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What They Are Not Telling You About Food Recalls

Meaningful changes need to happen in our eating habits before we are unable to feed ourselves

Dr. Padma Garvey/Plant-Based Doctor Mom

What They Are Not Telling You About Food Recalls

I cringe every time I hear an announcement on the evening news about a food recall, especially one involving produce.  Periodically you hear about spinach, lettuce, cantaloupe, and the like being recalled because of bacterial contamination.  The latest recall involved green leafy vegetables contaminated with listeria.  Food poisoning is real and dangerous but the last thing people need is to be afraid of produce.  These recalls remind me how disconnected most of us are from the food we eat.

This disconnection prevents us from insisting on meaningful changes that must happen if we are going to be able to feed all 7 billion of us over the years to come.  Modern agriculture has been a blessing and a curse. Without the marvels of modern agriculture, the earth’s population would have never exploded like it has.  10,000 years ago, before agriculture was developed, hunting and gathering food from the wild kept the human population on earth low.  But agriculture, with its storable grains, caused the first population explosion. The next explosion occurred around World War I when artificial fertilizers were developed.  With artificial nitrogen-based fertilizers, food production surpassed everyone’s wildest dreams.  Countries in the West, like America and Germany, were some of the first to build large plants dedicated to producing artificial nitrogen fertilizers. Countries that lacked such plants, like some in Asia, had significantly reduced food production capacity.  This meant less grain to support meat and dairy farming.  This is one big reason why a plant-based diet was a way of life during the 1950s in parts of Asia but not so much in parts of the West.  Lots of available artificial fertilizer meant lots of grain for America which allowed for more animals to be raised for consumption. 

There is naturally tons of nitrogen in the air but very little in the soil.  Plants need nitrogen to grow.  This is why using fertilizers increases yield.  Fertilizers increase the amount of nitrogen in the soil for the plants to use.  But leftover fertilizer in the soil gets washed away into rivers and oceans.   As the number of animals breed for consumption soared, all being fed on grains grown with lots of artificial nitrogen-based fertilizers, dealing with their massive amounts of bacterial-laden, antibiotic-laden, pesticide-laden, and nitrogen-laden excrement, became a challenge.  There are huge manure management plants spread throughout the country that attempt to contain this waste.  Invariably, this waste leaks out into the surrounding areas, entering our rivers, oceans, our wells, and irrigation systems. 

A farmer growing cucumbers needs to irrigate his crop and then wash his produce before shipping. The water used for this can and is often contaminated by the waste from manure management plants.  Moreover, all this nitrogen that should normally be in the air, is now in our rivers and oceans.  This leads to an overgrowth of algae which sucks up all the oxygen, depriving the other organisms in the rivers and oceans.  This is how rivers suddenly ‘die’.   Water contamination by nitrogen and animal waste is also affecting the amount of drinkable water available.  

The number one thing each and every one of us can do to help our children and our grandchildren is to eat a plant-based diet.  We must decrease our consumption of meat and dairy so that nitrogen contamination is decreased.  If not, the balance of nature will take care of the problem for us but not to our benefit.

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