by Dr. Mark Edwards
Algae Feed Solutions to avoid Pesticides in Our Food
he recent Algae101 posts established how algae solutions can provide means for reducing pesticide exposure through application on field crops and for therapeutics that moderate and, in some cases, treat symptomology for autism spectrum disorder and other pesticide induced diseases.
The only way to save the most vulnerable, our children, from the horrors of autism spectrum disorders, (ASD) and other neurological problems caused by pesticides is to reduce pesticide applications. Unfortunately, the governing bodies including the USDA, EPA, FDA and USGS display little appetite for reduction in the use of pesticides. Farmers and households use pesticides to their benefit without any concern or responsibility for the social and environmental costs of environmental degradation and poisons.
Pesticides invade the bodies and brains of our newborns, adults and elderly by several methods. Newborns and infants often suffer from autism and other diseases because their mothers were exposed to pesticides when they worked on a farm or when they lived within a mile of a field where pesticides were used. Farmworkers and their families suffer from a wide range of serious pesticide related diseases because they must work in the fields, up close and personal with the pesticides.
I grew up in the epicenter of pesticide applications, central California. I flagged crop duster’s so they would know which path to take when applying pesticides to fruit tree orchards. Often the fine spray would settle on my bare hands and arms. We always waited a few days after spraying pesticides to enter an orchard to work but we often labored in the orchards while the pesticides were still active.
This was especially true in the 1950s when DDT was commonly applied. DDT was banned because the long-term residuals killed bald eagles. At the time, we had no idea about the long-term effects of pesticides on people in rural communities. Thankfully, Rachel Carlson’s excellent, Silent Spring, ignited action to curb the use of pesticides with long residual action.
Medical tests show that most Americans have pesticides in their bodies, often from pesticide residuals that remain on food products. The Environmental Working Group provides a ranking of the fruits and vegetables the carrying the heaviest pesticide load. The U.S. Apple Association does not appreciate that Apples top the pesticide list. Many farmers use considerable pesticides on apples and consumers often eat the apples without washing them. Apple seeds do not contain arsenic, (the urban legend is wrong) but they do carry a tiny bit of cyanide.
Janie F. Sheltonat U.C. Davis who is also a U.N. consultant leads the excellent CHARGE series of studies that examine pesticide exposure based on proximity to pesticide treated fields. These studies provide metrics that show that pregnant mothers who happen to live within a mile of treated fields has substantially higher probabilities than others of having a newborn with ASD. The scary CHARGE research outcome is the knowledge of how mobile pesticides are after they are applied. Additional research will provide answers to whether this poison mobility comes from wind, water or other mechanisms.
Pesticides in foods
Most consumers are aware that pesticide residuals often remain on fruit and vegetables when they are bought at the grocery store or farmer’s market. Many consumers may be surprised that the regulators cast with the responsibility for assuring safe foods have allowed food and feeds on the market intentionally, with pesticides genetically engineered into the food product.
Approximately 90% of the corn, 94% of the soy and 22% of the wheat produced in the US are grown with genetically engineered seeds. These food grains are grown by intensive industrial farming operations that use huge amounts of pesticides on the crops. The most common genetic modification includes plants that are bred to contain insecticides within their genetic makeup, (e.g., Monsanto’s Bt corn). These crops can withstand direct application of herbicides because they are resistant to glyphosate herbicides, the active poison in Monsanto’s Round-Up™.
Nearly every consumer in America ingests food products such as corn sugars made from plants that are bred to contain insecticides. Monsanto swears that the GE crops cause no harm to consumers but the company has not made their research public, citing intellectual property constraints. The Environmental Working Group has successfully gained access to some of the Monsanto health impacts research and those independent scientists do not agree with Monsanto’s conclusions. Additional research will be necessary to determine if GE crops add to the pesticide load in humans and animals that lead to neurological dysfunction and loss of brain and muscle function.
Monsanto promised regulators that GE crops would benefit society by reducing the environmental damage caused by heavy application of pesticides. Their premise was that GE crops would deliver higher yields with substantially fewer pesticides, saving farmers money and protecting ecosystems. The Environmental Working Group and the USDA have evaluated GE crops and concluded that farmers actually use more poisons on GE crops, including more fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides.
In addition to causing substantial environmental damage, animal feed causes pesticide residues to accumulate in the animals’ fatty tissue and milk. Pesticides that incorporate arsenic compounds are also included in livestock feed to kill intestinal parasites and other pests. Poisons accumulated in animals pass through the food chain to humans. As scientists are better able to quantify the quantity and medical impacts of pesticide residues in animal products, consumer-warning labels will need to be added to foods that contain animal products.
American consumers cannot escape GE foods because they are practically ubiquitous on grocery shelves. Thoughtful consumers that shop at farmers’ markets and buy organic produce may reduce their pesticide exposure. However, many organic producers sneak some pesticides onto their crops to control weeds and bugs. Organic certification allows a light pesticide load in crop production.
Algae offer several novel solutions to reduce pesticide in animal feeds.
- Algae-based animal feeds that are grown without GE material, without the use of pesticides in the growing process and that are pesticide free.
- Algae biofertilizers enhance crop vitality and induce plants to produce natural biopesticides and reduce the quantity of pesticides needed.
- Polluted water remediation with algae.
Algae animal feed supplements that substitute for food grains are probably the largest contribution algae can make to reduce pesticide exposure.
Algae animal feeds
Currently, about one third of the algae produced globally are sold to aquaculture, fin and shellfish producers. Lessons from the aquaculture industry can be generalized to other animal feed, including cows, swine, poultry, dairy and specialty animals, including pets. Algae-based animal feeds compared to food grains such as corn, soy or wheat feeds typically:
- Deliver higher nutralence – protein and micronutrient density, diversity and bioavailability.
- The substantial improvement in micronutrient diversity enables animals to grow faster with higher vitality and lower morbidity and mortality rates.
- Enhanced micronutrient diversity improves the color, texture and most importantly taste of animal meat products.
- Algae cells are tiny and improve bioavailability, absorption of nutrients in the animal stomach, which improves animal health, vitality and stress tolerance.
- Higher bioavailability enables farmers to use 10 to 20% less feed and gain a corresponding reduction in animal waste.
- Enhanced bioavailability also allows farmers to avoid the use of antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals often used to accelerate animal growth and to improve digestive problems.
- Many farmers, especially in the aquaculture industry, have found that algae feed lowers the cost of animal production while improving animal meat and dairy yields and quality.
Every ton of algae-based animal feed replaces one ton of GE food grains and all the associated pesticide application and pollution. Algae animal feeds can be produced in areas where food grains cannot be grown due to lack of soil fertility, weather, freshwater or the availability or affordability of inorganic fertilizers.
The incredible value of algae biofertilizers for field crops has been covered in prior Algae 101 posts. Cellular metabolism, whether plant or animal, benefits from the bioavailability of algae nutrients. Algae biofertilizers do for plants what algae feeds do for animals.
Algae biofertilizers also improve crop vitality and enhance crop tolerance for stressors such as weather or invasions by insects, weeds or salt. Our research shows that algae biofertilizers reduce the required pesticide application on field crops by roughly 50%. Therefore, algae can substantially reduce pesticide pollution for field crops.
Water and soil remediation
Farmers can use algae to clean pesticide loaded water and soil. Algae can not only clean water polluted with pesticide poisons but also detoxify the pesticides.
Most of the 99.9% of the pesticides that were not absorbed by the plant create a thin layer in the top few millimeters of the soil. Algae offer two solutions for polluted soil remediation. Farmers can scrape their topsoil and apply it to an algae production system where algae perform remediation similar to polluted water. The total cost for the topsoil scrape plus the separation of water and soil are so high that this application will probably be reserved for superfund sites addressing nuclear, mining or heavy metal contamination.
Farmers can use Smartcultures – algae biofertilizers that improve soil fertility and add humus, organic matter, to the soil. Our research with Del Monte’s fresh produce division demonstrated that Smartcultures can improve soil porosity, looseness, by 500%. Soils with higher fertility and humus grow stronger crops that have substantially longer roots. The higher soil porosity extends the reach of roots due to the looseness of the soil. Higher porosity also enables pesticide poisons layered on the soil surface to percolate with irrigation or rainwater harmlessly through the root zone.
Algae animal feeds can replace grain feeds such as corn, soy and wheat, and create superior feeds without the application of pesticides. Algae feeds offer farmers many advantages including better health and vitality for their animals, pets, self, family and neighbors. Algae feeds avoid the use of GE crops, which eliminates pesticides built into the feeds, which can accumulate in meat and dairy animals.
If government subsidies were zeroed out for crops, fuel and the energy to move irrigation water, algae feeds would be more economical for farmers today. When, not if, some communities begin accounting and taxing farmers for the environmental degradation costs caused by industrial farming, farmers will quickly migrate to algae feeds because they repair polluted environments. When crop insurance becomes too expensive from so many claims due to climate chaos, farmers will adopted algae feed because it can be grown year round in nearly any climate.
Algae feeds offer possibly the highest value of any action to moderate pesticide pollution and its destructive toll on farmers, farm families, farm animals and rural communities.