The Case Against Commercially Grown Foods

10. The Case Against Commercially-Grown Foods

10.1 Hazards of Chemical Fertilizers, Pesticides, Fungicides, Herbicides, Fumigants, etc.

The snowballing evidence against chemical pesticides culminated in Rachel Carson’s landmark book, Silent Spring, led to the ban in the United States of D.D.T., and restrictions on the use of other poisons on food crops.

On December 25, 1975, an article appeared in the St. Petersburg (Florida) Independent, entitled “Pesticides Can Kill People, Too.” Georgia Tasker, of the Knight Newspapers, wrote about the experience of Joan Cole with the insecticide “Sevin” (which is not supposed to be as bad as such insecticides as “Malathion”). She dusted a big tomato ring with “Sevin” on a dry day. A couple of days later, she decided to discard the plants altogether, and jerked them out on a windy day. The next day she felt as though she were having a nervous breakdown. She couldn’t get up, she couldn’t think straight. Ms. Cole said, “I had really panicky feelings. My whole body sort of went into limbo or something.” The next day, when she felt a little better, she racked her brain, and then in dawned on her that she must have inhaled “all that damned stuff.”

The article continues, “Dr. John Davies, a pesticide expert at the University of Miami Medical School, has been analyzing the tissue of a Fort Walton Beach (Florida) woman who recently died. Initial autopsy tests indicate Mrs. R.J. Clark may have become fatally ill after inhaling too much nemagon, a pesticide used to control nematodes. “Helen Lund, another Miami gardener, has given up using pesticides altogether. She was caring for the plants of vacationing friends and mixed some Malathion, used it, and decided to take the leftover mixture home. She drove home with it in the back seat of her car. By the time she reached her house, she was dizzy and sick to her stomach. She said, ‘I got to thinking this is going to kill the birds—and me.’

“So while the Environmental Protection Agency continues to crack down on dangerous pesticides, banning in July of this year chlordane and heptachlor except for very limited use, the possibilities of severe sickness and death are always present when using any pesticide.”

The World Health Organization has released figures disclosing almost 500,000 reported cases of pesticide poisoning in 1981. For every reported case, how many others do not report or even recognize the relationship of their ailments to pesticide exposure or ingestion?

As Hygienists, we are concerned about the hazards of ingesting chemical residues in our drinking water or in our food. How many thousands of workers are also exposed to the dangers involved in handling pesticides, or in growing or handling the crops?

10.2 The “Benefits”?

The chemical cartels maintain that the risk is small compared to the benefits achieved. What benefits?

Modern insecticides are nonselective, killing or injuring beneficial insects and animals, and persisting in the environment, upsetting the ecological balance. All chemical pesticides upset the eco balance so significantly that crop yields eventually diminish.

The National Audubon Society says, “Between 80 and 90 percent of pesticides used in homes and gardens do no good at all. More often, they do harm. These chemicals are a hazard to wildlife, pets, and humans. None of them are totally safe. And they often cause more problems than they solve.”

10.3 Chemical Fertilizers vs. Organic Methods

Chemical fertilizers may initially increase the abundance of crops, but the eventual result of failing to replace the exhausted elements of the soil is depletion.

Tests made in the early 1960s on the Rodale crops in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, indicated a decided superiority in nutritional value of organically-grown food over the commercial varieties. Crops were grown side by side, half organically and half commercially (using chemical fertilizers and insecticides). Otherwise, the conditions were identical.

The crops were then tested to see how they compared in nutritional value. Six nutrients were measured, and the reports indicate the superiority in nutritional value of organically-grown food. The following comparisons between the organically-grown and the commercially-cultivated wheat and oats gives the higher percentages of these six nutrients in the organically-grown crops:

Nutrients Organically-Grown Oats Organically-Grown Wheat
Protein 28% higher 16% higher
Vitamin B1 92% higher 108% higher
Vitamin B2 171% higher 131% higher
Niacin 100% higher 63% higher
Calcium 25% higher 29% higher
Phosphorus 3% higher 1% higher

But the best proof is when we taste and enjoy the better flavor of the food.

An article in the Palm Beach (Florida) Post, July 29, 1974, by Bryce Nelson, Chief of the Middle Western Bureau of the Los Angeles Times in Chicago, tells about organic farmers who increased their yields, increased the quality of their produce, and improved their own health and the health of their stock. Most of them sold their products at regular prices on the open market. The organic farmers said their fertilizer cost was lower, they had to do less work to get as high or higher yields than chemical farmers, and they were happier.

In a 1976 study for the National Science Foundation, Dr. Barry Commoner determined that organic farming methods produce foods more economically, and of higher quality. The study, made with organic farmers in five states, showed that foods cost $16 an acre less to produce. (The claim is usually made that organic farming is more trouble and more expensive than chemical farming.)

More recently, Purdue University Agronomist Jerry Mannering reported evidence of the importance of organic matter to plants. The correct chemical and physical composition, of the soil, and the soil energy, can be maintained only by conservation and replacement of organic matter. Only organic matter can create and maintain in the water-holding and nutrient-holding capacity of soils.

10.4 No Differences? Use Supplements?

Numerous representatives of vested interests maintain that there is no difference in the .nutrient quality of safety between chemical food production and food produced organically.

Other vested interests maintain (and even exaggerate) the food deficiencies created by chemical food production, and offer a solution—vitamin and mineral supplements.

Hygienists must face these issues squarely, and determine how to resolve the contentions resulting from these claims.

Synthetic fertilizers may initially help produce larger fruits and vegetables, but they are often lacking in taste and lower in nutritional value. Vitamins and minerals, proteins and enzymes in foods that are produced organically have repeatedly been shown to be superior, qualitatively and quantitatively. And, inexorably, when the soil is depleted, exhausted by the use of chemical agriculture, what then?

In 1900, wheat in Kansas contained about 18% protein. Today Montana wheat (grown in virgin soil) also contains 18% protein. But Kansas wheat today contains only 11% protein, because the virgin soil is depleted and the farmers are using chemical fertilizers.

The late John Tobe, in The Provoker, November-December 1976, said, “The food processors and chemical corporations have arranged for various professors of great universities to go on the stump and make statements that there is no special value in organically-grown foods. Here I would like to tell you about some research that was conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Many foods grown in the United States were compared with their counterparts grown in Mexico, Central America and Latin America. It was found that many of the foods grown in the U.S. are lower in nutritional value than the same foods grown in Mexico, Central America, and Latin America, where chemical farming has not been established.” The caption of the article is “Sometimes It Pays To Be Blind.”

Many people acknowledge that commercially-grown food is deficient in nutritional value, and it is well known that organically-grown food is more abundant in trace elements, which are necessary to life. One example is the deficiency of copper, a necessary trace element, which is destroyed by chemicalization. Too many people try to restore these deficiencies by augmenting their diets with food supplements (pills, powders, liquids) in the vain hope of supplying missing nutrients. It can’t be done! In the lesson about food supplements, you learned that these products are useless, and even damaging.

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