I went through Dr. Joe's articles that he sent us, looking for those
points that we have in common. Surprisingly, there were many.
Pesticides and nitrates from fertilizer enter ground water with
potential environmental and health consequences.
Pyrethrum, an extract of chrysanthemum flowers, has long been used to
control insects. The Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S.
classifies it as a likely human carcinogen
Rotenone is highly toxic to humans and causes Parkinson's disease in
True, organic produce will have lower levels of pesticide residues but
the significance of this is highly debatable.
When they are not protected by pesticides, crops produce their own
chemical weapons. Some of these, various flavonoids, are antioxidants
which may contribute to human health. Organic pears and peaches are
richer in these compounds and organic tomatoes have more vitamin C and
Where organic agriculture comes to the fore is in its impact on the
environment. Soil quality is better, fewer pollutants are produced and
less energy is consumed.
When French researchers compared the differences in lycopene, vitamin C
and polyphenol content of organic versus conventional tomatoes, they
found that the organic tomatoes had somewhat higher levels of vitamin C
and polyphenols, which was not surprising given that the tomatoes
probably produce these to fend of pests. If they get no help from
commercial pesticides, they will produce more of the natural variety.
Synthetic fertilizers, with their high levels of nitrogen, potassium and
phosphorus, encourage rapid growth, but this results in more water being
taken up from the soil. The produce is bigger, but it is bigger because
it has a higher water content. Organic crops, fertilized with manure,
take up nitrogen more slowly and have a lower water content. In a sense
they are more concentrated in flavourful compounds.
While the residue from pesticides would seem to pose very little risk,
eating organic foods does eliminate exposure. When children eating
conventional foods are switched to organic foods, pesticides disappear
from the urine after five days.
(Agrochemicals)Their effect on non-target species, such as interference
with the egg-laying abilities of birds, began to raise questions about
their effect on human health.
While there is overwhelming evidence that a diet high in fruits and
vegetables is healthy, there is no hard evidence that this is due
specifically to antioxidant content. In theory, the assumption is
reasonable, because antioxidants, at least in the laboratory, can
neutralize free radicals which have been linked with a variety of health
problems. But fruits and vegetables contain hundreds of different
compounds and it isn't clear which ones are responsible for the health
benefits. Studies with isolated antioxidants have proven to be
Note: Dr. Joe seems to be ignoring the interaction between all the
compounds in the fruit. Michael Pollan made this point in his books
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
(Amazon.com product link shortened)
In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto
by Michael Pollan
(Amazon.com product link shortened)
1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid38974366&sr=1-1 (Enter-relationship, i.e.
Omega 3s and 6s)
That for health we weren't looking for one ingredient (like omega-3) but
a range of plants, ideally leafy ones, and a little meat.
Some, but certainly not all, studies have shown that organically grown
foods are higher in antioxidants. This isn't surprising because crops
left to fend for themselves without outside chemical help will produce a
variety of natural pesticides, some of which just happen to have
. . . . According to a four year long study carried out at the
University of Newcastle, organic food is some 40% richer in antioxidants.
If cost is not an issue, organic may indeed be an appropriate choice.
There is no doubt that it is environmentally a more sound practice.
While there are safe ways to use these chemicals, there can be no
universal "guarantee of safety." After all, pesticides are designed to
kill their targets, whether these be insects, weeds or fungi. The best
we can do is evaluate the risk-benefit ratio of each substance and make
Note: To ³organic types² it appears that the risk to benefit ratio is
environmental risks to profit ratio, and that the ratio is very small
indeed. There are deep pocket lobbyists for chemical companies that pay
for favorable testing for their products. There are well-paid lobbyists
for agribusiness who want to produce more product, and there are
well-paid lobbyists for food retailers who like food with a long shelf
Where are the deep pocketed, well-paid lobbyists for the environment and
All ways of reducing pesticide risk are examined, with great emphasis on
Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, which is aimed at reducing the
reliance of pesticides as the sole approach to pest management. IPM is
geared towards taking action only when numbers of pests warrant it and
uses a mix of biological, physical and chemical techniques. (This is
Canadian, not American)
But can even such a rigorous system ensure that we will have no
consequences from the use of pesticides? Absolutely not. There may be
subtle effects in humans that show up only after years of exposure.
One of the developing concerns about the use of insecticides and
herbicides is a possible effect on the immune system. Laboratory
evidence indicates impaired activity of immune cells after exposure . . .
It would be great if we could get away from using pesticides. No
exposure to pesticides means no exposure to their risks.
Pesticides are nasty chemicals.
The discovery of the toxicity of lead and arsenic compounds led to the
extensive use of lead arsenate in agriculture, without much concern for
its effects on human health.
Note: Has anything changed? Profit still drives the market.
. . . rapid advances in chemistry in the post-war era introduced
synthetic pesticides . . . Insects shuddered, fungi floundered, weeds
and agricultural yields boomed.
Note: beneficial insects, fungi, and weeds as well shuddered,
floundered, and wilted, while the topsoil blew and flowed away.
Analytical chemists, armed with their gas chromatographs and mass
spectrometers, heightened our fears by revealing that it was not only
farmers or agro-chemical producers who were exposed to pesticides, we
all were! Residues of these chemicals were found on virtually
everything we ate.
Speaking of Alar,² Toxicologists, agronomists, physicians and
environmentalists all waded in with their opinions, along with hordes of
emotionally-charged consumers who were clearly out of their depth in
such a complex discussion.²
Note: Toxicologists, agronomists, physicians and environmentalists
aren't consumers too? Moreover, there are many who have been trained in
chemistry, and biology who don't fit into the above list. Us Joe
Six-pack consumers, tend to get emotionally charged when we find
questionable substances in our food that we didn't know were there.
Would a pesticide-free world be better? For people who have to handle
pesticides occupationally, and for the environment, yes.
Pesticides are designed to kill
The World Health Organization estimates that there are roughly three
million cases of pesticide poisoning world wide every year, and close to
a quarter million deaths!
Pesticide companies, in some cases, pay their salespeople on commission
so it is in their interest to push product even when it may not be
necessary. In Sri Lanka pesticides are advertised on radio to the
public, often painting an unrealistic picture of magical, risk-free crop
Even though there may be no immediate effects of such exposure, there
are enough studies suggesting a link between pesticide use and
neurological problems, developmental delays, Parkinson's disease and
cancer to cause concern.
An often-quoted study at Stanford University found a link between
Parkinson's disease and domestic pesticide use. People with as few as
thirty days of exposure to home insecticides were at significantly
greater risk; garden insecticides were somewhat less risky. Because of
the large variety of products available, the researchers were not able
to zero in on any specific ingredients.
Great caution must be used with insecticides in the home and I think
their use during pregnancy should be totally avoided.
There you have it. Except for the notes, the rest of the text was taken
from the materials written by Dr. Joe.
His oft-used reason that we need agrochemicals is that the population is
growing and that we need the chemicals to grow more food. The first
point is that at some point, like peak-oil, we will reach peak-people.
For all our sakes, population increases must stop. My suggestion would
be to offer clean water, food, and housing to any one who would be
sterilized. Not the most popular idea in the world, so maybe somebody
has a better idea.
I could be wrong but it seems that Dr. Joe is relying on monoculture,
factory farming, as we know it to do this. He doesn't address crop
rotation, which helps prevent insect infestation by moving the pest's
food source to a different location, or cover crops like beans. We may
need to return to seasonal foods and give up strawberries in the dead of
winter. We should forget biofuel made from foodstuffs. And we need to
end CAFOs, especially those that grain finish animals.
Oh yeah, while I'm on the soapbox, we need single-payer health care.
"For the first time in the history of the world, every human being
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