Once again, 27th May is Rachel Carson’s birthday (1907–Spring 1964) we can celebrate by listening to an (11 hrs!) audio of her excellent, compassionate & scientific Silent Spring (1962, e.g. Ref.). The cogent arguments & simple explanations are still highly relevant if not most critical as, unlike her birds, the problems of pollution have now come home to roost: We’re the “future generations” she clearly predicted would be most adversely affected by cumulative toxic-synthetic-chemical-carcinogenic-biocides. And so it goes…
When Rachel wrote her book (whilst dying from it), cancer rates were “one in every four” (Ref.). Cancer rates in USA at 530.7 new cases per 100,000 people per year in 2018 are now the World’s new high and chances of cancer in your lifetime are >1 in 2. Clarifying: “The lifetime risk of cancer for people born since 1960 is >50%. Over half of people who are currently adults under the age of 65 years will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime” (Ref.). And not just older people, in USA it is the leading cause of death by disease of children & adolescents 0-19 years and now, each year (Ref.), based upon % of total population from 2014 census data, rates are:-
- 16 cancer diagnoses per 100,000 children ages 0 to 14 years (19.5%)
- 71 per 100,000 adolescents & young adults ages 15 to 39 years (33.5%)
- 962 per 100,000 people aged 40 years or older (47%) [or ca. 1 in 100]
From my math(s) (Ref.), that totals ~480 new cases per 100,000 per year in 2010-2014, just above 454.8 in 2008-2012 (Ref.). But the latest total new cancer cases for 2018 are estimated as 1,735,350 which, in a US population of ca. 327 million, gives a steady increase to 530.7 per 100,000 – a new world record, and an estimated 609,640 people will die. Another 5 million will have newly diagnosed skin cancer (which puts the USA total new cancer rate in 2018 at 2,060 per 100,000 people!). According to the National Cancer Institute (https://seer.cancer.gov June, 2018) causes are just 5% genetic, so 95% are due to chemical pollution and/or lifestyle (cf. Ref., Ref.).
This is big, BIG business for the pharmaceutical=agrichemical (Pharm/Farm) companies… “Agricancer”! They are literally making a killing. Think of your best friend/a family member/the person next to you – either you or them (or both!) will, according to the laws of average, get cancer. Contrast Cuba where due to good fortune of Soviet collapse & continued US embargo, agriculture relies upon vermicompost & organic husbandry (e.g. orgaponicos) rather than synthetic chemical fertilizers & pesticides. [It may be noted that urban allotments in UK also have 32% higher organic humus SOC and yields 4–11 times above their conventional chemical agriculture neighbours (Ref., Ref.)]. Feeding themselves completely adequately, residual cancer rate in Cuba is 47th out of 50 countries at 218 per 100,000 (www.wcrf.org/int/cancer-facts-figures/data-cancer-frequency-country), or less than ½ to one-tenth that of the USA. Check out too how meat-lovers’ Australia or Korea are near the top yet culturally fish-eating Japan is near the bottom of this cancerous Butcher’s-List. [Fukushima may change this, but that is another story…].
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of tumor (apologies to Ben Franklin).
The following three graphics summarize correlation between CAFO meat vs. Cancer (Ref., Ref.). Note: Carnivorous Australia tops both, whilst vegetarian India fares far better and fish-favouring Japan is mid-way, somewhere in between:-
At these rates (e.g. as in graph above from Swanson et al. JOS, Nov. 2014, Ref.: fig. 10), in another few years, say by 2035 when toxins in the burgers just eaten have had 15-20 years more incubation, few may escape cancer, nor indeed may our beloved pets or farm animals (Ref.). Farmers, farm workers and their families (as for the “Island of Widows”) are particularly prone or exposed to certain types of cancer (Ref., Ref., Ref.), especially leukaemia (Ref., Ref.). Conversely, Seralini et al.’s (2012-2014) 2-year GMO + R herbicide study on rats showed females particularly susceptible to breast tumors (in fig. 4 almost all females test subjects were affected and effects only occurred after 90 days which is the duration of most industry-funded trials – rat-year equivalent to healthy young teens in humans! See Seralini et al. 2014: fig. 4 modified below) and note that females are most at risk…
Glyphosate plant-killer (or, by way of update, apparently not as it is the adjuncts that kill plants – see https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S221475001730149X especially their figure 1), anti-microbial (destroying soil & symbiotic microbes), and chelating agent (removing essential minerals from plants, soil & foods!) that is seemingly now the most widely used pesticide (Ref.), also damages fertility (as in the brutal Irina Ermakova bullying case Ref.) causing pup mortality and multi-generational negative influence (Ref.). Ermakova’s manuscript proof table 2 is below and note babies most at risk.
Any mother seeing these figures and understanding their implications should be seriously worried about exposure. An unbiased, scholarly review by Dr Eva Novotny (Ref.) further reveals the depth of disinformation and vested/venal interest attempting to suppress such findings. Cui bono? It is so divisive that the chemical companies who fund studies often don’t want their contributions recognized. Scientist shills can freely pocket the money.
As disturbing, if not more so, is finding the chow feed in these laboratory rat experiments is itself often contaminated by ubiquitous toxins thereby exposing the control groups to cancer, etc. and reducing the severity of results (Ref.: figs shown below).
This further implies that all our food & drinks are contaminated: it is sobering that even Germany’s reinheitsgebot (500 year old purity law) beer was found with up to 300 times the legal limit of glyphosate as allowed in drinking water (Ref.); it’s in junk food, of course, but it’s also in organic foods (Ref., Ref. – this yet other non-university NGO study raising the question what universities and government agencies are for?). The highest rates found by EWG.org in breakfast Quaker oats averaged ca. 1,000 parts per billion (ppb = μg/kg) (= 1 mg/kg = 1 ppm), which is below the EU maximum residue level (MRL) in oats of 30 mg/kg or 30 parts per million (= 30,000 ppb April, 2018 Ref.) indicating that 30 kg of oats would be considered toxic (unless it’s a dose independent carcinogen as for radiation). From a somewhat outdated 1993 EPA report, a safe US exposure level was set around 2 mg/kg/day (i.e., an RfD expressed in units of milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight per day), which if average human body-mass is 50 kg, is 2/50 = 0.04 mg glyphosate per day or 40 μg per day meaning 25 kg of 1 mg contaminated oats would need to be eaten. The World Health Organization (WHO) in 2003 set an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for glyphosate plus AMPA, one of its breakdown products, of just 0.3 mg/kg/day, about one-sixth that of the EPA’s, or (0.3/50) just 6 μg per day (Ref.) (or 4 kg per day of oats, again, unless it is exposure not dose that causes cancer). Other identified relevant risk factors are noxious formaldehyde & N-nitroso-glyphosate (NNG), both impurities “of toxicological significance” and mutagenic glyoxylate, another reactive metabolite breakdown product (Ref., Ref., Ref., Ref.). Threats from these toxins are reminiscent of Monsanto’s ubiquitous carcinogenic PCBs, DDT, bovine growth hormone and of dioxins from their infamous Agent Orange. As Monsanto’s CEO stated (Ref.): “We manufactured these products, but we’re not responsible for how they were subsequently disposed of.” Why not? The obvious question is: “How are you allowed to produce poisons?”.
Unconsidered are possible bio-accumulation as found in human tissues or milk (noted below) or at low levels in dairy cattle (Ref., Ref.). Neither does it help lessen the human body burden, nor factor in that a much lower dose may be more toxic if working as or with endocrine disruptors (that especially affects females, as noted above), nor consider effects of adjuncts in its formulation when used, nor the combination of these chemicals with impossibly complex cocktails of 80,000 other synthetic (plus natural) toxins that change daily, nor for a person’s differing susceptibilities that also vary (with age, pregnancy or illness, etc.). Furthermore, according to ongoing US FDA studies (Ref.), much higher levels are found in other staples such as a soybean sample containing 11 ppm of glyphosate plus 4.9 ppm of AMPA (total 15.9) and a corn sample contained 6.5 ppm of glyphosate plus 0.065 ppm of AMPA (total 6.565) that approach or exceed the FDA (40CFR180.364 & 40CFR180.364) glyphosate tolerances for soybean and corn of 20 and 5 µg/g (= ppm), respectively (Ref.); this also far exceeds the OECD’s Maximim Residue Level (MRL) and EU’s tentative MRL both of 3 mg/kg (ppm) for maize (Ref.: page 167 that further noted a US import “Outlier of 3.2 mg/kg was disregarded“); remarkably, EU soybeans have “No available data” but this report notes on page 170 that “the import of EPSPS maize and EPSPS soybeans is authorised in EU… Nevertheless, as no import tolerances on these GM crops were reported… it was not possible to derive an MRL.” This seems somewhat political and ignores that toxins should ideally have zero contamination in our food or drinks (which is what organics aims for). It is taking the p*ss.
It is also in our bodies (Ref.) with nonfarmer Americans having six times the burden of average European adults (urine levels of 1.35 μg/l vs. 0.215 μg/l, respectively, Ref.), and for American women their readings are 8 to 10 times higher than their EU counterparts (Ref., Ref.); this latter first ever study of milk found glyphosate bio-accumulated in breast milk up to 166 μg/l, which is bio-accumulation compared to the urine level of 1.35 μg/l. And, although only approaching what the EPA has set a legally enforceable maximum contaminant level (MCL) for glyphosate of 700 μg/l in drinking water, it is higher than what the European Drinking Water Directive allows (0.1 μg/l) for individual pesticides. Note that this breast milk study has been confirmed informally by two reports one from US and one from Germany (Ref.) finding “0.210 and 0.432 nanograms per mililitre” (= μg/l) at 2-4 x the permissible water level, this debunked by another German report (Ref.), both superseded by finding glyphosate in all human and animal tissues there (Ref.) and a UN FAO report of trace levels of glyphosate and its many metabolites in tissues, milk and eggs (Ref.). A most recent report is of >80% of breast milk contaminated in Brazil tests (Ref., Ref.). Whereas an industry-supported counter-claim study cannot be considered unbiased and should be dismissed unless repeated with truly independent researchers as the two chief investigators (the McGuires, married and seemingly in bed with Monsanto too) both admit receiving Monsanto money and at least three co-authors are on Monsanto payroll!!!), and tests at laboratories other than Monanto’s own (Duh!) (Ref., Ref., Ref.). To call that Monsanto funded denial study “independent” and to claim “None of the other authors reported a conflict of interest related to the study” is obviously false, delusional or imaginary (Ref., Ref., Ref.). It is also remarkably cynical. How can you not know that the company (business) that makes the chemical wants to keep making it for money (and also not get sued)? There is no science there. Accumulation in milk is unclear, but proper conduct, surely, is to duplicate the original study and adopt a precautionary principal pending this. Also why try to defend a chemical toxin when there are many other, safe & better, weed management strategies? It is noted that 42% of the 40 lactating mothers in the US denial study were already on organic diets… (Ref.). Why?.
This figure is from the German study (Ref.: fig. 3) noted above. A meta-study of numerous co-benefits of organic vs. conventional foods included that: “intervention studies where the urinary excretion of pesticides was markedly reduced after 1 week of limiting consumption to organic food“, especially in children, with health gains also shown in experimental rats (Ref.).
As well as the human cancer epidemiologies, historical and recent studies have shown an increase in incidences of tumors in the testes of male rats and possible thyroid carcinomas in female rats exposed to glyphosate plus kidney tumors in male mice too which may contribute to the “Island of Widows” effect (Ref., Ref., Ref., Ref.). EPA knew of the kidney cancer link in 1985 (Ref.). The producer, Monsanto, has just been found guilty of causing NHL cancer (Ref.), a disease found to associate with pesticides and glyphosate formulations (Ref., Ref.). An EPA senior toxicologist had already determined by 2013: “It is essentially certain that glyphosate causes cancer” (Ref. – this text is so compelling that it is included in toto as an appendix below along with Portier’s open letter link). All these findings should raise concerns in reasonable people, but they also detract from the main issue about a need for synthetic poisons in the first place; organic farming redresses all these issues safely. My prediction is an imminent demand for more organic food: Let’s get growing!
As compound illnesses accrue (Ref.), such studies should raise serious concerns for public (adult & kids) health with an urgent need to shift to organic production that, in non-industry funded studies, is found to produce equivalent or higher yields (as is shown below from long-term studies, up to 175 years, at chemical Rothamsted Research). Arguments that organic produces less yield are not supported by unbiased data (Ref.) and are misleading too as mineral & nutrient contents of organic food are healthier (e.g. Ref., Ref., Ref., Ref., etc., etc.) and it’s implementation preserves Nature.
It is ironic that even as we are losing earthworms from the poisoned fields, hope is in a potential cure for cancers from earthworm extracts, both for humans (Ref., Ref., Ref.: 663, Ref., Ref, Review) and our pet dogs (Ref., Ref.). Soils too are the basis of many human and animal drugs such that over 500 antibiotic have been cultured from soil microbes: as well as game-changing Penicillin & Streptomycin, drugs include Ivermectin (an anti-parasitic nematicide), Bleomycin (an anti-cancer drug) and Bialaphos (a natural herbicide) (Ref). But it is best to reduce cancer risks (to avoid gratefully giving all your retirement savings to the self-same pharmaceutical companies) by changing bad lifestyle habits (teaching old dogs new tricks?) and insisting upon safe, wholesome & healthy food without pesticides/herbicides=biocides. We literally need to de-cide… (pun intended).
A new paper shows that intensive agriculture is also definitely killing and depleting our soils (upon which we depend for 99.7% of all human food, 100% of our fibre & timber and for filtering 100% of our drinking water via earthworm burrows) with decimation or, rather, annihilation of earthworms by an average of -80% (Ref.* & following figures):-
Despite Silent Spring from more than 50 years ago, the UK’s State of Nature 2016 Report (forwarded by Sir David Attenborough) concluded that it is one of the most Nature-depleted countries in the western World with the most significant driver of species decline in the last 50 years being “policy-driven agricultural intensification”. This non-too-cheery report is available here:- Ref. It also shows that lobbied Government, corporate Universities and venal research (Ref., Ref., Ref.) are quite useless, with most surveys & practical species restoration work being done mainly by volunteers, charities & NGOs; in other words, by us the innocent, cancer-riddled, Guinea-pig victims.
For example: a citizens’ group is finding feral-GMO canola (Brassica napus) spreading and hybridizing uncontrollably in Japan (Ref., Ref., Ref., Ref.) [just as they are illegally doing in Switzerland (Ref.) and unintentionally in USA (Ref.)]. Preliminary reports are of GMO soy & corn both growing wild at Shimizu port (Ref., Ref.). As yet there seems little follow-up to confirm or monitor this genetic pollution (Ref.), but unintentional & illegal GMO papaya introduced to Okinawa from Taiwan was seemingly controlled in 2011 (Ref., Ref., Ref.). [MAFF also found GMO cotton has illegally germinated in Japan in 2014-2016 while crazy and unnecessary GMO trials have been permitted in 2018 for glasshouse GMO tomato and GMO field rice (as with Bayer’s 2006 rice trial in America and the farcical Golden Rice travesty); hopefully the wind will not blow (even in typhoon season) and the pollinating insects, including microscopic thrips, will be contained… (Ref., Ref.)].
If the birds & bees or a grasshopper is poisoned (and glyphosate does disorientate and kill bees Ref., Ref.) it makes very little difference to an earthworm (a bit more food for it perhaps), but if we lose earthworms then there is no more soil so no more food for any of us. Rather obviously, the only way to restore wildlife is to restore natural plant biodiversity by rebuilding healthy topsoil which is synonymous with aiming to “save the worm”, and the best & only way to do this is by going organic. While agronomic “no-till” is diversion by herbicide-industry-funded shills, biocharlatans offer nothing over true & tried compost/vermicomposting. In Japan, for example, (where organic zero-till originated with Masanobu Fukoka’s natural farming) rice-hull/husk charcoal has often been a minor, trivial component of composts for aeons. Does humic vermi-composting, marling, mulching and rotation really need to be re-discovered? Allow earthworms to do all fieldwork; they are willing workers 24/7 (there being no evidence that earthworms either sleep or dream), rain or shine, for free and, if left alone, they never complain…
So Rothamsted’s (1843–2018) chief chemist Prof. Keith WTFGoulding is partly correct to say agrichemicals are “certainly not killing the soil.” (Ref.); truly, they are killing everything! See too the UN-FAO report (Ref.). This is the same guy who allegedly revels in the fact that so much global pollution means “nitrogen fall-out was undoubtedly benefiting organic farmers” (Ref., Ref.); just as we all contain pesticide residues in our bodies and neither fish, milk, nor honey, etc. can now be wholly safe. In his dirty “fall-out” World we all must strive to survive and the best way to this goal is to ignore advertizing or arrogant scientists, and to eat organic.
Permaculture yet remedies environmental, (mental & physical) health and economic & social ills (www.tagari.com/home/ & see key natural land restoration book: Ref.). As Dr Bill Mollison (1928–2016) said of our waging War on Nature, if we are to survive on Earth – he hopes we lose this war… Ingenio Patet Campus – “The field lies open to the intellect”.
R.J.B 27th May, 2018, Zama
Postscript: A couple of anecdotal tales are, firstly, that this Spring the swallows (燕 – Tsubame) have not fully returned to their regular nest sites in my town. Also, just last weekend, I made a trip from Kanagawa to Chiba taking the ferry back and in that whole day’s driving through towns, countryside, villages and fields, not one insect spattered on the windscreen. What I did sadly see, while walking my dog, was several dead birds. “C’est la vie”, or, maybe, it’s certainly not and we may do far, far better things…
Other observations as we enter high summer (the hottest on record!) is an apparent reduction of spiders e.g. Nephila spp. (ジョロウグモ、女郎蜘蛛、上臈蜘蛛) which would correlate with a loss of flying insects, and few bugs seem attracted either to my outdoor light nor any of the street lights, plus of the usually common bats (komori 蝙蝠) there seems nary a sight these nights… Rachel help us: It is turning into a “Silent Summer” too.
Recent news reports are of simultaneous, critical declines of disparate groups such as Antarctic penguins and European elver “glass eels”, both by 90%.
Blakemore, R.J. (2018). Critical Decline of Earthworms from Organic Origins under Intensive, Humic SOM-Depleting Agriculture. Soil Systems. 2(2): 33. www.mdpi.com/2571-8789/2/2/33.
Followup to this paper:
It may be important to note that the rather low results of the earlier Haughley survey (Blakemore, 2000: tab. 2, appendix) were due to winter populations and that large Lumbricus terrestris specimens in the organic sections were deliberately excluded from analyses to avoid skewing the statistics, i.e., the earthworm biomass in the organic section was actually much higher at around 90 g m-2. When included, the Chem. field was depleted by -55.7% compared to the Org. field, thus the study’s average -83.3% overall depletion would be slightly greater too. But we knew all this ~100 years ago:-
Morris’s (1927: tab. 1, fig. 3 with earthworms as Oligochaeta depleted in chem plots) invertebrate survey on Rothamsted’s long-term Barn Field site found organic Farm-Yard-Manure (FYM) gave by far the highest insect counts (see too Blakemore 2018: tabs. 1, 7; fig. 6). Interestingly, the chemical fertilizer plots had much higher proportions of pest species, for example flies, grasshoppers, thrips, bugs, moths (only on Super plot) and snails (only on Ammonium plot) while the FYM plots had more beneficial organisms such as spiders or earthworms. Biocontrol predatory wasps were more evenly spread. Chemical plots also had relatively more weeds “although only a few species“. This supports many other reports that synthetic chemicals encourage weeds, pests & parasites (thus requiring artificial herbicides & pesticides!), while organic diversity gives balance and natural protection. Compared to the synthetic chemical plots, Barnfield’s FYM plots had much higher crop yields – about four times as high overall (Morris 1927: 443; Blakemore 2018: tab. 7). That’s a 300% yield increase with organics.
Newly checking Morris’s (1927: 445) soil characteristics, on average, the SOM humus was lower by -30% and soil moisture by -16% in the chemical plots compared to FYM alone (or, conversely, they are increased by +42% and +20% by FYM). This correlates with the earthworm populations (-99% depleted in chemical plots) and supports my finding (Blakemore 2018) that the use of chemicals reduced worms, SOM by -56.8% and also soil moisture by -22.3% overall (or, conversely, SOM increased by +132% and moisture by +30% with organics). Can it be that SOM % predicts soil moisture? This may be crucial information to help farmers in times of drought and was seemingly already known in 1927, nearly a century ago, as was the danger of agrichemical excess to biodiversity. In 2018 with record heat & droughts simultaneously in Australia, Europe and North America, as well as Asia and Africa, we may ask: Can humans never learn unless pushed to the edge? Increased SOM is removing excess carbon from the atmosphere, and soil moisture is effectively the same as 20-30% extra rainfall…
As for climate, the best & only way to remove atmospheric CO2 is via organic photosynthesis with storage in SOM humus, i.e., similar to 4 per 1,000 initiative; and while chemical Rothamsted admits it is feasible & doable (Ref.) it should be borne in mind that they in no way approach proper organic methods as this is not their objective. In fact it terrifies the chemists to admit that organic farming (which they cannot possibly understand) has so many benefits e.g. extra yield yet does not kill soil, nature or humans (as conclusively shown at Rothamsted with FYM). Compare to fully organic Haughley with about twice their SOC soil carbon (Ref.) with equal or higher yields for less cost.
For Park Grass, Rothamsted, Richardson (1938: tab. XVII) by counting casts confirmed Morris’s finding that earthworms were entirely eliminated by synthetic ammonium-sulphate fertilizer with an average decline in six non-organic plots by -84%; he also reported a massive 3,000,000 worm per acre (7.4 million ha-¹) in Great Field (pasture).
A couple of people have asked how my study relates to Schmidt & Briones (2017) “Conventional tillage decreases the abundance and biomass of earthworms”. Theirs was a very limited study that only looked at tillage. It did not consider wider management issues (e.g. organic or agroecology) nor compare pastures, permanent crops (e.g. vineyards or orchards), etc. and made no mention of crop yields. In fact, they deliberately excluded “conventional vs. organic farming” which is unfortunate as my paper found reports that organic populations are two to three times higher thus negating any token tillage differences. It is also a concern that most studies promoting ‘conservation’ tillage are funded by chemical companies (but sometimes academic funds or links are undisclosed – Ref., Ref., Ref.) and these authors used the industry euphemism of “crop protection” for agrichemical poisons, reporting that “the herbicide glyphosate did not significantly affect earthworms.” This is highly dubious as several unbiased, independent studies note its deleterious effects (e.g. Ref., Ref., Ref., Ref., Ref., Ref., Ref.); glyphosate and its formulations (GBH – glyphosate-based-herbicides, Ref.) also affect human health and are banned in many places (Ref., Ref., Ref., Ref.). My paper unequivocally shows that agrichemical use depletes both soil microbes & earthworms thus resulting in the critical declines of insects, birds & mammals too. No actual figures for abundance or biomass can be found in their paper but for chemical farming the populations may have already crashed (cf. α vs. β population curves in my paper – Blakemore 2018: fig. 5), hence a reason for their study…
The tragedy is that, even with reduced cultivation, fewer birds are around to follow the plough (Ref., Ref., Ref.), and those that do may only be poisoned by the agrichemical residues bio-accumulated in the depleted earthworms… as Rachel explained.
Also relevant is Moos et al. (2017): “Reduced tillage enhances earthworm abundance and biomass in organic farming: A meta-analysis”. Whilst this European paper reported benefits from 19 organic reduced tillage data-sets, I am skeptical of some of the included studies finding only a couple of earthworm with biomass of just 1–3 gm-2 and those that used toxic formalin extraction (on organic fields!). Nevertheless, highest earthworm abundance and biomass counts reported were 582 m-2 and 129 gm-2 and the means (excluding the dodgy formalin extractions) were about 250 m-2 and 57 gm-2 (these give mean of 0.225 g per worm).
Moreover, since I started compiling my data in 2017 a new report was from a >£1 million (>$1.3 m) project by Defra/Waitrose/AHDB/Rothamsted Research (2017) on “Improvement of Soil Structure and Crop Yield by Adding Organic Matter to Soil” with the scarcely credible summary: “5.3 Earthworms: The overarching and unequivocal results from both Fosters and New Zealand experiments [despite an Australasian hint both are fields at Rothamsted, UK] were that there was no evidence for notable effects of organic amendments of any form, rate or formulation upon the population sizes, total biomass or biodiversity of earthworms.” While the adverse effect of “excess mineral N” or “fungicides” was admitted, the possibility of general agrichemical toxicity was not tested. And perhaps if they had done a proper literature review, as in my paper, they would have realized a better outcome. Too often false-flag operations report they tried organic methods and it didn’t work when, in reality, certified or fully organic treatment weren’t tested… They went on to report: “5.4 General synthesis: On the debate over the value of chemical versus organic fertility Cooke (1967) [50 years ago!] said ‘It causes the needless division into a minority who believe only in “natural organic” farming and avoid fertilizers and the majority who recognise the use of fertilizers, but who often ignore the soil biology.’ ” I strongly disagree as the Org. vs. Chem. division is not needless and debate is required to finally put real value on preserving Nature and the health of the Earth (in the sense of both meanings of soil and the planet). Crop data free of venal (bought) science is also needed – can Rothamsted ever finally admit that organic FYM produces greater yields? This report found “lack of significant differences in yields from organic matter treatments on Hoosfield“, this immediately contraindicated by the following graphs:~
In the eloquent figures above, DM is yield dry mass, FYM is Farm-Yard-Manure (coarse compost) and N-P-K are synthetic chemicals. Hoosfield barley crops increased +20–100% so to claim organic yields are always lower is not supported by data facts: viz. the lowest FYM yield (pink @ 6 tha-1) is still above the highest N yield (blue line @ 5 tha-1). It appears possible to force a bit extra yield by adding N to FYM (up to ~8 tha-1), but this destroys the living soil as an ultimate failure. Rothamsted mainly reports that chemical yields are above nil fertilizers (“fake science”), and they de-emphasize that organic fertilizers give double chemical yields and increase carbon three times (Ref.). Unfortunately, earthworm counts are unavailable for Hoosfield.
For Palace Leas permanent pasture (Ref.: fig. 5) FYM hay was ~8 tha-1 (+60% yield) and, as well as lower yields, this study showed N fertilizer alone (plots 7 & 11) reduced plant species density by -66%. Yet again, organic fertilizer yields are substantially upped.
My study (Ref.) found that compromise hybrid-mixtures of Org. + Chem. in almost all of the dozen or so cases (even at Rothamsted where proper organic methods have never been fully tested) were almost as deleterious to soils & worms as are chemicals alone. Thus the real challenge of skillful human ingenuity and justifiable scientific purpose is to find the best, most elegant & cleanest way to recycle all natural organic ‘wastes’ back into the fields, where they belong, whilst doing least harm.
Modified header image courtesy of Алексей Акулов.
Pdf version of earlier version of the above – Wormageddon for VermEcology.
Appendix – Spurious “70% more food needed by 2050″ claims debunked…
The BBC’s Rothamsted article (Ref.) parroted the hackneyed claim that: “With a rapidly growing global population, food production will need to increase by 70% by 2050 to meet the demand, say researchers.” The 2009 FAO source (Ref.) is simply ridiculous because a 2018 World population of 7.6 billion (Ref.) expected to reach 9.8 billion in 2050, is just +30%. Even UN’s FAO (2012: box 3.1, fig. 1.4) admitted that their earlier data were originally miscalculated and have been widely misrepresented, with revised total grain yields (viz. from 2,068 Mt in 2005/6 to 3,009 Mt in 2050) giving a much lower projected increase of only 45.5%. Moreover, in 2017/2018 cereal yields already reached about 2,500 Mt (Ref.), thus an increase to 3,000 Mt by 2050 is now just 20%, which is nothing like 70%!
Partly based upon this sensational “70% by 2050” claim, Rothamsted’s already controversial GMO wheat field trial application to DEFRA in Nov., 2016 was approved in Feb., 2017 (Ref., Ref., Ref.). In response to their other claim: to have increased wheat yield by 20-40% (or is it just 15-20%? Ref.) in the glasshouse by genetically implanting “enzymesedoheptulose-1,7-biphosphatase (SBPase)”, we may revisit Wollny (1890) who demonstrated doubled grain production by up to 94% and straw by 107% using “Annelida:Oligochaeta:Megadrilacea:Lumbricidae” or, if you prefer, by him simply adding Darwin’s humble earthworm (Ref.).
Use of synthetic agrichemicals, despite what chemist/anti-organic naysayer at Rothamsted (Ref., Ref., Ref.), Prof. Keith Goulding, claims: “it’s certainly not killing the soil” (Ref.), actually is conclusively driving species to extinction (Ref.). Their chemical methods have reduced earthworms & other biota by -50–100% as well as depleting topsoil humus & soil moisture, when compared to organic fertilizers that also had equivalent or higher yields, during 175 years of their (killing field) trials. Truly, smarter people would have gone organic long ago…
Even the Chairman & CEO of Bayer’ss Monsanto (Mr Hugh Grant) when asked “Do you ever buy organic food yourself?” replied: “Yeah, I do… [Heck] yeah!” (Ref.).
Therefore, we certainly do need Carbon farming—the other big “C”—to save the health of our soils and the worms, etc. (including humans and pets) therein or thereupon, which schematically looks a bit like this:~
Since the chemist Justus von Liebig (1803–1873) first proposed simplistic chemical farming, which was taken up by Lawes & Gilbert at Rothamsted in 1840-50s, the rock-like mindset has been N-P-K. Rothamstead aimed to demonstrate benefits of chemicals (and make huge profits), but in 170 years have failed to show any advantage of this out-dated mentality over traditional, tried & tested organics. Now, more modern organic husbandry is attuned for most benefit from the supremely important of the above plant nutrients—C & H2O (or humus and water!)—as well as all the other plant requirements shown, to give not only higher yields but also healthy food. In addition, with proper management and research, natural resistance from pests and co-existence or co-opting of beneficial weeds. Seems the future is in the past… Now we just need to remove the governmental chemical subsidies allowing organic goods to fairly compete and to stop advertising for unhealthy food/drinks in order to improve public health (mental & corporeal).
Appendix (for the purpose of record and of fair academic criticism & review)
Letter from Dr Marion Copley to EPA’s Mr Jesudoss C. Rowland, 4th March, 2013
Since I left the Agency with cancer, I have studied the tumor process extensively and I have some mechanism comments which may be very valuable to CARC based on my decades of pathology experience. I’ll pick one chemical to demonstrate my points.
Glyphosate was originally designed as a chelating agent and I strongly believe that is the identical process involved in its tumor formation, which is highly supported by the literature.
-Chelators inhibit apoptosis, the process by which our bodies kill tumor cells
-Chelators are endocrine disruptors, involved in tumorigenesis
-Glyphosate induces lymphocyte proliferation
-Glyphosate induces free radical formation
-Chelators inhibit free radical scavenging enzymes requiring Zn, Mn or Cu for activity (i.e. SODs)
-Chelators bind zinc, necessary for immune system function
-Glyphosate is genotoxic, a key cancer mechanism
-Chelators inhibit DNA repair enzymes requiring metal cofactors
-Chelators bind Ca, Zn, Mg, etc to make foods deficient for these essential nutrients
-Chelators bind calcium necessary for calcineurin-mediated immune response
-Chelators often damage the kidneys or pancreas, as glyphosate does, a mechanism to tumor formation
-Kidney/pancreas damage can lead to clinical chemistry changes to favor tumor growth
-Glyphosate kills bacteria in the gut and the gastrointestinal system is 80% of the immune system
-Chelators suppress the immune system making the body susceptible to tumors
Previously, CARC concluded that glyphosate was a “possible human carcinogen”. The kidney pathology in the animal studies would lead to tumors with other mechanisms listed above. Any one of these mechanisms alone listed can cause tumors, but glyphosate causes all of them simultaneously. It is essentially certain that glyphosate causes cancer. With all of the evidence listed above, the CARC category should be changed to “probable human carcinogen”. Blood cells are most exposed to chelators, if any study shows proliferation of lymphocytes, then that is confirmatory that glyphosate is a carcinogen.
Jess, you and I have argued many times on CARC. You often argued about topics outside of your knowledge, which is unethical. Your trivial MS degree from 1971 Nebraska is far outdated, thus CARC science is 10 years behind the literature in mechanisms. For once in your life, listen to me and don’t play your political conniving games with the science to favor the registrants. For once do the right thing and don’t make decisions based on how it affects your bonus. You and Anna Lowit intimidated staff on CARC and changed MI ARC and IIASPOC final reports to favor industry. Chelators clearly disrupt calcium signaling, a key signaling pathway in all cells and mediates tumor progression. Greg Ackerman is supposed to be our expert on mechanisms, but he never mentioned any of these concepts at CARC and when I tried to discuss it with him he put me off. Is Greg playing your political games as well, incompetent or does he have some conflict of interest of some kind? Your Nebraska colleague took industry funding, he clearly has a conflict of interest. Just promise me not to ever let Anna on the CARC committee, her decisions don’t make rational sense. If anyone in OPP is taking bribes, it is her.
I have cancer and I don’t want these serious issues in MED to go unaddressed before I go to my grave. I have done my duty.
Marion Copley March 4, 2013 “
Relevant too is Dr C.J Portier’s open letter 28th May, 2017 to EU President (Ref.: table 1).
The EPA’s permissible limit for glyphosate in drinking water is now 700 μg/L (= parts per billion or ppb). In Canada, the maximum permissible concentration is half at 280 μg/L while Australia and the EU have much lower rates of 10 μg/L and 0.1 μg/L (Ref.), respectively. These are up to 7,000 times more stringent than in the US partly because the US has no choice with tapwater regularly having higher values (Ref., Ref.). EPA’s objectives and objectivity are sometimes seriously in question (Ref.).
Worryingly, a year ago I met an “independent” toxicology lab chemist who claimed glyphosate was the safest chemical and neither a carcinogen nor endocrine disruptor. Obviously, this guy is either incredibly misinformed, corrupt or just plain stupid. As well as the evidence of deleterious toxicity noted above, other studies show its endocrine disruption can occur at minuscule, non-dose-dependent concentrations (Ref., Ref., Ref., Ref., Ref., Ref.) – the latter from EPA itself that, nevertheless, still does not list glyphosate formulations as such. See also the comprehensive report by Moms Across America (yet another NGO paying for testing & analyses themselves) – here. They are the ones caring for kids with allergies, autism and cancer.
I wish I could stop updating, but things are unraveling quite quickly and we are looking “behind the curtain” and delving deeper “down the rabbit hole” of collusion & corruption; two releases are the Poison Papers – https://www.poisonpapers.org/ and “Monsanto’s Secret Documents” that lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said of: “We can now prove that all Monsanto’s claims about glyphosate’s safety were myths concocted by amoral propaganda and lobbying teams.” Kennedy noted that federal agencies that were supposed to protect public health instead protected Monsanto’s toxic products from public oversight (Ref.).
So, when it is soon realized that chemical biocide poisons require blanket banning, the replacement is restoration of a suite of organic remedies, including hiring more farm workers with the money saved (and thus simultaneously removing both the unemployment & the urbanization problems as well as the public health, crime & environmental costs). Without chemicals, farmwork again becomes a healthy if not a strenuous outdoors workout. This from someone who grew up working on mixed farms (seen my share of wild oats, thistles and brambles plus stone picking) with PhD in tropical agroecology, which gives me a bit more credence/credibility than chemists/geneticists who only know the laboratory or, at best, working in a stone-receiving glasshouse.
Doublespeak’s Environmental Destruction Agency, EPA is further damned (or exonerated in a weird way) in this report from “Poison Papers” – https://truthout.org/articles/believing-we-have-a-functional-epa-is-worse-than-having-a-non-functional-epa/. The analogy is with cancer-causing denial by the Big Tobacco Industry, when the smoke cleared they admitted: “Yeah, we were lying. But if you got cancer it is your fault for being stupid enough to believe us”… The conclusion is, I believe, that we must all research to find the truth for ourselves, ignoring what others (e.g., advertizing, media, pseudo-scientists, arrogant-scientists, etc.) want us to believe and plot our own course & destiny. Think for yourself. Ouch!
Last note: This blog is not radical, it is reasonable, but the measure of what is acceptable and proper have shifted and polarized so much. Moderate people raise honest questions; egotistical greedy people only want money/power and exploitation using manipulation of media & science to achieve this based on a cynical concept of a person’s price to sell themselves out (like “We’ve got your pal” in Catch-22). The thing I cannot understand is that once organic food is poisoned (which it is more and more) and water contaminated then where can their families escape too? Is it really a greedy fatal-embrace? They will take everything even if it destroys everything? This is war-time scorched-earth mentality. No sane chemist would eat poison food (and many US farmers don’t eat their produce either), no caring nuclear engineer would let his family live near a power plant and, can you tell me, would a doctor happily take chemotherapy?