We have all been told about how fruits and vegetables form the most essential part of a healthy diet, but have you also been told how some of your favourites could actually contain a staggering amount of chemicals?
The overuse of chemical or inorganic fertilizers has serious consequences. The leaching of these chemicals into the groundwater supply and the introduction of certain contaminants into the soils, not just harm the environment, but have far-reaching consequences on our health as well. Fertilizer runoff into ponds, lakes and streams over-stimulates algae growth, suffocating other aquatic plants and fish. Toxic fertilizers made from industrial waste can bring mercury, lead and arsenic to our soil, water supplies, and our bodies.
And if you think the chemicals are ‘important’ for growing more nutritious food, you should know that synthetic fertilizers tend to deplete most nutrients and minerals that are naturally found in truly fertile soils. Thus, modern farming actually leads to nutritionally-deficient foods.
The biggest threat to our health comes from pesticides. Using synthetic fertilizers creates a trade-off — high yields of plants with a lot more insect problems. Pesticides also aid pests in developing resistance and create stronger bugs. Every time a field of vegetables or fruits is sprayed, a few insects who are stronger and more genetically advanced are likely to survive. These survivors mate and create offspring that are even more resistant to the pesticide. Because the lifecycle of an insect is so short, and each generation is more resistant than the last, it doesn’t take long for a ‘super bug’ to develop, thus fuelling the need to create a stronger, more toxic pesticide.
A lot of modern herbicides that are designed to kill only plants may have extreme consequences in the environment, changing habitats in ways that affect insects and wildlife. These extend to water courses where they may kill beneficial aquatic plants and fish. Moreover, many studies link herbicides with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer in humans.
Garden chemicals were championed as the hero of agricultural produce. It was said that pesticides and insecticides were the answer to farmers’ woes of dealing with insects, weeds and other intruders that harmed their crops. People said that herbicides would increase yields by decreasing weeds, while chemicals would keep soils fertile.
However, over time, we came to realize the truth of these tall claims. It’s not just the soil and animals that feel the brunt of chemical use. These chemicals are linked to the proliferation of chronic diseases in our lives. From premature births and low birth weights in humans, to causing miscarriage, from reduced sperm counts, inability to breastfeed and rise in infant deaths, to the more fatal cancer and even Parkinson’s disease, autism and mental retardation – chemicals in our fruits and vegetables are all linked to deteriorating human health and pose grave danger to the environment and ultimately, our future generation.