September 3rd, 2012
by John Bauer, Co-Founder - The Foodery
Summertime is primetime for fresh produce. We get to pick the juiciest peaches, plumpest cherries and the most vibrant array of leafy greens. It seems like the best of both worlds – wonderful taste, quality nutrition and an abundant selection. Almost every food pyramid, diet book and medical doctor tells us that multiple portions of fresh vegetables and fruits everyday are the best way to get proper nutrients. But there is another side to this haven of taste and nutrition. As healthy and fresh as produce looks and tastes, one thing is for certain. Not all produce is created equally.
Produce is a link in the chain of agriculture. And agriculture is one continuous, integrated system. Agriculture is not a group of separate events happening beside each other. Whenever a part of the system is manipulated, ripple effects are often felt beyond the point of interruption. As the dominant species on earth, humans have created chemicals to interrupt this living breathing system in an effort to force it run more efficiently for us and produce an abundant food supply. Pesticides are one type of manipulation used to supposedly increase crop yields by deterring unwanted pests. Pesticides gained approval through the EPA and now almost all the produce offered in grocery stores in America are sprayed with pesticides. The most widely used pesticide in the world is RoundUp. Since 1964, it’s been used on parking lots and driveways to kill weeds while industrial farms use this very same pesticide on our fruits and vegetables. Today 380,000,000 pounds of RoundUp gets sprayed on our edible crops each year. What does Roundup do to our agricultural system? Long-term effects on animals and humans are still being researched but we do know this – along with their pest-controlling properties, chemical pesticides are both poisonous and prohibit fruit and vegetable plants from absorbing nutrients from the all-important soil.
How Pesticides Work
Common sense says you spray a pesticide on weed and the chemicals in the pesticide will kill it. This isn’t actually what happens. Most pesticides are metal keylators. This means the pesticide chemicals immobilize certain essential nutrients like copper, zinc, manganese and iron from plants. Not just weeds but all plants where pesticides get sprayed. This keylation effect handicaps certain “keys” needed by plants to take up vital nutrients. This weakens the plant’s immune system and allows soil-borne bacteria to move in quickly, attack the plant and kill it. So really pesticides weaken plants so they die from disease. And over time, our edible crops’ immune systems become so weak that they rely on chemicals to protect them from soil-borne bacteria. Not only do pesticides weaken plants but they change the biochemistry of our soil. You see, all the beneficial microorganisms in our soil are what make these nutrients and minerals available to plants so they can grow healthy and strong. Pesticides greatly inhibit this natural process from happening.
So What’s Really Wrong With Pesticides?
Healthy microorganisms offer up vitamins and minerals to soil. Vitamins and minerals create healthy fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables provide most of the vitamins and minerals for healthy omnivores (humans). When this system is broken (especially at the soil level) everything suffers. Studies now show how plants sprayed with only 1 tablespoon of RoundUp per acre (think about how potent that is) are deficient in essential minerals by up to 80%! And if plants are deficient in these essential elements, they are certainly deficient in many vitamins and minerals needed to be healthy plants. A myth exists that rinsing vegetables will wash away the pesticides from fresh produce and protect you. This is not the case. RoundUp bio-accumulates inside the plant through its root system to its chute tips and into its reproductive structures. As more pesticides are sprayed, residue levels increase in the soil. Over time, our crops become increasingly contaminated with toxic chemicals and more deficient in vital nutrients. Agriculture, being the evolutionary system that it is, finds a way to adapt in this chemical environment. Eventually plants and weeds find ways to survive with severe deficiencies while building a tolerance to RoundUp. Super weeds continue to grow while increasing applications of pesticides have a decreasing intended effect. Agri-businesses have countered nature’s ability to evolve by applying increased amounts of pesticide cocktails to our food crops in an attempt to fend off adapting super weeds. With weakened immune systems, plant diseases occur that were once non-existent prior to the introduction of industrial pesticides on our food crops. Nutritional quality in produce is declining while the ultimate consequence is happening – rampant soil degradation.
There is a way to opt out of the chemical warfare between nature and agricultural production. Today more than ever, it is vital to know the origins of our food. Knowing the basics of how healthy fruits and vegetables are harvested is key. Often times a farmer who believes in the philosophy of “take care of the soil and it will take care of you” is likely someone who grows vegetables that you want to put in your body. Farmers markets where farmers use natural ways of farming like cover cropping, crop rotating and non-tillage practices are usually producers who want nothing to do with chemical farming. Ask your local farmers’ markets if they grow their crops without pesticides. Only buy from farmers who fully disclose their farming practices (i.e. – agree to show you their farm if you ask). If grocery stores are your only convenient source of food, opt for organic varieties of produce when shopping. Certified organic farms do not allow the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides. Genetically modified produce is also no allowed in certified organic food. The next time you’re walking through the produce isle in the summer time and see nothing but delicious colorful produce, recall on your knowledge of pesticides. Remember that not all produce is what is appears to be and choose only for healthy, chemical free foods. ~F
©2012 The Foodery. The Foodery supports sustainable farming and care for the soil. A 100% organic standard on all produce serves as the company’s quality benchmark for fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs.