Food is supposed to be for sustenance – but instead of giving us the building blocks for health and life, food today is perhaps our most toxic daily exposure. The quality of our food is directly tied to the quality of our health, and changes in our food supply since World War 2 have resulted in a significant increase in inflammation, infertility, cancer, birth defects, infections, and neurologic disease like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. It is no longer true that all you have to do to be healthy is to eat a low glycemic diet, exercise, and balance your hormones.
What happened? The decline of the quality of our food production began with the end of WW2, as weapons manufacturers looked for another market to sell the nitrogen that had been used in weapons production. Farmers began to use this to fertilize their crops, neglecting proper care of the soil. This caused nutrient deficiencies in the soil that led to more weed growth, which became quite problematic for farmers. Instead of returning to proper soil stewardship which naturally controls weed growth, they turned to the use of pesticides. In 1964 glyphosate was patented as a descaling agent, used to clean out mineral deposits from water pipes. Glyphosate was accidentally found to kill weeds, and in 1969 it was patented as an herbicide under the name RoundUp.
Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum chelating agent, which means that it grabs onto mineral ions (calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, etc.) and makes them soluble in water so that they wash away. It is very effective at pulling minerals and vitamins not only out of the soil to which it is applied, but out of microorganisms, plants, animals, and humans. Why is that bad? Enzymes are proteins that catalyze biologic reactions within the body. These enzymes require cofactors like vitamins and minerals in order to accomplish the reactions which support life. If the cofactors are absent because they have been chelated out by glyphosate, the normal enzymatic reactions that support life, including reactions such as protein synthesis, fat and carbohydrate metabolism, and DNA repair cannot occur. Dr. Arden Anderson, an expert in this field, refers to these vitamin and trace mineral cofactors as the ignition keys that activate the enzymes; “If the key is deactivated or removed, the enzyme cannot function any more than can your car start without the key in the ignition.”
When trace minerals are removed, an organism becomes weakened and can no longer resist pathogens. This is actually the main way in which glyphosate kills plants – it weakens the immune system so that the plant can no longer resist attack by pathogenic bacteria and fungi. Glyphosate also kills beneficial bacteria in the soil and in the gut of animals and humans, allowing overgrowth of harmful bacteria. In fact, glyphosate was patented as an antimicrobial in 2010.
The other perhaps even more sinister side of the use of glyphosate is the development of genetically engineered crops. Genetic engineering of crops is not the same as plant breeding. It is, rather, the introduction of foreign DNA into the plant genome that codes for an insecticide, fungicide, or confers resistance to the application of glyphosate. This foreign DNA is introduced into plant cells by infection with a viral vector attached to a gene for antibiotic resistance, necessary for crop developers to identify the plants that have taken up the foreign genetic material. The plant, then, is able to produce its own chemicals to resist attack by insects, fungi, or pesticides. The goal was to decrease crop damage and increase yield, but instead genetic modification has led to more resistant pathogens, which has actually resulted in an increase in the application of pesticides and insecticides, lower crop yield, horizontal transfer of antibiotic resistance to gut bacteria, and further nutritional impoverishment.
Unfortunately, when you or another animal eats that plant, or you eat an animal that has dined on those plants, you are consuming not only the new genetic material and the proteins for which it codes (insecticide or fungicide) but you are also consuming more pesticide. Since the proteins that are encoded by the inserted gene are completely foreign, your immune system reacts, beginning with inflammation in the lining of your intestine. Since you consume foods containing these foreign proteins nearly every day, your body is in a state of chronic inflammation, which leads to diseases like cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, heart disease, and dementia.
With this sort of daily toxic exposure, how can you expect to remain healthy? A change in this system will only succeed if it comes from the consumer and spreads upward. Remember that your most powerful vote comes at the grocery store with the money that you spend on food – please vote daily to stock the shelves with wholesome food.
This information was adapted from a lecture by Arden Anderson DO, MSPH, PhD at the AMMG 2013 conference in Hollywood, FL.