Healthy Soil, Healthy Food, Healthy People, Healthy World


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Australian medical practitioner Dr Carole Hungerford draws the links between declining nutritional value in foods we grow and the declining health of the soil we grow it in at the Third Annual Carbon Farming Conference & Expo 2009 in Orange NSW Australia - the only soil carbon farming conference of its type in the world. (4-5 November 2009)

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Healthy Soil, Healthy Food, Healthy People, Healthy World

  1. 1. Soil Health and why it matters for Human Health Presented by Dr. Carole Hungerford BA MBBS FACNEM
  2. 2. Why soil health matters <ul><li>The Gaia hypothesis </li></ul><ul><li>Named after the Greek supreme god of Earth [Prof. James Lovelock] </li></ul><ul><li>Is an ecological hypothesis that proposes that the biosphere of Earth behaves like one living organism with feedback systems to maintain homeostasis- from climatic and geological through to the interdependence of all life forms </li></ul>
  3. 3. The Anthropocentric view <ul><li>All life revolves around Man. All other species there to serve his purpose </li></ul><ul><li>Nature should be tamed by Man </li></ul><ul><li>If this is part of a divine plan-how has Man honoured such trust? </li></ul>
  4. 4. Another view <ul><li>Man is part of an ecosystem. He has one trillion cells in his body-and ten trillion living bacteria in/on his body/gut </li></ul><ul><li>The human body has been likened to a shipwreck-whose main purpose is to support the mass of coral organisms growing on it [ref. 1] </li></ul><ul><li>Germ free mice develop mutliple allergies and immune disorders-and die </li></ul>
  5. 5. Our Future <ul><li>The future of the human race is only as viable as the human sperm </li></ul><ul><li>Sperm counts have been declining over the last several decades </li></ul><ul><li>One in ten couples now need assisted reproduction to conceive </li></ul>
  6. 6. Quote <ul><li>“ .....Nature isn't benign.....The survival of the human species is not a pre-ordained evolutionary program....genetic variation exist[s]....not necessarily confined to what happens routinely, or even frequently....It is, I think, worthwhile being conscious of the limits of our powers.....We are caught in the food chain, whether we like it or not, eating and being eaten..” [ref 2] </li></ul>
  7. 7. The Big Picture <ul><li>Human health depends on having the “good guys” in our food chain..... </li></ul><ul><li>And avoiding the “bad guys”..... </li></ul>
  8. 8. What’s in soil health for us <ul><li>Carbon sequestration </li></ul><ul><li>Water retention-the driest continent on Earth </li></ul><ul><li>Sustainability-we can feed ourselves </li></ul><ul><li>Healthy plants- </li></ul><ul><li>Macronutrients </li></ul><ul><li>Micronutrients: Vitamins, minerals, EFAs </li></ul><ul><li>Phytochemicals </li></ul>
  9. 9. Macronutrients <ul><li>Proteins </li></ul><ul><li>Carbohydrates </li></ul><ul><li>Fats </li></ul><ul><li>Remember that most of our food begins in the oceans and the soil. Hydroponics the rare exception </li></ul>
  10. 10. Micronutrients <ul><li>Vitamins </li></ul><ul><li>Minerals </li></ul><ul><li>Essential fatty acids </li></ul><ul><li>Phytochemicals </li></ul>
  11. 11. Vitamins <ul><li>A plant can make a vitamin. The structure of a vitamin is a complex arrangement of simple elements: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen </li></ul><ul><li>It can get most of these from the air and water. Under the dictation of genes, the healthy plant will produce vitamins, [something humans cannot do] </li></ul><ul><li>We must eat the plant-or animal that has eaten it </li></ul>
  12. 12. Why does the plant do this? <ul><li>The main purpose of a vitamin is to act as a co-factor in vital enzymatic reactions </li></ul><ul><li>One type of reaction involves protection from redox [free radical damage] </li></ul><ul><li>The plant is protecting itself from the oxidative damage of the sun on which so many plants are dependent </li></ul>
  13. 13. Periodic table of the Elements [Minerals]
  14. 14. Minerals-1 <ul><li>Minerals can have structural roles-eg magnesium and calcium in bone-or act as co-factors like vitamins </li></ul><ul><li>We may need them in grams, milligrams or micrograms-where they are referred to as “trace” or “ultra-trace” elements </li></ul>
  15. 15. Minerals-2 <ul><li>Unlike vitamins-the plant cannot make a mineral </li></ul><ul><li>The mineral must be in the soil, the water supply- [or the ocean] </li></ul><ul><li>One reason that sea vegetables are so spectacularly good for us is the abundance of minerals </li></ul>
  16. 16. The problem <ul><li>Not all soils are created equal </li></ul><ul><li>Basalt soils are rich in the necessary minerals </li></ul><ul><li>Soils weathered by glaciers grinding volcanic rocks often very rich [Joel Wallach “glacial milk”] </li></ul><ul><li>River flats may be rich from topsoils washed from other farms </li></ul>
  17. 17. Agribusiness <ul><li>Crops remove the minerals they need. </li></ul><ul><li>This includes calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, carbon, potassium, selenium, iodine, zinc, manganese, copper, cobalt, boron, germanium, vanadium </li></ul><ul><li>Once the crop is sold-these are taken from the farm </li></ul><ul><li>“ fertilised” farms replace calcium, carbon, potassium, phosphate and nitrogen </li></ul>
  18. 18. And More <ul><li>The presence of a mineral in the soil does not address its availability to the plant </li></ul><ul><li>Various factors such as pH and mineral balance at play </li></ul><ul><li>Selenium is only absorbed by biological systems in a narrow pH range-NB acid soils </li></ul><ul><li>Calcium competes for absorption with magnesium at a cellular level </li></ul>
  19. 19. Quote <ul><li>“ ...In the animal field we all know of the relationship between selenium and sulphates, nitrates and calcium, so that nitrates and calcium and high dietary calcium decrease the absorption of selenium in cattle and has been associated with muscular dystrophy , metritis, clinical mastitis and retained placenta. In this context note the human </li></ul>
  20. 20. continued <ul><li>fact that post menopausal women are encouraged to take more calcium...Indeed, the matter of [trace] mineral inter-relationships is very delicate........” </li></ul><ul><li>Dr. Tom Hungerford, author of “Diseases of Livestock” -personal communication </li></ul>
  21. 21. Animal vs Humans <ul><li>“ 5/7 in one” now comes with the option of added selenium </li></ul><ul><li>Does your kids triple antigen or your fluvax offer this option? </li></ul><ul><li>The posters in your local rural ag supply shop acknowledge at least prevention of grass tetany, [Mg], or ill-thrift, [selenium] </li></ul><ul><li>Do you see such notices at your doctor's surgery? </li></ul>
  22. 22. continued <ul><li>In Bangladesh pre-eclampsia [=grass tetany]- is treated with magnesium [ref.3] </li></ul><ul><li>In Australia it is treated with a cocktail of drugs then a Caesarian section </li></ul><ul><li>Is it time for the farmers to give the medical profession a hand? </li></ul>
  23. 23. Depression biochemistry
  24. 24. Agribusiness <ul><li>If the plant can grow without the mineral-why would the farmer add it to his fields? </li></ul><ul><li>His animals are too expensive to keep to old age </li></ul><ul><li>Does anyone remember how tomatoes and apples used to taste? </li></ul><ul><li>Who has seen mutton, hoggett or aged beef for sale recently? </li></ul>
  25. 25. How mother nature used to do it <ul><li>Trees- </li></ul><ul><li>Shelter birds </li></ul><ul><li>Hold the topsoil together so that it is not lost to dust storms </li></ul><ul><li>Increase the water carrying capacity of the soil, protecting against drought </li></ul><ul><li>Roots break up rocks and release more minerals to renew soils </li></ul>
  26. 26. Mother nature [cont.] <ul><li>Trees renew topsoil with leaf litter. This in turn shelters moulds, fungi and micro-organisms </li></ul><ul><li>These micro-organisms affect the pH of the soil, allow bacteria to fix nitrogen, incorporate carbon etc </li></ul><ul><li>Birds eat the pests avoiding the toxic effects of agricultural chemicals </li></ul>
  27. 27. But there's more....... <ul><li>Microbes around the roots feed off exudates from the plants symbiotically </li></ul><ul><li>The production by the plant of vitamins and some of its amino acids depends on this relationship </li></ul><ul><li>50% of all of the methionine in the plant is selenomethionine [Adam Willson] </li></ul><ul><li>Se status affects both plant productivity and human health </li></ul>
  28. 28. Some statistics <ul><li>A 2000 British study showed that from earlier analyses there was an overall decline: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>of calcium in fruits and vegetables 46%, in broccoli it was 75% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>of copper overall 75% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Carrots had lost 75% of their magnesium </li></ul></ul>
  29. 29. Other examples <ul><li>2001 Australian Organic retailers and growers found: </li></ul><ul><li>Beans, tomatoes, capsicums and silver beet often had ten times or more the zinc, calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron when compared to the conventional product </li></ul><ul><li>Japanese researchers found higher levels of Vit E, omega 3s and anti-oxidants in organic milk </li></ul>
  30. 30. And more <ul><li>CSIRO research published 2008 showed that adding superphosphate to wheat crop reduced the zinc content by 33-39 % </li></ul><ul><li>The research suggested that phosphate destroyed arbuscular mycorrhizial fungi [AMF] which are required by the plant to access the zinc that is in the soil </li></ul><ul><li>Canola damages AMF in a similar manner </li></ul>
  31. 31. Moreover- <ul><li>Remember that phosphate is a synthetic solution to the need for phosphorus </li></ul><ul><li>When inorganic nitrogen [synthetic fertilisers] is too easily available to plants they have less incentive to produce anti-oxidants- vitamins, bioflavonoids and anthocyanins [phytochemicals] </li></ul><ul><li>Organic tomatoes had 79-97% more quercetin and kaempferol than commercially grown tomatoes </li></ul>
  32. 32. And in the USA <ul><li>A 2006 dept. of agriculture [USDA] study showed changes in wheat since new varieties introduced in 1873 </li></ul><ul><li>[i] 36% less selenium </li></ul><ul><li>[ii] 34% less zinc </li></ul><ul><li>[iii] 28% less iron </li></ul><ul><li>University of Texas 2004 studied 43 fruits and vegetables. Protein, minerals and vitamins-had all declined </li></ul>
  33. 33. Selenium <ul><li>Article in Lancet - Margaret Rayman - July 2000 linked selenium depletion in European soils to: </li></ul><ul><li>[i] thyroid disorders </li></ul><ul><li>[ii] decreasing sperm motility </li></ul><ul><li>[iii] decreasing fertility </li></ul><ul><li>[iv] increased miscarriage rate </li></ul><ul><li>[v] increased cancer rates across the spectrum </li></ul><ul><li>[vi] mood disorders </li></ul><ul><li>[vii] increased risk of heart disease </li></ul>
  34. 34. Some statistics <ul><li>One Australian dies every 5 hours in a road accident- vehicle safety legislation </li></ul><ul><li>One Australian dies every 4 hours from breast cancer-pink ribbons, yellow daffodils and pollies' wives take tea </li></ul><ul><li>One Australian dies every two hours from bowel cancer- pilot screening program </li></ul><ul><li>Study Clark JAMA Dec 1996 indicated selenium reduced bowel cancer 58% </li></ul>
  35. 35. Doctors take notice! <ul><li>October 2009-specialists attending a Gastroenterology conference in Sydney heard that supplemental selenium could halve the rate of bowel cancer </li></ul><ul><li>Doses recommended of 150 mcg daily </li></ul><ul><li>Dr. John Fitzherhert-cancer surgeon and cattle farmer has been saying this for decades!!!! </li></ul>
  36. 36. Learning from Chinese and OS experience <ul><li>Keshan disease-viral cardiomyopathy </li></ul><ul><li>-selenium conferred resistance to coxsackie viruses. ?Rylstone </li></ul><ul><li>Hepatitis B, primary liver cancer Qidong province </li></ul><ul><li>Proposal that selenium depletion allows avian flu to emerge from affected areas in Asia and enabled HIV to jump to humans in Zaire [New Scientist 2005.1995 p. 16] </li></ul>
  37. 37. Iodine <ul><li>Iodine deficiency in soil well known. Has now been linked to: </li></ul><ul><li>[i] thyroid disorders </li></ul><ul><li>[ii] fibrocystic breast disease </li></ul><ul><li>[iii] breast cancer </li></ul><ul><li>[iv] polycystic ovaries </li></ul><ul><li>[v] ovarian cancer </li></ul><ul><li>[vi] mental retardation/cretinism of the newborn </li></ul><ul><li>[vii] autistic spectrum disorders </li></ul>
  38. 38. Iodine deficiency <ul><li>Recent study showed that 59% of children were iodine deficient </li></ul><ul><li>Iodine is a halogen that competes with other halogens such as fluorine and bromine </li></ul><ul><li>Iodised salt is not the answer </li></ul><ul><li>Have you wondered where all of the ADD and ASD kids are coming from? </li></ul>
  39. 39. Essential fatty acids <ul><li>These include the omega 3s and the omega 6s </li></ul><ul><li>Sourced from plant and animal foods </li></ul><ul><li>Animals, including fish, cannot make omega 3 fatty acids </li></ul><ul><li>They are so important that Nature put them right down at the bottom of the food chain in algae, nuts and seeds </li></ul>
  40. 40. Strucure of omega-3 alphalinonenic acid
  41. 41. Man's intervention <ul><li>When we kill certain weeds we destroy one source of omega 3s. Seeds of Paterson's curse rich in omega 3's </li></ul><ul><li>When we add chlorine to drinking water we destroy another [gut bacteria] </li></ul><ul><li>Among other uses-omega 3s give cold tolerance. GMO crops may lose their omega 3 production </li></ul>
  42. 42. Phytochemicals-Nature's Pharmacy <ul><li>Complex plant nutrients-whose potential is as yet barely understood </li></ul><ul><li>Phytosterols are one such group </li></ul><ul><li>They are not “phyto-oestrogens” </li></ul><ul><li>They contain sterol rings and are nature's buffer c.f. “gender bender” chemicals </li></ul><ul><li>Clover a good example. Clover says to sheep-you may eat me but if you eat too much I'll act like the OC, [coumestrol] </li></ul>
  43. 43. Other phytochemicals <ul><li>Other phytochemicals include alkaloids, allicins, anthocyanins, capsacins, flavonoids and bioflavonoids, glucosinates, lycopenes, polyphenolic compounds, resveratrol, salacinol, tannins, zeanthin and lutein, curcurmerins, salicylates </li></ul>
  44. 44. Cholesterol H 3 C CH 3 CH 3 HO Progesterone H 3 C CH 3 CH 3 O O Estradiol (oestradiol) HO OH Testosterone O OH Cortisol O OH HO OH O Daidzein HO O O Genistein HO O O OH OH Tamoxifen OCH 2 CH 2 N(CH 3 ) 2 OH CH 3 STEROLS
  45. 45. Anthocyanins <ul><li>Shaping up as a wonder nutrient </li></ul><ul><li>Anti-oxidants with value for Alzheimers, cancer, cardiovascular disease and arthritis </li></ul><ul><li>Good studies on treating leukaemias, lymphomas [University Pittsburgh 2007] </li></ul>
  46. 46. The Bad Guys <ul><li>Actions which reduce essential fatty acids production </li></ul><ul><li>GMO </li></ul><ul><li>Toxins </li></ul>
  47. 47. GMO -containment <ul><li>In paddocks-threat to agriculture </li></ul><ul><li>GMO genes are very good at insertion into other genomes. That's what they are designed to do [ref. 4] </li></ul><ul><li>“ Experts” from a US agricultural scientist: </li></ul><ul><li>“ I'm not an expert on confinement. Hardly anyone is......” [ref. 5] </li></ul>
  48. 48. GMO <ul><li>Of all the scary things about GMO, the insertion of GMO genes into gut bacteria one of the scariest </li></ul><ul><li>Nature is highly conservative-note bacteria in termites 20 million years old in amber from the Dominican Republic [ref.6] </li></ul><ul><li>Note the conversion of yersinia pestis with just one gene into bubonic plague [ref.7] </li></ul>
  49. 49. GMO and gut bacteria <ul><li>About 80-90% of your immune system is in your gut </li></ul><ul><li>The overwhelming proportion of that lies with the gut bacteria </li></ul><ul><li>“ ......they have demonstrated that you can get GM plant DNA in the gut bacteria. Everyone used to deny this was possible...” Michael Antonio King's College Medical School London </li></ul>
  50. 50. Toxic Chemicals <ul><li>Higher rates of Parkinson's disease, cancers, lymphomas-and in some areas-increased birth defects-directly linked to the use of agricultural chemicals [ref. 8] </li></ul><ul><li>The question of synergism never addressed by the authorities </li></ul><ul><li>Australia in denial over the toxicity of organochlorines-as instanced by the recent endosulfan debate </li></ul>
  51. 51. EU <ul><li>Recent figures show </li></ul><ul><li>49% of fruits, vegetables and cereals contain pesticide residues </li></ul><ul><li>10% of products contain four or more chemicals </li></ul><ul><li>5% of all fruits vegetables contain concentrations above legal levels </li></ul>
  52. 52. Gender Benders and POPs <ul><li>Breakdown products of pesticides and plastics directly linked to a range of cancers-and fertility issues </li></ul><ul><li>POPs refers to “persistent organic pollutants” </li></ul><ul><li>Linkage also made to type 2 Diabetes [ref. 9] </li></ul><ul><li>These are the big killers of the 21stC </li></ul><ul><li>Breast cancer approaching 1:7. If this was snake bite or AIDs-your response? </li></ul>
  53. 53. Pollutants: pesticides <ul><li>Vinclozin – viticulture fungicide blocks male hormones </li></ul><ul><li>Methoxychlor - pesticide with oestrogenic activity </li></ul><ul><li>No DNA damage. Epigenetic impact suspected. Reduction of fertility apparent 4 generations [of rats] later </li></ul>
  54. 54. What has happened? <ul><li>Addition of superphosphate </li></ul><ul><li>Failure to replace lost nutrients </li></ul><ul><li>Change of pH </li></ul><ul><li>Loss of topsoil </li></ul><ul><li>Loss of bio-system feedback </li></ul><ul><li>Introduction of toxic chemicals </li></ul><ul><li>Hybridisation of plants-allergenic </li></ul><ul><li>GMO </li></ul><ul><li>Monocultures </li></ul>
  55. 55. Further Reading <ul><li>Australian Organic Producer (quarterly magazine published by BFA) </li></ul><ul><li>Australian Certified Organic (quarterly magazine published by BFA) </li></ul><ul><li>Organic Advantage electronic magazine published by BFA </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  56. 56. Further Reading continued <ul><li>Why Health is the Key to the Future of Food and Farming </li></ul><ul><li>edited by Tim Lang and Geof Rayner. [commissioned by the UK Government] </li></ul><ul><li>“ Stolen Future” Colborn, Myers, Dumanoski 1996 </li></ul>
  57. 57. References <ul><li>1. “Insider Trading” Garry Hamilton New Scientist 26.06.99 </li></ul><ul><li>2. The Coming Plague p.6 Laurie Garrett 1994 </li></ul><ul><li>3. Shamsudden International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics vol 70 supplement 2 2000 p.47 </li></ul><ul><li>4. Genetic Roulette Jeffrey M. Smith </li></ul>
  58. 58. References <ul><li>5. Here we go again New Scientist 06.07.2002 p.3 </li></ul><ul><li>6. New Scientist 16.02.2002 p.23 </li></ul><ul><li>7. From Minor to Major New Scientist 04.05.2002 </li></ul><ul><li>8. Chemical Sensitivity [4 volumes] William J. Rea; The Politics of Cancer - revisited Samuel Epstein </li></ul><ul><li>9. A possibility too frightening to ignore New Scientist 13.09.2008 </li></ul>
  59. 59. Pipkin and the agouti gene
  60. 60. Alpacas can have it too -the agouti gene
  61. 61. The Enlightened <ul><li>AIMA </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Australasian Integrative Medicine Association </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>ACNEM </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine </li></ul></ul></ul>