Don't Miss Out

Subscribe to OCA's News & Alerts.

Organic Consumers Association

Campaigning for health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy

How Dead Soil and Toxins Reduce Food Nutrients

While agrochemical companies work hard to convince you their toxic chemicals are necessary in order to grow enough food to feed the world, this is not the case. One of the greatest treasures we have is healthy soil, without which humanity will not survive.

Soil is the mother of nearly all plant life and, ultimately, all animal life. Soils that have taken hundreds and even thousands of years to fully develop are being destroyed at a disturbingly rapid pace. Monocultural farming systems based on genetically engineered foods are coated with toxins. Operations such as these are quickly destroying the soil microbiome responsible for the growth of nutritious food. 

It's estimated that healthy soil may contain between 100 million and 1 billion bacteria.1 However, chemical farming has rendered the soil susceptible to erosion, resulting in one-third of the world's arable land lost to erosion.2 In addition to this and the loss of soil biodiversity, modern farming practices have depleted food nutrients.3

Food without the same nutrients as one generation ago

A recent article in Scientific American4 laments the sad state of nutrition in food, pointing to a lack of microbial soil diversity, likely an effect of genetically engineered plants bred to withstand multiple applications of insecticides and pesticides. However, the information is not new.

In 2011, the publication covered this topic and discussed the landmark study of Donald Davis from the University of Texas. It was published in 2004 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.5

Davis looked at 43 vegetables and fruits and found regular declines in nutritional value, which his team attributed to agricultural practices designed to improve yield as opposed to nutrition. Davis is quoted in Scientific American as saying:6

“Efforts to breed new varieties of crops that provide greater yield, pest resistance and climate adaptability have allowed crops to grow bigger and more rapidly, but their ability to manufacture or uptake nutrients has not kept pace with their rapid growth.” 

Another analysis7 based on data over 50 years, from 1930 to 1980, found significant reductions in calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and potassium. The only mineral with no difference was phosphorus.

Journalist, author and past editor of the East West Journal, Alex Jack,8 writes9 of the differences he found in nutrients when comparing those from printed U.S. Department of Agriculture documents in 1975 against an online database from the USDA. 

While comparing the differences between 1975 and 1997 he analyzed a number of nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin A, riboflavin, thiamine and niacin. He found that all the analyzed nutrients in broccoli declined, from 17.5% for vitamin C to a whopping 53.4% for calcium. Following this discovery, he examined 12 common vegetables he picked at random and discovered the results were comparable.10

Nutrient decline a complex problem with a simple answer

Following his study in 2004, Davis11 continued to analyze nutrients in food, finding evidence of decline, including an inverse relationship between plant yield and mineral concentration, a decline in historical food composition and a reduction in nutrient density. This was based on studies in which side-by-side comparisons of high and low yield cultivars were conducted. Davis wrote:12

“In fruits, vegetables, and grains, usually 80% to 90% of the dry weight yield is carbohydrate. Thus, when breeders select for high yield, they are, in effect, selecting mostly for high carbohydrate with no assurance that dozens of other nutrients and thousands of phytochemicals will all increase in proportion to yield. Thus, genetic dilution effects seem unsurprising.”

In the 2018 Real Food Campaign survey of food across the Northeast and Midwest U.S., the results showed significant variation in the nutrient value of foods across sources from farms, farmers markets and stores. This campaign was undertaken with the mission of identifying the best ways to improve the nutrients in the food supply by better understanding the connection between soil health, food quality and human health.13

Yet another condition affecting plant growth and nutrient density was inadvertently discovered in a biology lab in 1998 when Irakli Loladze, Ph.D., learned zooplankton that fed on algae, struggled to survive when the algae grew faster than normal. 

After years of investigation and research, Loladze found nearly 130 varieties of plants experienced a reduction in minerals by 8%, likely for the same reason the algae had become junk food to the zooplankton — as the rate of growth increased, the food became less nutritious.14

In other words, the decline in the nutrient content of food found in your grocery store is likely a complex issue related to a number of conditions. The majority of those conditions boil down to farming practices destroying soil health, polluting your environment and producing poor quality food grown from genetically modified seeds.

Pre-order Ronnie's New Book, Coming February 11

Get Local

Find News and Action for your state:
20% Off Mercola's Top Food and Drinks and 20% Goes to Organic Consumers Association.