What We Don’t Know Can Harm Us….

 When considering the cost of food/groceries, we really have to add in the cost of medical treatment for conditions caused by our food choices. Food raised or produced in environmentally friendly conditions is, in my experience, safer and more economical in the long run.

Today, it is difficult to know what is in the food, much less what is known to be harmful to human health. Food industry whistle blowers get the same treatment that is laid on political whistle blowers. Here is a current example in the news.

 Tyron Hayes, Professor of Integrated Biology at UCBerkeley, was hired by the pharmaceutical company, Syngenta, to research the effect of the herbicide/pesticide Atrazine on frogs. Hayes is a reputable researcher who has been studying frogs for many years. Hayes found that Atrazine caused sexual abnormalities in frogs: males started developing ovaries and laying eggs. Other researchers continued to expand his research and found that human babies exposed to Atrazine do not develop normally sexually. Atrazine causes the body to make too much estrogen, which promotes breast cancer. Syngenta also makes a chemical that blocks estrogen production and is used to prevent cancer.  This is obviously a nice arrangement for Syngenta.

 Syngenta did not like Hayes’s findings and asked him to do a repeat study and manipulate the data. Hayes refused and resigned from the project.Then, Syngenta tried to purchase the original data so that it would not be published. Hayes published the data in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nature, and Environmental Health Perspectives (a NIH publication). Next, Syngenta hired scientists to refute Hayes’s data and discredit him as a scientist.Syngenta reps passed out discrediting flyers at his lectures, and whispered threats in Hayes’s ear that he could be lynched or his wife and daughter could be sexually abused.

 If we want to keep each other well, we need to be alert to what threatens our health. Given the details of consequences to whistleblowers like Hayes, Silkwood, Asange, Snowdon, Manning, and Greenwald, these scare tactics are designed to let corporations reign at the expense of the rest of us. Significantly, while some universities, anxious to obtain research money, actually fire whistle blowers, UCBerkeley is made of finer stuff and gives us hope that the tide may be turning.

 If we want to be proactive about aquiring safe food, it’s time to be thinking about creating our own gardens, creating our own compost by recycling kitchen scraps, contacting our local farmers at farmstands we frequent in summer, freezing or preserving our own food, community garden sharing, or signing up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) membership. Supermarkets are slowly expanding their organic produce offerings based on how much we buy on a regular basis and what we request.

 There are fringe benefits to cultivating a garden, starting small and seeing what works. Gardens allow us to stay connected to the fresh life within the soil and all the worms, frogs, bees, butterflies and other life forms, ourselves included. Together we can promote and claim healthy gardens of foods and flowers that nourish.


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