By Dr. Mercola
In a survey of 1,000 people, 71 percent of Americans expressed a concern over the number of chemicals and pesticides in their food supply.1 The respondents' largest concerns were about toxic pesticides (88 percent) and genetically engineered (GE) foods (79 percent).
Research has linked long-term pesticide exposure to infertility, birth defects,2,3 endocrine disruption,4 neurological disorders5 and cancer.6 It is only a common sense conclusion that ingesting and being exposed to fewer pesticides would result in improved health.
The amount of pesticides used both commercially and in residential areas has grown immensely since 1945. More than 1 billion pounds are used each year in the U.S. alone.
The recent CHAMACOS study, a longitudinal study examining the impact of chemicals on children's health, found exposure to organophosphates and flame retardants shortened pregnancies, lowered the IQs of the exposed children and increased the risk of attention deficit disorder (ADD).7
Science Outpaces Scientific Study
One of the more commonly used types of pesticides is organophosphates, first developed as a nerve gas during World War II. These were poisons designed to efficiently interrupt signals between neurons. This action has been linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's.
The number of brand names of organophosphate pesticides is extensive.8 They are commonly used as insecticides and make up 70 percent of the pesticides used in the U.S.
Pesticides are divided based on what they target, such as insecticides, larvicides, fungicides, bactericides, rodenticides and herbicides. Unfortunately, the development of these chemicals and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval happens more quickly than long-term research can keep up with.
This means development is outpacing scientific study of long-term health problems related to chemical use. Quoted in the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, Kent Boyum, Ph.D., director of economic development and government relations for Maharishi Vedic City, said,9
"If something has a result in two weeks, it's clear. If it has a result in 20 years, it's pretty hard to figure it out unless you have lots of data and lots of historical information and then it's too late for all those poor people who had that negative effect on their lives."
Monsanto's Roundup Ready seed program, which produces plants resistant to glyphosate, claimed at its inception it would reduce the use of the more toxic weed killer, atrazine. However, this hasn't happened.
Since the mid-1990s the use of atrazine has declined only 22 percent while glyphosate use has jumped by 3,000 percent.10
Atrazine is an organophosphate11 and glyphosate is an organophosphorus compound.12 Currently, the products have come under scrutiny in the middle of their re-registration process with the EPA.
Health concerns are not limited to agricultural areas, but include anywhere herbicides are sprayed, such as school grounds, parks and residential areas.
Several communities in Iowa have worked to reduce exposure their children experience through the reduction or elimination of pesticides in areas children frequent. Association with cancer and lower IQs in exposed children fueled the response.
No Fine, No Penalty
Although the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen in 2015,13 the product has not been pulled from the market. Citing this finding and other research, cancer patients are coordinating their lawsuits against pesticide giant Monsanto.14
An alarming incident on the golf courses of Long Island, New York, was reported in a journal of the USA Today network. Reporters found gaps in the EPA oversight of millions of pounds of pesticides that were used in residential communities, businesses and golf courses.15
Quoted in the Lower Hudson Journal, Judith Enck, the EPA's regional administrator in New York, described state and federal regulators as overwhelmed by the volume of pesticides flowing across the nation's highways.
"The EPA takes the regulation of pesticides seriously, and if pesticides are improperly applied it can severely damage health and the environment. There's just so much product that is used every day that we are not everywhere."
Their findings pointed to significant data collection and reporting issues, including the illegal sale of unregistered pesticides in New York.
These findings occurred after grass was killed at Rye Golf Club from a contaminated batch of pesticide. The manufacturer paid Rye $2.5 million to settle a complaint about the spoiled golf season and not in response to ecological damage.
Misuse of pesticides at the Rye Golf Club only came to light when the course superintendent, Charles Lafferty, used green-colored pesticides to hide the dying grass during a golf tournament. Lafferty's admitted violation of the use of toxic pesticides on a golf course resulted in a mere $500 fine.
Pesticide Cocktails and Stacked Trait Products
In this 37-minute video, Charles Benbrook, Ph.D., an American agricultural economist and former research professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University, and I discuss the use of GE crops and how they affect your health and environment.
Originally marketed as a means to reduce the use of pesticides, GE crops have led to the creation of resistant weeds and an increased use of chemicals to control them.
Just as bacteria can develop a resistance to antibiotics, so can weeds develop a resistance to herbicides. This spring Monsanto released a new soybean seed called Roundup Ready 2 Xtend. This seed uses stacked trait engineering so it can tolerate not only Roundup but also another herbicide, dicamba.
Stacked trait refers to the combination of two or more genetically engineered genes spliced into a single plant. Some Arkansas farmers were willing to use the seed, and sprayed dicamba illegally to control the rampant pigweed, resistant to the Roundup Ready seed.16
Dicamba is illegal to spray across or over the top of crops as it drifts to neighboring fields of crops not tolerant of the herbicide, killing the plants. Two representatives of Monsanto attended the state Plant Board meeting to answer questions about the use of the seed and their responsibility to the farmers and the state.
Synergistic Chemical Reactions Raise the Risk Level
Monsanto released a new dicamba tolerant soybean seed without an accompanying and legal herbicide to address the weed problem.
When asked what actions Monsanto would take against the farmers who used their product with an illegal herbicide, they told the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette that revoking farmers' licenses for product use was "difficult if not impossible."17
Farmers have started using pesticides synergistically to achieve weed control in their fields, as weeds become resistant. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, in the past six years, the EPA has approved over 100 different pesticides whose synergistic effect makes them more poisonous.18
Synergy happens when two or more compounds combine to create an effect that is larger than the sum of their parts. In this case, combining two chemicals increases the toxic effect compared to using each chemical in isolation. These are often called pesticide cocktails. In the past, the EPA has claimed it could not assess the potential synergistic effect of the chemicals without data.
However, in late 2015, the EPA discovered synergistic chemical reactions were recorded in patent applications at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Database. Nathan Donley, Ph.D., a scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity, told EcoWatch:19
"It's alarming to see just how common it's been for the EPA to ignore how these chemical mixtures might endanger the health of our environment. It's pretty clear that chemical companies knew about these potential dangers, but the EPA never bothered to demand this information from them or dig a little deeper to find it for themselves."
Not Just on the Farm
Industrial farming uses a large amount of pesticides; 86 percent of corn and 96 percent of soybeans grown in the U.S. are also engineered to produce their own pesticide within the plants themselves.20 Over 122 million pounds of glyphosate was sprayed over soybeans planted in Illinois in 2014,21 and that's in addition to the pesticides found in the GE seeds used and the Bt toxin produced within the plants.
Corn, wheat and soybean products are also used in livestock feed, and unless organic, may deposit pesticides in the meat. Research shows these pesticides linger in your blood and can be found in the blood of unborn babies as well, demonstrating they pass easily from mother to child.22
But, your risk of exposure to pesticides is not just from your food supply. You're also exposed at your local parks, golf courses, school grounds and in your own backyard (unless you're using nontoxic weed control). You may not have considered the little bit of Roundup used to treat the weeds on your driveway as dangerous, but consistent use builds up exposure to the toxins over time.
Kamyar Enshayan, director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Education at the University of Northern Iowa, was quoted in the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting:23
"You see people in their flip-flops in their garage driveway spraying the little cracks or in their lawn when they see a weed. In general, I don't think people think much of the dangers of pesticides."
A large number of media outlets cover the use of pesticides on farms and within the food supply, educating you about the dangers you may face at the grocery store. However, you may not have thought about the way your lawn, the grassy areas around your school and the golf course where you play each weekend, are treated.
Pesticides Impact Future Crops and Food Supply
Pesticide use has impacted more than the crops or the livestock and people who ingest the produce. In an effort to move away from organophosphates, manufacturers began producing a different type of pesticide called neonicotinoids. These chemicals are more frequently used in your own home and garden to control insect populations around your flowers and trees. Several companies manufacture neonicotinoids, including:24
✓ Bayer Advanced
✓ Syngenta Crop Protection LLC
✓ Arysta LifeScience
✓ Valent U.S.A. Corporation
✓ Bayer Environmental Science
✓ Arbor Systems
✓ Voluntary Purchasing Groups, Inc.
✓ The Scotts Company
✓ Gro Tec, Inc.
✓ NuFarm Americas, Inc.
✓ OHP, Inc.
✓ Gulfstream Home and Garden
✓ Bayer Corporation
✓ Lawn and Garden Products, Inc.
✓ Control Solutions, Inc.
✓ PBI/Gordon Corporation
✓ Rainbow Treecare Scientific Advancements
A study from the University of Bern, Switzerland, discovered that when honeybees foraged on flowers and trees treated with neonicotinoids, the male drone sperm count decreased by almost 40 percent.25,26 The pesticide also reduces the life of the drone bee by one-third.27 This discovery may offer one possible reason why the population of honeybees has been declining and may have impacted the general decline of wild pollinating insects throughout the northern hemisphere.
Bees and other insects are vital to pollination of 75 percent of food crops across the world. The reduction in sperm count of the drone bees may have a powerful significance on the fitness of the queen, and therefore on the entire colony. An amazing assortment of foods depend on pollination to produce seeds and fruit.
Plants such as cantaloupe, cucumbers, almonds, broccoli, squash and apples depend on the process of pollination.28 Field beans and clover, used to feed livestock, also depend on pollination. A failing bee population significantly impacts your food availability at the grocery store and the local farmers market. You may experience the end result of this problem in your pocket book, as demand outstrips supply from a lack of pollination.
What Can You Do?
In order to reduce your exposure to toxic pesticides, you'd be wise to make some changes in your lifestyle choices. Here are just a few suggestions to help you get started.
• Go green in your lawn and garden care. You don't have to give up a green lawn if you want to remove pesticides from your garden. However, it may take a season or two in order to get the growth you're looking for.
• Eat organic foods. Look for organic produce, pastured, organic meats and dairy products. Investigate the farmers markets in your area and consider planting your own garden to supply produce through the summer months. Although buying organic foods may be slightly more expensive today, they help to reduce your overall health costs in your future.
• Talk with your school board about lawn care at your children's school. Pesticides sprayed on the school lawn and play areas can increase your child's exposure. You may be able to change how they care for the lawn when you educate the administration about the risks involved to the children.
• Play in a healthy environment. Before joining a golf club or playing frequently, talk with the course superintendent about the pesticides they use to control weeds and insects. Bring members together to request cleaner and safer lawn care. Talk to your city administrators about the care given to the lawn in your local parks. Educate them about the risks to adults, children and pets from pesticides.