We are spraying dangerous chemicals on our food.
But can you name even one?
Every new health guru is telling us what we should be eating and do you find there is forever a new ‘super food” popping up on the market.
What a lot of these experts and influencers fail to explain is how our food is processed and then arrives on plate.
Picture this: You decide to head down to the supermarket to buy some veggies for your new healthy lifestyle.
Good for you.
You’re pretty chuffed with yourself.
You go into the chain store, pick out the brightest, prettiest vegetables you can find, take them home and eat them.
That’s pretty much most of us, right?
But how often to you stop to wonder about where exactly your food comes from?
And I don’t mean deliberating over which supermarket has the best special these week.
Our food is now mass produced on farms in places we may never have even known existed. Year-round production of our current food supply relies heavily on farmers using a cocktail of chemicals, which include herbicides, pesticides and fungicides, to name a few.
Australia has gone from producing 1.84 billion tonnes of food in the 1960’s to 4.38 billion tonnes in 2007. (1) Which means we inevitably have to find a way to ensure our crops are ready to sell to the consumer at the supermarket each and every day.
Australia is currently netting around 12% of the worlds export market, producing roughly enough food to feed 600 people, 150 in Australia and 450 overseas. (2) and we are expected to see that number to keep growing.
Is this just because we have heaps of great farming land and can just keep expanding our farms?
Quite the contrary actually.
Australia has quite a limited amount of land that can be allocated to farming and different food require specific climates and needs. Most fruit and veg are seasonal, yet here we are enjoying them all year long!
And no, its not some miracle, its science.
So, the question comes back to, how does this happen?
I want to break these blogs down and discuss these topics a little more specifically, as they can get quite overwhelming with big words and facts.
Australia has become quite an innovator in farming technology and we seem to take pride in the “strict” use of chemicals on our food.
One that has been getting a lot of attention lately is called “glyphosate” pronounce “gly-fo-sate”
And yes, you actually do know what it is used in.
It’s the main constituent in the weed killer “Round-up.” That stuff we spray on the weeds in our gardens.
Yep, that horrible pesticide you definitely would not want to take a big whiff of, is being sprayed all over most of the food you eat.
Many experts claim that the amount you would have to consume for it to be considered dangerous is unreasonably high, yet famers and supermarkets alike have a minimum period that the crops are retained before being allowed for human consumption.
Now Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), who are the governing body that are responsible for the management of chemical products, claim that there is no proof that this chemical is harmful to general populations, when used in conjunction with proper label use.
Ok sweet, so we are all good then.
But wait… how often to people actually follow labels?
We are relying on everyone doing the right thing to ensure that not just this one chemical, but all agricultural chemicals, are used in accordance with their label.
In a recent inquiry, the International agency for research (IARC) concluded that glyphosate is “A likely carcinogen” and is classified as a category 2B chemical. (3)
APVMA have come back in an argument stating that red meat and smoking are also considered “possibly carcinogenic” and they will not be discontinuing the use of Glyphosate in Australia. (4)
Although it is widely believed that glyphosate breaks down in soil very quickly, tests on soil that were cleared more than 12 months prior of glyphosate, were still yielding crops that contained traces of the chemical. (5) It also not readily broken down by water or sunlight, meaning if it contaminates water supplies, it can be a problem.
No conclusive studies have proven that glyphosate is an endocrine disrupter or cancer causing, but the chemical has only been widely used in Australia for approx. 35 years. Long term consequences may yet to be seen.
What does this mean for us?
Are we all doomed or should be just go eat organic?
I would argue not.
I think we all need to start being more aware of how our food is produced and what chemicals we are using to get them onto our plates.
Supermarkets are at the mercy of the consumer, us.
If we simply reconsider what we are demanding, eg shiny, perfectly shaped vegetables, we may see a wider variety of fresh produce available and the prices might actually come down.
We need to start asking questions about how our food is produced and where.
I think we all take for granted the fact that we have supermarkets just up the road, where we can just pop in and grab dinner.
Farmers are one of our most undervalued national assets and the more we empower ourselves in farming and food practice knowledge, the more support and protest we can give in demanding better information and studies of our food.
If you’d like more information about the topic of farmers or the chemicals they use, please check out the links below.
- Glyphosate technical fact sheet (revised 2015) National Pesticide information center.2010.