Modern Agricultural Practices Deplete Soil Quality

Most modern American diets are based on foods grown in mineral-depleted, unhealthy soils. This is certainly the case with genetically engineered (GE) processed foods and meat and dairy products from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Fruits and vegetables grown decades ago were much richer in vitamins and minerals than the varieties most of us get today. The main culprit behind his decrease in quality is soil depletion. Modern intensive agricultural methods have stripped increasing amounts of nutrients from the soil in which the food we eat grows. With each successive generation of fast-growing, pest-resistant produce is truly less good for you than the what is was before. Take a study done by researchers at the University of Texas that was published in 2004.1 The researchers studied U.S. Department of Agricultural data from 1950 to 1999 for 43 different vegetables and fruits. They found “reliable declines” in many key vitamins and minerals, including: protein, vitamin C, calcium, iron, etc.

Roundup and Glyphosate

Why is modern agriculture to blame? Its use of pesticides, mechanization, and nitrogen-heavy synthetic fertilizers deplete soil health in a variety of ways. Let’s discuss one of, if not the biggest problem, the pesticide known as Roundup. Roundup contains glyphosate, which is the active ingredient. Glyphosate recently earned the ominous title of the most heavily-used agricultural chemical of all time.2 In fact, an analysis showed that farmers sprayed enough glyphosate in 2014 to apply 0.8 pounds of the chemical to every acre of cultivated cropland in the U.S., and nearly 0.5 a pound of glyphosate to all cropland worldwide. Glyphosate weakens plants, destroys soil and promotes disease in a number of ways, including:

  • Acting as a chelator of vital nutrients, depriving plants of the nutrients necessary for healthy plant function
  • Destroying beneficial soil organisms that suppress disease-causing organisms and help plants absorb nutrients
  • Interfering with photosynthesis, reducing water use efficiency, shortening root systems and causing plants to release sugars, which changes soil pH
  • Stunting and weakening plant growth

This begins a downward spiral, making it necessary for farmers to use more and more herbicides, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers that kill soil microbes — especially if they’re using GE seeds. Weeds and pests become resistant to glyphosate, so farmers must use more to kill the resistant weeds and insects. Crops become nutrient-deprived, so farmers are forced to increase their use of synthetic fertilizers.

“Organisms in the soil that we might think of as pests actually stimulate plants to make more phytonutrients”


Human Health Consequences of Pesticides

Not only are these pesticides degrading our soils, but they also have detrimental health consequences. According to a recent United Nations (UN) report,3 pesticides are responsible for 200,000 acute poisoning deaths each year, and chronic exposure has been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’sParkinson’s diseasehormone disruption, developmental disorders and sterility.4

Growing or Finding Nutrient Dense Foods

Now, unless you’re your own vegetables and fruits in organic soil that is rich in nutrients, which has been tested. How can you know if the produce your eating was grown in nutrient rich soil? The short answer is you can’t, or it’s probably going to very difficult to find out. The best thing that most can do is buying their produce from local organic farmers. You can ask these farmers how they grow their produce and what products they may spray or apply to their products. You could even go as far as asking the farmer if you can visit their farm and see for yourself how they grow or raise their products.  Lastly, I’d like to mention that just because a product is labeled organic doesn’t mean it has been grown for optimal nutrition. The organic label basically only means a product was grown without being sprayed with pesticides or herbicides and cannot be genetically modified. Though these will normally still be a healthier option because of these restrictions.