Did you know that the production of cheap food in the US is responsible for poisoning our water and air? Is the price you pay for cheap food still cheap if it’s injuring your body or contaminating your children’s bodies?
With the industrialization of farming, we’ve come to understand the hard way that fresh produce does not come cheap, and its true cost is not measured in coin but health wise. Not only do these farming techniques gamble with public health but they also affect the environment which in turn hurts us and our children.
Unfortunately, we pay for food in more ways than one, and the way it’s obtained and processed does more harm than good. It is public knowledge that herbicides and pesticides are toxic substances, however, research makes it clear that they pose a greater danger than we think.
Between 2011 and 2017 paraquat usage has increased from a mere 3 million to a staggering 7 million kilograms per year and it is affecting direct applicators and nearby farming communities In Texas, for example, 8,498,326 kg of paraquat are used every year. The herbicide can be found under various names like Gramoxone from Syngenta or Firestorm, Helmquat, Parazone and more.
While paraquat and other herbicides such as Monsanto’s notorious Roundup are heavily used in the United States, some countries in Europe have banned them completely including a few Asian countries. There are greener alternatives such as mulching, ground covering, crop rotation, etc., yet these toxic chemicals still find their way into our plates.
How Industrial Farming is Affecting Our Foods and Health
It is vital for consumers to understand the large-scale methods used by industrial farming communities to produce colossal amounts of food at the expense of soil, water, and air degradation and contamination.
Paraquat, for example, has been used since 1961 and while its health effects may not have been known then, today there are countless studies that link paraquat exposure and use to Parkinson’s disease. This herbicide has the same structure as an active metabolite known as 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) which has been known to affect the substantia nigra, pars compacta region of the brain in rats, which leads to developing Parkinson’s.
In fact, people who knowingly or unknowingly expose themselves to paraquat within 1,600 feet have a 75% chance of developing Parkinson’s. Aside from paraquat, the well-known herbicide known as Roundup is currently facing countless lawsuits for its disastrous effects on human health. Those who have been unfortunate enough to develop Parkinson’s as a result of exposure to paraquat can file claims against liable manufacturers too.
To create some damage control, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulated the use of paraquat which means that individuals are now obligated to undergo special training for applying the chemical and retake it every three years. The chemical is also labeled with “ONE SIP CAN KILL” warning. Finally, paraquat is not available for public use and only used by professionals who understand the risks involved when using such a highly toxic herbicide.
Are We Ingesting Pesticides?
It is commonly known that herbicides are used by farmers to kill grass and other weeds to plant vegetables and fruits for mass consumption. But what most don’t know or realize is that while no significant residues are found in crops when used as pre-emergence herbicides, when herbicides such as paraquat are used before harvest, toxic residues can be found in the plant by merging from the leaves to the root in vegetables such as potatoes for example. Aside from it’s highly dangerous link to Parkinson’s, paraquat can also cause serious damage to our lungs, livers, and kidneys.
Also, paraquat is considered a non-selective herbicide which means that it acts very fast in killing a wide range of annual grasses and broad-leaved weeds and the tips of established perennial weeds. Toxic chemicals like glyphosate, an active ingredient found in the Roundup herbicide, can leave a poisonous residue on food crops which can modify and affect the genetic makeup of the foods we eat such as vegetables but also fruits such as bananas, cocoa, and coffee.
Are Organic Foods Healthier?
But what about organic foods, you may ask. Surely, with the inflated price tag, we must be paying for better quality and for food free of pesticides. Unfortunately, organic produce does not equal foods free of pesticides. Foods that are labelled organic can still be sprayed with herbicides that come from natural sources or have natural substances in them that are not man made. So, while organic fruits and vegetables are not completely free of pesticides they still have a lower dose compared to non-organic ones and the substances applied are non-synthetic and arguably less dangerous for human consumption
Being aware and mindful of our food’s source is more important than ever and if you’re currently living near farming communities that are using paraquat or other dangerous chemicals it is best to understand the possible consequences of prolonged exposure. While some countries have managed to completely ban the use of paraquat, in the United States, the herbicide is still heavily used even if only by licensed professionals.