The fight taking place doesn’t always involve guns on the battlefield. Sometimes the battlefield is something quiet and innocent like a field of crops. The gun is sometimes the chemical pesticides and herbicides soaking into the plants, loading up in the soil. The pesticides and herbacides fire back silently through the water, bonding to heavy metals like lead in the process, while transporting the toxins more readily into the blood of humans.
It’s as if tiny lead bullets are being fired into people silently through the water supply, and it’s the mass-application pesticides that are the real smoking gun doing all the deadly dirty work. That’s what researchers are beginning to figure out. A study on pregnant women in Bangladesh shows that pesticides can cause lead to be taken up into the blood of humans; causing lead poisoning in pregnant women that can also harm the brains of developing fetuses.
Glyphosate helps transport heavy metals like arsenic and cadmium into the blood, causing kidney disease
On top of that, a study from Sri Lanka, spearheaded by Dr. Channa Jayasumana, shows how glyphosate, a broad-spectrum herbicide that is used to kill weeds, acts as a carrier for heavy metals like lead and arsenic. The glyphosate forms chemical bonds that transport the toxic metals more readily into the bloodstream of agricultural workers. Once the heavy metals are welcomed into the blood, they can circulate throughout the body, damaging kidneys, the brain and other organs.
“Glyphosate acts as a carrier or a vector of these heavy metals to the kidney,” noted Dr. Jayasumana, after studying how chronic kidney disease is killing tens of thousands of agricultural workers in Central America, Sri Lanka and India. Dr. Jayasumana now insists that glyphosate empowers heavy metals like arsenic and cadmium to rush into the kidneys. This is probably because glyphosate is known for acting like an antibiotic, destroying beneficial gut microbes that protect the gut wall. By destroying this natural immunity, glyphosate allows heavy metals and other toxins to flood the bloodstream, ultimately taxing the organs.
Pesticides in general tied to lead poisoning in pregnant women
In Bangladesh, similar results are being found regarding lead. Unplanned use of pesticides and herbicides in crops is being linked to higher levels of lead in the blood of pregnant women in rural Bangladesh. Bangladesh’s International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research joined forces with Stanford University to identify the reason why so many women in the country have high levels of lead in their blood. They tied the influx of lead to increased and unplanned pesticide and herbicide use in the women’s agriculture region. 430 pregnant women from the districts of Tangail, Gazipur, Mymensingh and Kishoreganj had their blood tested. Nearly half (46 percent) had elevated lead levels.
The women with low blood lead levels were eating and drinking from areas with minimal herbicide and pesticide use on crops. The women with high blood lead levels ate food sprayed with the chemicals more often. They also ate canned food and consumed more rice husked from machines.
This correlation suggests that pesticides and herbicides act as catalysts, causing crops like rice to take up more lead. Since herbicides disturb natural pathways and processes in the crops, are they making the crops more vulnerable to take up toxins and heavy metals? It appears so.
With that being said, lead is not something to be toyed with. The metal is toxic to human tissues, from intestines to kidneys, from the heart to the brain. Lead can destroy the nervous system of children starting in the womb, potentially causing learning and behavior disorders.
Integrated pest management methods reduce pesticide use drastically, more efficient than GMO crops
Instead of using pesticides and herbicides, experts recommend that agricultural workers should begin adapting integrated pest management methods. Dr. Abdul Matin, secretary of the environmental group Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon, says that integrated pest control methods have kept nearly 15,000 tons of pesticides off of crops and out of water in the past three years. He did caution, however, that multinational corporations are using pesticide reduction as a marketing ploy to deceptively sell genetically modified crops.
Delowar Jahan, chairman of the Subaltern Communication Research Centre, says governments aren’t funding integrated pest management programs as much because they are taking an interest in genetically modified crops and trusting the multinational corporations to fill the void.
Using genetically modified seeds comes with the increased risk of needing more pesticides if the seeds’ insecticide mechanism becomes outsmarted by nature. For example, Brazil’s Bt corn crop needed three times the amount of pesticides this year, because the corn rootworm developed resistance.
On a positive note, “IPM [integrated pest management] method has helped thousands of farmers to reintroduce their forgotten farm methods which were more scientific than using pesticides,” said Delowar.
Sources for this article include: