Weed Out!

Can agriculture help change modern, western medicine for the better? It can if agriculture embraces regenerative farming techniques, medical schools teach agriculture as preventative medicine and insurance companies see the value in addressing nutrition and exposure to toxins instead of paying the cost of chronic food related illnesses.

I recently attended the Rodale Institute “Regenerative Healthcare Conference,” co-sponsored by the Robert M. Sinskey Foundation. The goal was to teach medical practitioners that agriculture can make a difference to their patients. The subtitle of the conference was “The Power of the Plate,” exploring topics that included: How regenerative farming practices can heal both people and planet, scientific side by side farming trials comparing regenerative practices with conventional and the affect on nutrient density, food as medicine, and glyphosate and its effect on children’s health. Though I found all of the topics interesting and inspiring, the last one was a major call to arms.

Three decades ago, Jeff Virnig and I decided we would transition away from toxic farm chemistry and carbon releasing farm practices. We made unscientific assumptions that glyphosate, the common ingredient in weed killer, was a carcinogen and it made no sense to create a luxury product at the cost of the health of those who grew, made and consumed it. What I did not know at the time was how pervasive glyphosate would become and how many ills would be linked to it; recent studies suggest autism, lower IQ, inflammation, fatty liver disease and kidney problems, to name a few. Almost all “conventionally” grown agricultural products contain residual amounts of glyphosate. It is so pervasive that it can be found in penguins in the Antarctic.

Glyphosate will soon be banned for home use but not for commercial agricultural use. This omission is a crime. We observed that the weed killer also destroyed all life in the soil… the microbiome…while also disrupting natural processes and creating a dependence on inputs for the plants to survive. We did not know that it also disrupts our micro-biome as we consume it. 

What I learned: Glyphosate was patented in 1964 as a chelator for the removal of unwanted chemical deposits in pipes. It was soon discovered that its activity as a chelator gave it herbicidal properties; it was patented in 1974 as an herbicide. Then it was discovered that glyphosate had antimicrobial properties. In 2010 a patent was granted for glyphosate as an antibiotic.

The world depends on microbes for both soil and human health, yet the most commonly used farm chemical destroys bacteria in the earth and bacteria in those who consume it. This is the single most important reason to demand that everything you and your family consume is at least organically farmed. We must vote with our pocketbooks to remove glyphosate from the food chain. 

Forever yours in guilt-free hedonism, Rob Sinskey