What Happened to Our Food and What We Can do About It?

Key takeaways: 

  • Poor soil practices and elimination of cover crops paved the way for the biocide business and the toxic weed sprays we know today. 
  • Glyphosate such as Roundup affects plants by disrupting the processes they use to make certain amino acids and carbohydrates
  • Hybridization and modern farming have led to the decline of nutrient values of forty-three garden crops over the past fifty years. 
  • “Industrial organic” is better than industrial farming, but not entirely
  • We can combat the nutrient loss and toxicity we’re experiencing in our foods with quality supplements and vitamins

What happened to our food? It’s a question we’re all asking as our health, and the health of our children continues to decline as a result of poor diet. According to the Center for Disease Control, 6 out of 10 adults in the US have a chronic disease. What’s worse? These diseases are the leading cause of death, disability, and debt ( $3.5 Trillion in annual health care costs) in our country. 

How did this begin? 

Waaay back in the 20th century, our country found itself stuck with leftovers from the munitions trade—nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (N-P-K). During WWII these chemical elements were used to make propellants and explosives. After the war, somebody had to figure out what to do with all this leftover stuff...  

“Lo and behold!” They thought. “Don’t plants use these elements to nutrify themselves? Aha! Let’s bag ‘em up and market this stuff to the agricultural community.” 

So began the journey to depleted soil...

Because it became so much easier to apply a chemical to the ground than to follow traditional farming practices, farmers began to neglect the proper care of their soil. Gone were the days of crop rotation and spreading natural nutrients from animals.  

Despite the artificial feeding, soil became nutrient deficient. Where natural, plant-derived nutrients are just the right size to pass across a root hair in order to enter another plant’s circulation, man-made nutrients do not completely dissolve, leaving a food crop inevitably shortchanged. 

Poor soil practices, elimination of cover crops such as wheat, rye, legumes, and Sudan grass, along with lack of mowing and tillage, soon gave way to loss of natural weed control, paving the way for the biocide business and the toxic weed sprays we know today. 


Enter Glyphosate

In the early 1960s, glyphosate was patented as a descaling agent used to clean out mineral deposits from water pipes. As a chelator, glyphosate makes minerals water-soluble, so they can be washed away, making it an excellent pipe cleaner. Soon after it was discovered (by accident) to also kill weeds, and later in the decade became the herbicide, Roundup. 

Curious what happens to food crops sprayed with this chemical? Quite simply, with minerals gone, the enzyme reactions that support life are sorely compromised, leaving protein synthesis, fat and carbohydrate metabolism, and DNA repair to chance. 

Glyphosate affects plants by disrupting the processes they use to make certain amino acids and carbohydrates—known as the shikimate pathway. Genetically engineered food crops immune to glyphosate are still covered with the chemical and, though they do not die, are likely to be lacking in the creation of the elements we need to flourish. 

It’s no wonder people are getting sicker each year. If glyphosate weakens a plant’s resistance to attack by pathogens, we can only imagine how devastating this could be to human health. 

Nutrients No More

Artificial fertilizers, herbicides, and GMO crops all wreak havoc on our food system, but there’s a lesser-known evil out there as well. It’s called hybridization.  

Working at the University of Texas Biochemical Institute, Dr. Donald Davis pioneered a crop nutrient study early in this century. He and his team found that the nutrient value of forty-three garden crops has declined considerably over the past fifty years. As reported in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in December 2004, all the crops showed “statistically reliable declines” in protein, calcium, iron, phosphorus, riboflavin and ascorbic acid. A few nutrients, including Magnesium, zinc, vitamins B6 and E, fiber and phytochemicals could not be compared because their values were unreported in the 1950s.  

What has hybridization done to crops? The varieties of cultivated crops have changed to accommodate a trade-off between crop yield and nutritional value. Why? There’s far more money in higher production than there is in nutritional value so farmers don’t have much of a choice if they want to stay in business.

Some of our crops have fallen to innovative agricultural techniques, wherein crops grow faster, shortening their period in the ground, with the attendant lack of time to develop their full nutrient profiles, even if the soil is pristine.  

Because some crops are destined to travel many miles to market, they’re harvested before fully mature to avoid looking old, tired and ugly when displayed at the grocery store. Some plants develop half (or more) their nutrient value in the last several weeks before timely gathering.

Crop rotation, a practice that reduces insect and disease worries, improves soil fertility, reduces erosion, diminishes biocide carryover, is almost obsolete because it requires more planning, manpower, and management skills than many farmers care to expend. Rotation disrupts the farm’s plan to focus on a single crop with a reputation that garners cash. The one crop that extracts the same nutrients from the soil over and over, with little chance of replenishment except by chemical means. 

If a farm has a copious income from a single crop, why bother? Just use the chemicals. 

The Truth About Organic 

Organic is a certification that’s delivered by the government which means no antibiotics, no pesticides, no herbicides. However, it doesn’t certify the method of growing the food. In fact, if you’re confused about organic labeling you’re not alone! To be so labeled, a product must contain seventy percent organic ingredients. What does that mean? Basically that 70% hasn’t been sprayed, but what about the rest? It’s very hard to say. If organic isn’t what we think it is, how do we improve our food system and what do we buy? Leading food and health experts may have an answer.

In his book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollen illustrates how “industrial organic” is better than industrial farming, but not entirely. He argues that the only way to truly fix our food system is via regenerative agriculture. Regenerative is the method of farming that goes way beyond a simple pesticide-free approach, by utilizing traditional farming practices, to repair soil, better utilize and care for animals, and in turn, return the nutrient quality to our food. In fact, there is now a proposal to create a regenerative organic certification which may eventually be turned into a distinct food label.

Is Dairy Doomed Too?
Plants are not alone when it comes to corrupted foods. Dairy is another victim of modernized food systems. Consider this. Cows produced a little more than five thousand pounds of milk per year in the mid-twentieth century and by the year 2000, that number has risen to eighteen thousand pounds. 

The not-so-secret answer? Hormones. 

You’ve probably seen beef in the grocery store labeled ‘antibiotic-free,’ which is a marketing term related to drugs being added to animal feed. Doing so kills a number of gut bacteria in cattle, causing weight gain via an unexplained process. It’s possible that the drugs allow certain strains of the microbiome to convert food to storage instead of to energy. 

The reality of many farms is that farmers must use antibiotics to maintain a healthy herd and reduce the spread of disease. Antibiotic drugs can enter meat via digestion or injection and are regulated to some extent. Farmers must adhere to dosing schedules and end drug use about five weeks before an animal goes to slaughter.   

While produce may not be treated with antibiotics, it is often exposed to supermarkets exposed to high temperatures that compromise nutrition. If a food is canned, the water in which the process also needs to be consumed, as that’s where the water-soluble nutrients are, don’t let your kitchen drain steal all your nutrients! 

If you don’t have access to fresh foods that haven’t been heated or trucked long distances, then frozen is the best choice for store-bought fruits and vegetables. Frozen foods retain most of the nourishment they were destined to have. For example, folate retention in frozen food is 95% vs. canned which is 50%. 

How You Can Stay Nourished

When family doctors say you can get all the nourishment you need from your diet, they’re wrong. Unfortunately, with our busy lives less and less of us take the time to cook, eating out frequently, and overconsuming calories and toxic vegetable oils that are rarely changed or cleaned. In fact, some outdoorsmen who own diesel pickup trucks collect used oil from restaurants, filter it, and burn it as diesel fuel. Doesn’t sound great for our health, does it? What’s more, food inspectors allow a certain amount of vermin crud, factory dust, insect parts, and other downright disgusting ingredients into processed foods. 

Adding salt to the wound, baby foods have been found to contain mycotoxins, fungus, and molds. That’s right, baby foods! (Lee. 2017) (Zhang, 2018)   

This news about the current state of our food system may seem disheartening, but knowledge can bring a lot of power as well! There is a myriad of ways to combat the nutrient loss and toxicity we’re experiencing in our foods including something as simple as a quality supplement that helps restore your body at the cellular level, and with nutrients that replace the anti-nutrient contaminants in our food. Hope is certainly not lost and we can all make choices that influence the fate of our food system. 


Amundson R, Berhe AA, Hopmans JW, Olson C, Sztein AE, Sparks DL..  Soil science. Soil and human security in the 21st century.  Science. 2015 May 8;348(6235): 1261071.


Blumberg J, Heber D. Multivitamins and Public Health:  Exploring the Evidence.  New York, NY: Bioscience Communications;  2004


Cappozzo J, Jackson L, Lee HJ, Zhou W, Al-Taher F, Zweigenbaum J, Ryu D.  Occurrence of Ochratoxin A in Infant Foods in the United States.  J Food Prot. 2017 Feb;80(2):251-256.


Carbonaro M, Mattera M, Nicoli S, et al.  Modulation of antioxidant compounds in organic vs conventional fruit (peach, Prunus persica L., and pear, Pyrus communis L.).

J agric Food Chem.  2002 Sep 11; 50(19):  5458-62


Davis DR, EPP MD, Riordan HD.   Changes in USDA food composition data for 43 garden crops, 1950 to 1999.  J Am Coll Nutr. 2004 Dec; 23(6): 669-82


FDA: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/11-totally-disgusting-things-the-fda-allows-in-your-food/


FDA: https://www.fda.gov/food/ingredients-additives-gras-packaging-guidance-documents-regulatory-information/food-defect-levels-handbook


Lee HJ, Ryu D.  Worldwide Occurrence of Mycotoxins in Cereals and Cereal-Derived Food Products: Public Health Perspectives of Their Co-occurrence.  J Agric Food Chem. 2017 Aug 23;65(33):7034-7051.


Ming-Sheng Fan, Fang-Jie Zhao, Susan J. Fairweather-Tait, Paul R. Poulton, Sarah J. Dunham, Steve P. McGrath.  Evidence of decreasing mineral density in wheat grain over the last 160 years.  Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology. 22(4); Nov 2008:  315–324


Peel Michael D. Jan 1998.  Crop Rotations for Increased Productivity.  EB48

ND State U. Retrieved Jan 2008.  http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/plantsci/crops/eb48-1.htm


Virginia Worthington, M.S., ScD, CNS.  Nutritional quality of organic versus conventional fruits, vegetables, and grains.  The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Apr 2001; 7(2): 161-173


Zhang K, Flannery BM, Oles CJ, Adeuya A.  Mycotoxins in infant/toddler foods and breakfast cereals in the US retail market.  Food Addit Contam Part B Surveill. 2018 Sep;11(3):183-190.