Category: Health

The Five-A-Day Fruits And Vegetables Myth

January 28th, 2011 — 2:13pm

My salad days, when I was green in judgment, cold in blood …

– William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra (1606)

The following might be a little difficult for you to swallow, but I make no apologies: here at we aim to pulverize all the myths, one slab of baloney at a time.

My good friend Dave (“The Cock”) Cochrane, from across the pond, was kind enough to send me this article, which recently appeared in the Daily Mail Online:

With great fanfare, it was reported last week that the current health advice about eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day is outdated, and that scientists now believe that eight portions is more beneficial.

While many people grumbled about how on earth they would manage those extra portions, I ­allowed myself a wry smile.

For more than two years I’ve known that the ‘five-a-day’ mantra we’re all so familiar with is nothing but a fairytale.

Of course, they are tasty, colourful additions to any meal. But in terms of health and nutrition, fruit and veg have little to offer, and telling us to eat eight portions a day is compounding one of the worst health fallacies in recent history.

Surprised? Many people will be, and no doubt some dieticians and nutritionists will reject my arguments. But science backs me up.

The latest findings come from a European study into diet and health looking at 300,000 people in eight countries.

It found that people who ate eight or more portions of fresh food a day had a 22 per cent lower chance of dying from heart disease. Yet just 1,636 participants died during the study from heart disease, which is about half of one per cent.

Out of that very small proportion, fewer people died from the group that ate more fruit and veg.

However, the researchers cautioned that these people may have healthier lifestyles generally. They may be less likely to smoke; they may eat less processed food; they may be more active.

What we should not do is to make the usual bad science leap from association to causation and say ‘eating more fruit and veg lowers the risk of dying from heart disease’.

This survey comes not long after another large study, which examined half a million people over eight years, reported that fruit and veg offer no protection against breast, prostate, bowel, lung or any other kind of tumour. Those eating the most fruit and veg showed no difference in cancer risk compared with those ­eating the least.

So how have we been duped for so long?

You might assume our five-a-day ­fixation is based on firm evidence. But you’d be wrong.

It started as a marketing campaign dreamt up by around 20 fruit and veg ­companies and the U.S. National Cancer Institute at a meeting in California in 1991. And it’s been remarkably successful.

People in 25 countries, across three continents, have been urged to eat more greens, and have done so in their millions, believing it was good for them.

No doubt it was set up with the best intentions — to improve the health of the nation and reduce the incidence of cancer. But there was no evidence that it was doing us any good at all.

Read the full article here.

And remember: It’s an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers.

7 comments » | Health

Mandatory Health Insurance And Car Insurance — “A Stupid Analogy”

December 23rd, 2010 — 1:56am

Tibor Machan

The following article, which I reprint only in part and which destroys the mandatory-car-insurance-mandatory-health-insurance canard, was written by Tibor Machan, who teaches business ethics and general philosophy at Chapman University in Orange, CA:

A Stupid Analogy

Now that Judge Henry E. Hudson of the Virginia district court ruled that the Obama health care measure violates the U. S. Constitution by forcing people to make purchases they may not want to make, there are innumerable sophists who want to refute the rationale for the ruling. They trot out the “argument” that since people living in states may be required to carry auto insurance, they can also be made to purchase anything the government, including the feds, decides they must.

But this analogy fails because people do not have to drive! Yet under Obamacare by simply being living citizens, they would have to purchase health insurance. Never even mind that the state regulations requiring people to purchases auto insurance aren’t universal across the country and different states have the constitutional authority to handle the issues involved in their own way, with no federal mandate dictating to them what they must do.

Furthermore, one rationale in support of the state requirement that citizens who choose to drive carry insurance is that nearly all driving happens on state roads. There is no requirement to get insurance if one stays off them and confines one’s driving to private thoroughfares. And this is because it is the states that claim legal ownership of roads and they then get to set the standards for what those using the roads need to do for the privilege. (Yes, it is deemed a privilege, not a right, because of the state’s collective ownership of most roads.)

So the analogy with state requirements to carry driver’s insurance is fallacious. But when that’s pointed out, another tack is put forth, namely, that ill health is contagious like the plague or leprosy. This is desperate since it is blatantly wrong. One can have all sorts of ailments that will not be communicated to anyone near or far. One can contract ill health, injuries, maladies and so forth without the involvement of others. Sometimes it is just misfortune that brings this about, sometimes it is one’s own reckless conduct, sometimes the recklessness of people with whom one freely associates and rarely because of injuries sustained from what others do. In no such cases are those left out implicated and thus no one should be legally required to foot the bill of the health care measures, including insurance, that may be need to fix or treat things.

The sophists who bring up this line of shabby reasoning are capitalizing on the common sense idea that when people emit harm from their private activities–such as manufacture, smoking, reckless driving, and so forth–they ought to shoulder the burden that befalls others in consequences of it all. In short, no one ought to dump on other people the cost and liabilities of one’s own malpractice.

(Read the full article here.)

5 comments » | Health, Healthcare, Individual rights

Doctor Hal Scherz: Dear Patients — Vote to Repeal ObamaCare

September 1st, 2010 — 1:33pm

Dr. Hal Scherz

Doctor Hal Scherz is a pediatric urological surgeon at Georgia Urology and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. He also serves on the faculty of Emory University Medical School and is president of Docs4PatientCare. Just recently, he wrote that “because the issue this upcoming election is so stark — literally life and death for millions of Americans in the years ahead — we are this week posting a ‘Dear Patient’ letter in our waiting rooms.” This is, in part, what that letter says:

“Dear Patient: Section 1311 of the new health care legislation gives the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services and her appointees the power to establish care guidelines that your doctor must abide by or face penalties and fines. In making doctors answerable in the federal bureaucracy this bill effectively makes them government employees and means that you and your doctor are no longer in charge of your health care decisions. This new law politicizes medicine and in my opinion destroys the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship that makes the American health care system the best in the world.”

In this same letter, Doctor Scherz writes:

“Badly exacerbating the current doctor shortage [ObamaCare will bring] major cost increases, rising insurance premiums, higher taxes, a decline in new medical techniques, a fall-off in the development of miracle drugs as well as rationing by government panels and by bureaucrats like passionate rationing advocate Donald Berwick that will force delays of months or sometimes years for hospitalization or surgery.”

He also cites the brutal, unignorable, irrefutable facts of ObamaCare’s passage:

“Despite countless protests by doctors and overwhelming public opposition — up to 60% of Americans opposed this bill — the current party in control of Congress pushed this bill through with legal bribes and Chicago style threats and is determined now to resist any ‘repeal and replace’ efforts. This doctor’s office is non-partisan — always has been, always will be. But the fact is that every Republican voted against this bad bill while the Democratic Party leadership and the White House completely dismissed the will of the people in ruthlessly pushing through this legislation….

“In the face of voter anger some Democratic candidates are now trying to make a cosmetic retreat, calling for minor modifications or pretending they are opposed to government-run medicine. Once the election is over, however, they will vote with their party bosses against repealing this bill.”

The letter’s final lines are perhaps the most important:

“Please remember when you vote this November that unless the Democratic Party receives a strong negative message about this power grab our healthcare system will never be fixed and the doctor patient relationship will be ruined forever.”

In the Wall Street Journal, the following from Doctor Scherz is appended:

This message is going out to an electorate that is already frustrated over what they see happening to health care. Missouri voters rejected ObamaCare overwhelmingly in August, voting by a margin of 71%-29% to reject the federal requirement that all individuals purchase health insurance. Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen has assessed that ObamaCare is “a disaster” for Democrats. And around the country many little-noticed primaries have reflected voter rage—including the Republican primary victory of surgeon, political newcomer, and advocate of repeal Daniel Benishek in Michigan’s first district.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration’s damage-control efforts have fallen flat. The latest round of pro-ObamaCare television spots targeting the elderly and starring veteran actor Andy Griffith have not only failed to move the polling numbers. They have caused five U.S. Senators to ask for an investigation of the ads as a violation of federal laws barring the use of tax dollars ($750,000) for campaign purposes.


2 comments » | Health, Healthcare, socialism

A Doctor’s Take On Healthcare

June 29th, 2010 — 5:52pm

The dynamic Doctor Mariela Resendes (M.D.) is a private practitioner who spent her previous 5 years as the Managing Partner/CEO of the largest Radiology practice in the San Joaquin Valley of California, CMI Radiology Group. Just recently, she wrote an irrefutable and scathing essay on the coming healthcare disaster that Barack Obama and his clownish administration have just unleashed. I reprint it here in full:

As a practicing doctor in California it troubles me that those with the ability to influence health care legislation have either been politically motivated to remain silent, or strikingly inarticulate when it comes to voicing the major issues patients and taxpayers will face with the new health care bill. My own, long-held view has been that any reform should be of the free market variety.

In that sense, I’m increasingly scared as I learn more about what’s inside the health legislation passed by Congress not long ago. Despite the rising level of unhappiness with what has transpired, it dismays me that the general public, like me, is not fully aware of the financial tsunami that is on the way for patients, insurers and hospitals thanks to this legislation, not to mention the irregular way in which it was passed.

In the newspapers we all read that the legislation was passed via reconciliation. Most people do not understand what this represented. What Congress did was to pass this legislation under the Congressional Budget Act of 1984, which allows a loophole to avoid a 60 vote filibuster in laws which refer to changes in revenue and spending amounts; i.e. budgetary issues.

The legislation which Congress passed certainly does affect the budget, but clearly the bill’s intent wasn’t budgetary; rather it concerned dramatic changes for a large portion of our economy: health care. Given the bill’s intent, one can only hope that the upcoming elections bring greater ideological balance so that what promises to be damaging can at the very least be amended.

“Obamacare”, as it is colloquially termed, is financially a disaster for doctors, hospitals, insurers, and will ultimately be a disaster for our nation’s budget. It is also unfortunate for patients needing care.

Obamacare’s proponents tout the legislation’s cost controls, along with expansion of coverage for those who currently do not have insurance. The policy wonks seek cost containment and “efficient” use of resources. More realistically, cost containment could only be achieved if access to care were rationed.

Rationing in mind, Rahm Emmanuel’s brother published a very well received paper in the New England Journal Of Medicine about efficient or optimal deployment of resources in health care. The upshot is that a young man is worth spending a lot of money on, a young child much less, and for seniors, pretty much nothing; all in a calculated return on investment model.

For physicians, Obamacare initially offered promises of tort reform, as well as promises to reverse the Medicare cuts that made it so difficult for physicians to practice. Neither is in the final legislation. As a result, doctors will continue to practice defensive medicine, and for doing so will face 20%+ cuts in their Medicare payments.

Physicians in primary care will initially see an income boost from 2011-2014, thus encouraging them to take on indigent patients the system needs to absorb. Unfortunately, starting in 2014, the payments per patient will fall for primary care doctors too.

Specialists will receive a financial hit right from the beginning. The goal here is to have less in the way of specialists, and more general practitioners. On its face this will drive more doctors into early retirement.

As for the physicians that choose to continue practicing, they’ll have difficulty staying afloat financially, and many will seek employment opportunities similar to those of “foundation” practices (such as those seen in states like California where hospitals can’t employ physicians), or hospital owned practices in other states.

The explicit goal here is to slow the move toward private practice. Doctors in foundation types of practices act more like union or shift-workers, and less like professionals. Their productivity tends to be lower than in traditional private practices; ergo more doctors are needed for a similar number of patients. Considering a scenario of rising physician retirement alongside a large increase in the number of patients, it is unclear how treatment and diagnosis will occur in a timely fashion.

Hospitals are similarly not going to fare well, and many will simply go under. Previously, hospitals took in higher payments from privately insured patients in order to care for those who couldn’t pay, or for those covered by Medicaid. At the same time, hospitals which had a higher number of indigent patients also received what is called disproportionate share funds from state and federal governments. Rural hospitals in particular received extra funds.

But with Washington’s new mandate, the expectation is that all of the previous non-paying patients will now pay for themselves such that subsidies for indigent-care will be eliminated. Unfortunately, this will occur in concert with reduced inflows from privately insured patients whose costs will be reduced to Medicaid levels.

In short, the money from the increased volume of “paying” patients is not enough to counter the loss of disproportionate funds and decreased classic private insurance payments. The net result will be a deficit for many hospitals. They will not be able to keep their doors open if they sustain persistent losses, which is what is expected.

Many insurance companies will be squeezed out of existence thanks to rules that will bar them from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. And unlike the federal government they won’t be able to operate in the red forever. The end result points to a single-payer system run out of Washington.

Looking ahead, it is increasingly apparent that by 2020 we will have severe cuts in service thanks to rising retirement among doctors, a decrease in the number of private insurers, and a reduction in the number of hospitals due to federal mandates that fail to marry costs with services. The end result will be rationing and delay of elective procedures, denial of expensive but effective treatments a la England, and most likely a single-payer system the likes of which is seen in other, less advanced health care systems around the world.

Here is more on how our healthcare crisis began.

And here is the real solution.

2 comments » | Barack Obama, Health, Healthcare, socialism

Are The Fish Really Being Mercury Poisoned?

March 14th, 2010 — 7:59pm

If you smell something fishy in this latest wave of methyl mercury talk, the reason is that there is something fishy in it — very fishy — and it stinks to high heaven. Don’t be lured in.

The relevant facts are these:

In this country, there hasn’t been a single scientifically documented case of fish-related mercury poisoning.

The only semi-recent medically documented cases come from Japan in the 1950s and 1960s, and that was right after a massive industrial spill of mercury into their fishing waters. Current mercury levels, in fish and in people, do not approach those mid-century Japanese levels. Not remotely.

“The levels of methyl mercury in California fish are much lower than those that occurred in Japan. We are not aware of any cases of overt poisoning in California, nor would we expect them” (Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, 2003, California Office).

“The only clinical reports of mercury poisoning from fish consumption are those from Japan in the 1950s and 1960s. Although a National Academy of Sciences committee reported that 60,000 children in the United States were at risk as a result of prenatal exposure, they failed to provide any justification or explanation for that conclusion” (Doctor Thomas Clarkson, Doctor Gary Myers, and Doctor Laszlo Magos, quoted in the New England Journal of Medicine).

“The general population does not face a significant health risk from methyl mercury” (The World Health Organization).

“There is some junk science at work here. They can say whatever they want [about mercury]; we’ve reviewed the basis for their findings and there isn’t a lot of substance to it” (Dr. Charles Lockwood, chairman of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, discussing the federal government’s mercury-in-fish warnings, 2002).

“The mercury content level of most seafood is low and is not a level to cause harm to the health of individuals, even if they [sic] are pregnant” (Health advisory issued by the Japanese Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry, 2003).

The truth about this whole non-issue is that our government’s so-called mercury-in-fish recommendations are based exclusively on a single study. This was a study in which participants were eating whale meat, not fish meat. Whale meat, as you may or may not know, is not like fish: it’s notoriously contaminated, for one thing, and I’m not just talking about with mercury. Thus, isolating mercury as the culprit has proved virtually impossible. Which is exactly why it was never proven.

A recently wrapped-up 12-year study in the Seychelles Islands concluded that there are “no negative health effects from exposure to mercury through heavy fish consumption.” The Seychelle people eat on average 12 fish meals per week, which is a lot more than the majority of Americans. Mercury levels measure significantly higher among the island natives than they do among Americans. And yet after 12 years — the length of the study — these folks showed no negative health effects; on the contrary, there were measurable health benefits from eating so much fish. Quote:

“In the Seychelles, where the women in our study ate large quantities of fish each week while they were pregnant, the children are healthy. These are the same fish that end up on the dinner table in the United States and around the world” (pediatric neurologist Doctor Gary Myers, quoted in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet).

“From all the reports we had seen about mercury and its impact on development, we thought we would be able to show how bad it was for children. But we didn’t find it at all. Children whose mothers had the highest levels of mercury, did significantly better than children whose moms had low mercury levels” (Professor Dr. Philip Davidson, speaking in 2006 to The Medical Post about his landmark study of heavy fish-eaters in the Seychelles Islands).

In February of 2007, The Lancet also published research showing “a clear health benefit to children whose mothers ate large amounts of fish.”

“Existing evidence suggests that methyl mercury exposure from fish consumption during pregnancy, of the level seen in most parts of the world, does not have measurable cognitive or behavioural [sic] effects in later childhood. For now, there is no reason for pregnant women to reduce fish consumption below current levels, which are probably safe” (Doctor Constantine Lyketsos, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, quoted in the The Lancet, 2003).

In October of 2006, research conducted at Harvard University and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) stated in no uncertain terms the following:

“Health benefits from eating fish [in this country] greatly outweigh the risks, including those from trace amounts of mercury.”

“Mercury is in the ocean. So in theory there is risk associated with fish consumption. But the types of risk are not the frank poisoning events one might picture associated with mercury. We are talking about subtle effects not detectable at the level of the individual. That is because the amount of mercury people are exposed to in the U.S. is not very great” (Doctor Joshua Cohen, Harvard School of Public Health, 2005. Please see also the Time Magazine article).

“People overreact to these things, so you have to be careful. You don’t want large numbers giving up the benefits of fish while you damage the whole fishing sector for no good reason” (Doctor Sandrine Blanchemanche, of the French National Institute for Agronomic Studies, quoted in the Los Angeles Times).

Perhaps most significantly of all: there’s simply no good evidence to suggest the mercury levels in our fish have risen at all. Just the opposite, in fact: recent research from Princeton University, Duke University, and the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum have compared ocean fish preserved between 25 and 120 years ago with present-day samplings of these same fish. The unequivocal conclusion:

“Mercury levels in fish either remained the same or declined.”

“Eating lots of ocean fish isn’t much of a hazard compared to missing out on the benefits from not eating fish. A slew of scientific reports have shown that eating fish helps protect against cardiovascular disease and enhances brain development before and after birth. Overstating the almost negligible risk of mercury could adversely affect millions of people who face the risk of heart disease” (Doctor Thomas Clarkson, University of Rochester, Environmental Medicine).

The main thing for you to remember about this current wave of environmental zealotry and all this food quackery is that it’s no new kettle of fish — not at all.

In their own words: “We simply want capitalism to come to an end” (Jonathen Kabat, one of the founders of the so-called Union of Concerned Scientists, a Marxist eco-group).


“There are many organizations out there that value credibility, but I want Greenpeace first and foremost to be a credible threat” (Greenpeace Executive Director John Passacantando, quoted in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).


“The political and economic system that destroys the Earth is the same system that exploits workers” — i.e. capitalism (Sierra Club’s book, Call to Action, Handbook for Ecology, Peace and Justice).


“Nothing less than a change in the political and social system, including revision of the Constitution, is necessary to save the country from destroying the natural environment. Capitalism is the earth’s number one enemy” (Barry Commoner, the Green Party’s first Presidential candidate).


“We reject the idea of private property” (Peter Berle, past-president of the National Audubon Society).


“Free enterprise really means rich people get richer. They have the freedom to exploit and psychologically rape their fellow human beings in the process. Capitalism is destroying the earth” (Helen Caldicott of the Union of Concerned Scientists).

Please note that this ocean-sized campaign entirely ignores present-day life expectancies, which have never been higher, as well as present-day infant mortality rates, which have never been lower. Note also that it ignores about a million other things besides — things which only the industrial society can bring: clean drinking water, for instance; clean, inexpensive, and abundant food at the drop of a hat; plentiful clothing; heat and air-conditioning; homes and shelter; state-of-the-art bicycles, skateboards, snowboards and skis, motorcycles, cars; inexpensive alcohol, coffee, music, movies, books, art; new medicine, and so much more.

Furthermore, from the comfort of all this, environmentalism, a parasite of capitalism, denounces it all while simultaneously reaping its rewards and ignoring the one thing that brought it all about: freedom and free trade.

But when I tell you that these environmental claims are all, without exception, absurdly exaggerated, you need not listen to me; listen, rather, to an esteemed Nobel laureate you’ve perhaps heard of:

“Nobody is interested in solutions if they don’t think there’s a problem. Given that starting point, I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen.”

Albert Gore, ladies and gentleman, quoted in Grist Magazine.

Comment » | environmentalism, Health

Are Organic Foods Worth The Price?

March 5th, 2010 — 9:27am

In February of 2007, the Los Angeles Times ran an article that said, among other things, the following:

Since 1989, when organic-food activists raised a [bunked] nationwide scare over the pesticide alar in apples, many scientists have seethed quietly at what they perceive as a campaign of scare tactics, innuendo and shoddy science perpetrated by organic food producers and their allies.

Indeed, organic food activists are increasingly open about their fraudulent agenda. Organic Valley Marketing Director Theresa Marquez, for instance, laid out, in no uncertain terms, her strategy of falsifying data to dupe the masses into thinking organics are worth their premium price:

“We think it’s important that people pay more for food,” she said. “The question is: ‘Will consumers pay more for that?’ and ‘How can we convince them to do that?’”

And yet: “Organic food has no higher nutritional value compared to conventional food,” says Nutrition and Diet Professor Tom Sanders, of Kings College London.

Which is hardly news, however.

In fact, Professor Sanders is merely echoing what science has been saying for years.

The only people who really disagree are environmental groups and animal rights activists, with all their agendas and quackery — in response to which quackery, food science professor Joseph Rosen, of Rutgers University, says this: “Most [of their studies] are not designed, conducted or published according to accepted scientific standards, and many were done by groups that openly promote organic foods.”

Where, then, is all the proof that organic food is better and better for you?

“The short answer, food safety and nutrition scientists say, is that such proof does not exist” (Los Angeles Times, February, 2007).

Indeed, the very word “organic” has been commandeered by phonies, so that the term, which was once legitimate, has now become a conceptual void. Quoting, at length, the erudite R.I. Throckmorton, Dean of Kansas State College:

This cult has sought to appropriate a good word “organic,” and has twisted its meaning to cover a whole crazy doctrine. The facts are that organic matter in its true sense is an important component of the soil — but soil fertility and the kind of crops you grow on a soil are not determined by humus alone.

Soil fertility is determined by the amount of active organic matter, the amount of available mineral nutrients, the activities of soil organisms, chemical activities in the soil solution and the physical condition of the soil. Ever since we have had soil scientists, they have recognized the values of organic matter. The loss of soil humus through cultivation has long been a matter of concern. So the faddists have nothing new to offer on that score.

Organic matter is often called “the life of the soil” because it supplies most of the food needs of the soil organisms which aid in changing nonavailable plant food materials into forms-that are available to the plants, and contains small quantities of practically all plant nutrients….

The antichemical-fertilizer doctrine makes a great point of the fact that plant food in organic matter is in a “natural” form, while in chemical form fertilizer it is “unnatural” and thus supposedly is harmful, if not downright poisonous. The logic of this escapes me. Science completely disproved the conclusion. The facts are that any plant foods, whether from organic matter, or from a bag of commercial fertilizer, necessarily came from Nature in the first place. Why is one more “natural” than another?

A Plant takes in a given nutrient in the same chemical form whether it came from organic matter, or from a bag of commercial fertilizer. The facts are that practically all plant-food elements carried by organic matter are not used in their organic form; they are changed by microorganisms to the simple chemical forms which the plants can use — the same form in which these elements become available to plants when applied as chemical fertilizers. For example, it is foolish to say that nitrogen in commercial fertilizer is “poisonous” while nitrogen from organic matter is beneficial. The basic nitrogen is the same in either case (“The Organic Farming Myths,” R.I. Throckmorton).

Muck soil, as it’s called, holds as much as 50 percent organic matter — “organic” in the real sense of the word — and yet, according to organic pseudoscience, “You could do little to improve such soils.”

But in fact all that these soils need is fertilizer, as Doctor J.F. Davis, of Michigan State University, discovered:

The yield of wheat on unfertilized muck soils was 5.7 bushels an acre, while the yield on plots receiving the chemical phosphorus and potash was 29.2 bushels per acre. The yield of potatoes was increased from 97 bushels an acre with no treatment, to 697 with commercial fertilizer carrying phosphorus and potash. Cabbage yields were boosted by the same means from 1/2 ton to 27 tons.

And if you believe, as many people do, that “inorganic” food contains more cancer-causing pesticides, think again:

It’s a well-known fact that so-called organic farmers routinely spray pesticides on crops — albeit naturally occurring pesticides — one of which, pyrethrum, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified as a “likely human carcinogen.”

This, along with a number of other findings, calls into question the very philosophy behind “organic farming.” Beware the scare-mongering, I beg. Read this exceptionally well-written article, from an exceptionally well-informed lady.

For a long time now, environmentalists have alleged that organic food is healthier. In addition to this, environmentalists have told us over and over that organic farming is better for the environment because our laid-back green farmers use no “synthetic” pesticides.

What they don’t tell you, however, is that these same laid-back organic farmers are permitted to use (”permitted” in the sense that they can spray with it and still qualify as “organic”) a number of so-called natural chemicals to kill pests, which natural chemicals are neither as expedient nor as purely benign as you might think. For instance, it was discovered almost a decade ago, in the year 1999, that rotenone, a natural insecticide squeezed from roots of tropical plants, causes symptoms of Parkinson’s disease in rats. That discovery came in addition to the previously mentioned pyrethrum data. It is true that in tests, these pesticides are administered in extraordinarily high doses, but so too is the dosage for synthetic pesticides. The fact is, neither are what you could legitimately call dangerous.

From the New York Post:

The EPA’s Cancer Assessment Review Committee based its 1999 decision on the same high-dose rat tests long used by eco-activists to condemn synthetic pesticides. Because no one knows just how pyrethrum causes tumors, the committee also recommended assuming that even the tiniest dose can be deadly. (The same logic is used to brand hundreds of other chemicals as carcinogens.) Charles Benbrook, a long-time organic activist, notes that pyrethrum is applied to crops at low rates and that pyrethrum degrades relatively rapidly, minimizing consumer exposure. He’s right, but all this is true of today’s non-persistent synthetic pesticides as well. Pyrethrum and modern synthetic pesticides break down so rapidly that consumers are rarely exposed to any at all. Two-thirds of all fruits and vegetables tested as they leave the farm in the U.S. have no detectable pesticide residues — despite our being able to detect chemicals at parts per trillion levels.

Pyrethrum is extracted from a type of chrysanthemum grown mainly in Africa. It is literally a nerve poison that these plants evolved to fight off munching insects. The dried, ground-up flowers were used in the early 19th century to control body lice.In fact, many of the widely used synthetic pesticides are based on natural plant-defense chemicals. Synthetic versions of pyrethrum (known as pyrethroids) make it possible to protect a crop with one or two sprays instead of spraying natural pyrethrum five to seven times at higher volumes. Organic activists hold to the twisted logic that if a toxic chemical can be squeezed from a plant or mined from the earth, it’s OK — but a safer chemical synthesized in a lab is unacceptable. It is possible to farm without pesticides, as demonstrated by a farm family recently highlighted in Organic Gardening magazine. They use a Shop-Vac and a portable generator in a wheelbarrow to daily suck insects off crops. And even that won’t fight fungal or bacterial diseases, or insects that eat crops from the inside out. Organic coffee growers in Guatemala spray coffee trees with fermented urine as a primitive fungicide. Bruce Ames, noted cancer expert and recent winner of the National Medal of Science, notes that more than half of the natural food chemicals he tests come up carcinogenic — the same proportion as synthetic chemicals. These natural chemicals are collectively present in large amounts in the very fruits and vegetables that are our biggest defense against cancer (June, 2001).

The main thing for you to remember is this:

It’s not that which goes into a human that defiles her, but only that which comes out — for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.

Our lives consist of more than the vegetables and meat.

The food snobbery of the vegetarian, the vegan, or the organic-only nut is every bit as beastly as the food snobbery of the gourmand — and ultimately every bit as dangerous.

It’s all a form of gourmandizing.

“And gourmandizing,” as Karl Shapiro once sagely said, “is a sure sign of stupidity.”

14 comments » | Capitalism, environmentalism, Health

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