Friday, July 18, 2008

Natural foods

A letter to the Economist

Your article on the regulation of pesticides should have pointed out that slightly exceeding the “maximum residue levels” in some food, as occasionally happens, is a risk perhaps equivalent to the likelihood of being hit on the head by a meteorite (“A balance of risk”, July 5th). Of greater risk to humans is the exposure to thousands of pesticides made naturally by plants (to kill herbivorous insects) and found in all fruits and vegetables. The average daily diet contains a quarter teaspoon of natural nerve toxins, endocrine disrupters, carcinogens and chemicals that damage chromosomes, skin, blood and the thyroid.

Humans are not adapted to these natural chemicals, in which the margin of safety is about tenfold compared with traces in synthetic pesticides (some 10,000-fold higher). Yet unqualified environmental groups and European bureaucrats are obsessed with agricultural pesticide safety, basing their assumptions on unjustified fear and anxiety. Neither makes for good policy.

Anthony Trewavas
Professor of plant biochemistry
Institute of Molecular Plant Sciences

Postscript: The above reminded me of this post on the impact of environmental impact of growing food locally.