically engineered to be tolerant of glyphosate (e.g. Roundup Ready soybean, the first Roundup Ready crop, also created by Monsanto), which allows farmers to use glyphosate as a post-emergence herbicide against weeds.
And so, similar to the pharmaceutical industry, agribusiness has created problems that they can charge farmers an ever greater amount to fix. This is to the point that they are genetically manipulating crop seeds to not be killed by their poisonous chemicals. If you are concerned that these chemicals may be harmful to you and me sitting down at the dinner table, the answer is pretty clearly, “YES they are, particularly over an extended time”.
The EPA reports that “More than a billion pounds of pesticides are used in the U.S. each year to control weeds, insects and other organisms that threaten or undermine human activities. Some of these compounds can be harmful to humans if ingested, inhaled, or otherwise contacted in sufficient quantities.” Exposure to glyphosate, with more than 250 million pounds applied to crops each year, is thought to contribute to immune system damage, kidney and liver damage, and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Glyphosate was classified by the World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer as a probable carcinogen in 2015. Glyphosate has become ubiquitous in our food supply; one study found glyphosate residue in 39 out of 44 restaurant food samples. As these and other chemicals also kill organisms in the soil that are needed for plants to pull nutrients naturally from the soil, this results in the spiraling need of even more chemicals. So, yes, thanks to this approach, our food, even if it cannot be claimed to be killing us, is far less healthy than it was a decade or two ago.
Poisons like glyphosate are not the only villain in this story. Of all the antibiotics sold in the United States, 80% are sold for use in animal agriculture. 58% of those are excreted into the environment and more than half end up in the soil. The spread of antibiotic resistance through what has become conventional agriculture represents a significant threat to the future of human disease control.
All of these potentially life threatening substances are not just on our food crops, ingested by chickens, cows and other animals that we get food products from – they are leaching in ever greater amounts into our drinking water supply. Compounding the threat to our wellbeing is the fact that these chemicals and drugs are also damaging those microorganisms in the soil and other little creatures vital for growing healthy plants. And the danger is not limited to our agriculture industry. It is very likely that the park and grass areas your children play on have been coated with a glyphosate based product like Roundup. The companies involved are much like pharmaceutical drug dealers in that they make a case about how their product will solve your problems even if you didn’t know you had a problem. Once they have you hooked you become dependent on them – there’s no stopping them without going back to the basics of building a strong foundation: nurturing healthy living soil for our plants to grow in.
How can you be part of the solution? You can stop buying altered and treated food products. After reading this, it is probably clear why so many people are insisting on getting “organic” products free of these chemicals and genetic modification. It is urgent that we take it one step further and get our food products from “regenerative” farming sources. As a result of “Agribusiness” and poor land management, we have lost well over half the “healthy” soil in this country. This effects more than how nutritious our food is, it also effects water management as “dead” soil will not absorb the moisture from a rainfall – it will either runoff if the land is slanted or evaporate instead of being absorbed by the soil. Since it all comes down to money, the only way to put the “drug dealers” out of business is to stop buying their products. To do that we must insist on products supporting the building back and maintenance of health, living soil. That is the goal of “regenerative” agriculture.
Call it back to basics or back to nature – that’s the goal of regenerative organic farming. Healthy soil is filled with the trillions of little creatures that have evolved to live in a symbiotic relationship with plants. Regenerative Agriculture is a most potent way to move us away from climate disaster as well as a mounting health challenge. The solution is supporting the circular system where the sun provides energy that is converted by photosynthesis in plants to sugars while releasing oxygen. These sugars are carbon based and travel into the ground through plant roots to feed those little critters in the soil. As those organisms live and die, they deposit the carbon in the soil which is a key part of building back the natural health of the soil. While we can work to decrease CO2 emissions, by regenerating the soil, we can pull the carbon right out of the air and put it in the ground where it is needed for soil health.
Do a little research on “regenerative” farming and the benefits of going back to nature will become clear. If you don’t have a good source of organic regeneratively grown produce, many businesses like Misfits Market are offering home delivery of quality products. I just got my first order and got a discount code to refer people to for a first order discount – go to misfitsmarket.com and use this code COOKWME-MG8WXCPAIEU when you register.
Hopefully I have done a decent job of describing our predicament and the great opportunity that is available to us. The objective is for you to get interested and do whatever you can to help us save our soil and with it a healthy planet. Please send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts on this article, questions about regenerative agriculture and climate change information on other ways you can get involved in restoring the health and wellbeing of the planet.
John A. Brodie
PositiVibes Network (PositiVibes.net)