Here’s a piece of eye-opening information that could possibly save your life.
The 2010 US President’s Cancer Panel Report clearly stated that environmental toxins, including chemicals used in farming are the main causes of cancers. It recommended that people consume food grown without pesticides, fertilisers and growth hormones.
This report was written by eminent scientists and medical specialists in the field, published by the US Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institute of Health and the National Cancer Institute.
The majority of people get most of their exposure to pesticides through food, especially fresh fruits and vegetables.
In Australia more than 7200 registered pesticides, fungicides and herbicides are used in the food production industry
Most agricultural and veterinary chemicals leave residues in food. This is why residue tolerance levels called the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) are set for these chemicals.
When animal testing shows that a certain dose level of poison has no observable ill effects, that dose level forms the basis for determining the ADI. Authorities then claim that any residue levels below the ADI are too low to cause health problems.
Governments also place legal limits on the level of pesticide residues known as the Maximum Residue Level (MRL) that can be present in food.
The MRL is usually estimated by testing individual pesticides on rats. However, many studies have shown that most conventionally grown foods have a cocktail of pesticides and other chemical residues instead of just individual chemicals.
The 20th Australian Total Diet Survey conducted by the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) detected about 36 different pesticide residues in foods, even in infant food.
Most agricultural poisons also leave residues of breakdown chemicals when they degrade. There is virtually no testing to detect the residues of these breakdown chemicals in our food.
Most agricultural poisons are mixtures of one or more active ingredients and other so-called ‘inert’ mostly toxic chemicals such as solvents and surfactants. Only the active ingredients are individually tested to determine a safety level for the ADI.
The actual registered product, which is the mixture of chemicals used by farmers, is not tested to determine the safety levels in our food. Farmers also tend to use a combination of pesticides together with synthetic fertilisers in food production.
What about long term safety studies?
Most of the 7200 registered pesticides in Australia are not tested for long term health effects such as reproductive problems, birth defects, hormonal disruption, nerve damage, immune system disorders and cancers.
A good body of scientific research is showing that repeated exposures to cocktails of small amounts of synthetic chemicals have a range of adverse health effects including disruptions to the immune, hormonal and nervous systems.
Studies have linked agricultural and other synthetic chemicals to increases in autoimmune diseases and cancers such as lymphoma, leukaemia, breast, uterine and prostate cancers.
What about children who eat food with pesticide residues?
Infants and children are more susceptible to the effects of chemicals due to their larger intake of food per kilogram of body weight, narrower range of foods consumed, increased intake of more high risk foods such as fruits and vegetables and the reduced ability of their developing organs to eliminate toxins.
Until the age of six, a child’s body has more water and less fat than an adult’s. In an adult, fat tissues trap and store pesticide residues, but in a child with a lesser amount of fat tissue, more toxins will be circulating in the blood. A child’s immature liver and kidneys have a reduced ability to break down these toxins.
The Minimum Residue Levels for pesticides do not take into account the combination effect of eating a variety of these residues or the differences between children and adults.
Many scientists believe these exposures of minute quantities of pesticides are very significant for children. Independent studies have shown that exposure to amounts more than 1000 times lower than previously regarded as safe caused serious health and developmental problems.
What can we do to protect ourselves from pesticide residues in our food?
1) The most effective way to avoid pesticides is to eat certified organic fruits and vegetables which are grown without the use of any synthetic and toxic chemicals.
Washing or peeling conventional fruits and vegetables only removes a percentage of the pesticides as some of them are systemic and tend to be absorbed through the whole of the produce.
Studies have shown that organic produce have a lower incidence and level of pesticide residues than non-organic produce. Where residues were found, these were due to environmental pollution from pesticides used in conventional farming.
2) If certified organic fruits and vegetables are not readily available or affordable, choose those that are less likely contaminated with pesticide residues.
In the USA, the Environmental Working Group have published the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticide in Produce aimed at helping shoppers determine which fruits and vegetables contain the most pesticide residues. This allows us to avoid eating the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables.
3) Start your own organic garden and grow as much fruits and vegetables as possible. You will have the complete assurance that you are not eating fresh produce that has pesticide residues or other toxic chemicals. Freshly picked fruits and vegetables will definitely taste richer compared to those in the supermarkets.
Recently, I had the privilege of talking to Andre Leu, President of IFOAM and Chairman of Organic Federation of Australia.
“Researchers in the USA tested umbilical cord bloods and found 200 chemicals in them on average. Some of these chemicals work like hormones in very small concentrations (parts per billion) and act as hormone signals to switch on and off genes at a critical time of the foetal development. This can lead to a whole range of problems later on in life for developing children.”
Together, let us say ‘No’ to pesticide residues in our food!