Pesticides and Health: What You Need to Know - GUEST POST
The effect of industrialisation on farming and food production has been enormous in the last 50 years. Food has never been cheaper and yields more plentiful – largely as a result of advances to farming methods and the application of science and technology.
However, these benefits come at a cost; to both the environment and our health.
Pesticides – impacting our food and soil
Pesticides and herbicides are chemicals designed to harm any living organisms that affect the crop yields. While organic pesticides have been in use for many years in various forms, the use of synthetic pesticides rose rapidly in the last fifty years - with more than 1,000 pesticide around the world today. The utilisation of different amounts and types of pesticides varies differently from country to country. While pesticides help increase the yield and protect the harvest from pests, many of them have been shown to be harmful to our health, and a growing number of studies have linked pesticide exposure to chronic health effects
How are we exposed?
We can be exposed to pesticides either through the residues found on or in food – particularly in fruits and vegetables or in contaminated water. Research conducted in 2012 by Shnedeker and Hay suggested that certain pesticides directly alter our microbiome (leading to gut dysbiosis ), which subsequently increases the risk of health problems such as diabetes, obesity and auto-immune diseases.
Glyphosate - the major enemy?
One pesticide that has been in the news a lot recently is glyphosate, a chemical found in Roundup - a widely popular herbicide. Residues of glyphosate have been found in many popular foods such as cereals, wheat, and sugar. Several studies have investigated and established the connection between glyphosate and the development of various diseases related to gut health in people..
Many consumer rights groups and organisations, such as the Union of Concerned Scientists and the European Citizens’ Initiative, are expressing their concern that there is enough evidence to show that certain pesticides, such as glyphosate, do cause us harm. Nevertheless, glyphosate impact on human health is still doubted as the European Commission negatively responded to the European Citizens’ Initiative to ban glyphosate stating that there is a lack of scientific evidence proving the hazardous influence of glyphosate on human health.
Still, how to avoid pesticides?
Avoiding pesticides completely is no easy feat, but a good starting point is to be conscious of which foods contain higher concentrations of pesticide residues than others. In 2017, foods with the highest levels of pesticide residues were: strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, celery, grapes, pears, cherries, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers and potatoes.
Bananas, aubergines, broccoli, virgin olive oil, orange juice, peas, peppers, raisins, wheat, butter and eggs were all found to have a higher chance of containing multiple residues .
Finally, the best way of reducing the risk of pesticide exposure is to wash all your fruit and vegetables thoroughly or to eat organic food. While organic food can still contain traces of pesticides, the concentrations are much lower than non-organic foods. For best results soak your fruit and vegetables in warm water and vinegar, scrub the skins or leaves firmly and discard the outer layer of leafy vegetables.
Guest Post Bio
Stewart is the content and marketing manager at TheGoodGut.org ( http://www.thegoodgut.org ) - a new project devoted to maintaining gut health. Being a passionate writer, he aims to raise the awareness of the importance of gut health to the overall well-being of any individual.
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