by Heidi Stevenson
Agribusiness is polluting and destroying the food on which we depend . Irradiation destroys nutrients and creates poisons. Despite claims, it’s largely hidden from us. It exists for the benefit of Agribiz, not for our health.
Food irradiation exists only because Agribusiness exists. It isn’t to support your health. As we’ve seen recently with outbreaks of food-borne disease, modern food production is innately unhealthy. It utilizes monoculture, long term storage, and chemicals. None of these are good for us, but all create enormous profits for a money-hungry industry. The need to sterilize foods on a mass scale simply did not exist until Agribusiness changed the nature of what we eat.
Modern food processing and distribution is highly mechanized, with tremendous pressure placed on employees to simply push things through and money carefully spent to grease the palms of those who might have called a stop to the madness. Agribusiness considers it cost-effective to irradiate foods, which sterilizes them and significantly increases their shelf life.
The efforts to utilize irradiation cover the spectrum from propaganda to hiding it from the public. We’re told that food irradiation is safe, effective, and doesn’t affect food quality. Let’s call these claims the myths that they are and examine them.
Myth: Irradiation is effective.
Fact: This is a very slippery claim. Yes, it does kill many infectious organisms, in particular, bacteria. However, it does not protect against toxic elements, such as the neurotoxin produced by Clostridium botulinum, the bacterium that causes botulism. Killing the bacteria can create a sense of security, though the actual disease cause is still present.
Irradiation’s effectiveness against viruses is limited, so anthrax and hepatitis may still survive after irradiation. Prions, the cause of mad cow disease, are untouched by it.
Reinfestation of food is not prevented by irradiation. In fact, it holds the potential of allowing worse contamination. By eliminating most infectious organisms, beneficial ones are also destroyed. This results in there being nothing to prevent reinfection, allowing opportunistic bacteria and viruses free rein in irradiated foods.
Factory farms are not healthy places. Pigs are kept for their entire lives in horrifically unsanitary conditions, with their droppings and urine left uncleared where they fall through the cages, so they rot and release constant toxic fumes. Irradiation is a means to avoid dealing with this inhumane and unhealthy situation.
Urine, feces, pus, tumors, and vomit are not removed by irradiation.
Myth: Irradiation is safe.
Fact: This is simply false. As documented in Food Irradiation, Cats, and Doublespeak: Researchers Reinvent Reality, it’s well known to cause neurological damage in cats.
Irradiation generates furans in food. Carbofuran is a member of this class. It’s the poison, which is banned in Europe and severely curtailed in the US, that FMC sells under the name of Furadan, as reported in PsychoCorp #1—FMC Product Banned in U.S. Kills Lions in Africa. All furans are considered carcinogenic. Fruits, in particular, are affected by the generation of furans.
Public Citizen reports laboratory animals fed irradiated foods suffered “a myriad of serious health problems in laboratory animals that ate irradiated foods, including premature death, fatal internal bleeding, a rare form of cancer, stillbirths and other reproductive problems, mutations and other genetic damage, organ malfunctions, stunted growth and vitamin deficiencies.”
The growth of aflatoxin, implicated in liver cancer in southern states, is stimulated by irradiation. The World Health Organization considers aflatoxin to be a significant health risk. Unique Radiolytic Products (URPs) are produced by irradiation. These chemical compounds have not been well studied, but one group of them, cyclobutanones, have been found to promote cancer and genetic damage in rats, and to cause genetic and cellular damage in both rats and humans. Cyclobutanones are radiation by-products of palmitic acid, which is present in nearly all foods.
Other chemicals known to cause cancer and birth defects are formed by irradiation, including benzene, toluene, and methyl ethyl ketone.
Free radicals are formed by irradiation. These are the targets of antioxidants, supplements that are very popular now. Consider that some antioxidants, such as vitamin A, are destroyed by irradiation. So irradiation holds a double whammy against health—destroying the antioxidants that might help resolve the chemicals it creates.
The journal, Nutrition and Cancer reported in 2002 that colon cancer can be caused by a chemical compound found only in irradiated food.
Myth: Irradiation doesn’t affect food quality.
Fact: There is extensive documentation for the loss of key nutrients from irradiation of food. The Center for Food Safety reports that anywhere from 2-95% of the vitamins can be lost. They cite losses of as much as 80% of vitamin A in eggs, 95% of vitamin A and lutein in green beans, 50% of vitamin A and lutein in broccoli, and 40% of beta carotene in orange juice. Irradiation is also reported to destroy the B, C, E, and K vitamins.