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||The Poisoning of Our Foods
by Prof. Rozalind A Gruben
Courtesy of Healthful Living International (http://www.healthfulliving.org)
The last 30 years has seen witness to the fastest growth of agricultural chemicals ever to
be dumped on our planets soil. It is estimated that, world wide, the agricultural
chemical industry is producing about 45,000 to 50,000 different pesticides based on
approximately 600 active ingredients. In one year the UK alone sold 23,504 tonnes of
active ingredients for the purpose of use in agriculture. This amounts to 420 grams of
chemicals for every adult and child in this country. Cereal crops receive an average of
eight applications of chemicals, between the times when they are planted and eaten. It is
not unusual for fruit and vegetables to be sprayed 10 to 15 times. Is this in our best
interests, or should we be campaigning for organic food in the name of our health and our
There have been numerous attempts around the world to define this word. The most
globally excepted definition was compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which
states the following:
Organically grown food is food grown without pesticides; grown without artificial
fertilisers; grown in soil whose humus content is increased with applications of natural
mineral fertilisers; and has not been treated with preservatives, hormones, antibiotics,
CLASSES OF PESTICIDES
Pesticides are divided into the following categories. Each are designed for specific
purposes and based on similar chemical compounds. Each also carries associated health
risks. For example, new evidence suggests that some types of pesticides, known as
organochlorides containing DDT, have estrogen properties and can bring on premature
labour. Studies in Brazil
and India show levels of DDT significantly higher in miscarried foetuses and premature
Used to kill aphids, weevils and other insects including the insect
predators that feed on them (a counter-productive effect). Most
insecticides are compounds containing phosphorus and chlorinated hydrocarbons. These
chemicals do not degrade easily and can accumulate in the body resulting in, amongst other
things, liver failure. The use of insecticides has increased 17 times in the last
Used to kill plants. Some kill everything they come into contact with while others are
species specific. Herbicides consist of highly varied chemicals that kill the plant by
blocking its metabolism. When ingested by humans some may only cause mild to moderate
symptoms while others are fatal if consumed. The use of herbicides has grown 15 times over
the last two decades.
Designed to kill rodents. Many contain anti-coagulants, causing the animal to bleed to
death, such as warfarin. Metal phosphides are also used such as zinc and aluminum.
Strychnine is also commonly applied. The risks to human health, if ingested, are enormous.
Used to kill fungi that infect growing crops, fruit and stored seeds. For this reason they
are mostly sprayed directly onto the part of the food that is to be eaten. These fungi are
often microscopic and include mildews, pin moulds, yeasts and rusts. They are usually
based on compounds containing metals such as copper or mercury or hydrocarbons containing
sulphur. The use of fungicides has doubled every year for the past 20 years.
Waxing of Produce and Pesticide Residues
Produce is regularly waxed in an attempt to retain its moisture. Beeswax and shellac are
mostly used and are not considered toxic enough to cause concern. The real problem arises
when they are mixed with some pesticides or fungicides. The resulting chemical cocktail,
especially when captan or folpet is involved, is highly carcinogenic (cancer causing).
Pesticide Residues in Animal Products vs. Plant Based Foods
Most peoples concerns about organic foods are centred on fruits and vegetables.
Although these crops are subjected to an array of chemicals the real problem appears to be
the meat and dairy. This is because most pesticide residues are known as lipophilic, which
means they are attracted to fat. They lodge in the fat tissues of the animal, bird or fish
becoming more and more concentrated as they move up the food chain. The Centre for Science
in the Public Interest, who are a consumer watchdog group, reported that pesticide
residues are more frequently found in meat, poultry, fish, butter and lard than fruit and
vegetables. In his book Diet For A Poisoned Planet David Steinman processed a
vast amount of data from the Total Diet Study conducted by the FDA. He concluded that
foods could be divided into three categories according to the number of toxins found in
them. He named these categories red (for most toxic), yellow (for
moderate), and green for lowest in poisonous substances. With the
exception of raisins and peanuts* all the foods in the red group were meat and
* Raisins are derived from drying fruits that are notorious for being subjected to
chemical spraying. Peanuts often contain a highly toxic carcinogen called aflotoxin, which
is caused by the mould aspergillus flavus, and are not recommended by the author as a safe
food unless their freshness can be guaranteed.
A recent survey of drinking water identified that in 298 cases the water was contaminated
with chemical pesticides at a concentration exceeding the Maximal Admissible Concentration
(MAC) by one quarter. Altogether, sixteen different active pesticide ingredients were
found plus other industrial pollutants. It was concluded that the increasing amounts of
fertilisers being added to the soil was to blame. Only about half of fertilisers are taken
up by the crop, the remainder is washed into our waterways.
An in-depth study was done by the London Food Commission on the ingredients currently
permitted for the use in pesticide manufacture. The results revealed that almost 40% of
pesticides currently in use could damaged the body in at least one way. Of the 426
chemicals listed 68 were found to be carcinogenic, 61 capable of mutating genes, 35 to
have various reproductive effects ranging from impotence to birth defects, and 93 to cause
skin irritations and other symptoms. Of all the studies researched by the author the
condition most frequently referred to in relation to agricultural chemicals is cancer.
The poisoning of our foods is only part of the story, there are also implications
regarding their nutrient value. According to Leslie Kenton in her book Endless
Energy, there is no way to compensate for the structural information missing when
the organic matter in the soil has been destroyed by chemical farming. Dr Paavo Airola, in
his classic book How to Get Well, warned us back in 1974 Organically
grown fruits and vegetables contain more vitamins and minerals, as has been shown in many
tests. They also contain more enzymes than the produce grown on depleted, chemically
fertilised soils. Such foods have a greater health-building and disease-preventative
potential. He went on to say Researchers reported recently that
anti-malignancy factors are apparently present in organically grown foods. In
contrast, the Institute of Food Technology reported in 1990 that there is no
evidence that organically grown foods are more healthful than those produced
Well, dear reader, what reason can you think of that might have lead them to that
conclusion? If they were named the Institute for Human Health we might take
them more seriously.
THE FAR REACHING IMPLICATIONS -- WHY ENCOURAGE ORGANIC FARMING?
We can only be as healthy as the planet upon which we live. The six primary benefits of
organic farming have been listed by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture
1. Localism. The farm draws upon local resources rather than importing long distance.
2. Soil Improvement. Re-establishes the health and quality of the soil rather than raping
it of its nutrients.
3. Pollution abatement. The poisoning of earth, water, foods and wildlife is reduced.
4. Quality of produce. Emphasis is placed on nutritional content rather than appearance of
5. Energy use. The use of fossil fuels such as oil is kept to a minimum.
6. Employment. Results in more employment of a superior rewarding nature both ethically
MAKING THE BEST CHOICES
Not everything labeled as organic is fit for human consumption.
Organic shampoo is a case in point! The word has, like all words that ride on
fashionable consumer bandwagons, become perverted in its meaning. The following guidelines
will help you make the healthiest and safest choices:
1. In the USA each state has its own governing body that sets standards for organic
produce. The state of California is the strictest. Look for produce that carries their
certification entitled the California Organic Foods Act of 1990.
2. Maximise your consumption of plant based foods and avoid all meat and dairy.
3. Buy local produce whenever possible.
4. Focus on buying foods that are in season.
5. Be suspicious of produce displaying perfect flawless shape and un-naturally shiny skin.
6. Rub as well as wash produce. Farmers do not invest large amounts of money into
chemicals that will wash off with the first drop of rain!
7. Non-organically grown apples and soft fruits are heavily sprayed. If organic
alternatives are not available you are better off peeling them even though vital nutrients
in the skin will be lost. If grapes are your preferred choice, search for a dedicated
partner who is willing to peel them for you!
8. Support local organic farmers.
9. Best of all, grow your own. It is possible to grow more than most people
think even in the smallest of places. Even window boxes can produce a plentiful harvest.
Gardening is also a very effective form of stress management too. Have you ever seen a
frenetic, time obsessed gardener?
10. Choose bottled water to drink in preference to tap water.
It is an unfortunate but realistic fact that money is more of a driving force in industry
than health. If humankind is to survive we need to reverse the destruction of the planet
on which we live and reclaim our health. The choices we make today as consumers not only
effect our own health but have a profound impact upon our childrens futures. The
best way forward is for us to all develop enquiring minds, an unquestionable pursuit of
that which is in accordance with natural law and a mistrust of anything that appears
perfect! Remember, your purse has more voting power than your voice. I vote organic --
whats your vote?