Pesticides, Hormones, Antibiotics, Oh My!

hormones-in-dairy-meatBy: Nikki Nies

Pesticides, antibiotics and hormones are all words we try to shy away from, yet these organic compounds have become a ubiquitous part of our daily food products.  Pesticides are often times in produce, hormones in milk and antibiotics in meat.  While use of these products are intended to heed production and boost food supply, the many downsides of these added products make the argument to continue to use these products are to agree with.

While the testing of these additives has improved for researchers and testers to be able to better identify the contents of products, that has not led to delayed or removal of such products.  Researchers continue to find that the amounts of chemicals found have the potential to cause extensive harm to humans.

Impact of the added pesticides, hormones and antibiotics;

  • Hormones: Added hormones in young livestock leads to an increase in weight faster than normal–>more meat–>more $$; increase the dairy production in cows; most common: rBGH and synthetic estrogen and testosterone; specific concerns of the compound diethylstilbestrol (DES), which has been found to be injected in cows has been found to cause an increased risk of vaginal cancer in the offspring of women who received the medicine,
  • Pesticides: Are often used on many conventionally grown fruits and vegetables; EPA sets limits, also known as “tolerance” on how much pesticide residue can be left on food for consumption;  individual safety profiles don’t take into account the hazard from pesticide effects–while one pesticide may be within tolerance level, it’s hard to tell what the effect of over 32 pesticides combined; highest level of pesticides: peaches, celery, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, nectarines, apples; by buying organic produce, one can reduce pesticide exposure
  • Antibiotics: farmers have been known to feed their livestock antibiotics to “plump” them up; it’s suspected this practice is contributing to the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria, but it’s hard to differentiate which meats have been treated with antibiotics and which ones have not since meats are not required to be labeled; can opt for locally grown and/or organically grown 419688902_fresh_vbe3md_xlarge

A lot of the perceived harm related to products has been related to early stage puberty. Yet, there hasn’t been much substantial evidence of such occurences in industry led studies, only in independent studies.  With such inconclusive evidence, the European Union (EU) has banned all beef products.  The EU, Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have banned any and all products that contain rBGH, while the U.S. has no major studies underway to test the safety of hormones in milk and meat.

While it’s known that these unwanted additives can be harmful, it’s still unknown how much of these hormones, pesticides and antibiotics can cause harm. There are a lot of natural hormones found in food, so it can be hard to differentiate between natural and added.

Solution: When possible, buy locally.   It’s not realistic to think people will buy organically, as the cost is often times double the price of conventional foods.  However, by purchasing locally grown foods, one can ask the farmers directly what pesticides, hormones and/or antibiotics were used on the products sold.  Hopefully, the answer is zero, but at least one can get a quick, direct answer.

Furthermore, locally grown produce is the freshest, most direct way to buy produce and is a “greener” route to go as it decreases the amount of wasted fuel, pollution and greenhouse gases produced.  Google your next local farmer’s market as there creeping up more and more beyond just the weekends!


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