The Quality Of Our Food Is Determined By The Quality Of Our Soil

2. The Quality Of Our Food Is Determined By The Quality Of Our Soil

2.1 Mother Earth: Our Soil and Giver of Life

2.1.1 Soil Structure

Good granulation or crumb structure of the heavier soils is essential for good results. Sandy soils show little if any granulation, because their particles are coarse. With soils containing a substantial percentage of clay, working them when wet results in destruction of the granular structure. Tillage also tends to break down the structure of many soils. Alternate freezing and thawing, or wetting and drying, and penetration of the soil mass by plant roots are natural forces that favor the formation of soil granules, or aggregates. Such aggregation is developed most highly in soils near neutrality in their reaction; both strongly acid and strongly alkaline soils tend to run together and lose their structural character. (Organic Gardening, Rodale.)

2.1.2 Porosity

Pore spaces may be large, as with coarse, sandy soils or those with well-developed granulation. In heavy soils, with mostly finer clay particles, the pore spaces may be too small for plant roots or soil water to penetrate readily. Good soil has 40-60% of its bulk occupied with pore space that is filled with either water or air. Too much water slows the release of soil nitrogen, depletes mineral nutrients, and hinders proper plant growth. Top much air speeds nitrogen release beyond the capacity of plants to utilize it, and much is lost. (Organic Gardening, Rodale.)

2.1.3 Soil Groups

Sandy soils: Gravelly sands, coarse sands, medium sands, fine sands, loamy sands

Loamy soils: Coarse sandy loams, medium sandy loams, fine sandy loams, silty loams, stony silt
loams, clay loams

Clayey soils: Stony clays, gravelly clays, sandy clays, silty clays, clays

Sand particles are gritty; silt has a floury or talcum-powder feel when dry and is only moderately “plastic” when moist, while the clayey material is harsh when dry and very plastic and sticky when wet.

As we said, the ideal structure is granular, where the rounded clusters of soil lie loosely and shake apart readily. (Organic Gardening, Rodale.)

2.2 Erosion

Soil erosion rivals oil dependency as a threat to the economic progress of the world, according to a report issued in February 1984, by the Worldwatch Institute. “Under pressure of ever-mounting demand for food, more and more of the world’s farmers are mining their topsoil, d soil erosion has now reached epidemic proportions; its feet on food prices could ultimately be more destabilizing than rising oil prices.” Half of the world’s cropland is losing topsoil faster than nature can replenish it. In the Soviet Union, an estimated half-million hectares of cropland are abandoned yearly because they are so severely eroded by wind that they are no longer worth farming. (State of the World—1984, Worldwatch Institute’s analysis of global trends.) The report paints a grim picture for other resources, including forests and water supplies.

The main loss of soil occurs by sheet erosion, that is, each time it rains, the runoff water removes a thin layer of surface soil. As the topsoil becomes thinner, miniature gullies appear. After most of the surface soil is gone, gullies become the main problems.

There is usually a clear difference between topsoil and subsoil. Subsoil is finer textured, more plastic, and lighter in color than topsoil. Erosion is classified as follows:

No apparent erosion. All or nearly all surface soil is present. Depth to subsoil is 14 inches or more. The surface may have received some recent deposits as the result of erosion from higher ground.

Slight. Depth to subsoil varies from 7 to 14 inches. Plowing at usual depths will not expose the subsoil.

Moderate. Depth to subsoil varies from 3 to 7 inches. Some subsoil is mixed with the surface soil in plowing. Severe. Depth to subsoil is less than 3 inches. Surface soil is mixed with subsoil when the land is plowed. Gullies are beginning to be a problem.

Very Severe. Subsoil is exposed. Gullies are frequent.

Very severe gullies. Deep gullies or blowouts have ruined the soil for agricultural purposes. (Rodale Press.)

There is a direct relationship between erosion and a soil’s ability for intake of air and water. When the soil surface becomes compacted, the danger of erosion increases, while the intake of water and air decreases.

Agriculture Department programs have been under heavy criticism because of severe erosion problems nationwide. One recent federal report said erosion was increased by the payment-in-kind program (which paid farmers who had surplus grain for not growing more) because many participants who were required to plow up fields to qualify for the program did little to protect the soil. In addition, congressional critics have charged that farmers were putting more of their fragile farmland into production to boost their acreage in government programs.

Overoxidation of humus by tillage exposure also increases CO2 in our atmosphere. Tillage exposure permits the oxidation that releases carbon to the air and, simultaneously, decreases the carbon storage the humus provides in the soil mantle. Forests conduct more photosynthesis worldwide than any other form of vegetation. Photo-synthesizing plants are our source of oxygen. When we harvest forests, extend agriculture onto soils high in organic matter, and destroy wetlands, we speed the decay of our precious humus heritage (Lesson 50).

Some soil scientists say that under the best conditions nature can build topsoil at a rate not faster than 1.5 tons per acre each year, and under some conditions, the rate is only .5 tons per acre per year. About 2/3 of U.S. cropland is experiencing a net loss of topsoil. From water-caused erosion (and wind erosion, such as on the Great Plains) we are losing topsoil, on the average, five times faster than nature can build it, even under the best conditions.

Soil conservationist Neil Samson explains the problem in his 1981 book Farmland or Wasteland. He says to think in terms of the acre-equivalents of farmland productivity we lose each year through erosion. Losing a thousand tons of topsoil on one acre—equivalent to six inches of soil— would destroy the productivity of most cropland. He says that well over one million acre-equivalents of farmland productivity are lost yearly. Over 50 years, this could amount to 62,000,000 acre-equivalents.

The government estimates that 43% of land planted in row crops in the Corn Belt is highly susceptible to erosion; plowing up fragile soils that should have remained pasture and will only produce a few harvests is like the “slash-and-burn” technique of jungle agriculture.

Most conventional farms in the Corn Belt grow corn and soybeans year after year, without the rotation with small grains and legume hay so important to the organic farmer. In addition to nutrient building, these crops help to reduce erosion by covering the ground with a living mulch and binding the soil with their roots, thus protecting the fields from the destructive forces of rain and wind that are destroying American cropland faster than at any time during our history.

Corn and soybeans have brought the best price in the export markets, but these two crops are linked to the highest rates of soil erosion. Planted in rows, they leave part of the soil exposed, unlike grasses or clover which cover the ground entirely. Soybeans have shallow roots that also leave soil more susceptible to erosion. Crops of small grains (oats, barley) and hay (alfalfa) have less cash value, but these crops are grown close together—this reduces surface water runoff and erosion. Because many farmers plant the same crops each year instead of rotating them or letting the earth lie fallow, the soil further loses its ability to rebuild itself. Chinese farmers have tilled the same land for at least 40 centuries. In America, farmers may wish to conserve the land they farm, but the economic forces at work do not “reward” soil conservation in the short term, so many farmers do not invest in soil conservation.

2.3 Farming in the United States Today

The United States currently exports one-third of its annual agricultural harvest, growing enough to feed about 240 million Americans, plus 120 million people abroad.

In 1980, the Rodale Press initiated the Cornucopia Project to document where the U.S. food system is vulnerable and to suggest how it could be transformed into one that maintains high productivity and also conserves its resources. The book Empty Breadbasket? is a report on the results of that study. Here are some of its findings:

  • The size of the average U.S. farm has tripled since 1920.
  • In 1978, 1% of farm owners controlled 30% of the land.
  • The average molecule of processed food travels 1,300 miles before being eaten. (One of the first things I remember hearing in my transition to natural foods was that it is considered better to eat foods that are grown within several hundred miles of where one lives, the logic being that foods native to the area, those surviving in the climate where one lives, contain the nutrients best suited to maintain health in the climate of the particular area. Of course any food that is fresh is certainly always superior to any processed—or sprayed, or otherwise altered—food, and contains more vitamins and nutrients, but all other factors being equal, you might want the bulk of your diet to consist of fresh foods local to your area, if you are able to obtain fresh, organic produce that is grown close to home, with nonnative foods used to supplement your diet.)
  • Every year, enough topsoil is eroded to cover to a depth of one foot Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
  • About 15% of American cropland is irrigated—and on that land is raised 25% of the total value of U.S. crops. An estimated 25% of the groundwater used is being removed faster than it is replaced.
  • America’s farmers use an average of two pounds of pesticide and 120 pounds of synthetic fertilizer per acre of cropland per year. These chemicals lead to contamination of soil and water, destruction of wildlife populations and health problems for soil workers.
  • It takes 10 times more energy to produce a calorie of food today than it did in 1910.
  • In short, the study concludes that the U.S. agricultural system is productive but not sustainable, either economically or ecologically.

Much farmland is lost to urban growth, as cities spread; as the cash value of their land increases, some farmers sell to developers.

When the prairie grasslands were turned and plowed, a long line of ecosystems (that stretched back 30 million years) was broken. It had been a wilderness that supported migrating water birds, animals, and the native Americans. In the short run, the European crops grown by the “new” Americans would out-yield the old prairie, but they were not looking ahead. We have discussed over and over the intricate workings of the body, and how interference with nature’s ways eventually distorts these workings. Imposing manmade chemicals on our systems, and altering our natural bodily rhythms by improper lifestyles, disturbs our balance. The new farmers forgot one important fact: the prairie is a polyculture. Crops are usually grown in monocultures. Whereas the prairie has many perennial plants, agriculture relies heavily on annuals, but species diversity is the key. There are millions of microscopic life forms, and nature prefers polyculture, not annual monoculture. We are also gambling foolishly with our chemical fertilizers, for if we could see on a microscopic level, we would see that life is much more intricate than a few calculations and “fertilizer” additions. Mechanical disturbances of the prairies, and chemicals, may make “weed control” effective, but the farm will be weakened in the long run as, soil compacts (increasing  erosion), crumb structure declines, soil porosity decreases, and the loss of a “wick effect” (of pulling moisture down) lessens. Monoculture decreases the range of invertebrate and microbial forms. Even crop rotation doesn’t give enough diversity when compared to the greater diversity that was in the prairies originally, and monoculture results in the loss of botanical (and thus chemical) diversity above ground. Plants are weaker and invite insect pests or disease. (Insects are also better controlled if they have to spend some energy looking for the plants they evolved to eat among many species of polyculture.)

Organic farming methods attempt to take more of nature’s plans into consideration, and work with nature, not against it. There are an estimated 30 to 50 thousand organic farms in the U.S. When Chinese farmers were forced to move south and east because of deforestation and destructive agricultural practices, they had to relearn how to farm. For 40 centuries Chinese peasants have been developing a culture that survives because it return everything to the land.

2.4 Poverty and Hunger at Home

A report in January 1984, showed that demand for emergency food or shelter increased in the United States last year in 95% of the cities surveyed, despite an improving employment picture in 70% of the cities. Even in America, there are thousands of homeless people who sleep in streets, alleys and abandoned cars. Chicago estimates that there are 25,000 people in their city alone who “don’t even have a ragged hut or camping tent to call their home—an indictment of us as a people,” says the mayor.

President Reagan’s task force on food assistance announced in January that it could find no evidence of “rampant hunger” and saw no need for new assistance programs. But the Citizens Commission on Hunger in New England said its Harvard-based members and staff conducted five months of field investigation and reviewed every public and private study of hunger in the United States done since 1980 to support their statements about the national dimensions of the problem. Their report calls on Congress to increase funding for federal programs that affect hunger, saying that all the evidence gathered showed an increase in poverty and hunger over the past five years, and that hunger in America is no longer confined to the traditional poor or to ethnic minorities—they have been joined by other Americans who were not poor and not hungry several years ago. The hardest hit are poor infants and young children, the elderly, (especially those on fixed incomes) and families with an unemployed breadwinner.

2.5 Is Big Really Better?

Now that so much of our nation’s farming is done on a larger scale than ever, with more complex machinery, can we expect a better food product at the end of the line? Sad to say, we pay in more ways than one for “progress,” and we pay the most dearly when the end result of food processing is a drastic decline in nutritional quality. Even the best our supermarkets have to offer—fresh produce—is less tasty and healthful than organically-grown, sun-ripened produce. Anyone who has ever eaten both a commercially-grown strawberry and a sweet, juicy homegrown one, sun-ripe, can tell you about the difference in taste. Anyone who has eaten a vine-ripened tomato will cringe at the watery tastelessness of green-pulled tomatoes so common in supermarkets—there is simply no comparison. This is aside from the obvious advantage that organic produce is free from pesticide residues.

As to processed foods, we’ve discussed all their negative aspects in detail in earlier lessons and are by now quite familiar with them.

A 1983 newspaper article on food additives reads like this:

“Let’s say that you ate bacon and eggs for breakfast, with a muffin and jam on the side.” (Let’s hope you didn’t, but to continue …)

“For lunch, you downed a hamburger with ketchup, some pork and beans and a cola. And for dinner you munched on tossed salad with Caesar dressing, gnawed on barbecued ribs and french fries and slurped ice cream with butterscotch syrup for dessert.”

“That feast would have filled your belly with about 150 food additives, many with frighteningly unpronounceable names—jawbreakers unknown before scientists started fiddling with food in the post-World War II era.”

Still, the chemical companies try to save face by constant efforts to convince the public that only “safe” additives are used in food. Recently I saw a pamphlet put out by Safeway Foodstores entitled “Additives: Why Are They In My Food?” and I couldn’t resist the temptation to hear what sales-pitch they’d come up with! Let’s take a look:

  • First of all, “additives make it possible for the shopper in the family to do the shopping only once or twice a week.” (I manage to do this while just eating fresh foods, but we’ll go on …)
  • “Additives keep our food, supply fresh and consistent.” (Unspoiled, perhaps, but fresh?)
  • “No longer is it necessary to slave over a hot stove, all day, every day.” (No problem there for us raw fooders.)
  • However, the statement that really caught my attention, lightly stated and casually tossed in there with all the others, leaving me with a somewhat eerie feeling, was: “And, if we all wanted fresh, there just wouldn’t be enough to go around.”

Is that the good news or the bad news?

2.6 The Fox is Guarding the Chicken Coop

The pamphlet goes on to tell us, among other things, that “in 1971 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began to review all ‘Generally Recognized as Safe’ (GRAS) additives. Most of the substances which have passed through this screening process have been reaffirmed as safe and remain on the list.” (Those that aren’t were undoubtedly consumed by countless unfortunate individuals until this point.) “Substances not listed as GRAS and substances new since the 1958 Food Additives Amendment must be safety-tested under the manufacturer’s auspices and approved by the FDA. Manufacturers submit the results of all of their tests to the FDA. If they indicate the additive is safe, the FDA establishes regulations for its use in food.” Are we really to believe that the manufacturers of these chemicals can be trusted to keep our best interests in mind if they are “safety-testing” their own additives? We can be sure that the safest foods are foods with no additives at all: fresh, raw foods, as nature delivers them to us.

A final note on ethics, or lack of ethics, as the case may be (excerpted from Acres U.S.A., May 1984):

It was discovered that “the International Biotest Laboratories in the United States had falsified results of some long-term pesticide tests so that some pesticides may have appeared to be less hazardous than they really are (though the company shredded records after the scandal broke). The scale was large: in about 10 years IBT did more than 20,000 tests for some 200 companies, and was responsible for about 1/3 of all pesticide toxicity and cancer testing done by government and industry.”

Please review “The Case Against Commercially-Grown Foods,” of Lesson 49.

2.7 Demineralization of Soils Worldwide

In Lesson 49, nutrient contents of organically-grown foods are compared with those of chemically-grown foods, and it was found that the foods grown by organic methods had higher contents of nutrients, as well as better flavor.

In the summer of 1977 a corn crop was grown on soil that was mineralized with glacial gravel crusher screenings, and tested with corn from the same seed grown with chemical fertilizers. The gravel-mineralized corn had 57% more phosphorus, 90% more potassium, 47% more calcium, and 60% more magnesium than the chemical-grown corn. The mineral-grown corn had close to 9% protein, which is good for a hybrid corn, and all the nitrogen in the mineral-grown corn (whose content in the food is the indicator for protein) came from the atmosphere by biological processes and was in the amino acids of the corn protoplasm. None of it was raw chemical nitrate, the precursor of the carcinogenic nitrosamines. No pesticides were used and there was no insect damage.

Microorganisms can reproduce abundantly only when all minerals are present, along with plant residue to supply carbon needs for energy and protoplasm compound building, plus nitrogen, oxygen and sea solids from the air, and (of course) water.

The chemical-grown corn of 1977 had substantially less mineral content than corn listed in the 1963 USD A Composition of Foods Handbook of nutritional contents of foods, but the mineral-grown corn of 1977 was substantially higher in mineral content than the 1963 Handbook’s corn. Most people are now consuming food with less mineral content, and then further destroying what nutrients are left by processing, cooking and otherwise altering food. Then, with improper eating habits, overeating, bad food combinations, and so on, they reduce the value of their food even further.

Firman Bear of Rutgers University did a study on trace element contents of vegetables, published in the 1948 Soil Science Society of America Proceedings. His study shows the significant fact that foods that may look the same actually have huge variations in mineral content, and thus their health-promoting value. A chart summarizing his findings was reproduced in Acres U.S.A. (1977), as follows:

In a 1977 paper, John Hamaker compared Bear’s data with the USDA’s 1975 reprint of the 1963 Composition of Foods Handbook. He says that the Handbook only gives data for a single trace element (iron) and says: “but it is a very significant element. A comparison on a part-per-million basis with Bear’s highest and lowest, followed by the Handbook average, is as follows: snap beans 227, 10 and 8; cabbage 94, 20 and 4; lettuce 516, 9 and 14; tomatoes 1938, 1 and 5. In the Bear study, if one trace element is low in all vegetables, then all the other trace minerals are low. Therefore, the average of these vegetables in 1963 were no better supplied with trace minerals than the lowest in 1948. It has been 14 years (now, in 1984, 21 years) since the 1963 studies. The USDA ought to have upgraded its information and included much more trace element information. Instead, they copied the old 1963 Handbook tables and put them out in a fancy new cover in 1975. An honest set of figures on trace elements would show a lot of zeroes on a part-per-million basis and would damn chemical agriculture for the monstrous fraud it is. All of our food should be as good or better than the best found by Firman Bear. Such standards can be and must be obtained very quickly if we are to survive.”

A September, 1980 letter from the USDA said, in part, “Revised sections of Agriculture Handbook No. 8 covering cereal grains and grain products, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds are all underway, with publication dates scheduled for 1981-1982.” It would be interesting to see what these revisions reveal, and if they are, indeed, honest.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Soils Bulletin No. 17 is entitled Trace Elements In Soils and Agriculture, dated 1979. It gives data similar to Bear’s in showing the wide variations in extent of soil mineral depletion. It notes the biologically-essential nature vitamin “therapies.” We have discussed the futility of using “supplements” in earlier lessons.

Variations in Mineral Content in Vegetables

of dry weight
per 100 grams
dry weight
Trace Elements
parts per million
dry matter
Total Ash or Mineral Matter Phosphorus Calcium Magnesium Potassium Sodium Boron Manganese Iron Copper Cobalt
Highest 10.45 0.36 40.5 60.0 99.7 29.1 73 60 227 69 0.26
Lowest 4.04 0.22 15.5 14.8 8.6 0.0 10 2 10 3 0.00
Highest 10.38 0.38 60.0 43.6 148.3 53.7 42 13 94 48 0.15
Lowest 6.12 0.18 17.5 15.6 20.4 0.8 7 2 20 0.4 0.00
Highest 24.48 0.43 71.0 49.3 176.5 53.7 37 169 516 60 0.19
Lowest 7.01 0.22 6.0 13.1 12.2 0.0 6 1 9 3 0.00
Highest 14.20 0.35 23.0 59.2 148.3 58.8 36 68 1938 53 0.63
Lowest 6.07 0.16 4.5 4.5 6.5 0.0 5 1 1 0 0.00

Voison looks at the relation of cancer to soil depletion and imbalance in Soil, Grass and Cancer: Health of Animals and Man Is Linked to the Mineral Balance of the soil (1959). According to Voison, “the dust of our cells is the dust of the soil,” and “animals and men are the biochemical photograph of the soil.”

Trace Elements in Plant Physiology (Wallace, 1950) says that the relation between cancer and the soil may be readily understood by a look at the four types of cell processes known to be subject to the balance of trace elements:

  1. synthesis and breakdown of tissue structures.
  2. energetic processes (“oxido-reductions”).
  3. regulation of nervous stimuli.
  4. detoxification of cellular poisons.

These processes refer to the actions of about 5,000 soil-dependent enzyme systems, all of which can be disrupted or prevented by element deficiency, imbalance, or drugs, pesticides, radiation, etc. (Knight, 1975.)

Billions of dollars a year are spent on efforts to “find ‘cures’ for cancer,” but very little, if anything, is spent on efforts to remineralize the soil and save it from chemical abuse! With the same money used yearly for cancer “research” about 15 million doctors could obtain a round-trip ticket to the Hunza region, to observe the peoples’ good naturedness and superior health. How many doctors really want to learn why the ten-bed hospital for about 40,000 Hunzacuts is practically empty all the time? How many “researchers” would be out of a job if people learned how to prevent sickness and had no for “cures”?

Schauss, an experienced criminologist, counselor and director of the Institute for Biosocial Research says:

“Eskimos and Native Americans living in very remote territories on indigenous food supplies in the Stewart Islands of Alaska, who had been physically and psychologically healthy for centuries, experience the degenerative diseases and moral decay so prevalent in western culture when the foods (not specified) from that culture are allowed in. Crimes are subsequently committed for which these ‘primitive’ cultures didn’t even have words in their language to describe; the words had to be invented.”

As we said, virtually all of the subsoil and most of the topsoil of the world have been stripped of all but a small quantity of elements. In the Hunza region of the Himalayas many people live to a fine old age and stay healthy and vigorous. The valley’s soils are irrigated with a milky-colored stream from the meltwater of the Ultar glacier. The color comes from the mixed rock ground beneath the glacier. Ten thousand years ago the Mississippi Valley was fed and built up by runoff from the glaciers. Illinois had a deep deposit of organically-enriched alluvial soil that resulted in a long period of luxuriant plant growth, but when the settlers plowed the valley, they didn’t find topsoil that would give the health record of the hunzakuts. Ten thousand years of leaching by a 30-inch mal rainfall is the difference. There are several other places in the world similar to Hunza, such as the Caucasus Mountains in Russia, where 10% of the people are centenarians. There are glaciers in the mountains. Wherever people attain excellent health and maximum life, there is a continual supply of fresh-ground mixed rocks flowing to the soil where their crops are grown.

Robert McCarrison (Director of Nutrition Research in India years ago) did extensive studies on nutrition, health and deficiency-diseases. After observing the magnificent bodies of the people of the Hunza Valley, their sound teeth, strength, longevity, intelligence and happy dispositions—human health almost to perfection—he gave Albino rats the diet of the Hunzas. Then he gave other colonies of rats the diets of disease-ridden cultures on the Indian Sub-Continent. He found that the rats would duplicate the health of the people eating the diets: perfect health and contentment on the Hunzas’ food, and the disease of the Madrasi on the Madrasi food.

Working seven years among the Hunzas and Sikhs, both good gardeners and farmers, he never found a case of stomach ulcer, appendicitis or cancer. It was his finding (already in 1936) that: “it seems clear that the habitual use of a diet made up of natural foodstuffs, in proper proportion one to another, and produced on soils that are not impoverished, is an essential condition for the efficient exercise of function of nutrition on which the maintenance of health depends,” and combined with healthy bodily activity, “is mankind’s main defense against degenerative diseases; a bulwark, too, against those of ‘infectious’ origin.”

In 1948, J. I. Rodale, the well-known organic agriculturist, published The Healthy Hunzas, which revealed how the world’s healthiest people annually add to their soils the mixture of stones finely ground by the local Ultar glacier, together with the abundant organic matter produced by these highly-mineralized soils. (Little animal manure is added as the Hunzas keep few animals.) Rodale stressed the great value of adding the wide variety of rock to soils in a “ground-up, flour-like form” by using the most efficient modern machinery (p. 100). He also pointed out the danger of adding imbalancing single-rock types, and concluded his chapter, “Rock Powders,” by giving major credit for the Hunzas’ outstanding health, longevity, and intelligence to the glacial rock powder, their provision for perpetual soil fertility, and high-quality foods. Rodale was emphatic that we in the United States begin to utilize the billions of tons of rocks of all kinds, and apply them—equivalent of the Hunza sediments—to our lands, in a powdered form.

Sir Albert Howard, (often called “the father of organic agriculture”) also described the Hunzas in his 1947 book The Soil and Health, and he too observed the Hunza Valley’s glacial silt fertilizer, and the powerful evidence suggesting that “to obtain the very best results we must replace simultaneously the organic and mineral portions of the soil.”(p. 177)

In the next lesson when we continue to tie in the links between soil demineralization and climate changes, we’ll be talking about the Ice Age. Scientists have offered various theories on what causes the ice ages to recur every 100,000 years, and many of them used to think that they were caused by changes in the earth’s orbit around the sun (Milankovich’s theory). Recent computer modeling (by a man who has been the foremost modern exponent of this theory, John Imbrie at Brown University) has finally cast serious doubt on the validity of Milankovich’s hypothesis, because Imbrie says that the most sophisticated recent of the minerals for health of soil-building microorganisms, plants and humans, and says that widespread deficiencies now exist. Soil zinc deficiency is documented for 12 European countries, as is boron for nearly every European country. It also makes note of the danger of trying to correct soil deficiencies by adding purified single elements, due to their toxicity (for example, boron has been used as a weedkiller).

Nowhere is soil remineralization considered in the bulletin, but it does say that generally from two to six times more of the main nutrients are taken annually from the soil than are added by mineral fertilizers. Crop and manure residues return some of them, but a negative balance of these nutrients likely remains.

As for trace elements, on page 1, the FAO soils bulletin says that deficiencies in these elements were first reported in the late 1800s, and that extensive areas of the earth’s soils are no longer able to supply adequate amounts to plant life.

Furthermore, several factors are causing an accelerating exhaustion of the available soil supply:

  • weathering and leaching
  • stimulation of increased yields by one-sided NPK fertilizing
  • decreasing use of natural fertilizer materials compared with chemicals
  • increasing purity of these chemicals used to stimulate growth

The bulletin doesn’t provide any solutions, but it does state the problems that need solutions, saying “trace elements are not regularly applied to the soil by the use of the common fertilizers. Their removal from the soil has been going on for centuries without any systematic replacement.” (p. 1).

In Mount’s The Food and Health of Western Man (1975) he said that 66% of American college women had low-to-absent iron stores. The 2nd World Symposium on Magnesium held in Montreal in 1976 said there was “a grave danger of magnesium deficiency in foods consumed in the developed countries.” The Ecologist (12/79, p. 317) said that “cancer, arteriosclerosis, and heart and bone diseases are implicated as resulting from such deficiencies.” A 1979 South African study showed 89% of the cancerous regions had poor soils, whereas 66% of cancer-free regions were on comparatively rich soils. (Life Scientists know that there are other factors involved as well, such as improper lifestyle and eating habits, exposure to environmental toxins, and so on, but these studies also point to factors as basic as the soil itself as contributing to dwindling health.)

Trace Elements in Soil-Plant-Animal Systems (Nicholas, 1975), shows continuing findings by researchers of “new” essential elements for human health, and shows that deficiencies can be expected to result in breakdown of the physiological functions where the element is involved. They say that there are now 14 known trace elements essential for animal life, and most or all of them are essential for soil microorganisms as well. In order of their discovery as essential, they are: iron, iodine, copper, manganese, zinc, cobalt, molybdenum, selenium, chromium, tin, fluorine, silicon, nickel and vanadium; also boron for “higher plants.”

Weston  Price wrote a book entitled Nutrition and Physical Degeneration (1945, 1975) that gave his findings from many years of studying people of cultures and lands worldwide. He proved how rapidly individuals and entire peoples degenerate physically, mentally and morally when their diet changes from natural whole foods from fertile soils to the refined and nutrient-poor foods of modern societies. Price was a dentist by training, and found, among other things, that people suffering from tooth decay were ingesting deficient amounts of vitamins and less than half the minimum requirements’ of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and other elements. He also said severe malnutrition was a primary cause of juvenile delinquency and violent criminal tendencies.

In his chapter “Soil Depletion and Animal Deterioration,” he says:

“In my studies on the relation of the physiognomy of the people of various districts to the soil, I have found a difference in the facial type of the last generation of young adults when compared with that of their parents. The new generation has inherited depleted soil … The most serious problem confronting the coming generations is this nearly insurmountable handicap of depletion of the quality of the foods because of the depletion of the minerals of the soil.” (p. 392)

We might note that this serious problem was being talked about almost 40 years ago.

Metabolic Aspects of Health: Nutritional Elements in Health and Disease by John Myers, M.D. and Karl Schutte, Ph.D. (1979) also stressed the widespread incidence of soil mineral deficiency; the innumerable forms of diseases brought on by these deficiencies, including psychobiological imbalances; that dozens of known human enzyme systems are absolutely proven to be keyed to soil elements, including zinc, boron, cobalt, manganese, barium, nickel, copper, magnesium and more; and the great need for the natural balance of these elements via the food supply. Schutte, the botanist, shows that the same principles apply for health disease/insect-resistant plant growth.

The exact relations between the many soil elements and cancer, atherosclerosis and hypertension haven’t been defined, but Myers and Schutte say that it is now clear that they can also be associated with imbalances in the trace elements supply, which keys the normal enzymatic activity of the cell. (p. 193)

The Hunzakuts are virtually free of cancer, but in the U.S., one out of every four people will develop cancer in their lifetimes (Eckholm and Record, 1976). Gus Speth, Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, announced in 1980 that the incidence of cancer rate jumped by 10% from 1970 to 1976, whereas from 1960 to 1970 it “only” increased 3%. Science News (vol. 110, p. 310) says: “Diet can have a dramatic influence on the prevention and treatment of cancer.” (How long have you and I been saying this?) He goes on to say that “spontaneous regression of cancer, for instance, appears to have resulted from a change in the balance of trace elements.”

Remember, there is a difference between getting these trace elements naturally in foods and trying to manipulate the body through all manner of haphazard, random version of the Milankovich theory (Imbrie’s) is capable of explaining only the smaller, climatic changes associated with minor fluctuations in glaciation, and these, only for the past 150,000 years or so—beyond about 350,000 years it seems to have little value in predicting any of the climatic changes we now know about. So with astronomical causes more or less ruled out, the great ice age cycle must be caused by something here on earth. This is where John Hamaker comes in.

John Hamaker was trained in mechanical engineering at Purdue. He became interested in climatology only after thinking about the environment for many years, watching it deteriorate from neglect and abuse. He got first-hand information on the danger of toxic chemicals while working as an engineer for Monsanto in 1940 (we’ll mention Monsanto again later, so we can make a mental note of the name), long before the rest of us got the bad news from Silent Spring. After serving in the army for five years during WWII and coming out a captain in the reserve, he went to work designing oil refinery machinery in Texas. But he began to feel sicker and sicker, and realized that he had to get out of that toxic environment.

He bought a farm in east Texas, and “learned about really worn-out soil—and the mess that chemicals make on farmland.” He noted that his cows kept as far away from agricultural chemicals as they could, and wondered if they were smarter than people. Later he moved to Michigan, where he is now retired. For many years he has been doing experimental work on a ten-acre farm outside of Lansing.

During the late 1960s, while thinking about big questions like the health of the soil and man’s relationship the earth, he began to read every book and scientific tide he could get his hands on about climate and soil and the health of plant life, and he believed he then understood what causes the ice ages to come and go with such predictability.

Why, he had wondered, are the winters getting colder, the summers hotter and drier, the storms and tornados increasingly frequent with every decade? What forces on earth are large enough to cause such global changes?

When he looked at these steeply rising curves, another curve came to mind: the exponentially rising curve of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the earth’s atmosphere. This CO2 is well-known (we’ll talk more about this too in the next lesson), and many scientists link it to the greenhouse effect that traps warmth radiated off the earth from the sun and increases the temperature all over the globe, but there is no consensus as to when this global greenhouse effect could be large enough to cause such changes. In spite of the very large increase of CO2 that has already occurred, the earth seems to be in a cooling phase in recent decades (more details next lesson).

Apparently Hamaker saw what no one else did: that the greenhouse effect is occurring differentially—primarily in the warmer latitudes, which get the most sunlight (the poles don’t get any sunlight for six months out of the year, and very oblique rays the rest of the time), and that the pics have already been heating and drying up for the last few decades, that consequently the northern latitudes have been getting colder and wetter, and that the increasing temperature differential between the two has taken on a life of its own and is accelerating the whole process.

John Hamaker tells us:

“I have observed the things of the world for almost 66 years. The luck of the genes equipped me to observe and learn. I had the highest mechanical aptitude test score in a class of 110 students majoring in Industrial Engineering at Purdue University (class of 1939). In a Motor Maintenance Battalion of 650 men and officers in WWII, I had the highest army test score. So I became a “90-day wonder” and was discharged with a superior officer rating. In every engineering office where I have worked, the jobs requiring the most synthesis generally wound up on my drawing table. On the four occasions when I could not work because of chemical contamination, I have either worked on the problems that affect humanity or I have spent time on inventions. I have found that the solutions to the problems of the economy and the environment can be found by the same rigid attention to facts and established principles which yield solutions to problems of machine design.

In my 66 years I have seen more history made than any generation has seen before. Now it appears that I will see one more thing—the end of civilization as we know it during this interglacial period. For 10 years I have known that the soils of the world, were running out of minerals and that glaciation was inevitable. For 10 years warnings and the solution have been ignored by people in government.

I don’t think I care to see the tragedy which is
scheduled to unfold in this decade.”

In The Survival of Civilization, John Hamaker tells us that “failure to remineralize the soil will not just cause a continued mental and physical degeneration of humanity but will quickly bring famine, death and glaciation in that order.”

Glaciation is one way of remineralizing the soil. Large amounts of plant life’s carbon moves (as carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere, as the plant life dies out. We then see what is now happening: the carbon dioxide’s greenhouse heating effect is causing large amounts of evaporation from the tropical oceans. Hamaker describes the resulting process as follows: Cold polar air moving over the cold land areas displaces this lighter, warm, wet air from the tropics, forcing the warm air to flow over the warm oceans toward the northern latitudes to replace the cold air, be cooled, lose its moisture to snow and descend over the land mass. The massive cloud cover will result in “huge amounts of cold air being generated, from which ever-increasing amounts of precipitation occur. Every winter must be worse than the last. At some point winters may carry over into summers and destroy crops with frosts and freezes. Numerous temperatures from 32 to 40°F were recorded in the summer of 1978 from Michigan to the Rockies. Cold waves can cause major crop losses in Canadian or Eurasian grain crops, which are mostly at the latitude of Michigan or farther north.”

Chemical agriculture uses soluble chemicals that are either acidic or basic, but which have the final effect of acidifying the soil, destroying the soil life, using up the organic matter and, in the end, leaving the soil useless. Because choice soils have been almost fully demineralized in the 10,000-11,000 years since the last glaciation, the popularity of chemical agriculture has grown. However, chemicals, unlike microorganisms, will  dissolve the carbonates and a few other rocks completely, liberating some of the remaining useful elements, so that enough microorganisms grow to support a crop growth, but the crop gets a short supply of an unbalanced protoplasm. The crop is then more prone to disease. Bits of useless demineralized skin (cell membrane) weathered from the stone are ignored by the microorganisms as they build the granular, capillary soil system that provides aeration and water retention to the soil. Percolating water carries the bits of subsoil down into cracks under large particles of unused stone. The cracks are caused by drying of the soil. The percolating water washes used material off the top of the unused stone, leaving a space into which the stone can rise when wetting of the soil forces the unused stone upward by the amount of material sifted under it. So, in 10,000 years, 8-10 feet of glacial deposit has been cycled to the topsoil, demineralized by the soil life, and has descended back into the subsoil to form a dense clay. As we said before, there are only 2 1/2 inches of the original deposit left in the topsoil, and there is no more on the way up.

We must provide minerals to the soil or glaciation will happen again!

2.8 Chemical Fertilizers and Pesticides

In The Survival of Civilization, John Hamaker has the following things to say about chemical fertilizers:

Plant and animal digestive systems will readily pass water into the plant or animal. If toxic compounds are in solution in the water, they too pass readily into the plant or animal. Water-soluble chemicals used in the soil (and in foods and beverages) are dangerous. Any toxic substance can enter a plant or animal with the protoplasm if it has been taken in by the microorganisms. So, anything other than the natural balance of elements and the natural organic compounds produced from them by the microorganisms is damaging to the entire chain of life. The continued buildup in the biosphere of nonbiodegradable synthetic organic compounds is destroying humanity by alteration of the genetic compounds.

As we said before, chemical farming depletes the organic matter in soil. Chemical fertilizer may release enough elements to grow sufficient microorganisms to feed a weak crop, but when the chemicals are used up (on weak soil this often happens before the crop matures if chemicals are inadequate or too fast in dissolving), the production of microorganisms virtually stops. Then too, the stalk is often taken with the grain (or vegetable, etc.), limiting the utilization of the few available minerals in the decreasing supply of passivated stone particles still in the soil. A look at mineralized organic gardens shows that organic farming methods are, by far, more beneficial.

“Farmers who returned corn crop stalks to the soil have the highest yields, maintaining a better reservoir of carbon and nitrogen in the soil to supply the crop. Unfortunately, the acid in NPK is constantly dissolving organic matter and inorganic material from the soil. With an estimated 30 to 50 percent of the acidic component of NPK winding up in the rivers, it is obvious that a lot of the fertility elements are going the same way.”

“In the 50s and 60s, the agricultural ‘experts’ were helping the fertilizer industry by recommending to the farmer that dumping the barnyard waste into a pond was more ‘economical’ than spreading it back on the land, because the same amount of fertility elements could be ‘obtained more economically from NPK fertilizer.’ They learned the hard way that crops won’t grow without organic matter, so now they say the organic matter is required to ‘buffer’ the soil. Technically, a buffering agent is one that tends to neutralize an acid or a base. Crop residue won’t do that, but if it is put into the soil and there are any minerals at all present, microorganisms will multiply. Obviously, the basic elements in the protoplasm are the most available elements in the soil for buffering the acidity in NPK. If the rains are gentle, the dissolved protoplasm may be reconstituted into new organisms before it is leached or eroded into the river. And that can take place only if there are enough basic elements in the soil so the microorganisms can find what it takes to bring order out of chaos. The natural mixture of elements is geared to natural conditions—not to the absurd practice of deliberately acidifying the soil. Basic elements would have to be added to the natural mix to compensate for the manmade acid.”

“Nitrogen is the most acidic component. If I can get 60 bushels per acre of wheat without nitrogen fertilizer, why should farmers buy it from the chemical companies?

“Phosphorus should be left where found, because those deposits contain large amounts of fluorides. The agricultural soils are now badly contaminated with fluorides. Fluoride levels in food are increasing. Cattle concentrate the fluorine in their bones. When the bone meal is used in pet foods, fluorosis results. Do we wait until the overt symptoms of fluorosis show up in half the population before we stop this nonsense?”

“There is plenty of phosphorus and potassium in the natural rock mixture* and at a much lower price. If a farmer uses 200 pounds of a 15-15-15 NPK fertilizer, he gets about 100 pounds of gravel dust* per acre. (*Rock mixture and gravel dust will be discussed again in the next lesson. River gravel screenings—to add to the soil to remineralize it—can be purchased for under $6 a ton!) The gravel dust in the NPK fertilizer costs about 75 cents, but the fertilizer is priced at $25 to $30. (Editor’s note: these were prices at the time the book was written, several years ago). What the farmer pays for is five paper sacks and me chemicals, neither of which he needs, and sooner or later the chemicals will destroy the land—some ‘bargain’!”

“The USDA’s Conservation Service has finally come to the conclusion that we are not going to continue the habit of eating much longer. They base their conclusion on the following: we had 18 inches of topsoil a couple hundred years ago; now we have only several inches of topsoil. The U.S. is losing 6.4 billion tons to erosion every year. All of the soils are eroding, and 1/4 of them are eroding at a destructive rate.”

“How widespread is the practice of using gravel dust as the filler in a sack of NPK, I do not know. In those areas where gravel screenings or sand has been the most economical filler available, the dust has probably been used for years. I suspect that it is now a general practice because all soils have been largely stripped of some elements, and there is no cheaper way to add them.”

“Generally speaking, the fertilizers, as exemplified by ‘Eco-Agriculture,’ use a mixture of minerals in combination with a compost or compost-like material which is high in nitrogen and carbon.”

“Organic farming, as advocated by the Rodale organization, concentrates on organic matter plus specific fertilizers such as greensand and granite dust.”

The chemical NPK will accelerate erosion. Eco-Ag and organic methods will slow the rate of erosion and maintain better balance of elements in the soil. None of them are supplied in amounts sufficient to build-up the mineral supply in the soil. All of them are partially dependent on the dwindling availability of the small amount of gravel and sand remaining in the soils. They work best on the strongest soils.”

“All three fertilizing methods are dependent on annual applications. If anything were to interrupt the production and distribution for one crop year, we would starve to death in large numbers.”

“None of these will sustain our food supply indefinitely. They will also not do the all-important job of removing excess CO2 from the atmosphere. They are all too expensive. We must have a bulk production and distribution of gravel dust, or its equivalent. Without it there is no future for civilization.”

” ‘Hazardous Substances and Sterile Men’ is the title of a powerful condemnation of the chemicals industry in the September 1981 Acres U.S.A. Ida Honorof has summarized research on this subject. In 1981, 10-23% of American males were sterile (very unlikely to father a child). In 1938 only 1/2 of 1% of males were sterile. According to this research, in 30 years, half of the males will be sterile, and 67-83% of all birth defects are caused by men—the chances of causing a deformed child to be
born increase with the quantity of chemicals in the sperm. Ten chlorinated chemicals alone have been found in the sperm. Birth defect rates in the United States are believed to be about 6%—it seems only a few years since that estimate was 3%. Many of the chemicals contaminate our food supply. One statistic says that 94% of food has pesticides in it.

“If people keep eating the poisoned foods of chemical agriculture, there will be more cancers, deformities, stillbirths, and as many different ailments as there are parts in the body. Either we stop the manufacture of organic chemicals which are not readily biodegradable or we destroy ourselves.”

The balance of nature, in part, means that for every living organism there is a predator, so that no organism can populate the earth to the exclusion of all others. Our asinine, conceited view of ourselves as ‘masters’ of nature has led us to make a wreck of the balance of nature. We are paying a high price and we will continue to pay for a long time, even if we turn quickly to a rational concept of our role in the natural order. I have seen radical improvements in the ecology on two small plots of land when the poisoning was stopped and minerals applied to the land. Perhaps nature can rather quickly reestablish the animated part of the balance of nature.”

John Hamaker

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