Sunday, June 18, 2006

Pesticides Keep Us Safe from Organic Slavery

Okaaay, so the New York Times lets me write on their op-ed page, but they won't publish my letter on how my kid's autism looks scarily a lot like vaccine damage [pause for appreciation of Sour Grapes] but they WILL publish this letter from the "Crop Protection Research Institute":

Michael Pollan (The Way We Live Now, June 4) gets it right when he writes that organic agriculture's future production will be outsourced to countries where it is cheaper to grow crops without chemical inputs. The reason growing organic crops is cheaper in other countries is the availability of workers at cheap wages to pull weeds by hand out of crop fields. Pollan suggests that tens of thousands of organic corn acres would be required to meet the needs of a world thirsty for corn syrup. He's wrong there. Tens of millions of acres would be required. A vast expansion in organic acreage will sentence millions of low-paid workers around the world to a life of drudgery pulling weeds so that Americans can sip an organic drink. Seventy years ago, almost a quarter of the U.S. population lived on farms and millions of people hoed weeds all summer. Thanks to herbicides like atrazine, those days are long gone. In the U.S., chemical herbicides do the work of 30 million laborers. Without a vast infusion of migrant workers and a significant lowering of the wage rate, growing crops with organic methods has a very limited future in the U.S.

Leonard Gianessi
Director, Crop Protection
Research Institute
CropLife Foundation
Questions? How about the atrazine? Who's making it? And where does it go after it's sprayed on crops? Does anyone care about the workers who will also inevitably get sprayed? Also, read this excellent article in the Washington Post on how atrazine was causing (remember?) all those Frankenfrogs with the mixed-up gonads and how it's carcinogenic in rats and men who worked in the Atrazine factories had higher levels of prostate cancer than other men in the state (at least they weren't out in the clean dirt pulling weeds!), and, oh, it's been banned in Europe for all those reasons.

Another thing to keep in mind: more and more studies are showing that growing food without pesticides makes the plants healthier and therefore more nutritious, i.e., when they don't have to fight off pests, the plants get lazy and fat. Gerry Potter, a researcher at Leicester's De Montfort University, and his team are close to finding a treatment for cancer that works by using a compound to activate one of the body's OWN enzymes to eat up the tumor (see "Cancer Drug Raises Hope for Cure" on the BBC). What's interesting is that this compound naturally occurs in ripe ORGANIC fruits and vegetables, it's a phytoestrogen called a salvestrol. The plant, as ripening nears, produces salvestrols to protect itself from fungus, and if we eat these plants intact, they get to work on fungus-like diseases in our own bodies, including cancer cells. If the plants are artificially ripened, we don't get squat, just like you don't get omega-3s from farm-raised fish.

So...the irony is, we'll have to use these plant sterols that the pesticide wipes out in order to fight the cancer that the pesticides will eventually give us.

Today's NYTimes: and as usual, feel free to use my account:

USERNAME: Greenfertility
PASSWORD: Greenfertility
secret clue: soylent green


Anonymous said...

You are absolutely right about Salvestrols and agro-chemicals. The trouble is the guys who make the chemicals make millions from them, so they are not going to stop.They will claim the yields are better, the fruit looks perfect etc. Only snag is the essential nutrients have been supressed.

GreenFertility said...

Yes, and the soil gets poorer and poorer, the chemicals get washed into the water...Carl Pope of the Sierra Club at his talk I went to said food is roughly 50% less nutritious than when he was a kid. He's not THAT old, either. scary.

Thanks for writing--

Tom French said...

Am I being cynical?

Let me introduce you to salvestrol.

Covered here:

Big article here:

Apparently it's only certain veg that help.

All based on work by this guy

who wrote about it FOUR YEARS AGO in the Lancet

Oh yes, the Professor has a company that....sells Salvestrol (now trademarked) as a supplement and the company says:

"So without the expertise now developed by our scientists it is virtually impossible to guarantee an adequate intake of Salvestrols from the diet which is why taking a supplement is so important"

So - modern marketing:

a. do research
b. maybe find something useful
c. trademark the name
d. develop supplements
e. get a national daily to run this 'new' news
f. say that veg are not enough
g. then you sell your supplements!


GreenFertility said...

That's funny, I know someone else named Tom French...

Thanks for the links. It's quite possible Gary Potter is trying to cash's still also possible that his team's findings are valid. In a broad spectrum of markers, it has been found that organic food has higher level of nutrients and things like salicytates--i.e., those aspirin-type things that unclog your arteries.

Always good to lookat the motives, though. Thanks again for the links and the skepticism.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the billions and billions of $$$ made my pharmaceutical companies each year from drugs with harmful side-effects. Of course, that is OK...

(200,000 people die each year in America with correctly dosed pharmaceutical drugs, source - JAMA)

GreenFertility said...

Wow--from CORRECTLY dosed? I know that 50% of people in hospitals will suffer from a dosing mistake AND hospital/medical mistakes are a leading cause of death as well. Put all of that together and you get...eeek.

I'm all into my balancing Chinese hers rigrht now. Thanks for the comment.

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