Super Weeds, Bees, and Diabetes: 7 Food Safety Predictions


Happy as a pigweed in GMOs. Appropriately named superweed takes over a soybean field. Photo by Pawpaw67 via Flickr
The Organic Center, a research institute focused on the science of organic food and farming, recently revealed concerns for the state of the food industry and agriculture. Despite the symbolism of an organic garden at the White House, last year ended with little progress on changing policies. Though Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn) claims the Senate will pass a Food Safety bill this year, there are bigger issues than ensuring importers meet US standards, the apparent holdup in the Senate. How about cleaning up our fields first? Otherwise, here is the ominous outlook:The Organic Center's chief scientist Dr. Charles Benbrook recently spelled out seven serious problems that don't bode well for our health, natural resources, and climate change. While Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution and Michelle Obama's campaign are trying to bring awareness to the lousy American diet, TOC examines the adverse results of agricultural policies and practices. Dr. Benbrook lists the rise of "super weeds" ineffective antibiotics, and autism as examples, offering solutions we can do and changes for farms and the government. Here's the rundown:

Seven Predictions for 2010 and Beyond

1. Superweeds spread. Genetically-engineered, herbicide-tolerant pigweed has increased with 380 million pounds of herbicides used since 1996, and a 46% increase in 2007-'08.
Solution: Reverse the increases in herbicide use over the effected 160 million acres of US GMO corn, soybeans, and cotton fields. EPA should impose rules for 2011 crop season.

2. Obesity, diabetes and both. An epidemic increase in insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome from diet.
Solution: Shift farm subsidies from high-fat foods and reward food industry for healthier choices, like whole grains and fresh produce that eliminate exposures to pesticides that predispose people to health problems.

3. Ineffective antibiotics. Some strains of bacteria are untreatable due to increased use on farms and ranches.
Solution: Change antibiotics use with animals. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) introduced a bill in 2009 to ban subtherapeutic agricultural use of human antibiotics. Until passed, organic animal products can help stop newly resistant bacteria.

4. Inflammation. Increases in diseases linked to inflammation from foods.
Solution: Fight disease linked to inflammation and promote brain health with nutrient-rich colorful fresh fruits and vegetables. Aging bodies require more antioxidants in food since less are produced by the body and organic produce provides 25% more.

5. Developmental problems. An increase in autism, ADHD, birth defects and allergies related to exposure to pesticide-related risks in the diet.
Solution: Ban high-exposure of these pesticides, limit access to heavily sweetened foods/beverages in schools and promote access to organic fruits/vegetables without toxic residues.

6. Honey bee decline. Five seed treatment insecticides are known to undermine bee immune systems affecting bees navigation to hives.
Solution: Ban seed treatments to assure ample harvests of foods dependent on pollination by bees. (Italy's successful pesticide-fee crop season in 2009 resulted in virtually no bee losses.)

7. Global warming.
Solution: Re-direct farm and conservation program payments to sequester carbon in soil to reduce global warming, enhance agricultural productivity, lower farm production costs and reduce 'Dead Zones.'

Pesticides are an obvious pesky problem. Organic farming provides advanced, systems-based technology with compelling solutions to the impending food crisis, says Dr. Benbrook:

"In years past, the American approach to agriculture and food has been the pursuit of high yields with the support of chemical, drug, genetic engineering and other 'advanced' technologies. The American food system faces profound challenges that will grow worse if the nation fails to astutely and honestly identify the core problems eroding our health and the health of American agriculture."

TOC has a handy consumer pocket guide online to reducing pesticide exposure in foods with a list of fruits and veggies with the greatest risks. Here's a partial listing:
• Domestic fruit: cranberries, strawberries, nectarines, peaches, cherries, apples
• Imported fruit: grapes, cantaloupe, pears (the above)
• Domestic vegetables: green beans, bell peppers, cucumber, tomatoes, lettuce
• Imported veggies: broccoli, carrots, celery, peas (the above)

More on organic foods:
Green Eyes On: Recent Study Finds No Benefit to Organic Foods
Organic Gardening: Why Grow-it-Yourself Organic Food is Here to Stay
Paradox: Natural Pet Food Sales Growing Faster Than Human Ones

Tags: Agriculture | Diseases | Farming | Food Safety | Fruits & Vegetables | Genetic Engineering | GMO