Dr. Mercola Articles
Gulf of Mexico Now Largest Dead Zone in the World, and Factory Farming Is to Blame
Tue, 17 Oct 2017 05:00:00 GMT

By Dr. Mercola

As reported by CBS Miami (above), nitrogen fertilizers and sewage sludge runoff from factory farms are responsible for creating an enormous dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. As fertilizer runs off farms in agricultural states like Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri and others, it enters the Mississippi River, leading to an overabundance of nutrients, including nitrogen and phosphorus, in the water. 

This, in turn, leads to the development of algal blooms, which alter the food chain and deplete oxygen, resulting in dead zones. The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is the largest recorded dead zone in the world,1 beginning at the Mississippi River delta and spanning more than 8,700 square miles — about the size of New Jersey.

Needless to say, the fishing industry is taking a big hit, each year getting worse than the last. The featured news report includes underwater footage that shows you just how bad the water quality has gotten.

Gulf of Mexico — Largest Dead Zone in the World

Nancy Rabalais, professor of oceanography at Louisiana State University, is an expert on dead zones. She has measured oxygen levels in the Gulf since 1985, and blames agricultural runoff entering the Mississippi River for this growing environmental disaster. Recent measurements reveal the area has only half the oxygen levels required to sustain basic life forms.

“The solution lies upstream in the watershed,” she says, “with agricultural management practices; a switch to crops that have deeper roots and don’t need so much fertilizer and are still just as profitable as corn.”

According to CBS, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has created a task force to assess dead zones, and hope to reduce nutrient-rich agricultural runoff by 20 percent by 2025. Common sense will tell you that’s nowhere near enough. A study2 published last year revealed nitrogen builds up far below the soil surface, where it can continue to leach into groundwater for 35 years.

This means environmental concerns would persist for decades even if farmers were to stop using nitrogen fertilizers altogether. The researchers analyzed more than 2,000 soil samples from the Mississippi River Basin, finding nitrogen buildup at depths of 10 inches to 3.2 feet. According to the authors:

“[W]e show that the observed accumulation of soil organic [nitrogen] … in the [Mississippi River Basin] over a 30-year period … would lead to a biogeochemical lag time of 35 years for 99 percent of legacy [soil organic nitrogen], even with complete cessation of fertilizer application. By demonstrating that agricultural soils can act as a net [nitrogen] sink, the present work makes a critical contribution towards the closing of watershed [nitrogen] budgets.”

Lake Erie Suffers From Chemical Pollution

The problem is hardly restricted to the Gulf of Mexico. Many other waterways are being choked by agricultural chemicals as well. Lake Erie, for example, is currently reporting a 700-square-mile algal bloom, the toxins from which may also contaminate drinking water. Algal blooms also fill the largest tributary to the Great Lakes, the Maumee River. At present, officials claim microcystin levels (toxins produced by the algae) in intake pipes from Lake Erie are low, but that can change at any time.

In 2014, Toledo, Ohio, was forced to shut off the supply of drinking water to half a million residents for three days due to elevated microcystin levels in the water. The algae also hurt the regional economy each year, as recreational fishing and beach visits must be restricted. Lake Erie began experiencing significant problems in the early 2000s.

Over the years, it’s only gotten more extensive, the bloom covering an increasingly larger area. The University of Michigan is now using a new robotic lake-bottom laboratory to track microcystin levels in the lake (see video above), thereby allowing them to detect and report water safety issues to water management officials more quickly.

Toledo Mayor Appeals to President Trump — ‘Declare Lake Erie Impaired’

According to a study by the Carnegie Institute for Science and Stanford University, the expansion of algal bloom in Lake Erie is primarily attributable to a rise in the amount of dissolved phosphorus from farm land entering the lake. Part of the problem is that agricultural runoff is typically exempt from clean water laws.

On September 26, 2017, Toledo mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson urged the federal government to declare Lake Erie impaired due to excessive algae.3 Doing so would allow the lake’s nutrient load to be regulated under the Clean Water Act. Many activists believe Hicks-Hudson has been too slow to act, and still isn’t taking it far enough. The Blade reports:4

“Activist Mike Ferner dumped a pitcher of algae-infested water and two dead fish into One Government Center's public fountain … to highlight the condition of the river and lake. Mr. Ferner, joined by more than a dozen other members of the Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie group he founded in response to the 2014 Toledo water crisis, said the protest was in response to foot-dragging by local, state and federal officials.

He said the administrations of Mayor Hicks-Hudson and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are complicit in allowing manure and other farm fertilizers to pollute the water because they won't call for the open water of Lake Erie to be designated as impaired.”

Drinking Water Threatened by Agricultural Pollution

Agricultural runoff threatens drinking water across the U.S. as well. As reported by Fern’s AG Insider:5

“Seven million Americans who live in small cities and towns have worrisome levels of nitrates in their drinking water — below the federal limit of 10 milligrams per liter, but high enough to be associated with cancer in some studies, said an Environmental Working Group official.

Craig Cox, head of EWG’s Midwest office, said 1,683 communities had nitrate levels above 5 milligrams per liter and, when plotted on a map, they ‘crazily lined up with intensive agriculture.’ Farm use of nitrogen fertilizer is regarded as a frequent source of nitrates in groundwater. Soils also shed nitrates naturally. Urban runoff and septic systems also are sources.”

Meat Industry Implicated in Creation of Gulf Dead Zone

According to Mighty Earth,6 an environmental group chaired by former Congressman Henry Waxman, a “highly industrialized and centralized factory farm system” — consisting of a fairly small number of individual corporations — are responsible for a majority of the water contamination and environmental destruction we’re currently facing. Tyson Foods, which produces chicken, beef and pork, was identified as one of the worst offenders. As reported by The Guardian:7

Tyson, which supplies the likes of McDonald’s and Walmart, slaughters 35 [million] chickens and 125,000 head of cattle every week, requiring five million acres of corn a year for feed, according to the report. This consumption resulted in Tyson generating 55 [million] tons of manure last year … with 104 [million] tons of pollutants dumped into waterways over the past decade.

The Mighty research found that the highest levels of nitrate contamination correlate with clusters of facilities operated by Tyson and Smithfield, another meat supplier …

The report urges Tyson and other firms to use their clout in the supply chain to ensure that grain producers such as Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland employ practices that reduce pollution flowing into waterways. These practices include not leaving soil uncovered by crops and being more efficient with fertilizers so plants are not doused in too many chemicals.”

October 2, the group launched its national #CleanItUpTyson campaign,8 calling for Tyson, the largest meat company in the U.S., to “clean up pollution from its supply chain that’s contaminating local drinking water and causing a massive dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.” According to Mighty Earth:

The local campaigns are part of Mighty Earth’s national effort to hold the meat industry accountable for reducing its vast environmental impact, which is driving widespread water pollution, clearance of natural landscapes, high rates of soil erosion, and greenhouse gas emissions. Local communities from the Heartland to the Gulf are among those most affected by the meat industry’s impacts, and pay billions each year in clean-up costs.”

Factory Farming — The Ultimate Threat to Life on Earth

According to Philip Lymbery, chief executive of Compassion in World Farming and author of “Farmageddon” and “Deadzone” — two books detailing the destructive impact of industrial agriculture — factory farming is a threat to all life on Earth.

Speaking at a recent Livestock and Extinction Conference in London, Lymbery said: “Every day there is a new confirmation of how destructive, inefficient, wasteful, cruel and unhealthy the industrial agriculture machine is. We need a total rethink of our food and farming systems before it’s too late.”9

As noted by The Guardian,10 a number of “alarming exposés” have been featured as of late, including “chicken factory staff in the U.K. changing crucial food safety information on chickens,” and an admission by the European commission last month that “eggs containing a harmful pesticide may have been on sale in as many as 16 countries.” And, of course, the Gulf of Mexico being earning the recent designation of having the largest dead zone ever recorded. According to Lymbery:

“We need to go beyond an isolated approach. Not just looking at the technical problems around welfare, not just looking at the technical issues around the environment, not just looking at food security in isolation, but putting all of these issues together, then we can see the real problem that lies at the heart of our food system — industrial agriculture.

Factory farming is shrouded in mythology. One of the myths is that it’s an efficient way of producing food when actually it is highly inefficient and wasteful. Another is that the protagonists will say that it can be good for the welfare of the animals. After all, if hens weren’t happy they wouldn’t lay eggs. The third myth is that factory farming saves space.

On the surface it looks plausible, because, by taking farm animals off the land and cramming them into cages and confinement you are putting an awful lot of animals into a small space. But what is overlooked in that equation is you are then having to dedicate vast acreages of relatively scarce arable land to growing the feed …

The UN has warned that if we continue as we are, the world’s soils will have effectively gone within 60 years. And then what? We shouldn’t look to the sea to bail us out because commercial fisheries are expected to be finished by 2048.”

No-Tillage Alone Cannot Make a Dent in Nitrate Pollution Problem

Lymbery, as many others, myself included, point out that the answer is readily available and implementable. Regenerative farming can solve this and many other environmental and human health problems, if done in a thorough and holistic manner. No-till agriculture, which has become increasingly embraced as a solution to water pollution and other environmental problems associated with modern farming, is nowhere near enough.

While it’s certainly useful, and a method employed in regenerative agriculture, it alone cannot address the growing problems of chemical pollution. This was also the conclusion of a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture study. As reported by Indiana University:11

“Researchers in the Department of Earth Sciences in the School of Science at IUPUI conducted a meta-analysis to compare runoff and leaching of nitrate from no-till and conventional tillage agricultural fields. Surface runoff and leaching are two major transportation pathways for nitrate to reach and pollute water.

Due to its mobility and water solubility, nitrate has long been recognized as a widespread water pollutant. ‘What we found is that no-till is not sufficient to improve water quality,’ said Lixin Wang, an assistant professor and corresponding author of the paper.

‘In fact, we found that no-till increased nitrogen leaching.’ The study suggests that no-till needs to be complemented with other techniques, such as cover cropping and intercropping or rotation with perennial crops, to improve nitrate retention and water-quality benefits.”

Other recent research12 confirms that adding native prairie strips to the rural landscape can help reduce water pollution from farm fields. Prairie strips refers to small patches of land around the edges of crop fields where native, perennial grasses and flowers are allowed to grow wild. The results show that converting as little as 10 percent of crop areas into prairie strips:13,14

  • Reduces soil loss by 95 percent
  • Reduces phosphorous runoff by 77 percent and lowers nitrogen loss through runoff by 70 percent
  • Lowers nitrate concentrations in groundwater by 72 percent
  • Improves water retention
  • More than doubles the abundance of pollinators and birds

Regenerative and Biodynamic Farming to the Rescue

The only viable long-term answer is regenerative agriculture (which goes beyond mere sustainability), for which biodynamic farming stands as a shining ideal. In addition to no-till, regenerative farming focuses on such practices and concepts as rotational grazing, improvement and building of topsoil (which includes cover cropping), the use of all-natural soil amendments and increasing biodiversity.

Aside from putting an end to water and soil pollution, regenerative agriculture is also needed to protect future generations from the devastating harm caused by pesticides. 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. Worldwide, an estimated 7.7 billion pounds of pesticides are applied to crops each year, and that number is steadily increasing.15 According to a 2012 analysis,16 each 1 percent increase in crop yield is associated with a 1.8 percent increase in pesticide use.

Logic tells us this is an unsustainable trajectory. As just one example, studies done by the Chinese government show that 20 percent of arable land in China is now unusable due to pesticide contamination.17 Earlier this year, two United Nations experts called for a comprehensive global treaty to phase out pesticides in farming altogether, noting that pesticides are in no way essential for the growing of food.18

The report highlighted developments in regenerative farming, where biology can completely replace chemicals, delivering high yields of nutritious food without detriment to the environment. “It is time to overturn the myth that pesticides are necessary to feed the world and create a global process to transition toward safer and healthier food and agricultural production,” they said.

Each Day’s Meal Can Help Bring Us Closer to the Tipping Point

demeter
You can help steer the agricultural industry toward safer, more sustainable systems by supporting local farmers dedicated to regenerative farming practices. The Demeter mark, indicative of Biodynamic certification, is the new platinum standard for high-quality foods raised and grown in accordance to the strictest environmental parameters possible.

Biodynamic is essentially organic on steroids, far surpassing it in terms of its environmental impact. Unfortunately, Biodynamic certified foods are still scarce in the U.S., unless you happen to live near a certified farm.

Most Biodynamic farms only sell locally or regionally. You can find a directory of certified farms on biodynamicfood.org. We hope to change that as we move forward, and building consumer demand is what will drive that change. Other U.S.-based organizations that can help you locate wholesome farm-fresh foods include the following:

American Grassfed Association

The goal of the American Grassfed Association is to promote the grass fed industry through government relations, research, concept marketing and public education.

Their website also allows you to search for AGA approved producers certified according to strict standards that include being raised on a diet of 100 percent forage; raised on pasture and never confined to a feedlot; never treated with antibiotics or hormones; born and raised on American family farms.

EatWild.com

EatWild.com provides lists of farmers known to produce raw dairy products as well as grass fed beef and other farm-fresh produce (although not all are certified organic). Here you can also find information about local farmers markets, as well as local stores and restaurants that sell grass fed products.

Weston A. Price Foundation

Weston A. Price has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.

Grassfed Exchange

The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling organic and grass fed meats across the U.S.

Local Harvest

This website will help you find farmers markets, family farms and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass fed meats and many other goodies.

Farmers Markets

A national listing of farmers markets.

Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals

The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, hotels and online outlets in the United States and Canada.

Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA)

CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.

FoodRoutes

The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs and markets near you.

The Cornucopia Institute

The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified organic brands of eggs, dairy products and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO "organic" production from authentic organic practices.

RealMilk.com

If you're still unsure of where to find raw milk, check out Raw-Milk-Facts.com and RealMilk.com. They can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area. The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund19 also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.20 California residents can also find raw milk retailers using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com.

Big Chickens, Little Nutrition
Tue, 17 Oct 2017 05:00:00 GMT

By Dr. Mercola

Most people would agree with the assessment "you are what you eat," yet many overlook the fact that this holds true for the food you eat, too. If the chicken on your dinner plate was fed an unnatural diet of genetically engineered (GE) soy and grains (or worse) — what essentially boils down to junk food for birds — it can't be expected to be optimally healthy, nor optimally nutritious.

Because most poultry in the U.S. comes from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), The Guardian went so far as to state, "In 50 years, poultry has gone from being a health food to a junk food," pointing out a study from London Metropolitan University that found, compared to 1940, chicken in 2004 contained more than twice as much fat, one-third more calories and one-third less protein, the latter being the main nutritional reason most people eat chicken.1

Levels of healthy fats in chicken, namely beneficial animal-based omega-3s including DHA, have also changed considerably. The London Metropolitan University study, written by professor Michael Crawford of London Metropolitan University, found that eating 100 grams (about one-quarter pound) of chicken in 1980 would give you 170 milligrams (mg) of DHA, but that same amount of chicken in 2004 would provide just 25 mg.

Omega-6 fats, on the other hand — the kind most Americans get way too much of, courtesy of highly processed vegetable oils — increased, rising from 2,400 mg in 1980 to 6,290 mg in 2004.

If you're not familiar with the importance of the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, the ideal ratio is 1-to-1, but the typical Western diet may be between 1-to-20 and 1-to-50. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a ratio of 1-to-5 for general health and 1-to-2 for optimal brain development. CAFO chicken, and for that matter CAFO anything, certainly isn't helping anyone achieve that goal.

Nutrition Declines When Animals Are Fed Grains Instead of Grass

Crawford told The Guardian that a large part of the problem with declining nutrition in chicken and other animal foods is the fact that nearly all livestock is fed grains instead of grass and other species-appropriate foods:2

"Animal husbandry started with grass and green foods, which are rich in omega-3. That is the beauty of [some] fish and seafood because it's still largely wild, it's still living in an omega-3-rich environment.

The same used to be true of livestock animals — even chickens used to roam free and live off seeds and herbs — but that is no longer the case. It really is a question of redesigning our food and agriculture systems so they are more keyed in to the pivotal priority of human physiology — namely, our original genome being shaped by wild foods."

The American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA) also published a study that compared the nutrition of chickens fed on pasture with the USDA's National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference values for CAFO chicken. The pasture-raised chickens were higher in vitamins D3 and E and had an average omega-3-to-6 ratio of 1-to-5, compared to the USDA's value of 1-to-15.3

Bigger Chickens Were Made Possible by Antibiotics

You might consider the plump chicken breasts at your grocery store to be the norm when it comes to chicken sizes, but as recently as the 1920s, most people did not consider raising chickens for their meat — they were far too scrawny. At that time, chickens were raised for eggs only, but that changed around 1923, when a farmer in Delaware accidentally placed an order for too many hatchling chickens (500 instead of 50), so she sold them for meat.

In her book "Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats," journalist Maryn McKenna explains how this one mistake led chickens to become big business. Part of the story, unfortunately, was the discovery that feeding chickens antibiotics made them grow about 2.5 times faster.

Around that same time, in 1948, a national "Chicken of Tomorrow" contest, seeking to develop a meatier chicken, was sponsored by A&P supermarket and supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The major lines of chickens sold in the U.S. today can all be traced back to the contest's winner. Between the use of antibiotics for growth promotion and the genetic selection of chickens that grow faster and larger, the average chicken today is four times bigger than chickens in the 1950s; chicken breasts are also 80 percent larger.4

'The Hidden Cost of Cheap Chicken'

As noted by the Cornucopia Institute,5 the price of chicken has dropped dramatically over the past few decades, becoming the cheapest meat available in the U.S. As a result, consumption has doubled since 1970.

Seeing how chicken is supposed to be a healthy source of high-quality nutrition, the fact that it has become so affordable might seem to be a great benefit. But there's a major flaw in this equation. As it turns out, it's virtually impossible to mass-produce clean, safe, optimally nutritious foods at rock-bottom prices, and this has been true since the beginning of "industrialized farming." McKenna wrote:6

"Chicken prices fell so low that it became the meat that Americans eat more than any other — and the meat most likely to transmit foodborne illness, and also antibiotic resistance, the greatest slow-brewing health crisis of our time."

In their report, "The Hidden Cost of Cheap Chicken," the Cornucopia Institute pointed out three primary issues with the CAFO chicken that accounts for 99 percent of poultry sold in U.S. grocery stores:7

Ethics: Chickens are intelligent and deserving of access to the outdoors where they can express their natural behaviors. Sadly, in CAFOS, "The National Chicken Council, the trade association for the U.S. chicken industry, issues Animal Welfare Guidelines that indicate a stocking density of 96 square inches for a bird of average market weight — that's about the size of a standard sheet of American 8.5-inch by 11-inch typing paper … They are unable to move without pushing through other birds, unable to stretch their wings at will, or to get away from more dominant, aggressive birds."

Environment: CAFOs are notorious polluters of the land, air and water, with problems reported across the U.S. The report noted:

"In Warren County, in northern New Jersey, Michael Patrisko, who lives near an egg factory farm, told a local newspaper that the flies around his neighborhood are so bad, 'You literally can look at a house and think it's a different color.' Buckeye Egg Farm in Ohio was fined $366,000 for failing to handle its manure properly.

Nearby residents had complained for years about rats, flies, foul odors, and polluted streams from the 14-million-hen complex. At the same time, [former] Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson was threatening to sue Arkansas poultry producers, including Tyson Foods, saying that waste from the companies' operations is destroying Oklahoma lakes and streams, especially in the northeast corner of the state."

Human Health: The spread of infectious disease and antibiotic-resistant superbugs is a fact of life at CAFOs. In 2015, a bird flu outbreak among U.S. poultry led to the destruction of millions of chickens and turkeys in three states (Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa) before spreading elsewhere in the U.S.

Even though there were supposed safeguards in place to contain deadly disease outbreaks from spreading, poultry veterinarians noted that those strategies failed, as the bird flu managed to spread across 14 states in five months.

Not to mention, one study by the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) found that chicken samples gathered at the end of production after having been cut into parts, as you would purchase in the grocery store, had an astonishing positive rate of 26.2 percent contamination with salmonella.8

Growing Soy to Feed Chickens Is Also Devastating the Environment

Allowing chickens to roam freely is better for the chickens, the planet and nutrition, yet another reason being because it could cut down on the staggering amount of soy and other crops grown as chicken feed. A report by wildlife group WWF noted that poultry is the biggest user of crop-based feed globally and, in turn, 60 percent of the loss of global biodiversity can be tied back to the food we eat, particularly crop-based animal feed.9

Further, the report estimated that if demand for animal products continues to grow as expected, soy production would need to increase by nearly 80 percent to feed those animals, which would strain already vulnerable areas:10

"Feed crops are already produced in a large number of Earth's most valuable and vulnerable areas, such as the Amazon, Cerrado, Congo Basin, Yangtze, Mekong, Himalayas and the Deccan Plateau forests. Many of these high-risk regions already suffer significant pressure on land and water resources, are not adequately covered by conservation schemes.

The growing demand for livestock products and the associated intensification and agricultural expansion threaten the biodiversity of these areas and the resource and water security of their inhabitants, as well as the stability of our food supply."

Again, the research shows that feeding CAFO animals an unnatural and environmentally expensive diet does not yield a superior product. On the contrary, you'd need to eat six CAFO chickens to get the same amount of omega-3 fats found in a chicken from the 1970s.11

Eggs From Pastured Hens Are Also Healthier

It's not only chicken meat that benefits nutritionally from pasture. Not surprisingly, chicken eggs do too. A study by researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences revealed that eggs from pastured hens had twice as much vitamin E and long-chain omega-3 fats compared to eggs from CAFO hens. The eggs' omega-6-to-3 ratio was also less than half that of the commercial hens' eggs.12 Study co-author Paul Patterson, professor of poultry science, said in a news release:13

"The chicken has a short digestive tract and can rapidly assimilate dietary nutrients … Fat-soluble vitamins in the diet are readily transferred to the liver and then the egg yolk. Egg-nutrient levels are responsive to dietary change … Other research has demonstrated that all the fat-soluble vitamins, including A and E, and the unsaturated fats, linoleic and linolenic acids, are egg responsive, and that hen diet has a marked influence on the egg concentration."

You can usually tell eggs are from pastured hens by the color of the egg yolk. Foraged hens produce eggs with bright orange yolks, and this is what most people who raise backyard chickens are after. Dull, pale yellow yolks are a sure sign you're getting eggs from caged hens that are not allowed to forage for their natural diet.

Chicken Can Be at the Center of Large-Scale Regenerative Agriculture

Regenerative agriculture focusing on grass fed beef is a popular topic, and a worthy one at that, but chickens also have an important role to play in regenerative agriculture. Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, an innovator in the field of regenerative agriculture, has developed an ingenious system that has the potential to transform the way food is grown. According to Reginaldo, regenerative agriculture needs to be centered around livestock in order to be optimized, and adding chickens is an easy way to do that.

Reginaldo's program has generated a system that has regenerative impact both on the ecology and the economy, meaning it restores the ecology that produces food, and the economic flows necessary for that food to be economically sustainable and resilient. It also addresses the social conditions of food production in the U.S (and elsewhere), which is important considering the fact that farmworkers are typically poorly paid immigrants.

The chickens are completely free-range, with access to grasses and sprouts as they are rotated between paddocks. This system significantly reduces the amount of labor involved as compared with other ideas out there.

Further, in a poultry-centered regenerative system, tall grasses and trees protect the birds from predators instead of cages — in addition to optimizing soil temperature and moisture content, extracting excess nutrients that the chickens deposit, bringing up valuable minerals from below the soil surface and being a high-value perennial crop. It's the opposite of CAFOS — regenerating the land instead of destroying it, raising chickens humanely instead of cruelly and producing nutritionally superior, not inferior, food.

Choosing Safer, More Humane Chicken and Eggs

Choosing food that comes from small regenerative farms — not CAFOs — is crucial. While avoiding CAFO meats, look for antibiotic-free alternatives raised by organic and regenerative farmers. Unfortunately, loopholes abound, allowing CAFO-raised chickens and eggs to masquerade as "free-range" and "organic."

The Cornucopia Institute addressed some of these issues in their egg report and scorecard, which ranks egg producers according to 28 organic criteria. It can help you to make a more educated choice if you're buying your eggs at the supermarket.

Ultimately, the best choice is to get to know a local farmer and get your meat and eggs there directly. Alternatively, you might consider raising your own backyard chickens. Backyard chickens are growing in popularity, and many U.S. cities are adjusting zoning restrictions accordingly. Requirements vary widely depending on your locale, with many limiting the number of chickens you can raise or requiring quarterly inspections (at a cost) and permits, so check with your city before taking the plunge.

You might be surprised to find that your city already allows chickens, as even many large, urban cities have jumped on board (Chicago, Illinois, for instance, allows residents to keep an unlimited number of chickens, as "pets" or for eggs, provided you keep a humane and adequately sized coop). However, even if you don't want to raise your own chickens but still want farm-fresh eggs, you have many options. Finding high-quality organic, pastured eggs locally is getting easier, as virtually every rural area has individuals with chickens.

If you live in an urban area, visiting the local health food stores is typically the quickest route to finding high-quality local egg sources. Farmers markets and food co-ops are another great way to meet the people who produce your food. With face-to-face contact, you can get your questions answered and know exactly what you're buying. Better yet, visit the farm — ask for a tour. If they have nothing to hide, they should be eager to show you their operation.

75 Percent of Honey Contaminated With Pesticides
Tue, 17 Oct 2017 05:00:00 GMT

By Dr. Mercola

The process of bees turning flower nectar into honey is one of the marvels of nature. After sucking the nectar from a flower, a honeybee stores the sweet juice in her stomach, carrying an amount close to her own weight, back to the hive. There, she delivers the nectar to an indoor bee, and it is passed from one bee to the next, mouth-to-mouth, until its moisture content reduces to about 20 percent, forming honey.

Other times, the nectar may be stored in honeycomb cells before the bee-to-bee moisture-reducing process, as the storage process helps to jumpstart the evaporation. Once the honey is created, bees store it in cells capped with beeswax to feed newborn and adult bees.1

Humans have also developed a taste for the sweet, sticky treat, which is often regarded as one of the purest sweeteners available. However, recent research has revealed that honey is contaminated with neonicotinoid pesticides, with concerning ramifications for bees and humans alike.

Honey Contaminated With Neonicotinoid Pesticides

In a sampling of honey collected around the world, the majority of samples were found to be contaminated with neonicotinoid pesticides, including acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam. Nearly 200 honey samples were tested, with neonicotinoids found in 75 percent of them. Forty-five percent of the samples contained two or more of the pesticides, while 10 percent contained four or five.2

“The fact that 45 percent of our samples showed multiple contaminations is worrying and indicates that bee populations throughout the world are exposed to a cocktail of neonicotinoids,” the researchers wrote. “The effects of exposure to multiple pesticides, which have only recently started to be explored, are suspected to be stronger than the sum of individual effects.”3

Broken down by continent, 86 percent of North American samples contained neonicotinoids, along with 80 percent from Asia, 79 percent from Europe and 57 percent from South America.4 While the levels of pesticides detected were supposedly safe for human consumption, nearly half of the samples contained concentrations known to harm bees.5

Even the researchers were shocked by the prevalence of the bee-harming pesticides. Lead study author Edward Mitchell, a soil biologist at Switzerland's University of Neuchatel, told The Globe and Mail, “It just shows us that they are used almost everywhere in the world. It's really amazing … Bees, by collecting nectar up to 10 or 12 kilometers (6.2 to 7.45 miles) around the hive, they really are good sensors of contamination of pesticides in the environment."6

What Happens to Bees Exposed to Neonicotinoids?

Neonicotinoids are the most widely used insecticides on the planet, the researchers noted. As systemic pesticides, the chemicals are taken up by the plants and contaminate flowers, nectar and pollen. “Neonicotinoids are suspected to pose an unacceptable risk to bees, partly because of their systemic uptake in plants, and the European Union has therefore introduced a moratorium on three neonicotinoids as seed coatings in flowering crops that attract bees,” a separate study published in Nature revealed in 2015.7

However, the majority of soybean, corn, canola and sunflower seeds planted in the U.S. are precoated with neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics). The chemicals persist and accumulate in soils, and since they're water-soluble they leach into waterways where other types of wildlife may be affected. Adding insult to injury, according to an investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), treating soybean seeds with neonicotinoids provides no significant financial or agricultural benefits for farmers.8

Yet, the practice continues, even as neonicotinoids have been blamed for declines in pollinators in the U.S. and elsewhere. Neonicotinoids affect insects' central nervous systems in ways that are cumulative and irreversible. Even minute amounts can have profound effects over time. One of the observed effects of these insecticides is weakening of the bee's immune system, allowing them to fall prey to secondary, seemingly "natural" bee infections, such as parasites, mites, viruses, fungi and bacteria.

While the effects of different neonicotinoids have long been regarded as interchangeable, each may actually affect bees differently. Bayer's imidacloprid was found to cut the number of egg-containing brood cells by 46 percent, for instance, while Syngenta's thiamethoxam decreased the number of live bees by 38 percent.9

Clothianidin, another neonicotinoid made by Bayer, had a curious effect of increasing the number of queens produced, which the researchers noted could potentially backfire if, "say, all those queens turned out to be infertile.”10 Lead researcher Christopher Connolly, Ph.D., of the University of Dundee, told the Guardian, "I think there is sufficient evidence for a ban on imidacloprid and thiamethoxam … "11

Exposure to Neonics in Wild Queen Bees ‘Increases Probability of Population Extinction’

Much of the research surrounding neonicotinoids surrounds commercially bred honeybees and bumblebees, but wild bees are also at risk. One study involved 18 years of U.K. wild bee distribution data for 62 species, which were compared to amounts of neonicotinoid use in oilseed rape, a crop grown to produce canola oil. The researchers found evidence of increased wild bee population extinction rates in response to neonicotinoid seed treatment.

While bees that forage on oilseed rape have historically benefited from its availability, according to the researchers, once the crops are treated with neonicotinoids (as up to 85 percent of England’s oilseed rape crops are) they have detrimental impacts on the bees. In fact, wild foraging bees were three times more likely to be negatively affected by exposure to neonicotinoids than non-crop foragers. Overall, about 50 percent of the total decline in wild bees was linked to the pesticides.12

In another study, researchers fed queen bees a syrup containing neonicotinoids (thiamethoxam) in an amount similar to what would be found in neonic-treated canola fields. Queens exposed to the chemical were 26 percent less likely to lay eggs.13 According to the study, which was published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, the finding is an ominous warning for the future of bees:14

“Modelling the impacts of a 26 percent reduction in colony founding on population dynamics dramatically increased the likelihood of population extinction. This shows that neonicotinoids can affect this critical stage in the bumblebee lifecycle and may have significant impacts on population dynamics.”

Honey Is Also Contaminated With Glyphosate

Research by a U.S. Food and Drug Association (FDA) chemist and a colleague from the University of Iowa revealed glyphosate residues of 653 parts per billion (ppb) in some honey samples — an amount that’s more than 10 times the European limit of 50 ppb.15 Other samples contained residues ranging from 20 ppb to 123 ppb. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s widely used RoundUp pesticide.

Bees, as pollinators, travel from plant to plant. With grasslands being increasingly converted into genetically engineered (GE) corn and soybean fields where glyphosate is amply sprayed, it’s easy for them to become contaminated and then transfer that contamination to their honey. Research published in the journal Nature Communications has similarly revealed that pollen collected next to corn fields is contaminated with up to 32 different pesticides.16

At this point, the effects of these chemical exposures on bees is unknown, but common sense would indicate that they can’t be good. In addition to neonics, for instance, glyphosate has been implicated as being at least partly responsible for bee die-offs. In many cases of bee die-offs, the bees become disoriented, suggesting endocrine hormone disruption.

Glyphosate is a very strong endocrine hormone disruptor. GMO expert Don Huber, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of plant pathology at Purdue University, also cited a study on glyphosate in drinking water at levels that are commonly found in U.S. water systems, showing 30 percent mortality in bees exposed to it.

Syngenta Defends Neonicotinoids

The European Union is considering a permanent ban on neonicotinoids to protect pollinators, but Syngenta is speaking out in their favor, calling pesticides only a “very minor element” in declining bee health and claiming that neonics have been singled out among them. Their rhetoric isn’t surprising, especially considering that insecticides accounted for nearly 13 percent of their revenue in 2016.17

Yet, as the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, a nonprofit wildlife conservation group, explains, “Avoiding pesticide use is the best option for conserving pollinators. Most insecticides (and a handful of fungicides and herbicides) can kill bees directly or have sublethal effects that reduce the number of offspring a female bee can produce.” They also recommend alternatives to pesticides as an important step in pollinator conservation:18

“A plant that is growing vigorously, with minimal stress, can avoid or outgrow many diseases and insect pests … It is also important to recognize and work with naturally occurring pest controls (beneficial insects that prey upon pests). A healthy and diverse landscape with sufficient natural habitat can support large numbers of native predators and/or parasites of insect pests.

Pesticides may eliminate these beneficial insects where they are used, leading to chronic pest problems. Fortunately, many of the same strategies that protect pollinators will support these other native beneficial insects, further reducing the need for pest control. For farms, maximizing crop diversity and practicing crop rotation to disrupt pest populations are some basic strategies to reduce pest problems.”

Playing a Part in Protecting Pollinators

As for honey, at this time there’s no easy way to know whether the variety you buy is contaminated with pesticides, but if the featured study is any indication, there’s a good chance it is. Of even greater concern, however, is the preservation of pollinators as a whole, as they’re essential to the growth of at least 30 percent of the world’s food crops.19

To avoid harming bees and other helpful pollinators that visit your garden, swap out toxic pesticide and lawn chemicals for organic weed and pest control alternatives. But be aware that even some organic formulations can be harmful to beneficial insects, so be sure to vet your products carefully. The Xerces Society explains:20

“Pyrethrin, and spinosad, are both common pesticides in organic farming, and are broad-spectrum insect killers, destroying pest and beneficial species alike. Other organic-approved products are safer to use as long as they are not applied where pollinators are actively foraging or nesting. Less toxic pesticides include horticultural oils and insecticidal soaps.”

Better yet, get rid of your lawn altogether and plant an edible organic garden. Both flower and vegetable gardens provide good honeybee habitats. It's also recommended to keep a small basin of fresh water in your garden or backyard, as bees do get thirsty. In addition, you'll want to grow your own pollinator-friendly plants from organic, untreated seeds. If you opt to purchase starter plants, make sure to ask whether or not they've been pre-treated with pesticides.

Keep in mind that you also help protect the welfare of all pollinators every time you shop organic and grass fed, as you are actually “voting” for less pesticides and herbicides with every organic and pastured food and consumer product you buy. The video above, from the Pesticide Research Institute (PRI), gives examples of 12 pollinator-friendly plants that are good sources of nectar and pollen to add to your garden.


rssfeedwidget.com