Chemicals in Agriculture

The agro-chemical industry is an extremely powerful lobby. It enjoys massive profits, operates on a multi-national (global) basis and has an interest in many commercial spheres, including drug medicine and food commodities. It is through this industry for the most part, that we have GMOs forced onto our countryside. Governments yield to the extraordinary powers of persuasion that these huge commercial concerns are able to wield.

The massive corporations produce fertilizers, insecticides, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, seeds, GMOs and probably a lot else besides. The double tracks seen through crop fields are what is known as ‘tramlines’, permanent markers for the tyres of tractors, which ply up and down the fields with their sprays and applications. These are the usual tell-tale signs of agro-chemical application, although some is done from the air, especially in the USA.

Application of chemicals raises the possibility of food-contamination and potential consumer toxicity. There are withholding times, of course, between application and the marketing of produce. These are extremely poorly policed and inadequately researched, with the result that conventionally-grown vegetables and other crops are contaminated by agrochemicals. It is therefore certain that we and our animals are taking in these chemicals with our food.

A few of the chemicals have been ‘safety tested’, using the extremely inaccurate, inhumane and mostly irrelevant practice of laboratory animal toxicity testing. Even accepting this out-dated and misleading method of testing, there are many untested chemicals out in the field.

This toxicity concern for individual chemicals does not take into account the added issue of the completely unknown effect of ‘cocktails’ of chemicals. I know an orchard farmer, who is ‘light’ in his usage of chemicals. He told me that we use 12 different chemicals, on nineteen occasions during the year. Eat some fruit, some cabbage, carrots (probably the worst vegetable, if not organic), potatoes and some bread and you have taken in a completely unknown number and mixture of chemicals. Drink some conventionally-made wine and there is a permitted list of 400 chemicals, any number of which can be used in the growing and vinification processes, without any labelling obligation. While the validity of methods of testing of individual chemicals may be in doubt, these infinite permutations of chemicals that inevitably enter our bodies when we eat treated crops are completely untested.

One particular chemical, supposedly completely ‘safe’, is permitted for spraying on crops just before harvesting, to kill out the weeds and therefore reduce the time and effort to re-seed the ground for the next crop. This same chemical, labelled ‘livestock safe’, killed one cow to my knowledge and caused severe and intractable laminitis in four horses, after they had eaten sprayed nettles that had started to wilt. These were five isolated incidents, linked by this one common factor. So much for the term ‘livestock safe’.

I lost four cows in one tiny Guernsey herd, when defoliating weed killer was sprayed in a schoolyard, with drift downwind onto the grazing land. Compensation was won for my client, after a very dirty fight. That did not compensate the cows for their suffering. That same weed killer, readily available to children in garden shops, is able to kill off an entire village, with no antidote and leaving no trace in the body. It takes an animal anything up to three weeks to die. Over the years, we have, happily, against the odds, saved three pet dogs who had definitely ingested some of this lethal chemical, using homeopathic treatment, where no conventional therapy exists.

Insecticides are poured into sea lochs, to rid penned salmon on fish farms of sea lice. The Scottish Environment Agency tells me that it is powerless to prevent this, because the chemical has been licensed by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) for the treatment of sea lice. Eating farmed fish, apart from the damage it might do you or your animals, is subsidising this sort of madness.

Farm animals on intensive farms are often maintained on drug (usually antibiotic) treatment. Hormones are also used. These substances likewise contaminate our food and such widespread usage of antibiotics gives rise to the added danger of antibiotic-resistant bacterial populations and so-called ‘superbugs’ (e.g. MRSA). At the time of writing, on the BMJ’s ‘Clinical Evidence’ website is the headline: “Antibiotic resistant microbes biggest threat to European health”. Homeopathy completely avoids this risk.

Pasture management is a big factor in animal health and therefore in the health of meat-eating humans. Grazing farm animals are usually reared on pasture that has been treated with artificial nitrogen fertiliser and often other agro-chemicals.

It is said that if the bill for cleaning agrochemicals out of our drinking water were, instead, to be put on the price of conventional, chemically-grown food, that food would cost more than its ‘organic’ equivalent. Several billions of pounds are involved.

When you see tractors on the road, with tanks on the front and booms on the back, they are going to some field for a quick spray. This is not supposed to be done in windy conditions. Do we have many non-windy days? Forgetting wind drift, that is able to spread the chemical on the day, directly contaminating the surroundings, the sprayed plants will anyway ‘breathe’ the chemical out through their leaf pores, often for weeks after the application.

We are told that all this is safe. No one actually knows the degree of risk involved. Cancer is on the increase, despite the billions spent on research (again often using futile animal-testing methodology). Why do we not examine the habits of our society for possible reasons? We seem, instead, only to be able to dream up meaningless (and inhumane) animal experiments, in the search for a treatment.

With this very brief and admittedly cynical look at agrochemicals, is it any wonder that I recommend organic foods and filtered water for my patients? Is it any wonder that my family only buys organic food, condiments, wine and beer? Is it any wonder we use no chemicals in our garden.