by Joseph Mercola
March 21, 2017
Research has linked long-term pesticide exposure to
infertility, birth defects, endocrine disruption and
obesity, reduced IQ, neurological diseases, cancer
and many other health and environmental problems
Two United Nations experts are now calling for a
comprehensive global treaty to regulate and phase
out toxic pesticides in farming, and to move food
production across the world toward more sustainable
Another recently released report, "Human Health
Implications of Organic Food and Organic
Agriculture," by the European Parliament, details
the many benefits of organics
In a 2013 survey, 71 percent of Americans expressed a concern over
the number of chemicals and pesticides in their food supply. 1
wonder - research has linked long-term pesticide exposure to,
reduced IQ 6
It is only a common-sense conclusion that reducing your pesticide
exposure would result in improved health.
The amount of pesticides used both commercially and in residential
areas has grown immensely since 1945. More than 1 billion pounds are
used each year in the U.S. alone.
Worldwide, an estimated 7.7
billion pounds of pesticides are applied to crops each year, and
that number is steadily increasing. 9
According to a 2012 analysis, 10 each 1 percent increase in crop
yield is associated with a 1.8 percent increase in pesticide use.
Logic tells us this is an unsustainable trajectory when you consider
the health and environmental ramifications associated with pesticide
use and exposure.
As just one example, studies done by the Chinese government show
that 20 percent of arable land in China is now unusable due to
pesticide contamination! 11
Every now and then, though, a ray of hope
Earlier this month, two United Nations (UN) experts called for a
comprehensive global treaty to not only regulate but actually phase
out toxic pesticides in farming, and to move food production across
the world toward more sustainable agricultural practices.
This is a significant change in stance that can - and hopefully will
- have far-reaching consequences.
UN Calls for Global Treaty to Promote Sustainable Farming Without
The two experts, Hilal Elver, the UN's special rapporteur on the
right to food and Baskut Tuncak, the special rapporteur on toxics,
shared research with the Human Rights Council in Geneva showing
pesticides are responsible for 200,000 acute poisoning deaths each
Chronic exposure has been linked to,
As reported by
Sustainable Pulse: 12
"The experts particularly emphasized the obligation of States to
protect the rights of children from hazardous pesticides…
experts warn that certain pesticides can persist in the environment
for decades and pose a threat to the entire ecological system on
which food production depends …
The experts say the use of
neonicotinoid pesticides is particularly
worrying because they are accused of being responsible for a
systematic collapse in the number of bees around the world.
collapse, they say, threatens the very basis of agriculture as 71
percent of crop species are bee-pollinated.
While acknowledging that certain international treaties currently
offer protection from the use of a few pesticides, they stressed
that a global treaty to regulate the vast majority of them
throughout their life cycle does not yet exist, leaving a critical
gap in the human rights protection framework."
The special rapporteurs challenged the pesticide industry's
"systematic denial of harms" and "aggressive, unethical marketing
tactics," noting the industry is spending massive amounts of money
to influence policymakers and contest scientific evidence showing
their products do in fact cause great harm to human and
Toxic Pesticides Are Not an Irreplaceable Farming Necessity
Even more importantly, their report firmly denies the idea that
pesticides are essential to ensure sufficient amounts of food for a
growing world population, calling the notion "a myth." 13
Not only have decades of heavy pesticide use failed to eliminate
global hunger, they said, the same chemicals have now become a
troubling food contaminant - contaminants made all the worse by the
fact that they cannot be washed off like many older generation
According to Elver and
"The assertion promoted by the agrochemical industry that pesticides
are necessary to achieve food security is not only inaccurate, but
In principle, there is adequate food to feed the world; inequitable
production and distribution systems present major blockages that
prevent those in need from accessing it…"
Moreover, the report highlighted developments in sustainable and
regenerative farming, where biology can completely replace
chemicals, delivering high yields of nutritious food without
detriment to the environment.
"It is time to overturn the myth that pesticides are necessary to
feed the world and create a global process to transition toward
safer and healthier food and agricultural production," they said.
Which Foods Are the Most Contaminated?
According to the 2017 Environmental Working Group's (EWG) "Dirty
Dozen" and "Clean 15" reports, 15,16,17 which rank foods based on
highest and lowest pesticide contamination, strawberries still top
the list of foods most likely to contain the highest amounts of
residues, containing a minimum of 20 pesticides - twice the amount
of the second-most contaminated crop - while non-GMO sweet corn has
the lowest amounts.
EWG's Dirty Dozen
Foods containing the highest amounts of
pesticide residues and therefore best to purchase organic include:
11. Sweet bell
EWG's Clean 15
Foods containing the lowest amounts of residues,
and therefore safer to buy conventional if you cannot afford organic
1. Non-GMO sweet
6. Frozen sweet
7. Non-GMO papaya
11. Honeydew melon
European Parliament Report Highlights Benefits of Organic Foods
Another favorable piece of news is the recently released report,
"Human Health Implications of Organic Food and Organic Agriculture,"
by the European Parliament, detailing the many benefits of organics.
The report is unusually comprehensive in that it reviews a wide
range of effects of organics, from nutritional content and the
benefits of fewer pesticides to environmental impacts and
Its conclusions are based on hundreds of epidemiological and
laboratory studies and food analyses. The clearest benefits of
organics on human health were found to be related to lowered
pesticide, antibiotic and cadmium exposure.
As noted by Civil Eats:
"Most striking in its findings is the evidence suggesting organic
food can help protect children from the brain-altering effects of
And while there is evidence of greater nutrient
content in some organic food - particularly milk and meat - as
health benefits, these differences appear to be less significant
than organic food's lack of hazardous chemicals…
The report was prepared for a European audience, but its findings
clearly apply to the U.S.
'They did a really comprehensive job of a
global literature search, so I don't think anything in the report
wouldn't be applicable,' said Boise State University assistant
professor of community and environmental health Cynthia Curl, who
researches links between diet and pesticide exposure…
'As a consequence of reduced pesticide exposure, organic food
consequently contributes to the avoidance of health effects and
associated costs to society,' write the authors, noting that
research suggests these costs are currently 'greatly
Consumer Rights Group Sues EPA Over FOIA Violations
Although the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)
classified glyphosate - the active ingredient in
herbicide - as a probable human carcinogen in 2015, 20 the product
has not been pulled from the market.
Citing this finding and other
research, more than 60 cancer patients are coordinating
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), contradicted the IARC's
findings when it, in September, 2016, declared glyphosate "not
likely to be carcinogenic" to humans 21 - a determination that has
been met with severe criticism and accusations of violating EPA
guidelines 22 and protecting Monsanto's interests 23 at the expense of
Now the consumer rights group, U.S. Right to Know (USRTK), has filed
a federal lawsuit against the EPA for violating Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA) provisions.
As reported by USRTK: 24
"The lawsuit… seeks documents related to EPA's assessment of… glyphosate… [USRTK] requested the EPA records after the EPA posted
an internal memorandum titled 'GLYPHOSATE - Report of the Cancer
Assessment Review Committee' to the agency's website on April 29,
The internal EPA report, known as the CARC report, concluded that
glyphosate was 'not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.' The EPA
then deleted the public posting on May 02, saying that the document
was posted inadvertently.
But before it was deleted Monsanto officials copied the document,
promoted it on the company website and on social media and made
reference to it in a court hearing dealing with lawsuits filed by
agricultural workers and others who allege Monsanto's herbicide gave
The May 12, 2016 FOIA request asked for certain records relating to
the CARC report on glyphosate as well as records of communications
between Monsanto and EPA officials that discussed glyphosate issues.
Under FOIA, the EPA had 20 working days to respond to the request,
but well over 190 working days have now passed and the EPA has yet
to produce any records in response to the request…"
Glyphosate - A Most Troublesome Toxin
Glyphosate is most heavily applied on GE,
...but it's also commonly used to
desiccate conventional (non-GMO
but non-organic) wheat and protect other conventional crops from
Disturbingly, glyphosate and Roundup may actually be even
worse than DDT, having been linked to an ever-growing array of
health effects, including but not limited to: 25,26
especially minerals, as glyphosate immobilizes
certain nutrients and alters the nutritional
composition of the treated crop
Disruption of the
biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids (these are
essential amino acids not produced in your body
that must be supplied via your diet)
exposure (this includes high levels of
glyphosate and formaldehyde in the food itself)
sulfate transport and sulfur metabolism; sulfate
— a side effect of extreme disruption of
microbial function throughout your body;
beneficial microbes in particular, allowing for
overgrowth of pathogens
(imbalances in gut bacteria, inflammation,
leaky gut and
food allergies such as gluten intolerance)
damaging effects of other food-borne chemical
residues and environmental toxins as a result of
glyphosate shutting down the function of
ammonia (a byproduct created when certain
microbes break down glyphosate), which can lead
to brain inflammation associated with autism and
by priming pathogens to more readily become
resistant to antibiotics
Since the IARC’s
determination, agricultural personnel have begun
suing Monsanto over past glyphosate exposure,
claiming it played a role in their bone cancer
Drawbacks of Industrialized Agriculture
The UN's special report on pesticides and call for a transition
toward sustainable agriculture worldwide adds ammunition to an
already well-stocked munitions store against conventional
agriculture and genetic engineering.
I've detailed a wide
range of drawbacks of chemical-dependent industrial farming in
previous articles, including the following:
Degrades and contaminates soil
Grains account for about 70 percent of our daily calories, and
grains are grown on about 70 percent of acreage worldwide.
continuous replanting of grain crops each year leads to soil
degradation, as land is tilled and sprayed each year, disrupting
the balance of microbes in the soil.
Top soil is also lost each year, which means that, eventually,
our current modes of operation simply will no longer work. Soil
erosion and degradation rates suggest we have less than 60
remaining years of topsoil. 33
Forty percent of the world's agricultural soil is now classified
as either degraded or seriously degraded; the latter means that
70 percent of the topsoil is gone. Soil degradation is projected
to cause 30 percent loss in food production over the next 20 to
Meanwhile, our global food demands are expected to
increase by 50 percent over this span of time.
As explained in Peter Byck's short film, "One Hundred Thousand
Beating Hearts," farm animals form symbiotic relationships where
one species helps keep parasites from overwhelming another.
is the separation of crops and animals into two distinctly
different farming processes that has led to animal waste
becoming a massive source of pollution rather than a valuable
part of the ecological cycle.
Contaminates water and drains aquifers
Agriculture accounts for 70 percent of our fresh water use. When
the soil is unfit, water is wasted. It simply washes right
through the soil and past the plant's root system.
global water shortage that's projected to worsen over the
coming two or three decades, so this is the last thing we need
to compound it.
On top of that,
Confined Animal Feeding
Operations (CAFOs) are a major water polluter, destroying what
precious little water we do have.
The EPA has noted that U.S. states with high congregations of
CAFOs report 20 to 30 serious water quality problems each
According to a report
35 by Environment America,
corporate agribusiness is "one of the biggest threats to
Tyson Foods Inc. is among the worst,
releasing 104.4 million pounds of toxic pollutants into
waterways between 2010 and 2014; second only to a steel
Contributes to greenhouse gas emissions
While fertilizer production produces its share of greenhouse
gases, most of the emissions occur upon application.
According to the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 1 out of every
100 kilos of nitrogen fertilizer applied to farm land ends up in
the atmosphere as nitrous oxide (N2O), a potent
greenhouse gas (300 times more potent than CO2) known
to deplete the ozone. 36
In 2014, the amount of N2O created by nitrogen fertilizer spread
on American farmland was equal to one-third of the N2O released
by all cars and trucks in the U.S.
More recent research suggests
the real number is three to five times higher than that.
The efficiency model of large-scale industrialized agriculture
demanded a reduction in diversity.
Hence, we got monoculture:
farmers growing all corn, or all soy, for example.
has significantly contributed to dietary changes that promote
The primary crops grown on industrial farms today -
corn, soy, wheat, canola and sugar beets - are the core
ingredients in processed foods known to promote obesity,
nutritional deficiencies and disease.
According to a report by the Royal Botanic Gardens in the U.K.,
one-fifth of all plants worldwide are now threatened with
extinction, primarily through the expansion of agriculture.
Ethanol and corn
sweetener subsidies have also led to farmers abandoning
conservation measures designed to preserve fragile lands and
protect biodiversity in the natural landscape. 38
Worsens food safety and promotes pandemic disease
Agricultural overuse of drugs, especially antibiotics, has led
to the development of drug-resistant disease, 39 which has now
become a severe health threat.
Pandemic outbreaks are also
becoming more prevalent in CAFOs, revealing the inherent flaws
of industrialized animal farming.
In 2015, an avian flu outbreak spread across 14 states in five
months. The year before that, a pig virus outbreak killed off 10
percent of the American pig population.
As noted by the
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy: 40
"The rapid spread
of new disease strains... is one very visible reason why the
expansion of factory-style animal production is viewed as
security by decimating important pollinators such as butterfly
and bee populations. 41
Promotes nutritional deficiencies and poor nutrition
Industrial farming is set up and subsidized to grow ingredients
used in processed foods. This is the cheapest way to feed the
However, what people really need more of in order to
thrive is fresh produce.
According to research 42 presented at the 2016 American Heart
Association's Epidemiology meeting, reducing the price of fruits
and vegetables by 30 percent could save nearly 200,000 lives
over 15 years by lowering rates of heart disease and stroke.
If people added just one additional serving of fruits and
vegetables a day, up to 3.5 million deaths from heart disease
could be prevented in just two years.
Testing also reveals
nutrient content of foods has dramatically declined across the
board since the introduction of mechanized farming in 1925.
To receive the same amount of iron you used to get from one
apple in 1950, by 1998 you had to eat 26 apples; today you have
to eat 36
and 1999, levels of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron,
riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C levels in 43
different vegetables and fruits significantly declined
Analysis of nutrient data from 1975 to 1997 found that, on
calcium levels in 12 fresh vegetables dropped 27
iron levels dropped 37 percent
vitamin A levels
dropped 21 percent
vitamin C levels declined by 30 percent
Healthy soils contain
a large diversity of microorganisms, and it is these organisms
that are responsible for the plant’s nutrient uptake,
44,45 health and the stability of the entire
The wide-scale adoption of industrial farming
practices has decimated soil microbes responsible for
transferring these minerals to the plants.
If we do not change, we will eventually reach a point of no
return, where soils will be too depleted and microbially "dead"
to grow food.
Conventional may be more efficient, and may
provide somewhat greater yields in some cases, but in the long
term it's unsustainable.
Necessitates the use of toxins, poisons and harmful mechanical
Industrialization led to the separation of crops and livestock
farming into two different specialties. That change alone has
done tremendous harm, as livestock are actually a core component
of regenerative agriculture.
As a result, a whole host of land
maintenance services that animals serve for free have had to be
replaced with chemical and mechanical means - all of which have
detrimental effects on human health and the environment.
Is less profitable than organic farming and cannot affordably
and sustainably increase production
Research has even shown that conventional farming cannot
significantly compete with organic in terms of profitability.
At least 1,000
studies have compared organic and conventional farming in terms
of productivity, environmental impact, economic viability and
One such study 46,47 found that organic farms are more
profitable, 48,49 earning farmers anywhere from 22 to 35 percent
more than their conventional counterparts.
They also produce
equally or more nutritious foods with fewer or no pesticide
Organic farms also
use far less energy, were found to be at a distinct advantage
during droughts, and provide unique benefits to the ecosystem,
along with social benefits that are hard to put a price tag on.
According to one of
"If I had to put
it in one sentence, organic agriculture has been able to
provide jobs, be profitable, benefit the soil and
environment and support social interactions between farmers
In some ways,
there are practices in organic agriculture that really are
ideal blueprints for us to look at feeding the world in the
Organic may even
be our best bet to help feed the world in an increasingly
Assures decimation of
food production should feared climate changes turn into reality
Recent research 50,51 indeed confirms that conventional farming
methods cannot protect us from a repeat of the devastating
conditions experienced during the 1930s "dust bowl," a time when
consecutive droughts decimated food production in the U.S.
simulations, if the U.S. were to experience the same kind of
drought as in 1936, we'd lose 40 percent of our corn and soy,
and 30 percent of our wheat.
These losses are very similar to those back in 1936. But when
including current climate change trends into their calculations,
crop losses increase by 25 percent for each 1-degree increase in
A 4-degree increase
in average temperature would reduce crop yields by a staggering
80 percent over the course of a season.
As noted by
bioethicist George Dvorsky: 52
predictions 53 that parts of the U.S. could soon experience 'megadroughts'
lasting for as long as 35 years (yes, you read that
correctly...), these results should serve as a serious wakeup
Directly promotes ill health and chronic disease
Health statistics suggest the average toxic burden has become
too great for children and adults alike. More than half of all
Americans are chronically ill, and toxins in our food appear to
play a primary role.
According to Dr.
Joseph E. Pizzorno, 54 founding president of Bastyr University,
toxins in the modern food supply are now,
contributor to, and in some cases the cause of, virtually
all chronic diseases."
A recent report
by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics
which represents OB-GYNs in 125 countries, warns that chemical
exposures, including pesticides, now represent a major threat to
human health and reproduction.
Pesticides are also
included in a new scientific statement on endocrine-disrupting
chemicals by the Endocrine Society task force. 58,59
This task force warns that the health effects of
hormone-disrupting chemicals is such that everyone needs to take
proactive steps to avoid them - especially those seeking to get
pregnant, pregnant women, and young children.
low-level pesticide exposure has been found to considerably
increase the risk of certain diseases, such as Parkinson's
What Can You
Do to Protect Your Family Against Pesticides?
In order to reduce your exposure to toxic pesticides, you'd be wise
to make some changes in your lifestyle choices.
Here are just a few
suggestions to help you get started.
Eat organic foods
Look for organic
produce and grassfed meats and dairy products. Investigate
the farmers markets in your area and consider planting your
own garden to supply produce through the summer months.
organic foods may be slightly more expensive today, they
help to reduce your overall health costs in your future.
Go green in your
lawn and garden care
You don't have to
give up a green lawn if you want to remove pesticides from
your garden. However, it may take a season or two in order
to get the growth you're looking for.
Talk with your
school board about lawn care at your children's school
sprayed on the school lawn and play areas can increase your
You may be able to change how they care
for the lawn when you educate the administration about the
risks involved to the children.
Play in a healthy
Before joining a
golf club or playing frequently, talk with the course
superintendent about the pesticides they use to control
weeds and insects.
together to request cleaner and safer lawn care. Talk to
your city administrators about the care given to the lawn in
your local parks.
about the risks to adults, children and pets from
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