Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Killing Fields

It is estimated that a billion people go hungry each day. People are hungry today not because there is no food. They are hungry because the food is too costly and because of its distribution. We need food to survive and food is big business and with rising populations fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides and other such chemicals find their way into our systems giving big profits. It is not that big businesses and political leaders do not know that they are responsible for killing people and destroying livelihoods in the developing world, not to mention the destruction of biodiversity and natural resources. Yet they continue their policies and practices.

There are over 1000 million farmers and nearly all of them live in the developing world only around 50 million live in developed countries where agriculture is highly mechanized. Farmers of these developing world constitute half the world’s rural poor but they produce 4/5ths food supplies.

Over the past 40 years approximately 30% (1.5billion hectares) of the world’s cropland had become unproductive due to soil erosion and degradation. It takes approximately 500 years to replace 25mm (1inch) of topsoil lost to erosion. The minimal soil depth for agriculture production is 150mm.

The easy choice to increase food production has been the use of pesticides, fertilizers, insecticides & scores of other chemicals being sprayed across arable land. The concept of pesticides is nothing new and has been used for centuries. It was in the mid 20th century that different types of pesticides came to be used in limited amounts. Today, more than 1600 pesticides are available and more than 4.4million tons costing more than $20billion used annually. Whatever names they come in they are all poisonous and excessive amounts entering one’s system is likely to lead to adverse affects to the entire human system, to biodiversity and to the aquatic environment. Farmers use 4 major kinds of substances on crops and livestock – pesticides and herbicides, contaminated sewage sludge (human waste used to fertilize non-organic crops) which eventually became mixed with chemicals and industrial waste which lead to chronic illnesses in human body, use of hormones, antibiotics and remains of other animals (found in dairy products, meat & eggs) one of the causes of mad cow disease & then irradiation (exposure to radiation likely to lead to many diseases). Every year pesticides kill more than 200,000 people worldwide. Do we really need toxic pesticides when we know they kill humans and upset the entire eco system? The answer to feeding the world’s population is not found in poisoning the earth and waters that grows our food or decreasing the diversity of the seeds with GMOs.

The pesticide industry has today diversified into biotechnology and genetic engineering industry and this is being promoted in lieu of pesticides. Nevertheless, what happens is new pests are created necessitating use of pesticides. Moreover, genetically modified seeds are pushing farmers into debt. How many keep count of the scores of Indian farmers committing suicide? So companies are getting richer because they insist on pesticides and genetically modified organisms. Yet, why has everyone ignored the fact that ecologically organic agriculture produces more food at lower costs than chemical agriculture? Commercial farming has helped only the rich!
All the chemicals being used to grow our food are running into our water and creating dead zones not to mention the harm they are doing to our bodies which all lead to some sort of cancer. We are eating synthetic foods and digesting chemicals and none of us are eating healthy. Genetically modified foods are not sustainable, they only serve to rob poor countries of their natural food while enslaving them to corporations.

Disease and cancers are spreading at alarming rates all over the world and the only plausible conclusion is that most of these illnesses co-relate to the food we take. Most doctors are clueless on how to treat these ailments. Leukemia has increased by 11% over the past 20 years. Brain cancer is up by 30%, bone cancer has gone up by 50% while testicular cancer has gone up by 60^ in men under 30 years of age. Children whose parents work with pesticides are more likely to suffer from leukemia, brain cancer and other ailments. Studies of farm workers who work with pesticides suggest a link between pesticides and brain cancer, Parkinson’s disease, leukemia, lymphoma, cancers of the stomach, prostrate and testes.Studies certainly reveal a close correlation between pesticides and cancers, increase in childhood asthma is also a result of exposure to week killers. We are all exposed to too much of chemicals and that is a major reason why many of us find ourselves plagued with illnesses that even doctors find difficulty in diagnosing. Young children are most susceptible to toxic exposures. The chemicals used by the US and Allied troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya have placed thousands of children’s lives at risk not to mention the damage that is being done to the environment.

Transfatty acids are found in vegetable oils, soy beans, sunflower, palm oils, certain dairy products and increase Visceral fat, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, increase bad cholesterol and decrease good cholesterol, trigger systematic inflammation & affect every cell in a person’s body. TFA in the US averages 2-3% of total energy intake whereas in the developing nations it stands at 4% where items like fried foods, pastries and doughnuts go up to 8%. In the US some states have banned use of TFA’s in restaurants but why are TFAs being used if they are so dangerous. TFAs help to keep food unspoilt, they are cheap and can prolong shelf life and provides easy transport and suitable for commercial frying. When companies say “zero grams of trans fats” they are lying because of loopholes in government laws which allows a certain serving of TFAs. Now you know why obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases are increasing at alarming rates.

There are scores of additives like acids that modify flavour and preserve food, acidity regulators, anti-cake agents, anti-foam agents, food coloring and colour retention agents, emulsifiers, humectants, tracer gas that improves shelf life and sweeteners. These additives are dangerous – BHT causes damage to liver and kidneys, behavioral problems, infertility, birth defects and cancers, artificial coloring causes hyperactivity in children, learning disorders and damage to nerves, artificial sweeteners cause damage to central nervous system, menstrual difficulties and affects unborn foetus, brominated vegetables cause organ damage, birth defects while partially hydrogenated vegetable oils cause heart disease, cancer and high cholesterol. Nitrates cause cancer and even death, MSG causes headaches, high blood pressure and allergic reactions. Potassium bromate causes kidney disorders and gastrointestinal issues.

Talking at conferences has not made any changes and it has not reduced the number of people in hunger. The killing fields are in the foods grown to feed us and unless people begin to realise the damage being done it is likely to be too late.

from here

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