Ann Sarich lived most of her life in the Davidson district. Davidson is in the geographic centre of the grain growing area of Saskatchewan. A few years ago when she was in her senior years, I met her in the Davidson post office. She was coughing and sneezing so I asked her, "Have you got the flu?" She said, "Yes, the spray flu."
It was June and we were at the peak of the herbicide spraying season. Many seniors blame their summer colds and flu on agricultural herbicide and pesticide spraying.
Saskatchewan uses more toxic agricultural chemicals than any other province in Canada. Some years we have a pest called orange blossom wheat midge. It’s a small fly that lives in the ground in a cocoon most of the year and comes out of the ground when the wheat is headed out and destroys the wheat kernel. In 1999 a couple of farm districts close to Davidson had wheat midge infestations. They were sprayed with a toxic pesticide and following the crop spraying, almost everyone had the flu.
Science has now proven Ann Sarich (who is no longer with us) and all of the other seniors right. Microbiologist Dr Greg Blank, working with food science researchers at the University of Manitoba, has confirmed that toxic bacteria may be spread when farm chemicals are sprayed on the land. I believed the toxins in the agricultural chemicals were making people sick, but I also thought toxic chemicals would destroy any bacteria in the water. Dr Blank has demonstrated that in some instances toxic agricultural chemicals encourage the growth of dangerous bacteria in the sprayer-water. The dangerous pathogens or bacteria may be present in the untreated water the chemicals are mixed in. Farmers frequently use water from farm sloughs or dugouts that are not tested or treated for bacteria.
For the University of Manitoba study, researchers used the amounts and concentrations recommended for field application. They tested the following commonly used herbicides, pesticides and insecticides: Round-Up, Poast and Merge, Gramozone, Afolan, 2,4-D, Dithane M45, Benlate, Bravo 500, Ridomil 240EC, Thiram 75WP, Seven XLR+, Lorsban 4E, Diazinon 500, Ambush 500EC and Lagon 480E.
Pathogens such as E. coli 0157:H7, salmonella typhimurium, salmonella enteritidis, shigella sonnei, shigella flexneri and listeria monocytogenes were cultured and added to the solutions. The researchers tracked the growth rates of the various bacteria over one- to 24-hour periods. In some cases, Blank said, the pathogens died within an hour or were gone once 24 hours had passed. In others, they multiplied.
The highest growth for all types of pathogenic bacteria, including E coli 0157:H7, was observed in Bravo 500. "With Bravo we consistently see a lot of [dangerous] micro-organisms," Blank said. "We’re not only getting the survival, but consistent growth."
When the researchers left the solutions sitting for a longer time–96 hours–they found even more evidence of survivability. E. coli 0157:H7, for example, survived in Lorsban 4E and Ambush 500EC that long. E. coli 0157:H7 caused six deaths and 2,000 illnesses at Walkerton, Ontario earlier this year.
Saskatchewan has over 40 million acres in cropland and most of it is sprayed with toxic chemicals more than once every growing season. This creates the opportunity to spray a lot of bacteria into the air and everyone living or travelling in the farming area is exposed to them.
Previously everyone has been concerned about airborne toxins. In an article in the July 27 edition of the Manitoba Co-Operator, journalist Lorraine Stevenson reports that statistics out of the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia show that as many as 41 percent of all cases of food-borne illness can be traced to consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. In the US, outbreaks related to contaminated produce doubled between 1973 and 1987 and again between 1988 and 1992.
Pesticides developed for biological warfare during World War II were adapted for agricultural purposes after the war. Agent Orange, a combination of the pesticides 2,4-D and 2,4, 5T, was used extensively as biological control in the Vietnam war. I would be amazed if no one prior to Dr Banks realized the effects of these pesticides in promoting the growth of pathogens.
Today transnational drug and chemical companies are selling farmers large volumes of chemicals that make us ill and large volumes of drugs to try to make us healthy. The foundation for good health is not more drugs and chemicals--it’s a clean environment and certified organic food.