The Synthetics

Let’s discuss the effect of the agricultural chemicals that cause so much concern among us consumers. They all have their negatives, but those negatives differ in kind and degree. I’ll start with the least harmful, the synthetic fertilizers, consisting of nitrogen, phosphorous and potash, or “NPK”.

I rank NPK as the least harmful of the synthetics. It’s negative effects are more prominent in the soil and waterway environment than any direct effect on human health so far as we know. A few studies suggest that vegetables grown with NPK have a narrower nutritional profile but others point to no difference versus organically grown produce.

The environmental impact of NPK is where we find the harm. NPK comes in the form of mineral -like pellets and is broadcast over the land. Assume that a hard and fast rain comes down shortly after it is applied. The fertilizer can wash down the hills and into the waterways that ultimately end in the Gulf of Mexico. Now imagine that happening on the farms and ranches all along the Mississippi River from Minneapolis to New Orleans. NPK draws oxygen from the water in the Gulf and hence, you have the infamous Gulf Dead Zone, currently the size of Rhode Island. All forms of aquatic life dies in the Dead Zone.

Many critics claim that NPK also kills soil microbial life that is essential to a living soil, but there is some legitimate dispute about that. My guess is that overuse is required before that mechanism kicks in.

Bottom line on NPK - not likely to cause harm to your food.

The poisons: herbicides and pesticides are the clearer villains in our food production system. Both poisons are used by conventional planters as well as stockmen and it is scientifically demonstrable that residues of both will stay with the plant or animal as it is delivered to your grocery store. Bad stuff.

Here I express my personal opinion on herbicides as it applies to the stockman’s pasture. By killing off the diversity of plant life in the pasture, we are also killing off some of the natural medicines and food that nature provides for the entire creation, including that which is beneficial to humankind. Remember this - many of our healing medicines were discovered in plants. In fact, plants were the original medicines administered in their natural form by the early “doctors” and “medicine men”. I witness our cattle and pigs eating those so-called weeds regularly. The animals know what is good for them. So, herbicides deposit poisons in your food while also banishing good plants from your pasture. Stay away from herbicides at every opportunity.

Pesticides: in the stockman’s realm, pesticides’ primary application is to thwart the hated flies that pester our critters and retard their growth. The conventional answer is to spray or coat them in fly killers. Like the herbicides, thaeir residue is found in the animal after processing, just like an apple, a cabbage or a tomato. There are other natural ways to minimize or entirely eliminate the flies.

So that’s the primer on the synthetics - NPK, not so bad at least for the human consumer. The poisons: keep them out of your diet as much as possible. Bad stuff.