The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.

The Cost of Conventional Food to Society

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Dr. Stan Gardener shares his perspective on the cost society pays for conventional food in his article Pay the Farmer or Pay Pharma.  This was published in the Meridian Magazine by the LDS Church.  It is refreshing to see them take this on. If all the churches followed suit, we might see significant changes to our agricultural policy sooner rather than later.

What is the Cost to Society for Conventional Food?

Although there is much more to spraying food than just pesticides, let’s examine the costs of pesticide use.

The Textbook of Environmental Toxicology by J. Rose, printed in 2005, identified the following costs in the US from pesticide-related illness:

  • $6,759,000 Hospitalized poisonings (2380 x 2.84 x $1000/day)
  • $17,010,000 Outpatient poisonings (27,000 x $630)
  • $1,760,000 Lost work due to poisoning (4680 x 4.7 x $80/day)
  • $48,400,000 Cancer treatment (12,000 x $70,700/case)
  • $59,400,000 Cost of fatalities (27 x $2.2 M)

The Environment, Development and Sustainability magazine, Volume 7, Issue 2 in 2005, found the environmental and economic costs of pesticides in the US to be estimated at $10 B. These include:

  • pesticide impacts on public health,
  • livestock and livestock product losses,
  • increased control expenses resulting from pesticide-related destruction of natural enemies and pests becoming pesticide resistant,
  • crop pollination problems and
  • honey bee losses,
  • bird, fish and other wildlife losses.

Evaluation of the Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database (www.beyondpesticides.org/health) shows the following links:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease has 4 studies, especially linking organophosphate and organochlorine exposure with AD
  • Asthma has 43 studies
  • Birth and Fetal Defects has 19 studies
  • Cancer has 260 studies including brain cancer (30 studies), breast cancer (11 studies), Leukemia (40 studies), Lymphoma (46 studies), Prostate cancer (23 studies), Soft Tissue Sarcoma (7 studies), other cancers (105 studies)
  • Developmental and Learning Disorders has 26 studies including ADHD (8 studies), autism (5 studies)
  • Diabetes has 6 studies
  • Parkinson’s Disease has 65 studies
  • Reproductive health effects has 22 studies

The same database looked at the 40 of the most commonly used pesticides in schools and found 28 can cause cancer, 14 are linked to endocrine disruption, 26 can adversely affect reproduction, 26 are nervous system poisons and 13 can cause birth defects. Of the 30 most commonly used lawn pesticides, 19 can cause cancer, 13 are linked to birth defects, 21 can affect reproduction and 15 are nervous system toxicants.

And we haven’t even talked about GMO foods and the serious risk of allergies, intestinal damage, sterility, and death. The major crops affected today include soy (89%), cotton (83%), canola (75%), corn (60%), Hawaiian papaya (more than 50%) and small amounts of alfalfa, zucchini, and yellow squash.

You Have a Choice

As you can see, we can choose to pay the farmer who brings us wholesome, nutritious food, or eventually pay the pharmaceutical industry to care for our illnesses.

Here is a list of my suggestions for greater nutrition and health:

  • When you have a choice, choose organic (look for co-ops like Bountiful Baskets)
  • Use local farmers and farmers markets
  • Grow your own garden and freeze excess for the winter (dice your zucchini and freeze for soups, freeze whole tomatoes for sauces)
  • Fresh is best, then frozen, then old fresh and last—canned
  • Eat some raw (as tolerated) vegetables, lightly steamed is next best, cooked may change the nutritional value
  • Free range, organic meat
  • Avoid processed food and sugar
  • Take supplements—potent multivitamin, essential fatty acids (omega 3 and omega 6), vitamin D
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Author: Daniela

I was born in Croatia, at that time Yugoslavia. My family moved to the US when I was very young, but I still treasure the memories of my grandfather teaching me how to protect myself against the "evil eye," my grandmother shopping early every morning, at the open air market, to buy the freshest vegetables for the day's meals, and the traditions that were the underpinnings of our society. Someone once noted that "For all of us that want to move forward, there are a very few that want to keep the old methods of production, traditions and crafts alive." I am a fellow traveler with those who value the old traditions and folk wisdom. I believe the knowledge they possess can contribute significantly to our efforts to build a more sustainable world; one that values the individual over the corporation, conservation over growth and happiness over wealth.

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