Tuesday, September 1, 2015
America’s Environmental Lipstick
I heard Hayes present his case in the 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, Florida, April 18, 2015. He spoke about men having 0.1 parts per billion atrazine in their urine, a condition responsible for a low sperm count in those men. But 0.1 parts per billion is what it takes to castrate frogs. He said atrazine knocks out sperm testosterone in fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and rats. And rats are mammals like us. Then he explained that workers applying atrazine have 2,400 parts per billion of atrazine in their urine, an amount 24,000 times greater than 0.1 parts per billion responsible for low sperm in men.
A small minority of Americans eats organic food. A federal law (the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990) prohibits the use of synthetic chemicals, sludge, radiation, and genetic engineering in raising organic food. However, these prohibitions don't apply in conventional industrialized production of crops and animals.
Thus, most Americans eat food probably tainted by brain-damaging and cancer-causing pesticides. But this food has more than pesticides. Meat, for example, comes out of vast toxic factories.
Animal farms are those toxic factories. Like prisons, they enclose hundreds of thousands of animals in very crammed, unhealthy, and inhumane conditions. Hogs, cattle, and chicken live their short lives in acute stresses from lack of sociability and exercise, and, therefore, access to the natural world. Their feed includes pesticides, hormones, genetically engineered corn and soybeans, and antibiotics. Eating the meat of these animals is not healthy; and for many people, ethically repugnant.
In addition, animal farms are always dangerous to human communities and to the natural world. The huge quantities of animal wastes, kept in lagoons, contaminate the land, ground water, creeks and rivers. Animal farms are also sources of Earth warming gases. Moreover, they emit terrible stench that destroys the living of humans in their neighborhood.
Thus America's food system is in a bad state. In 2015, scientists from Johns Hopkins University concluded our food system is "largely unhealthy, inequitable, environmentally damaging" and, of course, "unsustainable."
AUTHOR: Evaggelos Vallianatos earned a BA in zoology from the University of Illinois and a doctorate in history from the University of Wisconsin. He also did postdoctoral studies in the history of science at Harvard. He worked for 2 years on Capitol Hill and 25 years for the U.S. EPA. He is the author of 6 books and hundreds of articles. His book on the workings and failure of EPA, "Poison Spring," was published in April 2014 by Bloomsbury Press.