Killing fields are what we eat!
Posted on July 13th, 2011

By Shenali Waduge

It is estimated that a billion people go hungry each day. With population growing by 2045 the world population is expected to reach 9 billion and the big question is how do we feed everyone? People are hungry today not because there is no food. They are hungry because the food is too costly and because of the variances in its distribution
More concentration needs to be put towards agro ecology & preserving the biodiversity & increase food productivity. With enough emphasis they will be good alternatives to high tech, expensive unsustainable models known as “green revolution”. It is up to people to mobilize themselves & practice sustainable production methods

By Shenali Waduge

Planet earth is the home to the world’s oceans, the land, air, fauna and flora and to presently 6 billion humans.

The Earth’s diameter is 7926.41miles, however the Earth has only 57million square miles of land, yet there are only 12million square miles of arable land to feed a population of 6 billion, especially when 38,610 square miles of arable land is lost per year. Sea level is rising due to rising temperatures and for every foot rise in sea-level inland flooding is about 100 feet.

Population is rising. In 1AD world population was 250 million, by 1922 it had reached 2billion, in 2006 the population rose to 6.68 billion and by 2039 it is likely to be more than 9billion. In 1959 there were 36.48billion acres for 3 billion people. In 2006 there were 36.48 billion acres for 6.68billion but by 2039 36.48billion acres will have to suffice for more than 9billion people.

Need for food
With rising population there is need for food. We get food from land and the oceans. 90% of world’s food is derived from just 15 plant & and animal species. Over the past 40 years approximately 30% (1.5billion hectares) of the world’s cropland had become unproductive due to soil erosion and degradation. It takes approximately 500 years to replace 25mm (1inch) of topsoil lost to erosion. The minimal soil depth for agriculture production is 150mm.

There are over 1000 million farmers and nearly all of them live in the developing world only around 50 million live in developed countries where agriculture is highly mechanized. Farmers of these developing world constitute half the world’s rural poor but they produce 4/5ths food supplies.

It is estimated that a billion people go hungry each day. With population growing by 2045 the world population is expected to reach 9 billion and the big question is how do we feed everyone? People are hungry today not because there is no food. They are hungry because the food is too costly and because of the variances in its distribution. By and large we need to face the truth. The answer to feeding the world’s population is not found in poisoning the earth and waters that grows our food or decreasing the diversity of the seeds with GMOs. We need to be more serious about growing crops organically even atop rooftops in the cities. The current industrial agriculture system is not sustainable and it cannot feed the future. Pesticide based agriculture is not sustainable an is like an addiction where farmers end up craving for more  and end up paying little focus to soil conservation as done in the past.

Easy choice
The easy choice to increase food production has been the use of pesticides, fertilizers, insecticides & scores of other chemicals being sprayed across arable land.

The concept of pesticides is nothing new and has been used for centuries. It was in the mid 20th century that different types of pesticides came to be used in limited amounts. Today, more than 1600 pesticides are available and more than 4.4million tons costing more than $20billion used annually. Whatever names they come in they are all poisonous and excessive amounts entering one’s system is likely to lead to adverse affects to the entire human system, to biodiversity and to the aquatic environment
Farmers use 4 major kinds of substances on crops and livestock “”…” pesticides and herbicides, contaminated sewage sludge (human waste used to fertilize non-organic crops) which eventually became mixed with chemicals and industrial waste which lead to chronic illnesses in human body, use of hormones, antibiotics and remains of other animals (found in dairy products, meat & eggs) one of the causes of mad cow disease & then irradiation (exposure to radiation likely to lead to many diseases). Every year pesticides kill more than 200,000 people worldwide.

Do we really need toxic pesticides when we know they kill humans and upset the entire eco system?

New pests
The pesticide industry has today diversified into biotechnology and genetic engineering industry and this is being promoted in lieu of pesticides. Nevertheless, what happens is new pests are created necessitating use of pesticides. Moreover, genetically modified seeds are pushing farmers into debt. How many keep count of the scores of Indian farmers committing suicide? So companies are getting richer because they insist on pesticides and genetically modified organisms. Yet, why has everyone ignored the fact that ecologically organic agriculture produces more food at lower costs than chemical agriculture? Commercial farming has helped only the rich!

All the chemicals being used to grow our food are running into our water and creating dead zones not to mention the harm they are doing to our bodies which all lead to some sort of cancer. We are eating synthetic foods and digesting chemicals and  none of us are eating healthy. Genetically modified foods are not sustainable, they only serve to rob poor countries of their natural food while enslaving them to corporations.

Can we not visualize fruits and vegetables grown on small farms near one’s city to cater to those in the area? Previous generations fed themselves on their own land and it is a good time to be thinking along these lines as well. Why would there be any need to demand other countries to grow food for another! In 1944 community gardens produced over 44% of the US vegetable supply.

Organic farming was the past and it has to be the future. What was practiced by our forefathers had minimal impact on the environment and it is time corporates  and Governments realize and do something instead of fattening their bank accounts.

Spread of diseases
Disease and cancers are spreading at alarming rates all over the world and the only plausible conclusion is that most of these illnesses co-relate to the food we take. Most doctors are clueless on how to treat these ailments. Leukemia has increased by 11% over the past 20 years. Brain cancer is up by 30%, bone cancer has gone up by 50% while testicular cancer has gone up by 60^ in men under 30 years of age. Children whose parents work with pesticides are more likely to suffer from leukemia, brain cancer and  other ailments. Studies of farm workers who work with pesticides suggest a link between pesticides and brain cancer, Parkinson’s disease, leukemia, lymphoma, cancers of the stomach, prostrate and testes.

Studies certainly reveal a close correlation between pesticides and cancers, increase in childhood asthma is also a result of exposure to week killers. We are all exposed to too much of chemicals and that is a major reason why many of us find ourselves plagued with illnesses that even doctors find difficulty in diagnosing. Young children are most susceptible to toxic exposures. The chemicals used by the US and Allied troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya have placed thousands of children’s lives at risk not to mention the damage that is being done to the environment.

Transfatty acids are found in vegetable oils, soy beans, sunflower, palm oils, certain dairy products and increase Visceral fat, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, increase bad cholesterol and decrease good cholesterol, trigger systematic inflammation & affect every cell in a person’s body. TFA in the US averages 2-3% of total energy intake whereas in the developing nations it stands at 4% where items like fried foods, pastries and  doughnuts go up to 8%. In the US some states have banned use of TFA’s in restaurants but why are TFAs being used if they are so dangerous. TFAs help to keep food unspoilt, they are cheap and  can prolong shelf life and provides easy transport and suitable for commercial frying. When companies say “zero grams of trans fats” they are lying because of loopholes in government laws which allows a certain serving of TFAs. Now you know why obesity, diabetes and  cardiovascular diseases are increasing at alarming rates.

Change in food
Its very scary how much our food has changed in recent years. We need food to survive and food is big business and with rising populations fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides and other such chemicals find their way into our systems giving big profits. How many of us know the names & meanings of the ingredients on the labels? 

There are scores of additives like acids that modify flavour and preserve food, acidity regulators, anti-cake agents, anti-foam agents, food coloring and colour retention agents, emulsifiers, humectants, tracer gas that improves shelf life and sweeteners. These additives are dangerous “”…” BHT causes damage to liver and kidneys, behavioral problems, infertility, birth defects and cancers, artificial coloring causes hyperactivity in children, learning disorders and damage to nerves, artificial sweeteners cause damage to central nervous system, menstrual difficulties and affects unborn foetus, brominated vegetables cause organ damage, birth defects while partially hydrogenated vegetable oils cause heart disease, cancer and  high cholesterol. Nitrates cause cancer and even death, MSG causes headaches, high blood pressure and allergic reactions. Potassium bromate causes kidney disorders and gastrointestinal issues.

Pesticides are used to maximize crops compromising our health. Cancers, lung disease, skin and  eye problems are just some of the harmful affects. Pesticides affect the living as well as the unborn and is likely to lead to birth defects and neurological problems. It is advised that people avoid the following as their content of pesticides and chemicals are the highest : peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes, spinach, lettuce and potatoes. Carrots, green beans, cucumbers, raspberries and oranges too contain high pesticide levels.

For food companies to realize that they must stop making profit by poisoning people, people need to take a stand. They must in cohesion stop buying foods with harmful chemicals. If people stop buying these companies will take notice and they will be forced to change their ways.

Read the nutrition label, return all food that have preservatives, artificial sweeteners and food coloring, avoid processed food, all other fruits and veggies must be washed thoroughly before use. Buy what is in season, encourage local grown vegetable use as they are likely to be less contaminated.

Toxic chemicals
It must be reiterated that there is a significantly larger exposure to toxic chemicals in animal products compared to plant food. Those whose intake of animal products is higher are exposed to toxic chemicals since plants have least fat-soluble pollutant than animals that eat plants. In the case of fish, it is better to avoid lobster, shellfish, catfish, tuna, shark & swordfish since toxins such as PCB, DDT, dioxin & mercury build up.

In the case of plants the most hazardous pesticides are used on strawberries, peaces, raspberries, blackberries, grapes, cherries, apples & celery. Organic foods have higher levels of flavonoids which protect against heart disease & cancer.

More concentration needs to be put towards agro ecology & preserving the biodiversity & increase food productivity. With enough emphasis they will be good alternatives to high tech, expensive unsustainable models known as “green revolution”. It is up to people to mobilize themselves & practice sustainable production methods.

The use of fossil fuels following the industrial revolution by rich countries has been one of the main causes for climate change. Industrialized agriculture accounts for almost 20% of green house emissions in rich countries & has adversely affected climate change. Even some developing countries are following these unsustainable methods & adding to the adverse climate change.

It is not that big businesses & political leaders do not know that they are responsible for killing people & destroying livelihoods in the developing world not to mention the destruction of biodiversity & natural resources. Yet they continue their policies & practices & they now need to be accountable for their silence. Development aid given is only a portion of what they should pay as compensation.

Climate change
The tamasha’s associated with climate change are only a promotional means by multinational companies & the rich. Production of agrofuels continue unabated which is very harmful to the environment & only increases greenhouse gas emissions. Agrofuels help multinational companies earn huge profits & provide rich countries the means to reduce dependence on oil imports.

Technology cannot stop or solve climate change. The right to food is a human right Yet millions of people remain in hunger & permanently undernourished. Talking at conferences & setting targets has not made any changes & it has not reduced the number of people in hunger.

The damage done by manufacturing industries are too many to tell. Some even dispose hazardous wastes by turning them into fertilizers to spread around farms & legally too. They call it fertilizer! Industrial toxic waste is being increasingly used as fertilizers & they make sure studies remain inconclusive to prove the risks associated with what they manufacture.

The wastes come from zinc, iron, aluminium smelting, cement kilns, mining, burning of medical & municipal wastes, wood product slurries & other heavy industries. Even if it is legal it is immoral & unethical to use toxic material & mix it into something that is beneficial & sell to unsuspecting people. This type of recycling chemicals into fertilizers is unjust.

So what would our choice be? Eating sprayed, irradiated, neutered, altered, depleted food or growing food organically? The truth remains toxic pesticides, herbicides & fertilizers are killing us & our planet : water is getting polluted from industrial farming thus killing wildlife & even making us sick.

Genetically Modified Foods
The issue of genetically modified foods remains important & consumers need to be warned that this is being promoted as a fast-solution to world hunger though it is harmful to health & the environment. Giant agri-business companies are doing their best to keep the ill affects hidden from the public. A good example is a scientist who discovered that inserting a gene into a potatoe that was fed to a lab rat had damaged the organs of the rats & when he placed his findings & gave a warning he was forced to retire & was given a “gagging order”. In 2005 a doctor from the National Association for Genetic Security revealed her research findings on eating genetically modified soy & the posterity of living creatures. Over half the rats that ate GM-soy died in 3 weeks. Farmers using genetically engineered corn to feed cattle resulted in cattle deaths, destruction of milk production & poisoning of farmland. GMO foods are harmful to animals that eat it as well as insects, birds & wind that carry seeds into neighboring fields & it is this cross-pollination with normal plans that contaminate entire fields & pose dangers to the entire environment. Yet land is being devoted to GMO crops & increasing at alarming rates which certainly raises alarm bells.

Sri Lanka’s case
If food grown globally all have their share of chemical content Sri Lanka is no exception & the latest uproar over arsenic being in rice should pose no alarms. Proper research will reveal plenty of chemical content in practically all of the foods we consume & arsenic in rice becomes no exception. When authorities are generally forced to keep tightlipped against these truths, remain silent over the ill affects, when researchers themselves fear revealing the true results of their findings it is eventually the public that end up patients in hospitals or in death beds. Arsenic in rice is only one area that these chemicals are being fed into our bodies & systems & it is upto the public to stand up against the companies that are making profits by injecting poison into our systems & systematically killing our immune systems. The killing fields are in the foods grown to feed us & unless people begin to realize the damage being done it is likely to be too late. A country that has rich soil as Sri Lanka needs to realize that organic farming as done by our forefathers is the best method going forward.

2 Responses to “Killing fields are what we eat!”

  1. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    Thanks Shenali for the very informative write up. Also good to see you in the picture.

    You enlightened me on many subjects, which I was quite ignorant of. Everyday we learn something new.

    Talking about food and its ill effects, Sri Lanka has its share of totally irresponsible marketeers, whose prime motive is profit, and cares a jot for human health. I like to highlight a few sub-standard items coming into USA.

    a) All brands of Kitul Treacle and Kitul Jaggery, are probably 80% sugar based products. This is putting Diabetic peoples lives in jeopardy. There should be some mechanism in place by the Goverment to TEST these products before being marketed locally, and specially packed for export.

    b) There is Red Basmathi coming in 10 pound plastic bottles, which is dyed dark red, to depict Red Rice. The rice in the Bottle is not Basmathi.

    c) All brands of Pol Sambol, are made out of grated coconut, with the first milk extracted to make curries for the market. In reality, the Pol Sambol is made from POL KUDU, and lightly fried with curry leaf, to trick the consumer.

    d) The Pol Sambol that comes in a Can, have large pieces of jagged Coconut shell, enough to Hospitalise a consumer, if swallowed by accident.

    If the aforesaid is brought to the notice of the authorities in USA, the Importers businesses will be in jeopardy. Hence it is my contention that all this mal-practice should be stopped at the primary source, the marketing companies.

  2. Fran Diaz Says:

    Bravo, Shenali, for an article well written, & timely too.

    May I add that the FATS & OILS we consume account for most of the health problems. Rancid fat, trans fats such as margarine, too much saturated animal fats, all lead to heart, circulatory & cancer. Fat from Nuts & Seeds would be the best type of fat, provided it is fresh.

    Learning to grow Organic Food would be best thing to do.

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