by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© February 2021, LD Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is solely the opinion of the author and for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
Why Organic Agriculture?
Organic Certification And Its Problems
Four Levels Of Organic Food
The Modern Era
The Green Revolution
The Organic Agriculture Movement
Other Newer Trends In Agriculture
2. Chemical pesticides and insecticides and Patented Drugs
Summary – Benefits And Harm From The Green Revolution
1. Too many plants for the soil
2. Difficulty renourishing the soil
3. Damage to the soil microorganisms and soil structure
4. Weaker plants
5. Poisoning of the plants and farm animals due to pesticide residues.
NOTE: To do justice to the subject of organic agriculture would require thousands of pages explaining the theory, practice, history, details, politics and thorough documentation. This is available in some books. This article is an introduction to this large and very important subject.
A General definition of organic agriculture. Organic agriculture is a group of methods of growing food and raising farm animals that does not require and does not use toxic chemicals such as pesticides, insecticides, fungicides and others.
Some also define organic agriculture as the method of agriculture that does not require or use chemical fertilizers (superphosphates). These are synthetic chemicals that are growth stimulants.
Some also include in the definition of organic agriculture proper care of the soil and rebuilding, nourishing and balancing of the soil in order to support agriculture that does not require toxic chemicals.
Organic certification definitions. Various organic food certifying organizations have more precise definitions of organic agriculture. These definitions or certifications allow certain farm practices and some allow certain agricultural chemicals, but not others.
Other important words used in agriculture. A separate article contains definitions for many other words used in connection with modern agriculture. For details, read Definitions In Agriculture.
Related terms. We like the term organic agriculture. However, some farmers and authors use words whose meanings overlap somewhat with the definition of organic agriculture:
This is quite confusing, but it is the situation in this area of human endeavor. We explain more about some of these terms in the section on the History Of Organic Agriculture.
WHY ORGANIC AGRICULTURE?
There is a crisis in agriculture at this time. In our view, a return to organic agriculture is the only answer for the crisis.
The crisis is as follows:
1. The mineral content of most food on planet earth has declined by a factor or 10 or more during the past 100 years. In some cases it has declined by a factor of 100.
This is having subtle, but devastating effects upon all life on earth. This includes the health of human beings, especially those who work on farms. It also includes the health of all animal life, including wildlife, and the health of all plant life on earth.
This crisis goes unnoticed, for the most part. Food crops often looks good and many taste good. However, if one analyzes their mineral content, it is far lower than it was 100 years ago. Organic agriculture is the only way to restore the nutrition to our food and thus to restore the health of the human beings, animals, plants and the soil.
2. The soils and water supplies of the earth are all polluted with residues of toxic pesticides, insecticides, toxic metals and other agricultural chemicals that persist in the environment. This pollution is affecting the soil, livestock, wildlife, fish and the oceans, as well as human life on planet earth.
Organic agriculture is the only way to end this pollution and desecration of the earth.
3. The topsoils of the planet are eroding, threatening all life on planet earth. This is a very serious problem worldwide. Our lives literally depend upon the first 12-24 inches of topsoil upon which all plants live.
Standard “green revolution” agriculture always leads to soil erosion and destruction of farmland. This occurs because toxic chemicals and other foolish farming practices kill soil microorganisms that keep the soil aerated and give the soil structure.
Without a healthy soil ecology, the soil more easily dries out and loses its structure. Then when it rains or the wind blows, the topsoil washes away or blows away.
Organic agriculture methods produce soil that is more drought-resistant, more freeze-resistant and more wind-resistant. For example, organic farming methods tend to make the soil more porous, so that when it rains it absorbs a lot more water. This helps reduce water runoff, flooding, and topsoil erosion.
Organic agriculture also produces plants higher in sugars that move from the plants to the soil. It makes the soil more hygroscopic, which means able to hold more water. This helps prevent runoff and erosion. Soil that is higher in sugars also has a lower freezing point, which helps keep crops alive in cold areas.
WHAT ABOUT FEEDING ALL THE PEOPLE ON EARTH?
The main criticism of organic agriculture is that millions of people would starve to death without the use of chemicals in agriculture.
However, this is not true. At first, the green revolution of the twentieth century caused much greater crop yields. However, the promise of chemical agriculture is fading. As the soils of the earth wear out and as we lose topsoil, crop yields have fallen and other problems have arisen, such as toxicity and health problems.
Also, better organic methods have been developed in the past 60 years or so. These can produce quite a lot of food without damaging and polluting the soil.
WHAT ABOUT ORGANIC AGRICULTURE TO FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE?
The following will sound controversial, but it is the truth. The earth’s atmosphere is hit by meteors, comets, asteroids and space debris day and night.
Without help, any of these impacts would knock the orbit of the earth out of balance. This would quickly freeze or burn up the planet. Without continuous correction, the planet would not last a month.
The truth is the earth’s climate is carefully controlled by large fine matter beings (see the article Bodies In Space). They continuously correct the earth’s distance from the sun and the speed of earth’s rotation to maintain the climate for all the plants and creatures of earth.
The climate change movement is mostly a left-wing political movement designed to scare people and to limit the freedom and activity of the earth’s people. In fact, the climate has always “changed”, long before the advent of gas-powered cars and power plants.
To verify this, all one needs to do is read carefully the history of climate. The earth has had a series of ice ages, warm periods, stormy periods and everything in between all during its history.
The present time is no different. It has nothing to do with human activity, but rather events on the sun and perhaps other changes in our universe. For details, read Climate Change.
ORGANIC CERTIFICATION AND ITS PROBLEMS
Organic certification. A number of organizations, including the US Department of Agriculture, offer organic food certification. Usually, farmers pay a fee and the certifying agency inspects the farm. If it meets their criteria, they can display a certification logo on their products.
This system is okay, but has some problems. Getting certified is costly and it is impossible for any certifying agency to check carefully to prevent cheating by the farmer. Also, large growers have infiltrated some certification organizations, including the US Department Of Agriculture, and have watered down the requirements for certification.
Warning. Organic standards have been lowered in the United States and around the world due to pressure by large growers who say they must use some pesticides, at times, to maintain their crops.
We think this is just cheating, but they have succeeded in lowering the organic standards to allow some use of chemical pesticides on supposedly organic food. This has resulted in several levels of “organic” food:
LEVELS OF ORGANIC FOOD
Organic food is not all the same in its nutritional content and its toxicity. In fact, it varies quite a bit. Some is little better than commercially grown food, while other food labeled or sold as organic is quite superior. Here is a rough outline of the kinds of organic food available today.
1. Commercial organic. This is the organic food found in supermarkets and in most health food stores. Most is not totally organically grown. The standards have been watered down to allow the use of some chemicals and still receive the organically grown certification.
This food is also full of the residues of superphosphate fertilizers or N-P-K soil amendments. This also damages the quality of this food.
Brix level. The Brix level of the supermarket organic food is usually between 3 and 10. This is poor to medium-quality food.
What is Brix? Brix is a quick and simple measure of the total sugars and amino acids, mainly, of a plant leaf. You can buy a simple refractometer and make the measurement yourself. Leaf solids are mainly minerals and sugars the plant makes by photosynthesis. The Brix reading is considered a rough measure of photosynthesis and therefore a measure of the health of a plant.
For comparison purposes, the Brix level of chemically-grown vegetables and fruit is about 2 or 3. These plants require fertilizers and pesticides to survive. A Brix level of 12 or over is considered good and the food usually does not require pesticides to survive. Bugs tend to leave it alone.
2. Local farmers market organic food. This food is often better and found in some health food stores and at some farmer’s markets if the farm is organic.
The Brix level for this food is between 10 and about 15 to 16. Some local farmers use superphosphate fertilizers, even if they say they are organic farmers.
This food is usually better for your health and for the farmer’s family and others who must work with the soil. It requires fewer pesticides to control insects and other pests. They are simply not attracted to these plants as much. Beware, however, that not all food at a farmer’s market is organically grown.
3. Biodynamic agriculture. This is a method of agriculture inspired by the late Rudolf Steiner. It is superior in that it does not use N-P-K or superphosphate fertilizers, which are basically growth stimulants and that damage the soil. Yields tend to be a little lower, so this food is usually more costly.
If done properly, the Brix level of this food is usually high, roughly 15 to 20 or 21. The reason is that without chemical pesticides and without N-P-K additives, if the soil is not very good, little will grow.
4. Development organic. Some day in the future we hope to grow a type of organic food specifically designed to promote development. It will require improving the soil using the development method. It will have a high Brix reading, hopefully over 20. This project is still in the research stage. For details, read The Development Method Of Agriculture.
For thousands of years, people cultivated food crops and raised animals for food. Most of this agriculture would be called ‘organic’ because it did not involve the use of toxic chemical pesticides, insecticides, growth stimulants and other chemicals.
However, the quality of this agriculture varied greatly. Some was excellent and some was rather poor. Soil erosion and plant and animal diseases have been around for thousands of years. For example, older books such as the Hebrew Bible speak about plagues of insects and other agricultural problems.
Starvation has been a problem on earth for thousands of years, as well. This was due, in part, to poor quality agriculture and also due to climate variations, problems storing, transporting and distributing food and political considerations, as well. For example, often invading armies would burn or poison the fields of their enemies or poison the wells, knowing this is one way to defeat an enemy.
1850 - THE MODERN ERA
Big changes in agriculture began to occur around the middle of the 1800s. It began with the invention of the cotton gin and several other machines that made parts of the process of planting, weeding, irrigating and harvesting crops easier.
Indeed, if America had not had a Civil War in 1860, we firmly believe that slavery would have died out on its own because farm machinery was already beginning to replace some human labor on southern plantations by that date.
Soon after, however, the pace of change really sped up. This radical change in agriculture is often called the green revolution.
1890 - THE GREEN REVOLUTION
The green revolution was and continues to be the application of modern chemical, mechanical and pharmaceutical sciences to agriculture. We discuss it in detail in the next section of this article, The Green Revolution.
THE BIRTH OF ORGANIC AGRICULTURE
The problems with the green revolution caught the attention of a number of prominent agricultural scientists beginning around the beginning of the twentieth century. Among them were George Washington Carver at the Tuskeegee Institute in Alabama, USA. Another was Dr. William Albrecht at the University Of Missouri. Another was Sir Albert Howard in England, and there were others.
These scientists saw clearly that the green revolution was a trap that was slowly ruining the farmland and ruining the health of the crops, the farm animals, and the people who eat the food. They sounded the alarm and what is called the organic food movement began as the response to the green revolution.
Today, organic agriculture is fastest growing sectors of the food market in America and some other nations.
On one hand, the green revolution continues in full swing, with newer technologies to produce more and cheaper food. Genetically engineered foods and food irradiation are two of the newer technologies. New drugs are developed to handle the new plant, animal and human diseases that result from consuming the chemically-grown foods.
The other trend is the growth of organic agriculture. Food today is often a mixture of these two trends. As a result, you never know what you will get these days in the supermarkets or even the health food stores. This is another problem with today’s food.
OTHER MODERN TRENDS IN AGRCULTURE
Land trusts are companies that buy land or receive donations of land and they agree to preserve the land as farmland. The trusts have strict rules for the land use to prevent its use for parking lots and shopping centers, for example.
Though still a small movement, land trusts now exist in every part of America. They are helping to save farmland, wildlife habitats and old-growth forests from destruction.
As new hybrid plants are used more widely, some of the older seed varieties are in danger of being lost. Several groups have taken on the task of saving and banking precious seeds. They could be useful or even life-saving if weather changes or new crop diseases destroy the hybrid or GMO plants.
Also, the genetic material in the older seeds may be needed at some time to enhance our crops. For research and for disaster preparedness, the movement to save traditional seed varieties is an important trend.
More small farmers are finding a niche catering to the needs of their local communities. Farmers markets and local buying clubs help address the problem of the loss of the family farm. Communities are reaping the benefits of supporting local farmers by getting fresher and often better quality produce, meat, eggs and other foods.
Often the local farmers grow food organically, helping preserve the land, the wildlife and the local environment. The locally grown movement also fosters a greater sense of community and contributes to local self-sufficiency and sovereignty.
However, do not be misled into thinking that locally grown food is always best. This is not always true. It may well be the freshest, but sometimes a farm far away is able to produce better quality food.
COMMUNITY SUPPORTED AGRICULTURE OR CSAs
This is an arrangement between farmers and consumers in which the consumers pay a farm in advance for a ‘share’, usually a box of food per week.
This trend began in Japan in the 1960s as an alternative to large-scale industrial, chemical agriculture. It has spread and is now common in the United States, Europe and elsewhere.
It ties consumers to their food much more closely and they can buy locally-grown and usually organically grown food direct from the far, which saves money. It helps farmers to finance their operations and assures them a market for their products.
Aspects. The Green Revolution in agriculture began around 1880 and to a degree, continues today. It consisted and continues to consist of five major elements:
1. Phosphate-based chemical growth stimulants. These are falsely called superphosphate or N-P-K fertilizers.
2. Chemical insecticides, pesticides, fungicides and other farm chemicals such as antibiotics and other medical drugs.
3. Mechanization. At the same time as the chemical industry developed, the gas-powered tractors, cultivators, combines and other machines were introduced.
4. Agribusiness. This is the takeover of agriculture to a large degree by very large, multi-national corporations and the loss of family and other small farms around the world.
5. Biotech. This is the application of various types of technologies to the breeding, growing, storing, and preserving of food.
Let us discuss each of these in more detail.
1. PHOSPHATE GROWTH STIMULANTS
In the late 1800s, scientists discovered that certain toxic chemicals caused accelerated growth of plants. They are combination of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium compounds, for which reason they are also called N-P-K growth stimulants or fertilizers.
Applying these chemicals to the soil, or even to plant leaves, stems or fruit, caused food production to increase dramatically. This was hailed as an amazing invention that would end world hunger and help the farming sector of the economy by allowing farmers to grow much more food. Indeed, at first it did seem quite amazing. On some wheat fields, the crop yield increased tenfold!
The news media of the day heavily promoted the new agriculture, as it was called. The American Department of Agriculture and other groups also promoted it. Most agricultural scientists and farmers were jubilant and sung the praises of the new crops.
Many did not see or did not want to see all the problems the phosphates were creating and very few scientists spoke out against it. We name some of these scientists later in the article.
Problems with phosphate growth stimulants
Damage to the soil. The phosphates damaged the structure and microbial life of the soil. This made the soil less porous and more subject to droughts. Dust bowls formed and carried away massive amounts of topsoil, especially in the United States, which adopted the new agriculture more than many other nations.
It was a horrible sight to behold. It wrecked millions of acres of quality farmland all across the United States and some other nations. It also bankrupted farmers and caused great economic suffering and loss.
Nutritional Depletion. This is a large topic discussed in a separate section.
Weak, sick plants. A third problem with the phosphates was and is that the plants were noticeably weaker and more prone to insect attack. This was due, in part, to their much lower nutrient content.
As a result, disease plagues and pests became a much greater problem in America and elsewhere.
The pro-new agriculture scientists dismissed this problem by saying that we have new pesticides that will solve the insect and disease problems. This has occurred to some degree, but pests are still a major problem in modern agriculture. And the pesticides are poisons, so this adds more problems.
Terrible Pollution. A fourth problem with the phosphates and is that they do not break down quickly. As a result, they poison the land, rivers, lakes, oceans, drinking water supplies and even the air near some farms. This pollution has now become one of the greatest environmental problems on planet earth!
Very yin food. Another problem with the phosphates is they produce food that is much more yin in macrobiotic terminology. Eating it makes the body more yin, which is very harmful, even if the nutrient content of the food is decent.
2. TOXIC PESTICIDES, INSECTICIDES AND DRUGS FOR AGRICULTURAL USE
The second aspect of the green revolution was and continues to be the use of highly toxic chemical pesticides and insecticides and toxic drugs to combat plant and animal diseases.
These are needed because plants grown with the phosphate fertilizers are weaker and are easily attacked by pests. Farm animals raised on food treated with phosphates also have more disease and this was and still is handled by feeding them modern medical drugs.
Today, billions of pounds of toxic chemicals are used on farms, ranches and in medical offices in an attempt to counteract the harm done by eating food fertilized with superphosphate fertilizers.
A Primer On Agricultural Pests. A key principle is that pests leave healthy food alone. This is known in agriculture and is not open to debate.
A related principle is that the “job” or role of agricultural pests – bacteria, viruses, fungi, insects, grasshoppers and many others – is to remove and destroy weak, sick plants.
(This is completely analogous to the principle that disease germs do not attack healthy human bodies.)
In agriculture, if one does not want these creatures to destroy one’s food crops, then one must improve the quality of the plants. To do this, one needs organic agriculture to restore the soil, produce healthy crops and keep crop yields high by reducing losses to pests and plant diseases.
The race. Today there is a race or contest between the bugs and diseases versus the drug and chemical companies who try to invent new cures for the diseases.
For example, in the early twentieth century antibiotics were invented. They were called wonder drugs. Trillions of pounds of them are used each year on crops, in animal feed and given to humans and other creatures to control certain infections, as growth stimulants and for other purposes.
Unfortunately, residues of these drugs are in much of the food today and this is negatively impacting human health. Antibiotics damage the intestinal flora, damage the liver and have other negative effects. For details, read Beyond Antibiotics.
Other “wonder drugs” were the vaccines. They also seemed miraculous and are widely used on farm animals and human beings. However, they are often preserved with toxic metals that find their way into our food. For details about vaccines, read Vaccination - A Medical Abomination.
Who is winning the race? At first, it seemed like the chemical and pharmaceutical industries would clearly triumph over the bugs and diseases. However, today the bugs are winning.
Agricultural diseases are multiplying and human and animal health are becoming worse, not better.
Problems with chemical pesticides.
- Poisoning the land, air and water of planet earth. For example, a recent report on the major drinking water supplies in the United States found that all of them are contaminated with pesticide and drug residues. Toxic metals used on farms are a very serious problem worldwide.
Sewage sludge, formerly an excellent type of soil amendment, now is banned in some nations because it is so contaminated with toxic metals and residues of drugs and vaccines.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers pesticide poisoning the worst environmental problem in the world. Pesticides have contaminated almost all water supplies in most nations. Most are cumulative poisons and carcinogenic. Cumulative means they do not leave the body and they just build up more and more.
- More human, animal and plant disease as a result of the above pollution. For example, the American Cancer Society estimates that 85% of cancers are environmentally caused. The cost of this epidemic is enormous. Some pesticides cause genetic damage similar to the effects of atomic fallout. This may contribute to a doubling of the birth defect rate in America since 1950.
Other pesticides mimic estrogen, which may contribute to many cancers and other health problems.
- Nutritional damage to the food.
The third aspect of the green revolution was the invention of motorized tractors and other motorized farm implements. This made it possible for one man to farm a much larger area than in the past.
This helped gave rise to mega-farms that depend on the use of a lot of mechanized equipment. This led to lower prices for food, but put a lot of smaller family farms out of business because they could not compete with the new mega-farms.
The new equipment and superphosphates also gave rise to large-scale monocrop farming. This means raising just one crop in a field because the crop is suited to tilling and harvesting by a large machine. It is basically mass production of food.
A fourth aspect of the green revolution was an enormous concentration of money and power that took place in the twentieth century in the hands of a few large agricultural companies.
In the early part of the twentieth century, large companies began moving into the agricultural sector. Today, just a few such as Cargill, ADM, Monsanto and very few others own or control vast amounts of farmland.
Most of these companies own the entire food chain. This means they produce fertilizers and pesticides. They also own seed companies and may patent seeds. They may also control aspects of the food distribution system of a nation, as well. These very large and vertically integrated companies are called agribusiness.
Progress? Some see agribusiness as “progress” because these companies take advantage of economies of scale and are well-funded and well-managed. For example, the huge agricultural companies protect their land against dust bowls (soil erosion) because they view the land as an investment that they do not want to lose, and they have the resources to take plenty of steps to protect the land.
Problems with agribusiness include:
- Corruption. For example, these companies have dozens of lobbyists in Washington, DC and the capitols of most other nations that protect their interests against all competition. They have also made millions of dollars using farm subsidy programs that are set up in such a way that they benefit, rather than small farmers.
- Watering down organic standards. The large companies have infiltrated government and private organic certifying agencies and have watered down the standards and made them confusing and deceptive for consumers. For example, the label “100% grass fed” for beef actually means 75% grass fed, not 100%.
- Intellectual corruption. They have infiltrated most farming organizations, magazines and journals to make sure the journals do not interfere with their business.
- Social displacement. Millions of people have lost their family farms. Some of this is due to unfair competitive practices. Many people also believe the Great Depression of 1929 was organized by these large companies in order to steal the land from thousands of farmers.
- Such a large concentration of land ownership, power and wealth is always harmful to a free society.
Another aspect of the green revolution has been the application of various 20th century technologies to producing, storing and preserving food. Here are some examples.
Hybrid crops. One of the major projects of the agribusiness companies is to breed and even invent new hybrid crops. This is needed, in part, because the traditional crop varieties simply will not grow in the mineral-depleted and toxic soils of the farms that use the phosphate fertilizers and toxic pesticides.
When creating these hybrids, enhanced nutrition is not on the list of traits they breed for. Instead, they are interested in hardier varieties that can live on today’s depleted soils, withstand insect attack and toxic chemicals, last longer on the supermarket shelf and be cheaper to produce. This has had a terrible effect upon the nutritional content of the food.
Other aspects of biotech include GMO plant varieties, and methods such as food irradiation and MAP. We discuss these topics under Other Topics.
SUMMARY OF THE EFFECTS OF THE GREEN REVOLUTION
The ‘green revolution’ succeeded in the following ways:
- greatly increasing the amount of food grown.
- increasing the efficiency of farming, if that is measured in human labor required to grow food.
- reducing human drudgery - the hard, relentless manual labor required for non-mechanized farming.
The negative effects include:
- Destruction of the soil microorganisms,
- Erosion of topsoil
- A severe decline in the nutritional content of food.
- Also, crop yields are decreasing as a result of all of the above.
Few people realize how devastating chemical agriculture has been to the nutrient content of our food. The average supermarket apple or tomato today bears little resemblance to one grown 100 years ago.
When the same amount of calcium, zinc and other minerals in the soil have to be divided among ten times as much wheat, each wheat plant gets one tenth the minerals that the older plants received.
The new agriculture crops contain noticeably more carbohydrate, but much less protein – often half as much. For example, wheat grown without phosphates contains about 13 or 14 percent protein. Today’s wheat contains 6 or 7 percent protein. This is a very significant difference. The same is true of rice, corn, and many other food crops.
The pro-new agriculture scientists answered that we can solve this by just putting more fertilizers on the land. However, this is not easy to do and it is very costly.
In fact, farmers did begin to use more fish fertilizers, kelp, rock dust, biochar, sea minerals and more on their soils. This helped to some degree to improve the mineral and other nutrient content of the food, but not that much.
This was the subject of a book written in the 1980's called Food For Naught, The Decline in Nutrition by Ross Hume Hall. A more recent book on the same subject is Empty Harvest (1995) by Bernard Jensen and Mark Anderson.
According to the USDA, the calcium content of an apple has declined from 13.5 mg in 1914 to 7 mg in 1992. The iron content has declined from 4.6 mg in 1914 to 0.18 mg in 1992. Some nutrition books written 50 or 60 years ago simply do not apply to today's food.
For example, some people think they can live comfortably on the protein in pasta or other wheat products because they read this in books. However, today's wheat has about half the protein content of wheat grown just 80 years ago. The use of pesticides and stimulant fertilizers has allowed poor-quality crops that would otherwise have been destroyed by pests to make it to market.
Mass production of chicken, beef, pork and other products often results in unhealthy animals who receive over half the antibiotics used in America. Residues of these and other drugs used in food production find their way into our meat, eggs, and dairy products.
A study published in the Journal of Applied Nutrition, Vol. 45, #1, 1993, pp. 35-39 compared the nutrient content of supermarket food versus organically grown food from food stores in the Chicago area. The organic produce averaged twice the mineral content of the supermarket food! Fortunately, the organic food industry is growing rapidly, as the truth about our nutritionally-depleted food becomes more widely known.
GENETICALLY ENGINEERED (GE or GMO) FOODS
Genetic engineering involves adding, deleting or changing specific genes in a plant to produce certain qualities in the plant. Crops have always been crossbred to produce tastier, hardier, more nutritious varieties of food. Indeed, our present foods were bred from wild plants by generations of farmers who carefully picked the best of their crop to produce the next year's crop.
The new genetic methods, however, are more invasive, and for the first time companies are patenting their new varieties to give them control over who grows the crops. They are also, for the first time, combining the genes of pigs or fish with those of plants. This is radical new technology – and very unproven in its long-term effects.
There are serious problems with GMOs. For example, some GMO plants make their own toxic pesticides. In a recent incident, Bt corn, bred to produce a pesticide to kill corn borers, also killed monarch butterflies that ate the pollen. It won't kill humans outright, but what are the health effects? Thirty percent of the corn grown in America in 1999 was genetically engineered Bt corn.
Roundup Ready soybeans are bred to withstand more of the pesticide called Roundup. This means more pesticide can be sprayed. This is excellent for the pesticide producer. However, what does the pesticide do to our bodies, water supplies, wildlife, and soil microorganisms?
Another controversial area of GMOs is called "terminator genes". These are genes that are added to the plant so that it will not reproduce. This way, the farmer must buy new patented seeds from the company each year, instead of saving seeds for next year, a common practice especially in poorer nations. In summary, there are potential benefits of GMO science, such as improved drought-resistance or nutrition of crops. In practice, however, the focus of GMOs is often on greater production and continued dependence on chemical methods of agriculture.
Most European nations, where more small farms remain, prohibit the importation of GMO foods or seeds. America is somewhat behind in this area, though resistance to GMO technology is growing. Americans tend to embrace new technology more readily, and in America chemical companies have more influence.
Most likely, GMO foods should be banned, as we simply don’t know enough about its long-term effects. As a first step, there is a campaign to insist on labeling of genetically engineered foods. This is the only way people will have a choice regarding what they are eating. Time will tell if any of the GMO foods are really better foods for our health.
As food is grown and shipped globally, avoiding spoilage is of great importance. Food grown with pesticides and chemical fertilizers often does not keep as well as the older, hardier varieties. This has spawned interest in newer methods of food preservation.
Irradiation of plant and animal products kills bacteria that can cause spoilage. Problems with food irradiation are the danger of damaging sensitive components of the food, harm to workers, and disposing of spent radioactive material. Ionizing radiation is very harmful to living matter. Also, food that spoils easily is often of lesser quality. Preserving it with irradiation to make it edible does not make it healthful to eat. The nutritional and vitality of the food take a back seat to the desires of the processors to avoid spoilage.
Irradiated food in America is supposed to be labeled, although processed food often contains irradiated ingredients that are not labeled. Labeling of GMO foods and irradiated food is a critical issue so that people have a choice.
We believe irradiated food should be outlawed completely, as it is a method of food processing that just further reduces the nutritional and safety of our food, even if it kills harmful germs.
MAP OR MODIFIED ATMOSPHERIC PACKAGING OF ORGANIC PRODUCE
Another newer insult to the food supply – including food that is labeled organic - is called MAP. It is the spraying of produce – fruits and some vegetables, too – with various ‘natural’ chemicals to preserve the food. This puts a sort of bio-film on the surface of the fruit that helps retard spoilage.
As a result of this technology, food can be grown in China or India, for example, and shipped to the United States on a slow-moving boat. The trip takes two weeks, at times, and the food is miraculously still fresh-looking. This outsourcing of our agriculture is great for China, and very bad for our health and for our farmers.
Problems with this technology are that food begins to lose some of its nutrients as soon as it is picked, so “preserving it” with MAP, while it may not spoil, it still loses nutrients. Also, the chemicals used to create the bio-film or atmospheric packaging, as it is euphemistically called, are often slightly toxic. They can cause allergic reactions, and often there are outbreaks of disease because the food is not clean and fresh, even if it looks like it.
We oppose all MAP technology at this time, as we do not think it is necessary or helpful for our health. Yes, it makes for slightly cheaper food grown in China, but the unintended consequences or ‘side effects’ of ingesting many unknown and odd chemicals is not worth it. At least, it should be absolutely labeled with any chemicals that are sprayed on it, even if they are “natural”. Here is a link to a longer article on this subject:
Frozen food. We recently found that frozen food is not helpful for development. We are not sure why this is so. One possible reason is that frozen food companies are allowed to spray the food with various chemicals such as EDTA to preserve the color of the food. Unfortunately, EDTA binds up minerals in the food to prevent “tarnishing” and thus preserve the color. This definitely damages the food. So please avoid most frozen food.
An exception is frozen meats. These seem to be fine for health and development as long as one uses them within about 6 months of freezing the meat. If eaten later than this, the quality of the meat begins to deteriorate.
We are quite certain that modern toxic chemical agriculture is not sustainable and is seriously damaging planet earth. However, transitioning to organic agriculture is a difficult task. Some of the problems are:
- It takes a number of years to transition a farm from chemical use to organic method. One must build up the soil and this cannot be done overnight.
- The soil is toxic and it takes up to 10 years for the chemicals to break down in the soil.
- There are many people to feed and the chemical method sometimes produces more food. Switching to organic methods may produce as much food, but usually not for the first five years or so.
- Many farmers know the chemical agricultural method. They need to be re-educated and this takes time and willingness.
- When one transitions to the organic method of agriculture, one saves money by not having to buy some agricultural chemicals such as pesticides and insecticides. However, one must spend money to build up the soil with products such as rock dust, kelp, fish fertilizer, manure, biochar, and other soil amendments.
- Until the soil is restored, the farm is delicate and bad weather or disease can take a large toll on farm animals and crops.
- Most existing laws favor the large agribusiness companies and they favor toxic chemical agriculture.
- Farmers still do not receive much help from government agencies to transition to organic farming.
Using a combination of ancient and modern technology, one can produce pure, nutritionally superior, high-Brix food in significant quantity without damaging the environment. This is the challenge for the organic agriculture movement in the 21st century. Let us pray that this movement survives and thrives.
1. Organic Agriculture magazines. These are excellent and include The Stockman’s Grass Farmer, Countryside, Mother Earth News and others.
2. www.thecampaign.org (excellent site for labeling of genetically engineered food.
3. Bergner, P., The Healing Power of Minerals, Special Nutrients and Trace Elements, Prima Publishing, CA, 1997.
4. Hall, R., Food For Naught, The Decline in Nutrition, Keats Publishing, New Canaan, CT, 1979.
5. Price, W., Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, La Mesa, CA. 1945, 1970.
6. J. Applied Nut., 1993, 45:1, pp. 35-39. (study of the mineral content of organic versus commercial food in the Chicago area)
7. Wilson, L., Development Science And Development programs, LD Wilson Consultants, Inc., 2019.