Ice-floes physically crushed mountains, grinding their rocks slowly for aeons over the land surfaces to produce the rich clays and loams and the multiplicity of soil types we find across the globe. There were abundant amounts of minerals in the early soils, as there are still in afforested areas out of reach of the chainsaw, plough and cultivator.
Since trees have deeper roots than cereals or other arable crops, they can tap the subsoils, getting more minerals from the earth, passing them up to their leaves, then shedding them on to the soil beneath, thus recycling the minerals: the perfect cycle. So the food from treestheir nuts, fruit and leavesgenerally have a more reliable mineral spectrum than, for example, cereals grown on non-organic soils, which are increasingly depleted. The only fertilizing many prairie farms undertake is nitrogen, phosphate and potash (N, P, K) with the odd application of lime in the form of basic slag.
The philosophies of the organic and the non-organic grower vary in a distinctive way. The organic grower focusses on feeding the soil and the microflora within it. With well-fed soil, plants can take up all the nutrients they require and thus have strong defence systems of their ownincluding waxes on leaf surfaces, strong cell walls, and chemical defencesor immune systems.
The one great message that comes with organic produce, apart from it being free of the thousands of chemicals now in use commercially, is that it stands a much better chance of containing the minerals and trace minerals that our bodies have mostly been starved of for years.
Non-organic growing, however, believes in supplying the crops (not the soil) with nutrients for growth and yield, and blitzing any diseases or weeds with chemicals, the residues of which are commonly found in our foods, particularly in delicate salad crops like lettuce.
Soils in different parts of the world, and in different localities within specific areas, have higher or lower amounts of certain minerals. Specific disease patterns present themselves in definite areas, such as Keshan's disease in China. Keshan's is a form of heart disease suffered by people living in a broad swathe across China, running from the southwest up to the northeast, which is an area of known selenium deficiency.
There are sixty specific minerals and trace minerals found in human blood. It has been deemed reasonable by senior biochemists that all sixty have some significant function in the body. As we can only obtain these minerals through food and drink, William A. Albrecht was right in 1944 in describing food as "fabricated soil fertility".
Mineral deficiencies in the soil due to intensive farming, and consequently in the crops grown on those soils, translate into deficiencies in the human body, preventing our immune systems from performing at full efficiency thereby weakening our defences against disease. Deficiencies of selenium, magnesium, iron and zinc, amongst other minerals, are known to impair immune response and are implicated in heart disease, cancer, new variant Creuzfeldt-Jakob disease and animal diseases such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and foot-and-mouth (FMD).
SO HERE WE have an environmental/nutritional factor which slaloms through the boundary posts of soils and food chain, domestic livestock and human populations, which is rebounding on the environment and on our economy as well (think of BSE, FMD, tourism and collapse of the rural economy).
And yet we as a society blunder further down the road of high-input/high-output agriculture, largely ignoring organic production, being pressed by the producers of genetically modified (GM) crops and governments to carry on ignoring the quality of our soil and our daily foods. This death-knell for soil fertility and dilution of the quality of our food has been mirrored and magnified by the rise of the so-called "diseases of civilization."
Recent research shows that many of our ordinary everyday foods have taken a significant dip in mineral content over the last half-century. Indeed, in the last three decades the zinc content of seven common foods fell by 59%.
The significant loss of these essential trace minerals within the vegetables commonly available to us highlights the fundamental importance of organic food within a well-balanced diet, but raises an ominous question: after the current assault on the heart and vascular system, will the brain be the next to go?
THERE IS AN eerie echo in this tragic tale of a possible parallel folly: the one where politicians and bio-tech companies attempt to convince us that GM crops will do us no harm, even though they change the genotype of a common food plant or animal.
It could just be that the immune systems of the very young and the not-so-youngbeing among the most sensitive of uswill rebel at this new genetic structure: these infant immune systems might say "no, we don't recognize this new dna fingerprint, we will fight it"and so bring about what is known as an allergic response.
The US population, which has lived on genetically mutated food for longer than any other, has also more allergy problems per head. One of the commonest causes of allergies is wheat, which contains a hard-to-digest protein called gliadin, a constituent of gluten. As many soils in the US are mineral-deficient, it would be logical to ask whether genetically mutated foods together with soil mineral paucity are
In fact, mineral deficiencies due to soil deficiencies could be behind dozens of common complaints, for without minerals, vitamins don't work. The body depends heavily on enzymic reactions for the production of many of the living biochemicals needed for full health. Enzymes in turn are heavily dependent on minerals and trace elements. Minerals are the bedrock of life.
Scientific knowledge has been slow to understand the role of certain minerals, with selenium only evaluated in 1957, chromium in 1959, tin in 1970, vanadium in 1971, fluorine 1971, silicon 1972, nickel 1974, arsenic 1975, boron 1990, cadmium 1977, and lead in 1977. And whilst confusion concerning mineral levels is common, as many of these elements are harmful in excess as well as in deficiency.
IN 1976 John D. Hamaker and his co-author Don Weaver described in their book Survival of Civilisation their vision of remineralizing the earth by applying ground rock to the land surfaces. They explained how by remineralization of all land surfaces, the growth of trees and plants could be increased, providing the logical and practical way to produce more food.
Soil remineralization is an urgent task, however it is achieved. Organic farming which focusses on the quality of the soil is a logical step towards this end, creating a healthier soil, a healthier society and a less burdened health service, but, ultimately, we need to replenish the soil with the vital minerals it now lacks.
in Britain: The Maperton Trust, Wincanton, Somerset BA9 8EH, UK; www.mapertontrust.com.
In the US: Joanna Campe, 152 South Street, Northampton, MA 01060-4021, USA.
David Marsh co-authored The Driving Force; Food in Evolution & the Future (1989)
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The Earth Renewal and Restoration Alliance — www.championtrees.org — updated 12/31/2005