November 23, 2008

Stone Cold Soup

What do you get when you combine a bunch of common "acceptable" pesticides: certain death.
Thats the result of a study that offers the "first illustration of how a large mixture of pesticides can adversely impact the environment".
I've often wondered about chemical combinations and if they've been studied appropriately. What effect has the chemical soup? I wasn't surprised then to find this new research out of the University of Pittsburgh showing that when 10 of the most commonly used EPA approved pesticides are mixed together they can wipe out (99%) of the amphibian population.
Pesticides are toxically complex chemicals and synthesize or metabolize into other chemicals after application in the soil, or uptake into organisms. The common pesticide Cyromazine, used on leafy greens, for example metabolizes into Melamine among other things. The USDA has apparently axed pesticide testing of fruits, vegetables and field crops as of September of this year citing the 8 million budget as too expensive. The EPA used the data that these tests revealed to set limits on pesticide use.
I'm not clear if and how Canada's testing regime is monitoring our own food for chemical residues - there are a lot of agency hands in the pie, but with deep integration in full gear, I'd wager more of the same. In the 15 + years I've been farming no one has ever required my produce to be tested for chemicals, nor do I know of any collegues organic or otherwise, wholesalers or smallscale. The powers that be are becoming increasingly heavy-handed though with small-scale producers in regard to regulations for food-safety which has come to mean antibacterial control while they deregulate the agricultural chemical industry.


Patrick said...

They've been talking about this a lot in Europe over the last few years. A crop like grapes with 30 commonly used pesticides, or citrus with even more, and they've never tested these pesticides in combination. They have no idea what the effects are on either consumers or the environment.

I did a post on this a year or two ago...

We live in a scary world.

anne said...

Yes, amazing that this has been over looked. I found Patrick's article and it is very well written and comprehensive...well worth a read.

I hadn't really thought about this: "It’s simply the nature of nearly all of our food that it comes from more than one source and goes through a centralized processing system somewhere. If you buy a liter of milk it doesn’t come from one cow. Farmers from many places combine the milk from all of their cows into one vat, which is then packaged for retail sale and distributed to supermarkets. The same thing is certainly true with our fruits and vegetables."
"Not only does this distribution system more or less guarantee any contamination is spread through the entire system, but it makes the idea of testing for only one pesticide residue seem all that much more ridiculous"

Milk concentrates chemicals and testing for multiple chemicals should be a given. Do you have links on that consumer group testing?

Patrick said...

The only link I have is the same one as in the post to Weet Wat Je Eet (know what you're eating), but unfortunately it's in Dutch:

You can try the Google-automatically-translated version here:

Thanks for reminding me, I should add this to the links page I'm working on.