by Mark Edwards
ecent Algae Secrets posts established how algae solutions could reduce the need for heavy pesticide loads on field crops and for therapeutics that moderate and, in some cases treat symptomology for autism spectrum disorder, (ASD) and other pesticide-induced diseases.
The only way to save the most vulnerable, our children, from the horrors of 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 and their breakdown compounds, metabolites, 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 or lived near a farm 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 or destroyed their ability to reproduce. 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 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. Shelton at 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 lesson from the CHARGE research is the knowledge of how mobile pesticides are after they are applied. Additional research will provide answers to whether this poison’s mobility comes from wind, water or other mechanisms.
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 promises 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 the degree to which 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, 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 pesticide free because they are grown without the use of pesticides.
- Algae-based animal feeds that that are natural and GE free.
- Algae biofertilizers that enhance crop vitality and induce plants to produce natural biopesticides, which reduces the quantity of pesticides needed.
- Pesticide 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.
Currently, about one third of the algae produced globally are sold to aquaculture, fin and shellfish producers. Lessons from the aquaculture industry generalize to other animal feed, including cows, swine, poultry, dairy and specialty animals, including pets.
Algae-based animal feeds provide substantial advantages compared to food grains such as corn, soy or wheat animal feeds:
- Delivers substantially higher nutralence – protein and micronutrient density, diversity and bioavailability.
- Gives a substantial improvement in micronutrient diversity that enables animals to grow faster with higher vitality and with lower morbidity and mortality rates.
- Supplies enhanced micronutrient diversity, which improves the color, texture and most importantly taste to animal and meat products.
- Improves nutrient bioavailability, absorption of nutrients in the animal’s stomach because algae cells are tiny, 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 allows farmers to avoid the use of antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals often used to accelerate animal growth and to improve digestive problems.
- Improves animal meat color and quality, and improves dairy yields.
Today, the cost of algae feed production is reported to be almost double field-grain feeds. However, those reports ignore the ecological, health and social costs. When all the externalities are factored into field grains, corn and other feeds exceed the cost of algae feeds.
Every ton of algae-based animal feed replaces one ton of GE food grains without 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.
Algae biofertilizer for field crops has been covered in prior Algae Secrets posts. Cellular metabolism, whether plant or animal, benefits from the bioavailability of algae nutrients. Algae biofertilizers deliver superior nutrition for plants similar to the way algae feeds supply superior nutrition 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 biofertilizers can substantially reduce pesticide pollution for field crops.
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 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 needed to produce the feeds, which can accumulate in meat and dairy animals.
If government subsidies were zeroed out for animal feed crops and the energy to move irrigation water, algae feeds would be more economic 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 adopt algae feeds because they repair polluted environments. When crop insurance becomes too expensive from so many claims due to climate chaos, farmers will migrate to algae feed because the feed can be grown year round in nearly any climate.
Algae feeds probably offer the highest value of any potential action to moderate pesticide pollution (other than laws prohibiting certain pesticides). Algae feeds can substantially reduce the terribly destructive toll pesticides impose on farmers, farm families, animals and rural communities.
If you have ideas on how algae solutions make our world better, please contact Mark Edwards, Professor Emeritus, Arizona State University, at: DrMetrics@gmail.com.