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The Dangers of "Traditional" Farming Methods

Pesticides

Pesticides are chemicals which are used to poison and kill insects and other ‘pests’ which can attack farm crops. The benefit of using pesticide is of course that any bugs that may be eating your crops will quickly stop. The down side is that no matter how thoroughly you clean your produce before consuming it, you too may be ingesting pesticide or pesticide residue. And while pesticide was specifically designed to kill insects, not humans, it can still take an enormous physical toll. In fact, a study done in 2001 found that children who consumed traditionally farmed produce had dramatically higher levels of pesticide in their blood stream than those who ate organic produce. Some pesticides have been shown to cause brain damage in mice, and are suspected to have similar affects on humans – especially children.

Pesticide runoff has also become a huge problem in the United States and abroad, seeping into the soil and rainwater and contaminating watersheds and harming both drinking water supplies and the fish and organisms that live in the affected water bodies.

Fertilizers

When most traditional farms use fertilizers, they use what are considered “synthetic fertilizers” which are made up of chemicals like synthetic nitrates, super nitrates and ammonia. While these chemicals are an inexpensive, effective way to mimic the effects of natural fertilizers (by encouraging plant growth) they are also devastating to local ecosystems. Fertilizers that have seeped into rivers and streams have devastated fish and amphibian populations, as well as rapidly increased the growth of some algae, which in turn overtake and kill off native plants which help keep the waters delicate ecosystems in balance. This is more than a problem of just killing off some fish and frogs, because when the naturally occurring populations of these animals dwindle, it affects the entire ecosystem, from the population of mosquitoes and water bugs to the populations of birds, deer, raccoon, bears and so on. By destroying the food supply of just one animal you can effectively devastate the population of every animal in the area.

Worse still, synthetic fertilizers don’t treat the soil, they treat the plants. As a result the organic matter of the soil begins to break down, forcing the soil to become compacted, and rendering it useless, effectively increasing the need for more harmful synthetic fertilization or a complete replacement of the soil beds, which is not only costly and time consuming, but bears the bigger question: where do you put all the contaminated soil after it has been removed?

Some synthetic fertilizers contain synthetic nitrates, which can be even more dangerous than nitrate-free synthetic fertilizer, because it actually affects the air supply in addition to the water and soil. This type of fertilizer has been known to cause respiratory ailments and severe medical problems such as bladder cancer and heart disease!

Genetically Modified (GM) Foods

Genetically modified (GM) foods are foods that are grown with the assistance of genetically modified organisms (GMO’s), which have had their DNA scientifically altered to breed in or breed out certain traits which are considered harmful or beneficial to the organisms. For example, some GMO’s can be added to fertilizers to make a plant more insect resistant, thus in theory cutting down on the need for pesticides. And while in theory this is a good idea, there is definitely some give and take when it comes to side effects. So while you may not need to use as much pesticide, you may very well be increasing the consumer’s risk of developing a disorder of the nervous system. In fact, some scientists suspect that consumption of GM food may be to blame for the rising cases of autism in American children. Unfortunately, because GM foods are not usually labeled it is very difficult to prove or disprove this theory, as most of the time you cannot tell if the food you are consuming is a GM food, unless it is marked “certified organic.”

Still, while the autism claim cannot be validated at the moment, many other studies of GM foods have been quite conclusive in pointing out the dangers of GM foods. A 1998 study showed that rats who consumed GM potatoes suffered damage to their immune system and in some cases had stunted growth! In another study, the genetic modification of soybeans using Brazil nut DNA actually transferred the allergens from the Brazil nut to the soybeans, causing nut-allergy reactions in subjects who consumed the GM soybeans. And on an ecological scale, some GM crops that posses weed controlling properties are killing native vegetation usually fed upon by wild animals, thus devastating local animal populations.

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**Source: Patrick Frink's Organic Gardening (www.patrick-frink.net/methods)

 
     

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