Jash Botancials

About 20,000 years ago, our ancestors ate a highly varied diet that supplied all of their major minerals, and the vast majority of their trace minerals. Even as they began to gather less and farm more, their fruits and vegetables still had significant nutritional value, since they were raised in naturally organic, mineral-rich soil, and in keeping with farming practices that returned minerals back into the earth. In fact, up until the days of our grandparents and great-grandparents, most people lived on farms or grew much of their own produce. Even those people living in the cities ate locally grown, seasonal produce that was cultivated using farming practices that helped ensure high mineral content, such as crop rotation, mulching, and manure fertilization.

However, after World War II, farming practices changed radically. Manufacturers of wartime chemicals such as the phosphates and nitrates needed new markets for their products. These chemicals became the raw material for producing fertilizers. By 1960, 97 percent of all crops were treated with chemical fertilizers that used salt-based nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These quickly became known as the NPK fertilizers (K is the atomic symbol for potassium). While this method of farming created perfectly shaped and colored produce, it robbed the soil of its mineral content. As a result, over the past 50 years our farmlands have been progressively stripped of a variety of minerals, especially selenium, iron, and zinc. In response to this potentially devastating loss, some farmers have turned to organic farming in order to restore their land, thereby producing crops that have a higher nutritional value. And if the results from a February 2003 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry are any indication, organic farming is working. The most healthful fruits and vegetables are those that have been grown organically—without the use of insecticides, herbicides, artificial fertilizers, or growth-stimulating chemicals. Researchers found that organically grown berries contain up to 58 percent more polyphenolics than conventionally grown berries. Polyphenolics are antioxidants that are produced by plants as a natural defense in response to insects and other such stressors. Because pesticides and herbicides attack and kill off insects and pests, the plants do not need to produce polyphenolics. A 1993 study from the Journal of Applied Nutrition has similar findings. Over a course of two years, researchers compared commercial, supermarket produce (apples, pears, corn, and potatoes) with organic produce of the same variety and size. They found that the organic produce not only contained up to four times as much of the trace minerals, 13 times more selenium, and 20 times more calcium and manganese as the commercial produce, but also had significantly few heavy metals, including 25 percent less lead and 40 percent less aluminum. Pesticides were developed to protect crops from insects, rodents and other pests, as well as to control weeds, mold, bacteria and disease. The ideology is that this industrialized farming, complete with chemical pest control and synthetic fertilizers, would allow farmers to reap bigger harvests and larger returns for their crops. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that traditional farming is leading to declining yields due to soil degradation and there are indications that eating foods laced with these chemical residues are leading to a number of negative health effects in humans.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 60 percent of herbicides, 90 percent of fungicides and 30 percent of insecticides are known to be carcinogenic, or cancer causing. And laboratory studies show that pesticides can cause health problems such as: •Birth defects •Nerve damage •Cancer •Blocking the absorption of important food nutrients •Other harmful long term effects

Pesticides are especially dangerous to children since they are still developing and may not be able to fully remove pesticides from their body. There are also periods during development when exposure to pesticides, or any toxin, can cause permanent damage to their system. Of course the EPA notes that the government does regulate pesticides to determine “that they will not pose unreasonable risks to human health or the environment.” For food items, the EPA sets limits on how much pesticides can be used and how much can remain on food. However, there is really no way to know just how many pesticides are left on the food you eat aside from having it lab-tested yourself. Alarmingly, the EPA also says, “You and your family have a right to know under the law that in certain cases, such as economic loss to farmers, a pesticide not meeting the safety standard may be authorized.” This means that in “certain cases” unsafe, unauthorized pesticides can legally be sprayed on your food! I would strongly encourage you to purchase organic produce whenever possible. When choosing your produce, look for fruits and vegetables that are at the peak of ripeness. These contain more vitamins and enzymes than do foods that are under ripe or overripe, or that have been stored for any length of time. Remember that the longer a food is kept in storage, the more nutrients it loses. Most fruits and vegetables should be eaten in their entirety, as all of the parts, including the skin, contain valuable nutrients. When eating citrus fruits, remove the rinds, but eat the white part inside the skin for its vitamin C and bioflavonoid content. Lastly, along the same lines as organic produce, I would also urge you to buy organic, free-range eggs, and poultry for the same reasons. Not only are these foods richer in vital nutrients, it also helps support organic farming and helps to ensure that you can enjoy organic foods for many years to come. Break down the word “pesticide” and you’ll notice the Latin root “-icide,” which means “to kill”. Simply put, pesticides are poisons designed to kill, injure or impair an organism. What makes you think they have no effect on you?