Organic Farming

Less than 1% of global agricultural land is certified organic, although it's more than tripled in size since 1999.

Certified organic agricultural land is farmland that has passed government regulations for being classified as organic, such as using only natural substances for crop and livestock processes, and this land accounted for less than 1% of all agricultural land worldwide in 2010.

According to the Organic Trade Association, about 91.4 million acres (37 million hectares) of land in the world was used for organic agriculture in 2010. This number was triple the amount from 1999 because demand for organic products increased worldwide. The most certified organic agricultural land was found in the Oceania region, including Australia and New Zealand, which had 29.9 million acres (12.1 million hectares).

By comparison, North America had 6.4 million acres (2.6 million hectares) of certified organic agricultural land.

 


Herbicide

spermRoundup herbicide exposure was found to induce oxidative stress and to activate multiple-stress response pathways within affected cells, and was associated with an increase in intracellular calcium (Ca2+) concentration leading to Ca2+ overload, and cell death.

 


 


Tabs

 
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By Kathryn Doyle
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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - In a new study from California, children with an autism spectrum disorder were more likely to have mothers who lived close to fields treated with certain pesticides during pregnancy.

Proximity to agricultural pesticides in pregnancy was also linked to other types of developmental delay among children.

“Ours is the third study to specifically link autism spectrum disorders to pesticide exposure, whereas more papers have demonstrated links with developmental delay,” said lead author Janie F. Shelton, from the University of California, Davis.

There needs to be more research before scientists can say that pesticides cause autism, she told Reuters Health in an email. But pesticides all affect signaling between cells in the nervous system, she added, so a direct link is plausible.

California is one of only a few states in the U.S. where agricultural pesticide use is rigorously reported and mapped. For the new study, the researchers used those maps to track exposures during pregnancy for the mothers of 970 children.

The children included 486 with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), 168 with a developmental delay and 316 with typical development.

Developmental delay, in which children take extra time to reach communication, social or motor skills milestones, affects about four percent of U.S. kids, the authors write. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 68 children has an ASD, also marked by deficits in social interaction and language.

In the new study, about a third of mothers had lived within a mile of fields treated with pesticides, most commonly organophosphates.

Children of mothers exposed to organophosphates were 60 percent more likely to have an ASD than children of non-exposed mothers, the authors report in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Autism risk was also increased with exposure to so-called pyrethroid insecticides, as was the risk for developmental delay. Carbamate pesticides were linked to developmental delay but not ASDs.

For some pesticides, exposure seemed to be most important just before conception and in the third trimester, but for others it didn’t seem to matter when during pregnancy women were exposed.

Dr. Philip J. Landrigan speculated that the pesticides probably drifted from crops through the air, and that’s how pregnant women were exposed. The new study did not measure airborne pesticide levels, however.

Landrigan directs the Children's Environmental Health Center at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and was not involved in the new study.

“We already knew from animal studies as well as from epidemiologic studies of women and children that prenatal exposure (to pesticides) is associated with lower IQ,” Landrigan told Reuters Health. “This study builds on that, uses the population of a whole state, looks at multiple different pesticides and finds a pattern of wide association between pesticide exposure and developmental disability.”

What’s more, this study almost certainly underestimates the true strength of the association between pesticides and neurological problems, he said, since it did not precisely measure each individual woman’s exposure.

Pesticide registries like the one in California and another in New York are rare, but are critical to public health efforts in this area, Landrigan said. Concerned parents could advocate for registries like them in their own states, he added.

“One lesson or message for parents is to minimize or eliminate use of pesticides in their own homes,” Landrigan said.

In the months before and during pregnancy, it would make sense to avoid using pesticides in the home or on the lawn, he said.

For city-dwelling families, instead of spraying for cockroaches every month, integrated pest management is a better choice. That approach makes chemical pesticides the last resort - first steps are to seal up cracks and crevices in the home, clean up food residue and try relatively non-toxic options, like roach motels.

“If there’s one thing that parents can control it’s what comes into their home,” he said.

“It would be a great first step to stop using organophosphates and pyrethroids inside the home,” Shelton agreed.

 
 
 
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According to a recent study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, glyphosate may carry heavy metals and minerals, whether naturally-occurring or originating from agricultural chemicals, into your kidneys, courtesy of its chelating properties.

A unique feature of this kidney disease (chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology/CKDu) is that none of the commonly known risk factors apply, such as diabetes or hypertension, but there’s a strong association between this mysterious kidney disease and consumption of hard water, i.e. water that contains higher amounts of calcium, magnesium, strontium, and iron.

Ninety-six percent of patients with chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology had consumed hard or very hard water for at least five years. Meanwhile, the disease is not found among those who get their drinking water straight from natural springs. Kidney toxicity is not known to be associated with hard water consumption, and this surprising finding added to the initial mystery. Furthermore, the disease seemed to have cropped out of nowhere. There were no reported cases of this kind of kidney disease in Sri Lanka prior to the 1990s.

The researchers note that the original use of glyphosate was as a de-scaling agent, used to clean out calcium and other mineral deposits in hot water systems. De-scaling agents attach to minerals such as calcium and magnesium, rendering them water soluble. According to the authors:

“[T]he totality of scientific evidence gathered so far has highlighted the fact that an unknown factor (Compound X) originating from agrochemicals, when combined with hardness/Ca/Mg can cause significant kidney damage; thus explaining many current observations including the unique geographical distribution of the disease.

If we assume that the ‘Compound X’ is derived from the agrochemicals and is easily bound to Ca/Mg/Sr/Fe to ultimately cause damage to the kidneys, then this hypothesis can explain the geographical distribution of chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology (CKDu) as well as the occurrence of the disease only after the 1990s…

Although glyphosate alone does not cause an epidemic of chronic kidney disease, it seems to have acquired the ability to destroy the renal tissues of thousands of farmers when it forms complexes with a localized geo-environmental factor (hardness) and nephrotoxic metals.”


 
 
 
By Dr. Mercola

One of the reasons I stress the importance of only eating organic, grass-fed beef is because animals raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are given unnatural inferior feed loaded with antibiotics (i.e. grains instead of grass, and most of it genetically engineered at that), along with a variety of veterinary drugs.

Many of these drugs are administered for prophylactic purposes to prevent illness, and others are given as growth promoters.

Zilmax (Zilpaterol) is one such drug. It’s a beta-adrenergic agonist, also known as beta-agonist; a class of non-hormone drugs used in animals to promote growth. It, and others like it are fed to cattle in the weeks prior to slaughter to increase weight by as much as 30 pounds of lean meat per cow. Beta-agonist drugs, as a class, have been used in US cattle production since 2003.

While 26 countries currently allow beta-agonists in food production, America’s use of such drugs, which also includes the beta-agonist ractopamine, for promotion of growth and lean-meat yield has created challenges in the global market, including current trade barriers in Russia. Now, Zilmax is also causing trouble on our own turf. As reported in the featured article:

“Zilmax became the focus of attention in the livestock industry after Tyson Foods Inc said on August 7 that it will stop buying Zilmax-fed cattle for slaughter beginning next month. Tyson, the biggest US meat processor, said it was concerned about Zilmax potentially causing health or behavioral problems for some cattle.

Merck's Animal Health unit announced on August 16 that it would halt US and Canadian sales of Zilmax, pending additional company research and review.”

Merck has no plans on discontinuing the product, however; recently telling Reuters3 that it is in fact pushing to bring the drug back to market both in the US and Canada. The company says it stands behind the safety of the drug and is working on developing a quality control program to ensure its proper use.

Zilmax Causes Serious Side Effects in Horses, So Why Use It In Cattle?Zilmax is already banned for use in horses due to severe side effects, including muscle tremors and rapid heart rates that can last as long as two weeks after stopping the drug4. It’s not a major stretch to imagine similar problems might occur in cattle. According to a 2008 veterinary case report5 involving three horses that were given Zilmax:

“Within 90 minutes the horses had muscular tremors which began in the skeletal muscles of the neck, shoulder, and foreleg and spread throughout the visible skeletal muscles. Intermittent visible muscular tremors continued for up to 1 week after the initial dose of zilpaterol.

They also all had certain changes to their blood chemistry, such as elevated BUN, creatinine, and glucose and mild hyponatremia and hypochloremia... Liver and kidney changes were also noted.”

Ractopamine, another beta-agonist, is yet another drug used in the US, even though it’s been banned in 160 other countries due to its potential health hazards. The researchers also noted that Zilmax is about 125 times more potent than ractopamine, saying this may be why side effects were overlooked in connection with ractopamine studies.

In an email to Reuters, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated it had received “a very small number of reports of lameness or lying down” in cattle that had been fed Zilmax. According to a Wall Street Journal7 report:

“A growing number of cattle arriving for slaughter at US meatpacking plants have recently shown unusual signs of distress. Some walked stiffly, while others had trouble moving or simply lay down, their tongues hanging from their mouths. Some even sat down in strange positions, looking more like dogs than cows.”

Since the animals’ diet in general was unchanged, livestock scientists started suspecting the suddenly odd behavior might be associated with the addition of the beta-agonist drug, which has only recently become widely used among cattle ranchers.

Is it Really Safe to Listen to “Experts” that Were Wrong Before?Not surprisingly, conflicts of interest are rampant among supporters of the drug, who oftentimes have direct ties to the drug companies manufacturing it. For example, Richard Raymond8, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) chief responsible for promoting Zilmax is not only a paid food safety and public health consultant for Elanco9, the Animal Health branch of Eli Lilly that produces two ractopamine products; he was also the chair of the US Codex Policy Committee, which provides guidance to US delegations on the Codex Alimentarius Commission.

Raymond has also been a defender of rbST/rbGH milk1011—another Elanco product12. This artificial growth hormone has been banned in Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand due to cancer risks and other health concerns. Although it isn’t generally well-known, rbST is connected to the beef industry, in that rbST also increases muscle area and reduces fat thickness―basically what Zilmax does—as described in a 2001 study13.

In an August 2, 2013 article14 penned for Facts About Beef, Raymond states he believes beta-agonists can help improve global food security, seeing how the drugs lead to six to seven pounds of additional meat per pig and 30 pounds of additional meat per market cow. He also claims there’s no published data showing that beta-agonists have an effect on animal welfare―despite the fact that such studies do indeed exist, such as the one referenced above, published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science in 200815.

Do Beta-Agonists in Meat Pose Human Health Hazards?According to an article published in the Journal of Animal Science in 199816, there’s data on “human intoxication following consumption of liver or meat from cattle treated with beta-agonists.” (In the case of the beta-agonist clenbuterol, pharmacological effects might be expected after consuming 100-200 grams of contaminated product.) The authors write:

“The use of highly active beta-agonists as growth promoters is not appropriate because of the potential hazard for human and animal health, as was recently concluded at the scientific Conference on Growth Promotion in Meat Production (Nov. 1995, Brussels).”

Similarly, before it was approved, scientists worried that beta-adrenergic agonists illegally used could result in increased cardiovascular risk for consumers17. Today we don’t have to worry about eating illegally treated meat, since these drugs are approved and widely used, but should we be concerned about cardiovascular health risks from non-organic meat products? As for Richard Raymond, with regards to such questions of safety, he writes, in part:

“It is... estimated that over 700 million pigs have been supplemented with beta-agonists since its approval 14 years ago. I am not an Ag Economist, but I can do the simple math that says if each of those 700 million pigs produced an additional 6 pounds because of beta-agonist supplementation, that would be over 4 billion additional pounds of pork, or put another way, an additional 16 billion four ounce servings of protein.

As the former Undersecretary for Food Safety at USDA, I also know that in those billions of servings of pork and beef, not one single incident of a foodborne illness or side effect in a human has been reported. That should make us feel confident as far as human safety goes.”

My question is, since beta-agonist drugs do not affect biology in the way a pathogen like, say, salmonella or E-coli might, just how would you know that a meat product contaminated with drug residue has affected your health? Especially if we’re discussing about side effects like weight gain, or even heart- and muscle-related problems similar to those experienced by horses?

Barring an acute reaction, how would you actually pin beta-agonist side effects to any particular piece of meat in your diet? This is why you need to perform scientific studies to assess effects and risks. Clearly, to say that lack of foodborne illness reports18 is a statement about the drug’s safety for use in food animals is ludicrous, and I think he really should know better. But, for a lazy reader, such a comment just might put them at ease.

It may be worth noting that, in humans, beta-agonists are used to treat asthma, among other things. Interestingly enough, stubborn weight gain is a common complaint among asthma patients using Advair (a beta-agonist drug)—so much so that the manufacturer has added weight gain to the post-marketing side effects. Other adverse reactions to beta-agonist drugs include increased heart rate, insomnia, headaches, and essential tremor. As you can see, these are eerily similar to those experienced by horses, and it appears, some cows.

According to Randox Food Diagnostics19, which has created tests for Zilmax residue in beef, use of beta-agonists prior to slaughter is of particular concern “as this poses a risk to the consumer and may result in consumer toxicity.” Research findings to this effect include:

  • A 2003 study in Analytica Chimica Acta20: Residue behaviour of Zilmax in urine, plasma, muscle, liver, kidney and retina of cattle and pig was assessed. Two heifers and 16 pigs were treated with Zilmax and slaughtered after withdrawal times varying from 1 to 10 days. The drug was detectable at each point of time examined in all matrices except plasma after a withdrawal period of 10 days. It’s worth noting that in the US, the recommended market window is three to 10 days after discontinuing Zilmax 21
  • A 2006 study 22 on residues of Zilmax in sheep found detectable levels in liver and muscle tissues up to nine days after discontinuation of the drug
What Should You do if You Don’t Want Drugs and Chemicals in Your Food?As the US agriculture industry now stands, antibiotics, pesticides, genetically engineered ingredients, hormones and countless other drugs are fair game in your food. So if you purchase your food from a typical supermarket, you are taking your chances that it’s teeming with chemicals and drugs -- even those that have been banned in other countries. So please, do your health a favor and support the small family farms in your area. You’ll receive nutritious food from a source that you can trust, and you’ll be supporting the honest work of a real family farm.

It all boils down to this: if you want to optimize your health, you must return to the basics of healthy food choices. Put your focus on WHOLE organic foods -- foods that have not been processed or altered from their original state, but rather grown or raised as nature intended, without the use of chemical additives, drugs, hormones, pesticides and fertilizers.

It’s as simple as that!

It is not nearly as daunting a task as it may seem to find a local farmer that can supply your family with healthy, humanely raised animal products and produce. At LocalHarvest.org, for instance, you can enter your zip code and find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, all with the click of a button. Once you make the switch from supermarket to local farmer, the choice will seem natural, and you can have peace of mind that the food you’re feeding your family is as safe as possible.

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