(This transcript hasn't been manually cleaned yet, but we hope it's useful in the meantime)
[0:07] I'm David Torcivia.
[0:09] I'm Daniel Forkner.
[0:10] And this is Ashes Ashes, a show about systemic issues, cracks in civilization, collapse of the environment, and if we're unlucky the end of the world.
[0:20] But if we learn from all of this, maybe we can stop that. The world might be broken, but it doesn't have to be.
[0:36] This year the company Bayer acquired Monsanto and a massive consolidation in agriculture. The deal was valued at 66 billion dollars and as a result the new company which will drop the Monsanto name to be called simply Barre. Will own 70% of the chemicals used around the world to grow crops. It will own 3/5 of the world supply of commercial seed it will own a majority of the patents on plant genetic material and it will own the largest database of data on Farmer activity. Mergers like these Beggars to ask if food security and the environment and the health of human and non-human species will benefit as a result. Unfortunately. These corporate consolidations of food production proceed at the same time that agricultural runoff and pollution from farming has increased biodiversity among crop species has been disappearing, and poverty malnutrition suicide and despair have all increased for Farmers worldwide.
[1:40] And one of the trends that accompanies the rise of industrial agriculture is an increased Reliance on pesticides and genetically altered crops which a built-in compatibility with certain pesticides. Pesticide use also result in an increased Reliance on pesticides. The more we spray the more we have to use and it's just generally because chemical inputs decrease agricultural sustainability and rather than adjust our methods we just doubled down on even more chemical and Industrial one.
[2:10] Princeton's all this spring has resulted in ear eyes and pesticide-resistant weeds and other species which industrial Farmers don't want in their fields they respond by applying higher quantities of chemicals and even more frequently.
[2:25] And as it becomes more difficult to manage larger Farms using older methods Farmers rely more on these genetically modified varieties with those built-in compatibilities to pesticides encouraging even more chemical application.
[2:40] In addition pesticides reduce biodiversity on land where they are used and they affect more than just the species they are intended for. Mini insecticide for instance are aimed at killing pests species but they also inadvertently kill insects that function is Predators for those same pass. And in many cases those Target pest species can recover as a population faster than predator species. Which means that insecticide can erode a habitat ability to naturally control for past while empowering the pest species the farmer actually wants to get rid of creating a situation in which the only way to continue it's even more non-stop insecticide application.
[3:24] This increased Reliance on pesticides means that industrial agricultural companies and farmers are all more desperate to prevent governments from Banning and regulating them even when that threatens Public Health.
[3:37] Last year. The head of the United States Environmental Protection Agency decided at the last minute to Halt a ban on the insecticide for beef roast. The EPA has banned this chemical 10 years ago for indoor Pest Control. And it was preparing to ban it from agricultural use because of its harmful effects on brain development and function especially in children who are exposed to it from the air and food consumption. According to the EPA this insecticide is already found in drinking water and food at level 15 times higher than what is safe for children to consume and five times higher for both babies and pregnant women.
[4:18] And well it may be obvious that children are more sensitive to the types of chemicals remembering exactly why this is the case I think it's important right here Daniel. 1 children are smaller much smaller than us but even with that they still taking a large amount of air in a large amount of food much higher proportionally based on their body size then a regular adult human. This means they have what's effectively more surface area to be exposed to these types of chemicals and that makes them that much more sensitive to these chemicals. In addition children are not just small adults are physiologically different their brain is different they're still in the process of developing and this makes them very different in both their processing as well as their physical responses than fully grown adults. This means what might not be dangerous to a fully grown adult human could have backed him very intense and devastating effects for small child.
[5:10] I thought it was because children simply have a higher craving for more dangerous foods like ice cream and pizza. I mean I guess it's science is still out on that one David. But you coming back to clear pee Frost this is a chemical that works by blocking an enzyme that allows nerve cells to communicate and when pregnant women are exposed to this chemical. Babies can be born with brain development problems low weight decreased motor function and even develop to a lower IQ level at a later age.
[5:41] Toddlers that are much higher risk of developing autism and ADHD and according to the EPA even low doses posies risks. In addition exposure in adults like those who work with the chemical directly can experience nausea vomiting headaches muscle cramps loss of coordination unconsciousness convulsions difficulty breathing paralysis and death feel like Windows pharmaceutical ads right there.
[6:04] Also I just realized I was eating chocolate chip cookies right before this recording so maybe I'm the one with the unhealthy craving.
[6:12] You're definitely going to die Daniel but because Scott Pruitt reverse the band. The Environmental Protection Agency will have to wait until 2022 to even reconsider that bat in the meantime 30 million lb of chlorpyrifos will having dropped on field across the United States.
[6:31] But David there are many more insecticide like chlorpyrifos on the market and the science is just starting to catch up to the impact these chemicals are having on the farmer to use them. Research has been showing that farmers who experienced long-term exposure to pesticide have a much higher rate of suicide and depression than the general population. Epidemiological studies in both the US and France imply that those who regularly work with herbicides and insecticides are double the risk for depression. And Brazil farmers are more likely to commit suicide and Chinese Farmers that use pesticides are 200% more likely to have Suicidal Thoughts.
[7:12] In 2009 25 million workers in agricultural industries were accidentally poisoned by pesticide exposure, and there were an estimated 1.8 billion people laboring in agriculture who possibly use pesticides in their everyday work. As more of these studies are carried out the list of human health risk from pesticide is growing. As our understanding of the various Pathways by which we can be exposed.
[7:39] Many pesticides act as endocrine disruptors and long-term exposure to these can lead to immune suppression and hormone problems as well as cancer reproductive issues and damage to the brain.
[7:52] U.s. drop 20 million gallons of herbicides in Vietnam during the 60s and Legacy that exposure has been the cause of neurological issues birth defects and Cancers among some 1 million US Vets and many many countless more Vietnamese we discuss this a bit more in that episode 43 full bar.
[8:11] A study this year found that the weed killer paraquat and the fungicide man of I forgot to look up how to pronounce those name sorry everybody these two can heighten a person's risk for Parkinson's Disease by as much as 250%.
[8:26] An observational study by the Harvard th Chan School of Public Health a 325 women undergoing fertility treatment between 2007 and 2016 down in association between women's consumption of pesticides and their ability to conceive and give birth, specifically the pesticide consumption was associated with lower chances of pregnancy and birth.
[8:49] And a study published last year in Frontier in Pediatrics study the spraying of insecticide via airplanes in rural New York, for the purpose of killing mosquitoes, the researchers examined the rate of childhood developmental delay and autism spectrum disorder among children and zip codes where the spraying occurred compared to zip codes where it was not and found a significant relationship between the spraying and those diagnoses specifically. Children that were exposed to the insecticide through the air were 37% more likely to be diagnosed with developmental delay. And autism.
[9:29] Okay I know this is a lot we we just dumped a lot of birth defects.
[9:34] Terrible things that are happening that are at least sort of seemed to be linked to pesticide use. And the spread of that in our society Don't Panic everyone still okay to eat food if you make sure we're washing it but this is all a serious amount of health information that we need to be interested in but it's not just limited to the impacts on our human world is it Daniel.
Pesticides Affect More Than Humans
[9:56] No and if this is something we're going to be touching on later in this episode is how the human health risks of things like pesticide is really just a small very symptomatic part of the problems associated with widespread pesticide use.
[10:10] Even though that I think it's what gets a lot of the attention in media and the way that we talk about these pesticides especially online where there is a large community of what would you call and let me know if you have like anti-vax people and that has their own problems but there's a similar group of people who are maybe anti-gmo or anti-pesticide across the board.
[10:28] Right that's one of the things about this topic that it attracts a lot of conspiracy-minded people I mean and rightly so I mean deserve huge huge scale application of chemicals that are going to wreck the into our food but I think there's a lot of misinformation about what the underlying issue isn't it a lot of it tends to focus on the risks associated with human consumption of foods involved in the system, we're going to discuss there's a much larger system going on here and you mentioned that humans are not the only species threatened by this increase pesticide use there's a class of pesticides specifically an insecticide they're called neonicotinoids and they have been implicated in declines of honey bees and other pollinators species around the world and really alarming numbers and as a result this class of insecticides have been unilaterally band across Europe in other countries but here in the United States. Justice year our government chose to resend and reverse the ban on these neonicotinoids not just in general agriculture but even for use in Wildlife refuges.
[11:35] In episode 39 limits to growth we discuss the pesticide atrazine. The second most popular pesticide on the market and how there's a growing concern that the chemical is altering the epigenetics of humans some of which might be inheritable I'm responsible in part for reduce fertility around the world, the chemical has also been shown to cause sex changes in frogs. Researchers have discovered that about one in 10 male frogs exposed after seeing through the water end up developing ovaries. But this isn't even the tip of the iceberg, right now we're just looking at the effects of pesticides on single species who were they really come into play If The Complex interactions of application of pesticide has on entire ecosystems and a various animals that compose it at. Ultimately depend on each other for survival.
[12:23] Pesticides are notorious for propagating throughout the environment transforming and impacting a wide range of species besides those the chemicals are targeted for. And they're known for traveling far beyond the immediate farms in which they are applied Rachel Carlson Shock the World with her book Silent Spring. Documenting and I'll application of DDT was destroying wildlife and DDT apply to a farm can also be carried away to Marine environments where it breaks down into DDE accumulate in real life, and then gets consumed by humans. The initial decline of the bald eagle in the United States occurred mostly due to this DDT exposure and even though DDT has been bad in those places for half-a-century at this point it can still be found in animal tissue because of its prevalence in the environment.
[13:12] Another organochlorine insecticide called endosulfan was banned in 2011 worldwide because of its ability to bioaccumulation tissue and persist as a potent toxin in soil. Despite Scott Brooks decision not to ban chlorpyrifos which is an organophosphate much of the world is working to ban organochlorine and organophosphate pesticides, both of these categories of chemicals are notorious for evaporating into the atmosphere and depositing and distant places chemicals that have been applied to banana trees in Central America for example have been discovered in Arctic ice packs this type of drift is particularly problematic for chemicals that bio accumulate or take a long time to break down, where they are absorbed by plant matter for example they make concentrate and pose a risk to species and ultimately consumed them, in addition pesticides contaminate surface water in the 1990s the US Geological Survey discovered pesticides in 90%, of all water and fish samples and streams across the entire United States, they're also found in groundwater where they entered drinking supplies and soils with a destroys soil quality undermine the ability to even grow crops.
[14:24] But David this I think is where we need to take a step back. Because when we started researching for this topic I was struggling a bit with what ended up feeling like a daunting and really difficult topic to grasp from the sheer complexity of it, in what pesticides seem like a simple concept it turns out there are so many unknowns and so many variables and so many challenges to making sense of the research that is out there. When it comes to pesticides there are so many unknowns like how much are we exposed to an everyday life how much is contaminating the environment, what are the health risks when we have only recently begun to understand how factors in our environment influence our epigenetics and change the way our DNA is read. What are the health risks when different chemicals are combined causing problems that may be greater in scope than the some of the risks from exposure to chemicals one at a time and what are the health risks considering that many pesticide products are evaluated only other active ingredient, but these so-called inert chemicals or the secondary chemicals that are used to help deliver the active ingredient check themselves have dramatic consequences on life in the environment.
[15:34] There's not a lot of long-term epidemiological studies in this field but yes we may understand what happened to over the course of maybe a single individuals life when we're talking about epigenetics one generation is not enough to store and get clothes and three is where we start first seeing these effects really play out unfortunately a lot of these pesticides have only been in use for a few decades and we won't understand the full epidemiological epigenetic effects of these chemicals until a few decades from now. Further questions of how these chemicals ultimately break down in the environment combined with others like Daniel mentioned these are just barely being investigated because there are so many chemicals at play here, tens of thousands and trying to figure out the complex interactions between all these the ultimate chemical structures the different ways they can come apart and affect the environment and those things living in are such enormous questions that and nobody has even begun figuring out how to tackle them the work that is being done here is much too small and limited and we are just basically rolling the dice hoping it turns out okay.
Understanding The Role Pesticides Play In A Larger System
[16:36] So these are all difficult questions and challenges to answer but what I realized during the scope of this is that. While the health risks associated with the mass application of chemicals, on our food Sparks this very visceral reaction for most people we have to first understand how pesticides fit into the overall system of industrial Agriculture and what their function is. Because ultimately if pesticides are dangerous to our health, that's really just a symptom of an underlying system if all we did was focus on how to replace one toxic chemical with another less toxic chemical. We may be missing the larger issue of how these chemicals in Naval a destructive system that fuels deforestation climate change environmental destruction top soil depletion loss of biodiversity displacement of indigenous peoples and all the other related symptoms that emerge so. And trying to understand this role that pesticides play largely I settled on a pretty simple description which is that pesticides. At the glue that holds unnatural fragile and unsustainable agricultural practices in place I mean just consider the word pest which is literally in the name pesticide.
[17:56] Any natural holistic ecosystem where species are kept in balance with each other and with their environment the concept of a pest really doesn't exist. At least not in the modern sense we have words like predator-prey and parasite to describe particular relationships between species. But from an overall ecosystem view every one of these relationships plays an important function that contributes to the whole.
[18:22] Well actually Daniel I can think of one place that in a organic holistic Pharma pest might appear.
[18:29] Is it.
[18:31] That is of course the decal.
[18:34] Oh yes the debt collector you owe you no actually think you hit on it important Point here which is that. The concept of the modern past really only applies when the human factor. Gets involved so you know it doesn't have to be that debt collector but just in general it's only when we as humans seek to transform habitat into site of production then we begin reframing these relationships of species and ecosystem in 2 1/2 impact our priorities and in the context of industrial agriculture, turning habitats into site to production involves stripping away diverse environments into very uniform controllable factories were only the relevant cogs remain. The problem with this approach however is it seeking to simplify nature into a limited handful of cogs. Actually introduces a lot of fragility into the system for example. Industrial production of food replaces diverse habitats with single variety crops which opens them up to a host of risky variables that would normally be absorbed by a healthy habit at things like disease invasive insects and drought.
[19:42] A pesticide in this context is introduced to help mitigate these unnatural risks the contrast that with what we discussed in episode 16 what we reap, when we talked with a permaculture farmer who discovered the usefulness of the aphid insect. When it was in balance with a native plant species both of which are considered pests and weeds respectively in industrial contacts, but when they were in Balance Chris discovered that the weed attracted the aphid which distracted the insect from his food crop, does eliminating the past nature of this insect, and allowing additional organic material to enrich the soil his crop grew in all without the need for chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
[20:28] But if we understand pesticides as the tools that would increased fragility and modern Firearms is mitigated,
Why Industrial Farming Anyway? [20:35] that still doesn't answer the question of why we are using industrial methods in the first place and that fits into a discussion about the underlying economics of farming. There's a lot of talk about how pesticides and Industrial methods are necessary to feed the global population. But we need to recognize that the purpose of industrial agriculture this point has less to do with food security then it does pure profit. The purpose of growing food Bound for sale on an international Commodities Market is first and foremost to satisfy demands of investment. The fact that people are fed by the system isn't here by product.
[21:11] To be clear David that's a really counterintuitive idea I mean you not to say that our system of agriculture doesn't actually aim to produce food but it simply aims to satisfy some profit motive.
[21:25] Willam and when any activities directed by Finance better than need for Death Knight Returns what we get is a system that seeks the short-term Solutions, cost and increasing yields the big farmer who was on the hook for $10 a day International Bank that demands interest was thinking first and foremost how do I squeeze more and more out of the land, the farm is not thinking what is the best way to feed my community and that's why we see consolidation. Bayer and Monsanto finding mechanization because it's easier to scale Machinery then it is human labor and it's why we are seeing Trends towards larger and larger Farms on a monoculture models always require more and more applications of these pesticides because the larger these distance. The more unnatural fragile non-sustainable they become like you said pesticides are the glue which holds him together.
[22:16] And when you look at this a lot of the agricultural industry is influenced by these things that look like secondary effects. So you have something here that that seems unrelated to the way that we treat our Farms This Global Financial system but it really ends up defining, the way that we interact with the soil and and the business side of all of this in the same way I mean so much of our modern chemical agricultural system is kicked off by spare capacity that all these industrial chemical plant add after the end of World War II, we have all the technology investment it was building weapons for war and though a lot of them to continue to build weapons for war some of them didn't and they needed a way to turn all this excess energy, towards something and a lot of the same stuff that we use for building bombs and bullets is also chemically similar to what we use for our agricultural products chemical fertilizers and ultimately chemical pesticides. And so the fact that all this industry have been built up and needed something to turn and make a profit for is what helped to drive this explosion in industrial agriculture that we see today is this team that we see repeated over and over, we're very small, almost accidents of History end up totally redefining the radical way that we interact with something as simple and fundamental to being a human and living in a civilization as growing are very food.
[23:34] Yeah that's really interesting and that reminds me of episode 11 designing deception where in a similar way we talked about how after World War II there were all these industrial factories that have been ramped up ready to go for all this wartime production. But now that the war was over the industrialist at that time wanted to put these things to use but they didn't know what to do so, the investment bankers came together with these public relations man and they said we need to convince we need to transform the American economy from one of a needs-based economy to one of a consumer-based economy so that instead of people purchasing things simply because they need them let's convince them to buy things constantly because they want them or because they perceive any that doesn't really exist all so that we can keep these factories churning more and more stuff and keep, are investment returns going strong but getting back on topic here, we mentioned how these Financial incentives incentivize industrial agriculture companies and Farmers to Trend toward larger and larger farms and larger consolidation we have the data to back that up in 2001 Farms that were over 1000 Acres represented 47% of all crop land in the United States.
[24:53] And by 2011 the number of farms that size I think doubled but they had grown to represent 54% about cropland in the country it's out the financial reality of trying to farm in a large competitive Commodities Market means that Farmers that can consolidate land into larger operations utilizing less human labor in exchange for increased mechanization and Industrial input. These Farmers gain advantages that enabled them to outmuscle and out-compete smaller scale farmers and so as a result we see Farms continue to get bigger and bigger. There was a Wall Street Journal article from last year which outlines the Strand in compared how it relates to two farmers one who owns 30,000 acres in Kansas at a small farmer that owned just a hundred and sixty Acres.
[25:43] 30000 Acres just to give a quick example of just how big that is cuz I think most of us aren't familiar with exactly at the size of an acre but that's about 7 square miles or 11 square kilometers more or less huge huge amount of space.
[25:58] So that means if I wanted to run the perimeter of that farm I'd have to run a marathon plus 7 Mile.
[26:08] Yeah what were more than 1/3 bigger than a whole area of Manhattan.
[26:12] That's pretty big it's all this article is relating the different experiences of the small farmer and a large farmer and. The small farmer is trying to expand the number of acres under his control so he can make a decent living while the larger farmer is able to use his wealth in his power to prevent that from happening from the article quotes. This bring if you could field became available for rent just up the road from mr. small farmers Farm but Mr small farmer only found out after mr.big farmer began Farmington. That's aggravating so Mister small farmer opportunities like that where I could get some more land but land owners will go directly to the big guys, many large farmers pay cash on Lisa's versus the crop sharing deals that smaller Farmers have often used in which address for the landowner.
[27:02] And so that's the end of the the excerpt but I included that last sentence about, how large farmers can pay cash to guarantee lease payments where a smaller Farmers might have to rely on some age-old relationship like crop sharing because that's a good example of how these barriers to access to land play out I mean the larger Farmers simply has a better offer for the land owner. I think that example also kind of opens the door to a more fundamental debate and question about, what role we think absentee ownership of Farmland should play in the first place because that's also a fundamental component of this as if it's not possible to own Farmland that someone else is going to farm and actually put in the work, this huge Advantage gap between the large farm in the small farmer might close up but that's probably a discussion for a different episode.
Roles Of Diversity In A Better World
[27:56] And speaking of small farmers in episode 34 Irreplaceable we discussed just one of the values of biodiversity and that it offers those Clues as to how to move forward on a warming planet. Miss Earth experiences these dramatic climate shift that we're just beginning to see. Species diversity offers access to untap knowledge which can help our own species adapt from one of you a listener.
[28:22] A lot of the content you discussed was super relevant to what I do for a living and my graduate research. I'm working on a project that is aimed at studying which genetic lines of sunflowers are the most resistant to avionics dresses that is drought nutrient deficiency salinity Etc. The arm of the project I work on is focused on drought. Ultimately trying to solve some of the issues of climate change involving agriculture food shortages water availability habitat degradation and recurrent and severe drought.
[28:55] So this is exactly the type of work that is possible when we have a diversity of species. We have droughts what what species out there are doing okay and what can we learn from them. And so in a similar vein bringing it back to the current Topic in the same way we can learn from A diversity of species we have much to learn and glean from A diversity of human activities, the more small farmers there are out in the world experimenting generating seeds and sharing those seeds with others in a community, the more options we will have from moving forward in the greater our chance of discovering crops farming method and other structures that can pave the way forward for us in terms. Actual food security and sustainability.
Indian Landraces - Dr. Debal Deb
[29:41] Indeed David. And that's exactly what Farmers like doctor double Deb in India are trying to do. Your dad has devoted his work to providing locals in his area. Access to a living community seed bank in which hundreds of rice varieties are developed and then their seeds are distributed to anyone in the area who wants them depending on the specific conditions of their land that they have to deal with. Doctor dad's work is really an attempt to restore what had been everyday life for villages in India before industrial agriculture found its way into everything. Gears from an article featuring dr. Deb and the work that he does quotes.
[30:23] Years ago every Indian village would probably have grown a dozen or more rice varieties that grow nowhere else, passed down from generation to generation and family to family it would have been a local variety for every soil and taste rice ever grow well in drought so deep flood which have your room of mangoes are peanuts tolerance for saltwater or even medicinal value.
[30:47] Contrast that with today, we're within just a single generation 90% of the rice varieties in India over a hundred and ten thousand of them have been lost, perhaps only 6,000 remain and so to combat this into reverse this trend. Dr. Deb gross over 1300 varieties of rice and then stores their seat and carefully label pots. If any Farmer in the area wishes to cultivate a specific variety doctor dad will give them 1 kg of seeds on the condition that they bring back to kilograms the following year and just the first three years of his operation. Doctor Deb had provided seeds to over 2,000 farmers and that has quickly approached 7000. But alluding to that intellectual property problem David in this work just had to keep a careful eye out for industry raps that try to find his secret farm and then gain access to his seed either through bribery or stealing because they ultimately want their companies to get a hold of the seat and then patent the genetic material so they can claim them as their own, and then of course they would use that patent protection to drive out Farmers using seeds like the kind that Deb is providing through this Community State Bank, so that the companies could control the land and control the prophets dimming from these crops again here's from an article related to dr. Deb's work.
[32:17] A collective knowledge about rice growing in diversity is still there but only in places which have not been industrialized. The natural Forest you can still find people who know hundreds of medicinal plants put in a monoculture Forest people simply do not know the uses of the plants, diversity is lost the collective memories becoming eroded people are being educated to think that anything traditional is bad.
[32:41] If you want to learn more about dr. Deb and his work check out the web page for this episode where will and Betty short video that features his seed bank there.
Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute
[32:51] Small operations like dr. Deb's is that the only way communities come together to preserve biodiversity undeveloped land races what are the oldest and largest living seed banks in the world is Ethiopian Ethiopian Institute of biodiversity. It was founded in 1976 directly of the genetic variability of plant species in the region from declining biodiversity as a result of human activities and natural disasters, The Institute maintains over 60,000 varieties a plant species just related Horticultural production. Horticultural oil production in contrast to crop production is the cultivation of species in an effort to preserve and promote different qualities related to plant growth, yield quality nutritional value for food species and qualities like insect resistance an adaptation to different environmental conditions like Drop. Ethiopia is also among the most important regions of the world in terms of Horticultural and plants variability according to the agronomist ink hobbling.
[33:54] For Millennia the insulation and natural interconnectivity of indigenous farming communities in Ethiopia both protected and led to the creation of tremendous crop diversity, Farmers relied on diversity to provide a varied diet and ensure the McInnes catastrophe. By planting many varieties of the same crop sometimes dozens in a single plot and saving seeds from The Season's best performers they encouraged in anikat atation relentlessly and quote. And so today this institution represent a bridge between scientists and Indigenous Farmers preserving what indigenous farmers are discovering and utilizing in their everyday practice.
[34:32] It's a just like you were mentioning earlier David about how the business of growing crops now is no longer about food security but about making profit. These businesses that that's what they're growing these crops for so that they can turn those crops into commodities for a foreign market and as a result, these large industrial agricultural companies are fundamentally not interested in this type of local experimentation and Discovery the type that this Ethiopian biodiversity Institute is trying to preserve. If you're an international company just trying to sell a standardized rain of cotton to some big fashion conglomerate. You have literally zero interest in the well-being of local food security and whatever poor country you decide to grow that cotton in, you have zero interest in preserving rich communities of diverse small farmers if you're interested in the opposite. Taking their land dropping them with debt and converting their land to your large monocrop cotton plantations or whatever crop happens to be the commodity of your choice.
[35:37] And in 2017 the United Nations Human Rights Council actually published a report the challenges the assumption that pesticides are required in the first place to feed global population, and here's an important point they make quotes. The amount of pesticides needed to protect crops depends on the robustness of the farming system if crops are cultivated in unsuitable locations they tend to be more susceptible to pests and diseases. Over the past decades diversity in farming systems has been greatly reduced in terms of crops and varieties grown in natural habitats. The result is a loss of ecosystem services like natural Pest Control through Predators any loss of soil fertility rather than encouraging resistance, crop breeding in industrial agriculture has focused on high-yielding varieties that respond well to chemical input but that are more susceptible to pass and diseases, has most seed companies are now owned by agrochemical companies, there is limited interest in developing robots varieties in order to succeed with pesticide reduction it is essential to reintroduce diversity into Agriculture and move away from monocultures of single varieties.
[36:53] You know what I think is really interesting about this Ethiopian Community Bank in the whole idea of a Community Bank is is so inspiring to me for lack of better words of the idea that, farmers can come and they say hey I have this type of feel, this is the type of soil this is the local microenvironment this is the weather for this year all these things can you take into account and an expert at the seed bank or another farmer can say oh you need this exact specific.
[37:20] Rice or whatever other crop out of the thousands or tens of thousands they have stored their hit in that case it's be perfect crop for that very particular location and the reason that we can have this is that especially in places like Ethiopia which is one of the cradles of Agriculture or people have been encouraging the genetic growth of these types of specific crops for 10,000 years or longer. Let me see scraps ultimately our design and evolve to be grown in these very specific places where is a seed that we buy from a large company might be appropriate for, oh this is great for Drought or this is great for full sun or this is great for saltwater whatever it is in this case it's not great for these things is great for this particular single Valley, because that's where it's been growing for thousands of years at this point and there is no way that is she brought in from outside is going to be more appropriate for that maybe you get higher yield from this other state but is that much more fragile enough for a good is it requires the chemical inputs and we've been talking about in order to allow it to survive in the first place you're trying something that is customized for single location for microclimate for Generations.
[38:25] For something that is just dropped in without any sort of context in the local ecosystem environment or understanding of what is really happening in that soil and that climate and what's going on in those Farmers lies and techniques and traditions that they use, and there's this concept that we have these people because they're not using our modernize mechanized system of farming are somehow inferior and more primitive and don't know how to farm this is a mean that we see a lot of times when people are like oh yeah and Africa one India they don't know how to farm so we came in and we taught them and now things are great in this colonial settler mentality so wrong. We are dropped our misunderstanding of relationships with the environment on to these people and destroyed thousands of years of valuable crop Evolution and understanding of ways of working responsibly and sustainably with the soil. They've been keeping the soil live for hundreds of generations and now with our modern techniques, we are sitting here today and wondering if we're even going to have topsoil in another 50 years, modern industrial farm and we'll have lasted basically one century before we exhausted the soil of the Earth. And we're the ones who have the hubris to stance your intake we taught them how to farm, we taught them how to take a practice that was built about creating sustainable communities and it's dead replace it for one that is based on making individuals wealthy and call that a success. But I'm getting off topic.
[39:54] It was a great points David and I think coming back to these community seed banks I really think that these struggles. These institutions and the small farmers are fighting against in preserving local varieties. Really highlight well the issue with modern industrial agricultural practices and especially something like pesticides, and pesticide-resistant genetically modified crops. And we should talk for a second about the system and how intellectual property fuels all this because for whatever reason this whole issue of pesticides and GMOs, is a super sensitive topic for people like we mentioned earlier it conjures up a whole host of conspiracies misinformation really charged and heated debate, and you can just search the word GMO online and jewelry people saying that all GMOs will give you cancer others will be saying how anyone who believes GMOs are bad are conspiracy nut jobs.
[40:51] And to be clear it's not just the paid Monsanto shows who are weighing in on these heated debates but, but even esteem scientist for example Nobel prize-winning Laureate of chemistry have been repeatedly for years now been calling on groups of people and institution to cease campaigns that attack. GMOs and these scientists are making the claim that there are no health risks to genetically modified crops and that quote. Crops and foods improve through biotechnology are as safe as if not safer than those derived from any other method of production there has never been a single confirmed case of a negative Health outcome for humans or animals from their consumption, their environmental impacts have been shown repeatedly to be less damaging to the environment and a boon to Global biodiversity.
[41:40] It's I guess it's understandable given statements like that that, many people rushed to conclude that if anyone is criticizing GMOs and they must be anti-science but this is where we need to take another step back David because the whole point of this show ashes ashes to question underlying structures in which the symptoms of larger problems exist. And while it is true that human beings have been influencing the genetic makeup of plant species for thousands of years, weather from selective breeding over several Generations. Or modern gene-editing over mirror hours with the help of tools like crispr what is new is the context in which these new crops are placed. And the tools by which they are used as a way to introduce additional pesticides into the environment. As tools to push small farmers out of the equation and a host of other problems.
[42:34] It's exactly right Daniel that's what's so important about this GMO conversation we're not talking here about all of the genes are going to give you cancer or something but rather those unforeseen consequences the same things that created on Modern industrial society because of world war ideas of we're going to deploy the Teemo edited crops has unforeseen consequences will outside the actual fruit or vegetable or whatever it is itself. For example genetic modification is increasingly being used to create crops that introduce even more pesticides into the food supply Roundup Ready varieties of cotton corn instead of for example are designed specifically to the Roundup can be Mass applied to Fields without accidentally harming the crop you want to harvest four crops that are genetically altered to produce more food sometimes it's comes at the direct expense of soil Health which makes it easier for pests to damage crops which encourages both the use of industrial fertilizer which has a number of negative environmental consequences as well as encouraging even higher dependence on pesticides since these plants are more susceptible to pests and diseases in these poor soil Health environment.
[43:41] Going back to episode 16 what we reap we had a discussion about, how soil is not just the dirt and the rocks that you find there but soil is comprised of whole ecosystems of countless microbial life, and what often gets ignored in the context of these discussions about whether or not pesticides and GMOs are healthy for humans, the fact that when these pesticides go into the ground they can destroy life at the microbial level which again requires Farmers to depend all the more on Industrial fertilizer and even more pesticide.
[44:13] Neither one of those death Loops were always talking about on this show Daniel but more importantly regardless of whether crops have been genetically modified in a lab or not this system of modern industrial agriculture is one in which corporations are giving International permission to own the genetic material crops, these corporations didn't use their might to control land and influence government policy ultimately forcing farmers in countries all over the world to take on debt, just to get into the farming business once farmers are hooked by overpriced credit demanding interest. They are forced to purchase and utilize these patented seeds and Industrial methods of these large companies because otherwise they would not be able to make enough money to pay their loans. When people say that regenerative agriculture is not profitable what's missing from that equation is the unnatural land cost in associated. It is unnaturally forced upon people who wish to grow food so coming back to this GMO debate the debate on whether or not a genetically modified crop is good. Bad as little to do at this point with whether they're bad for human consumption and everything to do with the industrial system in which they are used.
[45:21] So again coming back to these community seed banks these efforts are ways that people are resisting and providing a defense for an increasingly Consolidated agricultural landscape,
Intellectual Property Stalls Farming Innovation [45:34] and consider it intellectual property law did not exist and if these GMOs did not exist in the context of a system that seeks to put the small farmer out of business. It's easy to see how crops alter through biotechnology, would allow local farmers like dr.deb to expand their efforts increase their abilities to innovate and find even new solutions to Regional challenges of drought yield excetera but in the current framework, intellectual property in the financial weapons of industrial agriculture is what's driving down biodiversity and destroying environment across the globe when the number of rice varieties in India have fallen from over a hundred and ten thousand, Thunder 6000 all during the expansion of industrial agriculture. We are simply wrong if we believe that this current system is good for the environment and good for biodiversity and there's another irony here. Are we as humans so hubristic that.
[46:35] Yeah I don't even know what you're going to say the answer is yes.
[46:40] Are we as humans should we as humans be so hubristic, that we can tolerate the decimation of biodiversity because we believe that our Gene editing tools will simply unlock god mode saving us from Global catastrophe that we've largely brought upon ourselves and going back to the work of one of our listeners, searching for wild sunflower species that are resistant to drought. Is what she does in her field research specifically so that the genetic factors of drought resistance can be understood but that work starts. With examining what's a nature Gene editing is absolutely a useful tool. Genetically modified organisms certainly have a place in the future of sustainable agriculture but we have to use it in the right direction biodiversity is what allows us to develop Gene editing tools I need for Pete's sake David. The Revolutionary Gene editing tool crispr cast 9 was it invented by human scientists it was discovered in bacteria. Without the biodiversity that nature offers we would not have the tools to even edit genes in the first place.
[47:56] Tears from an article highlighting the work of Ethiopia seed bank with the so-called Green Revolution of the 1950s and 60s, all this was threatened in America and Europe agriculture had shifted toward corporate models Federal light on heavy mechanization, lab developed varieties of high-yield crops monocultures and chemical fertilizers and pesticides as an institution small-scale farming was Beauty. Dangerously antiquated. Leaders such as American at Grand amidst Norman Borlaug whose efforts won him a Nobel Prize in 1970 worked tirelessly to spread the new technology to developing nations. An application this entails scientist from the rich countries coming in and replacing traditional seeds with hybridized varieties. In Time corporate eyes systems would render indigenous Farmers obsolete hunger would become a thing of the past. However be upgraded carried unforeseen costs as Farmers shifted towards growing a handful of varieties of corn soybeans and wheat. Native seed stock was abandoned crop diversity disappeared at a staggeringly.
[49:05] And here's what doctor doubled Deb has to say quote companies are spending billions on Gene mining, or seeking specific genes get after 60 years they still do not have one which can withstand a drought or flooding or seawater but all of these characteristics are available in the land races. I have a ride is of rice that can grow and live for months in 12 ft deep water. There are varieties with amazing medicinal properties the tribals know about certain dark grain rice that give high levels of antioxidants and to prevent cancer. Is there any of you listeners out there through haven't heard it yet. We devote an entire episode number 33 All Rights Reserved to the concept of owning ideas and how we've been misled and miseducated into believing that. This system is good for Innovation and productivity win the historical trend of this concept actually show something radically different. You will learn more I encourage you to check it out.
[50:09] And for those who want to learn more about this endless cycle of debt and very concept of debt in the first place what we've covered that to an episode 28 that end one of my favorite personal episode.
[50:21] And if you want to hear us discuss in more depth the small community LED farming initiatives that are seeking to preserve biodiversity and discover new methods what we haven't done that yet and maybe that's an episode we should do in the future David.
[50:37] Maybe we will. Okay speaking of the development of corporate models of Agriculture as Farms have gotten bigger and more and more unnatural.
Desiccation: The Insane Farming Practice You'Ve Never Heard Of [50:47] Does increased use of pesticides have resulted in increased dependency on pesticides new methods of industrial practices have entered the farmer's tool kit to deal with these more complex bars, one of these relatively new or methods has been gaining traction and it's delivering huge quantities of pesticides in the environment and the Very food that we eat. It's called desiccation.
[51:09] I had never heard of this process before we searching for this topic and when I came across it I mean it's a crazy idea David it really blew my mind that this is even going on.
[51:18] 150 times what it is Daniel why it's so crazy.
[51:21] Yeah okay so. Desiccation by itself is just the technical term for the process of extreme drying but in the context of agriculture it's when Farmers apply herbicide and other chemicals to crops right before Harvest. For the express purpose of killing the crop just so it's easier to harvest. It's a practice that started in Scotland in the 1980s as a way to try to deal with the cold wet weather they get around Harvest Time, but since then it has spread around the globe first to North America and in regions with similar climates to Scotland, and it's become more and more commonplace with a wide variety of crops. And of course obviously is a practice at that just introduced as massive amounts of herbicides and pesticides into the environment.
[52:09] And a lot of pesticide crop a massive amount of pesticide specifically won't damage crops in the regular application but they found. We put tons and tons of pesticide on these crops will then they die.
[52:25] But David why on Earth would anyone do this why why even waste the money on all this chemical.
[52:29] Well you see crop dryness is valuable to Farmers because it reduces the cost on their machinery. So when a harvester plows through a field a still-living plants the extra firmness of the living plants doc puts additional stress on the machines and of course Daniel that means increased cost and repair maintenance and replacement. In addition for crops that are stored for long periods of time you can just put it from the field into storage until you have to remove the extra moisture first easy expensive dryers to prevent mold from ultimately forming in that storage, but if you dry the plants using pesticides in the field before harvesting you can avoid a lot of these cost.
[53:10] What addition we mentioned earlier the trend toward larger and larger farms in. The larger Farms get the more variables there are two production soil quality and content differs over distance typography can change weather patterns might affect one side of the farm differently than the other, and I mean for Farms as big as a 30000 acre example in Kansas, you could even get almost different climates on a single farm so all these variables affect the speed and quality. At which the crop mature so to smooth out these variables farmers will use desiccation to kill everything at the same time so they can Harvest all at once as opposed to trying to adapt to the different maturity rate.
[53:55] Another reason is just honestly simple insurance primer spray even if they feel their crops will all mature naturally and time for Harvest just for that piece of mind and this is part of why the practice has spread to wider range of crops in a variety of climates not just those cool. Windtree regions and this is because in the end of the day the farmer has to know that they're going to be able to pay their bills and they going to be able to pay their bills on time, so that pushes them to take the safer route even if the ultimate product might be worse for the crop and definitely for the environment.
[54:27] This practice raises a number of concerns as related to it just dumped a lot more pesticides into your environment but particularly for herbicides like glyphosate which is commonly used for those practicing this is the Big Daddy pesticide that we haven't gotten to yet but we will soon it's the most popular pesticide in the world right now and.
[54:48] Also known as Roundup.
[54:49] But it's important to mention glyphosate here because it has a unique characteristic especially in the context of desiccation because glyphosate is a non-contact herbicide that's different from a contact herbicide which kills plants through direct contact like when the chemical lands on the leaf or stem but for non-contact herbicide like glyphosate, it works by interfering with plant function after it has been absorbed glyphosate in particular to strap something called the chicken mate acid pathway in plant cells this is a process through which plants derive most of their essential amino acids their vitamins are hormones glyphosate prevents this process by binding to and blocking the ability for the epsps enzyme to kick-start this Shiki mate acid pathway not interesting Lee the fact that this pathway is not present in human cells is one of the main arguments for why are we should not be concerned with glyphosate and that it's safe for human consumption which obviously is hugely debatable but what this means is that because the past aside is absorbed by the plant itself would farmers apply it before Harvest if they don't time it just right then the chemical ends up getting fully absorbed into the seed and the grain.
[56:06] Eventually makes it into our food products and because this practice is expanding to a wider variety of crops everything from corn potatoes sugar beets soybean peas and much more this could help explain why we're seeing higher amounts pesticides like glyphosate in our everyday food products even things like ice cream.
[56:27] In fact I think at this point it's almost difficult to find food products that don't have some sort of traces of glyphosate but I think we'll get into that in a little bit.
[56:35] David this is a good point in the episode to pause for just a minute and comment on a concept an argument that gets made a lot of the time in this context.
We Have Enough Food To Feed The Global Population? [56:48] Agriculture modern practice and a global population that needs to be fit.
[56:53] So today despite our economic growth over 10% of the world's population suffers from chronic undernourishment, some 815 million people and in 2016 this trend had become worse than previous years.
[57:08] So what many people will rightfully bring up win facts like these are presented is that we already produce enough food to meet the needs of every person on the planet, the problem is we just don't distributed properly and this is kind of true but it's in a lot of ways simplifies this problem too much and it can actually open the door to an emphasis on Market reforms other supply-side economics to kind of fix this problem through things like pesticides to increase the yields of crops of the we can distribute them more easily but ultimately this approach and this argument ignores the more important aspect of this problem which is how we produce food in the first place so we do have this Global undernourishment problem but oftentimes the very people who are most undernourished are poor farmers in poor countries that are actually working in the agricultural industry these are literally the people that are at the source of food production yet they themselves are being fat and it's because of what we've been discussing largely so far that rather than producing a variety of crops for their local community people in poor in developing countries are often forced to work for large industrial food factories which pay them low wages, and then ships their crops to commercial markets.
[58:29] At the heart of this issue is not simple food distribution it's it's a much larger problem of Land Management and ownership which gets back to the economics of all this.
[58:39] Will accidental here's an example I think that fits well into the discussion that we saw in the paper just this morning,
Harvard Finds Way To Profit From Climate Change [58:46] in the global economy where food commodities are products separated from their ties to locality. Small farmers in whole communities are at a total disadvantage against large institutions, you can use their wealth the gobble land at prices that are totally out of line with local markets. It has just been reported that Harvard University has been secretly purchasing thousands of acres in land California since 2012 under natural resources investment arm.
[59:15] Which is a ridiculous thing that the university has but the institution has been purchasing land weiwei above-market price in areas that have the best relative groundwater resources and then planting huge Vineyards that helps to make profits on. These Investments are informed by climate change. And what they are simply doing is betting that a drought continues to worsen in California the Water Resources under the ground that they now on will become all the more valuable in the future Global hellscape those with the best land will also have the most valued crops on a global market, literally corporate claims that makes Investments under this natural resources asset class in areas where quote we believe its physical products are going to be in increasing demand in the global economy over the coming decades in quote, in this case that product is is why do this is the system we have today institutions that are. Connected from local regions can use their wealth to take control of land away from locals or Community Resources like water bet on the very destruction of earth that is funded in large part by these large financial institutions in the next track all of these resources and once again just for the sake of making a bet on how to profit from this Global catastrophe that is climate.
[1:00:28] This Revelation about Harvard is just so disturbing to me, but I guess when we live under a system in which prophet is the priority this is the reality that our institutions in our governments will value that profit over the health and well-being of people and their communities. And that's what led to the decision the Scott Pruitt made to resend that ban on that harmful insecticide in and it also leads to these regulations that end up distorting the truth about the risks of these chemicals because they're caving to Industry pressure, but you know I think this Harvard example also just so perfectly illustrates how this industrial agricultural system truly is about investment and has nothing to do with feeding the global population it's this isn't a distribution problem of crops the fact that we're not producing them for food in the first place if our true goal was to feed the world. Would we make the decision to grow grapes on the last remaining cropland that we have that has access to water, no but it does turn out that that is a great way to make Revenue off of water when you can restrict access to it.
[1:01:38] And it's not just wine Daniel we see this action repeated in other crops that are water heavy like almonds or pistachios and you can trace the ownership of a lot of these Farms to large institutions and a very wealthy individuals who aren't trying to grow food for sustainability or the feed the world like you mention a rather to hedge their portfolios for when that drought comes today they can see that they owned these water portfolios and acknowledge that the valley that has in this future hellscape that you mentioned.
[1:02:06] And other examples to like the one that we discussed in episode 12 Up in Smoke where we discuss the.
[1:02:12] Burn it all down.
[1:02:13] Increased risk of wildfires all over the world and their International companies that look at Indonesia and decide that the best way to proceed there is to God left the land, slash and burn all these diverse ecosystems and these diverse forest and just convert those two large tracts of palm oil plantations contributing to global warming increasing the risk of wildfires and also that they can extract from the soil does palm oil which we use in cosmetics and and other food substitutes that we truly don't need if our goal is to feed a global population but that's enough all that David it's time to turn our attention once and for all to the big daddy in the room and that's glyphosate.
[1:02:58] Glyphosate is the most used herbicide in human history Daniel. In fact 18.9 billion pounds that 8.6 billion kilograms for are non Imperial users of glyphosate-based herbicide or gbh is had been sprayed worldwide. In just four decades glyphosate use has also increased. Team X digitally modified crops were introduced in 1996. Not surprisingly glyphosate is found almost everywhere not only is it the most popular pesticide in the world it has a propensity to contaminate soil and water sources making its way into systems beyond the immediate farms in which the chemical is applied. In the ground that can take between 4 and 180 days to degrade and then watered Half-Life is between 76 and 240 days. This contamination of the environment in Naples glyphosate interact with the host of species. Insects bees another important pollinators with the chemical may be toxic.
[1:04:01] And as we discussed with desiccation the chemical has also found its way in a wide variety of human products and it turns out it's not just food. Because of its use with Roundup Ready cotton glyphosate has been discovered in such products as medical gauze and even tampons. And it's because of this ubiquity in all our products in our environment that there is so much attention around glyphosate and because. It is literally the Bedrock of modern industrial agriculture the money that is at stake can help explain all the misinformation in the smear campaigns that make it difficult to understand what the debate around the health risk even are.
[1:04:42] Now trying to determine what definitive health risks might be connected with glyphosate proves to be pretty difficult if not impossible for a number of reasons. On the one hand it remains a mystery just how much we are actually exposed to despite being the most popular pesticide on the planet. He was Food and Drug Administration just recently started monitoring levels of the chemical in the foods we eat, Beverly some of their findings so far and officially quote of the 760 corn soybean milk and egg assignment samples tested for glyphosate 53% had no detectable residues of the pesticides brother none of the milk and examples have any detectable glyphosate agglutinates residues and all the corn and soybean samples that tested positive for the pesticides were below the tolerance levels set. By the US Environmental Protection Agency EPA info.
[1:05:33] But now how honest that the FDA is with its finding is another mystery before these results had been made public, Freedom of Information request had revealed FDA internal emails showing that the organization was Finding glyphosate in a whole host of food, like crackers cereal and honey, one of the lads working for the FDA had found illegal levels of glyphosate in corn but a supervisor dismissed the finding as being unofficial and that same lab had also found glyphosate in Honey and oatmeal samples, and when they try to report this the FDA suspended for the testing and reassigned the lab to a different job.
[1:06:15] But then the other problem is that even if a particular pesticide the residue on food is found to be below the legal limit the legal limit itself might not actually reflect. What is acceptable for long-term human health between 1993 and 2015 for sale. The EPA has increased the legal limit for glyphosate by as much as a factor of 54 major crops like corn and in the US BPA set an acceptable level of daily human exposure to glyphosate levels that are three and a half times higher, then the European Union standards and 17 times higher than level 2 have been recommended by some groups of scientists, so there is misinformation going on even among our most respected public signs institutions and there is no. Industry pressure coming from large chemical and agricultural companies influences the decisions related to regulating and establishing legal limits for these products the misinformation is coming not just from those with financial interest in pushing the benefits of glyphosate, also those with a vested interest in pushing for organic products or lifestyles. So much money on the line this all comes together to form and information landscape that is extremely hard to navigate.
[1:07:29] Yeah for instance I got kind of sucked into this Rabbit Hole discussion about whether or not glyphosate causes disruptions in the human gut microbiome so there are many people claiming that glyphosate does in fact disrupt the bacteria in our guts which could possibly lead to celiac disease and based on the types of bacteria in our gut that influences and impacts and damages it can make us sensitive to certain foods that we otherwise wouldn't be the other people will point out that that doesn't really make sense from the biologically mechanical standpoint and even articles that have been published like one I found was published in the National Academy of Sciences showing some connection between glyphosate in the gut microbiome of bees however when you look at the data they had looked at something like like 45 individual bees and they found this link and only nine individuals and so in a journal like the National Academy of Sciences that is your normally really highly respected for its peer review process this might have been an oversight but unsurprisingly was a lot of articles that will take this headline from the studying in jump to these really audacious conclusion so I mean this is the type of information landscape that people have to Grapple with, but putting gut microbiome aside I think the health risks that people are most interested to learn about is whether or not glyphosate has a link with cancer risk.
[1:08:54] That's right Daniel currently the international Agency for research on cancer, classifies glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen based on evidence that the chemical can cause genotoxicity and oxidative stress as well as an epidemiological association between glyphosate and Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma what type of cancer of the lymphatic system, the iarc also cites studies that is their kidney and liver cancer in animals exposed to glyphosate in their food. That being said the IRC is currently the only major institution outside of the State of California that makes the claim that the pesticide might be carcinogenic be with EBA the European Food Safety Authority and a joint session between the FAO and who all claimed that glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans.
[1:09:42] Beers from a paper published in March of this year trying to make sense of the contradictory claims related to glyphosate and cancer quotes. The conflict between the two organizations of the World Health Organization triggered many doubts and for this reason a series of independent studies were launched to better understand what glyphosate danger to humans and the environment really was the results have brought to light a massive use of the herbicide has created overtime a real Global contamination that has not only affected the soil surface and groundwater as well as the atmosphere but even food and commonly used objects such as diapers medical gauze and absorbent for female intimate hygiene how human health is compromised as a result of glyphosate exposure is a topic that is still very debatable and still unclear.
[1:10:31] While these institutions go back and forth on their official stance perhaps the pressure that will ultimately get these chemical companies to disclose pesticide risks and it changed their products will come from a new wave of lawsuits that threatens to make Bears acquisition of Monsanto a very bad deal.
[1:10:48] A very bad deal and tea David. In August of this year a jury in California found Monsanto responsible for these severe Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that a man developed as a groundskeeper for California Public Schools. Dwayne Johnson was responsible for applying Monsanto glyphosate weed killer as much as 30 times a year and after developing terminal cancer a jury has charged Monsanto with intentionally failing to warn consumers of the cancer risk associated with its product Roundup and Ranger Pro. L in this Landmark case the very first of its kind Monsanto was ordered to pay $289. Apparently the jurors had seen internal emails from Monsanto executive who knew their products post cancer risks. What is significant about this case is that it sets a precedent that could become very costly for the company because there are. 2700 similar cases lined up the have been filed and have similar claims to the one that that jury just liberated on. I guess we'll see if bear can avoid this coming wave of lawsuits or 50 a big change in in global perceptions of glyphosate.
[1:12:07] But getting back to the main thrust of this section I mean it is so difficult to navigate all these discussions online because there's so much pseudoscience bad science and paid science from industry Hills and in fact if you even go on a website like Reddit and you just mentioned casually Monsanto GMOs glyphosate Roundup there are people who will show up who do nothing but post about Monsanto and glyphosate all day long defending these companies these Scheels. Whether they're paid or volunteer their dominant discussions are my, and even in the world of academic science if you find a journal article that deals with glyphosate or GMOs and you ultimately Google the author's names you're more than likely to find whole web pages devoted did it how they're paid months after Scheels or they're paid anti-monsanto Scheels. And that's basically the date of the discourse so it's really hard for us to try and navigate into anything concrete because there's so much up in the air there's so much funding from both sides and it's really impossible to say anything for sure plus we're probably going to be sued until after I had that up to our other billion-dollar find that we're already facing Daniel, the new new patreon goal right there was we should set that $1 that they off record label.
[1:13:18] But ultimately this topic is not important from the perspective of the health risks of human consumption of food. Even if we could definitively say with no question at a pesticide bike life estate poses 0 human health risks, we still have the entire system of industrial agriculture to deal with which is destroying our environment destroying food security and estimating life on this planet. A process that is made possible by inputs like glyphosate another pesticide.
[1:13:47] Let's turn our attention David now to Regulators in this field the EPA and in others.
Regulations Blind To Global Poor [1:13:53] And how blind spots and how we regulate these chemicals are impacting people outside of the countries in which we regulate their use so we mentioned how the institutions that regulate the use of pesticides at several blind spots the EPA has referred to as on chemicals that we know are toxic, the residue limits that are agency set for pesticides often exceed limits determined to be safe by other agencies around the world as well as independent scientist and the way these chemicals are regulated in the first place often focus on their immediate health risks which overlooks their role in a systematically destructive system, but there is another blind-spot to these regulatory efforts that's really important to mention here and that's how the destruction that is caused by pesticide use is often outsourced to poor countries and hidden from the efforts of Regulation in countries where these crops, ultimately end up getting imported so when the EPA for instance set limits to pesticide residues that are allowed to be left on crops.
[1:14:59] This might help us prevent the importation of crops that have dangerous levels of chemicals left on them. But all this does is Target the level of chemicals that will be introduced into our diets directly what it totally ignores is the fact that pesticides in those countries where the crop originated from all those pesticides also enter populations of local birds. The soil the drinking water other non-target species of plant insects and Aquatic animals.
[1:15:30] Toad appears that we are willing to tolerate the wholesale destruction of communities around the world so long as that Windows apples and those bananas reach our border the residue from those chemicals have been mostly wiped clean.
[1:15:45] We'll talk about some of those impacts on the global poor and some of the consequences that we know a pesticide application in poor countries from a paper published a decade ago in interdisciplinary toxicology. No segment of the population is completely protected against exposure to pesticides in the potentially serious health effects so disproportionate burden is shouldered by the people of developing countries and by high-risk groups in each country. In quotes when these facts are described they get framed in this apologetic way it says while it's unfortunate the developing countries face higher risks this is simply because we have not built up the same safety standards they don't know as much about farming as we do and they lack the necessary infrastructure that we here in our wealthy countries have but as we saw with the story of Guatemala and episode 11 designing deception developing countries are used by the International Community as a source commodity crops in Guatemala keep the president who wanted to give land to local people to farm for themselves he was ousted why you was back military coup for the express purpose of putting that land back into the hands of American banana companies turn the whole landscape into a mono crop banana Orchard so we see that in many cases that these developing countries are not truly in control over their own land, the crops that grow are often forced upon them and this is not something new this is a historical trend.
[1:17:11] Between 1630 and 1654 for instance a Dutch West India Company invaded Northeast Brazil, increase the number sugar plantations in an expanding production to the islands in the Caribbean, which resulted in enormous Devastation to the land leaving countless local people starved and impoverished.
[1:17:29] If there is greater environmental destruction and greater Health consequences of farming in the so-called developing countries. It's not because these countries lack development or that they are backwards, if anything it's because of harmful agricultural practices that have been forced on the region by International pressure. Crops are not grown to satisfy the local needs of food Security in the regions in which they are grown those crops are grown to be extracted exported and thrown into the mix of an international Commodities Market. And in this context we see that the greater health risks associated with pesticide use and greater environmental destruction in these poor regions of the world represents direct exports of the structure of Land Management practices from wealthier countries at the same time for instance that we here in the United States enact laws to conserve land.
[1:18:27] Outsourcing even greater size of land destruction outside our borders and so that argument that you highlighted a bit earlier David that, oh you not developing countries simply lack the infrastructure they lack the development and that's why they experienced health problems that's why their agricultural methods are harmful this argument is doubly dangerous not only is it simply wrong, for the reasons we've outlined but it can be used to justify increased investment in these areas Investments that ultimately fuel the expansion of this financial agricultural system.
[1:19:08] So Daniel that brings us actually towards the end of this episode and the ultimate question that we try to ask what can we do.
What Can We Do?
[1:19:16] We know actually came across something interesting researching the topic which is something called the precautionary principle, and to some countries have actually decided to ban certain pesticides not as result of some research that shows their toxicity but specifically because there was no research.
[1:19:35] And they decided that look it's better to err on the side of caution, to prevent a process that could be harmful rather than implementing it only to find out that it's harmful later, and this is a concept that we've touched. To discussion we've had for example in episode 19 life in plastic where we talked about just the sheer scale of how many chemicals there are in our environment and in the products that we use none of which have been tested or regulated in any way mostly because it would be totally unprofitable if companies had to test the risks of every chemical they put into our environment but also because in a lot of ways our economy follows a reverse logic which is, we built something or we invent something and we find some using it so we just put it out there we will use it as much as possible but only then when something bad is discovered do we try to adjust it or maybe clean up the mess that we made this is something that happened with those microbeads and cosmetic products that we decided to ban worldwide when we found out oh maybe it's not good to be washing micro plastic beads down the drain in all the products we use and also putting them in our bodies it's all just reverse logic result in a unmanageable and destructive world like the one we have now where we look around and we noticed that the problems around us.
[1:20:57] Haste our ability to correct them so I think we should be encouraging ourselves and the policies that our governments enforce to try and reverse this logic so that when we look at implementing a practice implementing a new business implementing a new product we should not wait for the science to catch up on the risks with things like pesticides after World War II like you mentioned we had these chemical Factory sitting around if instead of just saying how can we put these to use. If we'd asked what are the risks of putting these to use what are the risks of mass application of chemicals on the food that we eat. If we decided to wait before we changed the world we might not have found ourselves in the situation we're now in today.
[1:21:42] Another more practical application of these questions Daniel maybe we should just ask ourselves where does our food come from.
[1:21:49] It's a simple question and something that really we aren't able to answer for the first time in human history because it before this point when are crops are flown halfway around the world just to get to our dinner table we knew where it came from the came from down the street it came from a few Fields away and we could trace exactly there's possibilities of the person who grew up because we knew them or we were friends of friends with them they were part of our community would as our civilization grew and we spread increasingly far apart and away from the farm land, that connection disappear and now when we walked through our grocery aisles we see these gleaming fruits and vegetables and we have no context we don't know where they were grown how they were grown what chemicals were applied what fertilizers brought them what the people in the field saw and had to go through in order to bring that growth to us, and then we may look for terms that they organic that are certified fresh or whatever word it is those don't necessarily mean what we think they do, organically grown crop is still grown with pesticides natural pesticides in many cases are more toxic than a synthetic pesticides that we are also terrified of and rightly so and it's not a question of whether we should be getting organic or non-organic food understanding that the best food comes from these small farms we have a 30000 Acre Farm you are forced to grow food in a certain way in a way that is not sustainable in a way that makes heavy use of chemical supplementation in both fertilizer and pesticide.
[1:23:18] When somebody has a small farm a farm they can manage and they understand every component that farm because it's small enough you can understand this soil and all of it.
[1:23:27] Climate of it all then you can have somebody who is limiting those inputs as much as possible because they are responsible for keeping the small patch of Life Alive. So go to your farmers market and whether or not it says organic or not if it's from a small farm in many cases small farmers can a Ford fully Organic certification it's something we talked to Chris about maybe it was mentioned in episode 16 but it's not it's a common problem with small farmers but what organic you can walk up to the farm or somebody who is there on the field who.
[1:23:58] Things and ask them how was this grown and it can give you an answer something you won't find at your mega grocery market that has value it's good to know where your food comes from. And maybe this is a luxury if those of us who live close enough to a place where we can easily get this food in this manner Weather Channel Farmers Market will because we live close to the farmers themselves but it's something if we have this ability we should embrace and we should try and bring this to as many people as possible, and we should make sure that this burden of knowing where the food that we eat comes from doesn't rest solely on us as consumers. But at grocery store which has the power to pressure these producers should have a section that is set aside of food fruits and vegetables that are grown responsibly. Weather Dallas is organic or non-organic we need to know that these crops were grown with limited and responsible and put of these chemical processes. 50 South Royal is not being sucked dry for nutrients but instead turned in a way that ensures that it's going to last for Generations ahead. And when we can find places that have embraced these Community Banks places like Ethiopia places like India places like Bhutan countries around the world that have realized the value and the knowledge of generations of farming evolution of the crops in these microclimates in environments we should encourage this we should spread these ideas as many places as possible and try to resist the temptation to take.
[1:25:23] Knowledge take it somewhere else and drop it out of context on an unsuspecting world with little regard to what consequences that bite me. When is donating to these organizations that are doing this or just talking to people and making them aware of the very real consequences that our diet has on the earth on the health of these ecosystems and our own hell.
[1:25:42] But you know this is just something that going forward all of us are going to have to work hard to transform our perspectives on this issue when it comes to agriculture these concepts of local Agriculture and as consumers seeking out those crops that we know where they come from and selecting for the healthier Source these are all things were going to have to be thinking about, and related to that you know we're seeing a lot of discussion about climate change everywhere now is it's becoming just impossible to ignore and you see a lot of these debates go back and forth between should we point the fingers at the consumers for purchasing the products that then fuel the profits of harmful companies or is it the fault of companies for making these harmful products or doing whatever crazy thing they're doing I think ultimately no matter who's at fault if we want to go forward in this world in face does global catastrophe that's on the horizon, all of us are going to have to experience a dramatic lifestyle change of us doesn't have to be for the worst but it will be a dramatic change in when it comes to agriculture that's one of them if we want to reverse this trend of larger and larger consolidation agriculture larger Farms it means that more of us are going to have to participate in food production it means more of us are going to have to be part of communities where local resources are used in a responsible way to produce food sustainably.
[1:27:06] But you know I know we don't really have a lot of practical tips at the end of this episode but in the same vein of Transforming Our perspectives and reframing our minds. I could not hope to say it any better than someone like Wendell Berry so rather than trying to carry on I want to just read a passage from one of his essays called to Minds.
[1:27:29] This is supposedly an Age of Reason. We are encouraged to believe that the governments and corporations of the affluent parts of the world are run by rational people using rational processes to make rational decisions. The dominant faith of the world in our time is in rationality. That in an Age of Reason the human race or the most wealthy and Powerful parts of it should be behaving with colossal irrationality ought to make us wonder if reason alone can lead us to do what is right. The rational mind without being anywhere perfectly embodied is the mind we are all supposed to be trying to have. It is the mind that the most powerful and influential people think they have the rational mind is objective analytical and empirical. It makes itself up only by considering fax it pursues Truth by experimentation. It Is uncorrupted by preconception received Authority religious belief or feeling its ideal products are the proven fact, the accurate prediction and the informed decision.
[1:28:39] Under the reign of the rational mind there is no firewall between contemporary science and contemporary industry or Economic Development. It is entirely imaginable for instance that a young person might go into biology because of love for plants and animals but such a young person had better be careful, for there is nothing to prevent knowledge gained for love of creatures from being used to destroy them for Love of Money. When the rational mind establishes a farm the result is bad farming there is a remarkable difference between a hog Factory, which exists only for the sake of its economic product and a good Farm which exists for many reasons including the pleasure of the farm family their affection for their home their satisfaction in their good work, in short. Their patriotism such a farm yield its economic product as a sort of side effect of the health of a flourishing place in which things live according to their nature. The hog Factory attempts to be a totally rational which is to say a totally economic Enterprise, it strips away from animal life and human work every purpose every benefit to that is not economic. It comes about as a result of a long effort on the part of scientific agriculture to remove the sympathetic mine from all agricultural Landscapes and replace it with a rational mind.
[1:30:05] And so goodbye to The Shepherd of the parable enter compassionate young men who leave agriculture for good goodbye to the cultural landscape goodbye to the actual landscape. These have all been dispensed with by the rational mind to be replaced buy a totalitarian economy with it's neat logical concept of world as Factory and life as commodity this is an economy excluding all decisions but informed decisions reporting to reduce the possibility of loss. The sympathetic mind leaves the whole world war two temps always to do so. It looks upon people and other creatures as whole beings it does not parcel them out into functions and uses. And so let that be inspiration for you and may we all go forward in a sympathetic mind towards a better world.
[1:31:03] That's a lot to think about but think about it we hope you will. You can learn more about any of the things we talked about today we all the papers we reference to a quick video on Doctor dead and much more as well as read a full transcript of this episode on our website at ashes ashes. O RG.
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