As if the effects of pesticides on our health weren't frustrating enough, research indicates they may also be making us dumber. Huh?
Pesticides are everywhere—in our food, on our grass and soil, in the air and water. They go hand in hand with genetically modified foods, which represent an overwhelming majority of some of our most important crops (corn, soy, cotton, canola, sugar beets).
One of the promises of the biotech industry was that pesticide and herbicide use over time would actually decrease on GMO crops. But the opposite has proven true. In the last several years, pests and weeds have developed resistance to all the heavy applications of herbicides like Monsanto's popular Roundup (glyphosate). This has resulted in even heavier applications and the use of additional, stronger chemicals such as 2,4-D—a component in Monsanto's Agent Orange—the defoliant used during the Vietnam War that destroyed forests and created a host of health problems for people exposed to the chemical.
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has discovered a link between exposure to herbicides and pesticides and changes in human brain structure, reports the Natural Society. "Specifically, the researchers found that a pesticide known as chlorpyrifos (CPF) has been linked to “significant abnormalities”. Further, the negative impact was found to occur even at low levels of exposure."
According to the EPA, chlorpyrifos residues in food and drinking water "do not pose risk concerns." The insecticide is widely used on food crops, golf courses, on types of wood, and as a mosquitocide. But the Pesticide Action Network of North America says it's a seriously harmful chemical, particularly damaging to the brain and nervous system by blocking an enzyme critical for the brain to control nerve impulses.
Likewise, consumption of processed foods, which are loaded with genetically modified and pesticide treated ingredients, particularly high fructose corn syrup, also showed a decline in intelligence. The Natural Society reports on a study that followed 14,000 children: "After recording the children’s’ diets and analyzing questionnaires submitting by the parents, the researchers found that if children were consuming a processed diet at age 3, IQ decline could begin over the next five years. The study found that by age 8, the children had suffered the IQ decline." There was some good news, too: "On the contrary, children who ate a nutrient-rich diet including fruit and vegetables were found to increase their IQ over the 3 year period. The foods considered nutrient-rich by the researchers were most likely conventional fruits and vegetables."
A Stanford University researcher, Dr. Gerald Crabtree, links our cognitive decline with adverse genetic mutations. “I would wager that if an average citizen from Athens of 1000 BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions, with a good memory, a broad range of ideas, and a clear-sighted view of important issues. Furthermore, I would guess that he or she would be among the most emotionally stable of our friends and colleagues," wrote Crabtree in an article published in the journal Trends in Genetics.
Evolution is an ongoing process, but it's typically one we see as making us better suited for our environment. More streamlined and efficient. We often see that as smarter, but perhaps decreasing our intelligence is the best defense against the irresponsible corporate greed that got us here in the first place.Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger