In our previous blog posts on the findings of Dr. Zach Bush, we explained how the physician came to realise the vital role that soil health plays in human health; how the food we eat can either harm or heal us. In this final blog post of the three-part series, we take a look at how we have arrived at a food system that’s not producing the nutritious food we need. This is an important read as the world’s people face the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, knowing that a healthy body is the first line of defence.
How did today’s flawed food system come about?
Chemical agriculture began on a large scale after World War II, when petroleum fertilisers were rolled out as part of the ‘green revolutions’. The role of these chemicals was to ‘regenerate’ the dead soil environments killed through war, together with poor soil and crop management. But instead of fixing the soil with age-old sustainable measures like composting, crop rotation and cover-cropping, we ended up creating a co-dependence, leaving farms dependent on these chemical inputs to function. Chemically-supported plants may look good on the outside, but what you can’t see is the plant’s immune deficiency.
Modern agriculture became more and more co-dependant on chemical inputs because these chemicals cause a depletion in the soil at every stage. “Typically, the farmer will spray Roundup the day before or the week before to kill the cover crop or the weeds, and then they go and plough in the seed. And so they are destroying the ecosystem on every level, then dropping in a toxin-coated seed. And that’s the beginning of that plant’s life cycle,” Dr. Bush said.
To make matters worse, glyphosate is not just found in the agricultural sector. It’s used by municipalities to spray under power lines and alongside highways. Utility companies use it, schools use it; people even use it in their gardens. And non-agricultural glyphosate applications can be even more concerning, as non-farmers may not be as aware of the required concentrations and impact of the chemical. Dr. Bush calls this widespread use the “creep of toxicity”.
What’s the impact of glyphosate on human health?
In the soil, glyphosate kills the natural microbiome, which diminishes the nutrient availability for plants. It also destroys membranes and disrupts cell communication. When we eat food grown with glyphosate, its water-soluble toxins get into the structure of our bodies and stay in our circulation, thus affecting all areas. “It’s infiltrated into our bodies, into our natural environment, and now we are suffering from that,” said Dr. Bush.
Dr. Bush says that there’s a direct correlation between the rise in chronic diseases and the debut of genetically-modified crops that we’ve been allowed and capable of spraying directly with Roundup and glyphosate. “On the autism side, the numbers are truly spectacular. We’ve gone from one in 500 children with autism in 1975 (basically the year that we debuted Roundup) to today, where we see one in 36 children with autism. That is a crushing rate of growth. Autism is a syndrome born out of the perfect storm of the destruction of the terrain of normal biology. The terrain begins not in the human cell, but in the microbiome, the bacteria, the fungi, parasites, viruses, all of these extraordinarily complex ecosystems of microbial life that builds not just our gut, but our sinuses and respiratory systems, our skin. And now we’re finding that it’s even in our internal organs.”
How do they get away with it?
With science backing the beliefs that chemical inputs are making us sick, how are these chemicals still allowed? The answer lies in flawed, out-dated and limited testing of causality. Dr. Bush gives the example of Monsanto showing that glyphosate is not carcinogenic, but the testing they use is based on a very old belief system about what carcinogenesis is. “We used to believe that cancer is caused by a series of genetic injuries. We’ve thus shown the safety of compounds by their ability to damage DNA in the cell. Now, we’re starting to realise that the cause of cancer is a shift in the extracellular environment around the cell that destroys its ability to repair the DNA. Glyphosate takes away all of the repairing mechanisms, and then injured DNA accumulates. But if you inject glyphosate into a cell, you can’t show direct DNA damage, and so Monsanto was able to hide behind this erroneous paradigm or presumptions about what cancer-causing is.”
What can be done to future-fit our food system?
Dr. Bush said that it’s imperative that farms are weaned off chemical inputs and become stewards of diverse, ecological, healthy ecosystems: “We have to change it in eight years. If we haven’t reversed the pattern in eight years, then we reach a tipping point on the planet.”
However, there is hope, if farmers take steps to become more sustainable: “If you allow that whole ecosystem back in, you eliminate 90% of the cost of being a farmer. You are no longer doing the inputs. You’re no longer paying out all the diesel cost. You’re dropping out your inputs and you’re allowing nature to create the capacity for soil vitality. The fascinating thing that we keep showing in our soil product development is that you have a healthy soil, you have a healthy root system that grows within that. If you have a healthy root system, the immune system of the plant is extraordinary.”
At Zylem, we know that soil health is the foundation for healthy plants that create healthy food to promote healthier humans. Now, in the time of the Covid-19 pandemic, this is more critically important than ever before. Contact us today to find out more about soil health solutions: https://www.zylemsa.co.za/
Interested in listening to the full podcast?
Search for “Tractor Time Episode 37: Dr. Zach Bush on Farming, Glyphosate and Human Health” wherever you get your podcasts.