The beginning of Western Civilization coincided with the industrial revolution of the single innovation of the plow.
Suddenly large swaths of soil could be turned over by a single farmer, allowing an individual to produce more food than their family would consume. The era of division of labor and specialization had begun. That was 1100 years ago. Over the last Hundred years we have seen the disruption lead to two catastrophic events for the fertile soils of the United States, both times with direct and rapid consequences on human health.
The dust bowl of the 1930s resulted from over tilling of the soils of the Midwest, and a lack of soil care. As the root systems of ancient grasses were destroyed throughout the Midwest, the soil lost its ecosystem and anchor. The soil became dust, and went airborne to choke the west in massive dust storms that further decimated ecosystems of microbial life. The United States was starving. Our grandparents stood in soup lines, the economy dried up just as the soil did.
During World War II we saw the end of starvation through the ‘Victory Garden’ movement – an advertising campaign implemented throughout the Allied nations that showed the patriotism of the back yard garden. By the end of the War Americans were growing 45% of their food in their back yard.
Crop yields remained low in the commercial agriculture setting as soil science was still not being taught broadly. This opened a door for the chemical companies that would turn their attention to those dust-bowl damaged soils; redirecting the revved up petroleum industry that had met the demands of the global mechanized war machine, to create the petroleum based chemical fertilizers – the most infamous being NPK – the nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium delivery system that reduced the thousands of mineral and soil nutrients present in healthy soil to just three that would produce green, fast growing plants without the need for good soil care practices. The result was the Green Revolution, rather than scaling farms to good soil and plant health, farms suddenly scaled to massive proportions, that would continue to expand to the mega-farms of today in which a few people are employed to manage thousands of acres of monocrop fueled by an ever-increasing amount of chemical life-support.
Over the last 40 years these trends in farming practices has produced, for the first time in history, a nutrient-deprived, calorie rich food system that has been scaled to feed the majority of the developed world. Production of staple crops that lack the fundamental building blocks of biologic life, and are devoid of the medicinal components of those plants that have been the basis for healthy plants and animal/human consumers. Predictably, as the health of the soils and the plants that grow in them has diminished, chronic disease has gone epidemic. In the 1960s the entire US population had a chronic disease burden of 4%. Today, 46% of our children carry a chronic disease diagnosis. We have never imagined, let alone witnessed this level of chronic disease. Life expectancy is 20 years shorter in our areas of high agricultural activity within our country. Our children’s generation is expected to have a shorter lifespan than their parents for the first time in American history.
Rather than addressing the root cause of this collapse of health in our soils, plants, food chain, and humanity at large, we have again deferred to our chemical companies for convenient solutions. And they have stepped up. In one short generation we have seen the extraordinary merger of the chemical companies and the Pharmaceutical Industry. Pharmacia – a US based pharmaceutical company owned Monsanto for years before its merger with Pfizer in 2002, and now Bayer, the largest European Pharmaceutical company moves to buy Monsanto. Our pharmaceutical companies are owning the chemicals and the seeds themselves that produce over 85% of the corn and over 95% of the soy bean grown in the US. Our famers are seeing a collapse in health in their soils and the livestock feeding on the GMO seeds. Over the same time period the US and other developed nations with widespread GMO crop production have seen a collapse of public health, with the highest burdens of chronic disease in history emerging in just 15 years time.
As doctors we are feeding the same pharmaceutical model and chemical apothecary to our patients. Managing symptoms of chronic disease with an ever-increasing toxicity of drugs. Antibiotics, then antidepressants, then statins, then chemotherapy, then narcotics to assuage the pain. The same pharmaceutical companies are marketing the chemical herbicides, pesticides, and then treating the diseases of the livestock that have emerged, antibiotics, nutrient supplements, brain stimulant drugs, etc.
Food is no longer our medicine, pharmaceutical chemicals and drugs are now the main ingredient in our foods. It is time for the American consumer to empower our farmers to take back our food, and our right to the health that the food should bring us and our children.
– Dr Zach Bush