Why we should care more about the environmental impact of nutrients

The Soil Association highlighted the issue of peak phosphorous and its threat to food security in their report: A rock and a hard place, in 2010 (which appears to be no longer available on-line?). And made several recommendations for the UK Government, it would like to implement.  In an article I posted in 2013, I highlighted the work Wessex Water was doing to recycle nutrients.  Using the waste from their bio-digester plant, which also produces electricity and bio-gas.  They also employ chemists to work with their customers, to ensure their land gets the right amount of nutrients.

Unfortunately, the Agra-chemical companies, who produce the fertilisers (mostly from fossil fuels) for industrialised farming industry.  Have the money and the lobbying might, to try and prevent, the large scale uptake of organic farming practices.  In fact, one of the issues being highlighted at the present time, is the pharmaceutical drug residue, that might be present in the recycled waste?  In September 2016, the European Commission’s Science for Environmental Policy, published a news alert.  It was titled: Applying sewage sludge to soil may spread antibiotic resistance.  It has been widely acknowledge, that their has been an abuse of the use of antibiotics in humans and animals.  From which the chemical companies also benefit from, as well as their trade in fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides, fungicides and GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

Inside track

crop-spraying_chafer-machinery_flickrBack in 2007, Green Alliance examined the challenges and opportunities for the more sustainable use of nutrients, chiefly nitrogen and phosphorus, in the UK. It recommended a suite of policy principles to make a more circular system a reality.

Little has happened since in the UK. But last month I was asked to present Green Alliance’s policy principles to a conference of Nordic countries in Malmo, and to discuss how to take the agenda forward. I discovered that the ideas remain relevant and useful. 

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The Silent Pandemic – the risk to children’s health

Many childhood illnesses are on the rise, and a growing body of scientific evidence links pesticide exposure to this troubling trend.
Using facts and findings from the current body of evidence, I hope you’ll join me in taking a stand for kid’s health!
Let’s make protecting children from pesticides a national priority, one conversation at a time >> Public Action

The site may be American, but the problem is also relevant within the UK.  Especially as more and more Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are finding there way into processed food.  Monsanto GMOs particularly have been adapted to be resistant to Round-up, a pesticide which is known to be a carcinogen.  Some of the information that can be found on their site:

When it comes to pesticides, children are among the most vulnerable. Pound for pound, they drink 2.5 times more water, eat 3-4 times more food, and breathe 2 times more air. They therefore absorb a higher concentration of pesticides than adults.

Infants and children also face unique exposure because of how they interact with the world: they crawl on the ground and put things in their mouths — including their hands. They also face exposure during critical windows in the womb and via breast milk.

Developing Brains & Bodies

Children drawingsSince they are growing so quickly, infants and young children are more susceptible to the effects of pesticide exposure than adults. Their developing brains and bodies are in the midst of complex and fragile developmental processes that regulate tissue growth and organ development — and these developmental processes can be irreversibly derailed by pesticide exposure.
Drawings by preschoolers exposed to pesticides (Valley) compared to those by preschoolers not exposed (Foothills). See “Developmental Delay” below.

Research indicates that children exposed to pesticides either in utero, or during other critical periods face significant health risks including higher incidence of:

  • Birth defects
  • Neurodevelopmental delays & cognitive impairment
  • Childhood brain cancers
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD)
  • Endocrine disruption

Many of the worst pesticides, known as “persistent organic pollutants,” or POPs, contaminate our water and soil for years. They move on the wind and in streams, rivers and oceans and concentrate as they move up the food chain. Other pesticides are so widely and heavily used that they contamine our food and water supplies (chlorpyrifos and atrazine are good examples).

Health Effects: The State of the Science
Get the latest on the state of the science, including reports on Brain Development, Autism, and ADHD. Learn More »

So, while farmer and farmworker’s children bear some of the highest risks, pesticides contaminate the environment and permeate the food supply such that even kids in city cafeterias face daily exposure.