The newly published President’s Cancer Report puts this quote in bold type: “I believe it is time for a new human experiment. The old experiment is that we have sprayed pesticides which are inherent poisons . . . throughout our shared environment. They’re in our amniotic fluid . . .They’re in our mothers’ milk. What is the burden of cancer that we can attribute to these poisons in our agricultural system? We won’t really know the answer until we do the other experiment, which is to take the poisons out of our food chain, embrace a different kind of agriculture, and see what happens.” Sandra Steingraber, biologist and author of the book Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment.
Unfortunately, Steingraber’s ignorance of biochemistry and agriculture is breathtaking. We’ve actually been running a long-term experiment on chemical-free farming for about 5,000 years: It’s called Africa. Africans don’t produce much food, and the little food they produce comes at a fearful price in human stoop labor, horrifying soil erosion, and increasing displacement of wildlife by low-yield crops.
Africans get cancer at an alarming rate even so – though many die too young for the old age cancers. In Kenya, where Barack Obama’s father lived, the life expectancy is 20 years shorter than America’s 78 years. Cancer has recently made the “Top 10 Killers” list, but Kenyans worry more about the epidemics of malaria, HIV and tuberculosis.
Don’t look for any new science in this new President’s Report. There isn’t any. The report includes much talk of the precautionary principle, and how we might begin to find these “hidden” cancer sources. It’s just the same old fears and alarms that have circulated since Rachel Carson. Indeed, Steingraber has been called “the new Rachel Carson.” That’s no compliment; Rachel’s rant against DDT has cost more than 50 million needless malaria deaths.
Graham Colditz, a cancer epidemiologist at Washington University in St. Louis, urgently disagrees with the new cancer report. He told Reuters, “Maybe 4% of cancer in the western world is caused by contaminants and pollution.” He wants more done to combat much larger known cancer risks, such as smoking and obesity.
The new report recommends eating organic food. However, National Science Medal winner Bruce Ames reports that 99.99% of the carcinogens we swallow grow naturally in our fruits and vegetables – put there by Mother Nature to fend off the insects, bacteria and fungi. Eating organic food makes one ten-thousandth of a percent difference.
This chemo-phobia is another left-wing Obama import from Europe, like the coming government health monopoly. Europe is banning some 85% of its pesticide active ingredients – based on “theoretical risks” rather than “proven risks.” Obama wants similar laws for the U.S., even though our rat tests overstate our real pesticide risks – deliberately – by about 1,000%.
Besides smoking and old age cancers, there has been no increase in cancer rates; but huge numbers of Americans will live long enough to get (and hopefully survive) cancer. Steingraber is herself a cancer survivor.
Following Obama’s farming advice, however, would make it impossible for us to feed humanity right now. Nothing in the plant world grows without nitrogen, and we have less than half enough manure –so we take nitrogen fertilizer from the air. Lack of nitrogen and too much pest damage (especially weeds) cut organic crop yields by about 40% compared to conventional.
The African forced scenario is that mom and the kids spend their days out in the fields, pulling weeds by hand – and skin cancer is among the most prevalent African cancers.
-- Dennis Avery, Hudson Institute ([email protected])