To what extent is the use of hormones, pesticides and antibiotics a threat to the environment and human’s health?
Hormone, pesticides and antibiotics are being used extensively in food production so as to be able to cater for an increasing global population. Though these have been used for decades but with the upcoming of new and more improved testing methods people are now realising the gravity of the situation. Natural and synthetic chemicals are being used and now with an educated population that are more informed about their choice of food are asking questions? Are these substances toxic to the environment or to human life? How much of these substances are being used? How is it regulated by law? Should organic foods be encouraged?
These are the various questions that we, human being are constantly asking ourselves.
Definition of Hormones:
A hormone is defined as “secreted by living cells in trace amounts from within the organism and is transported usually by the blood to a specific site of action where it is not used as a source of energy but acts to regulate and not initiate reactions in order to bring about an appropriate response by the organism. (Clark, 1969)
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Hormones are being used extensively in agriculture to increase the weight, the efficiency of feed use and improvement of the carcass quality. This is of great economic impact for livestock producers. Animal treated with hormones have more weight meaning more meat in less time than its hormone free counterpart. (Ohio Farm Bureau, July 2013)
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approve the use of hormones as these are subjected to various tests that prove that these products do not constitute a threat to the human being and the environment. Despite of the various debates occurring concerning hormones residues, the FDA still insists that the level of residues present are within safe limits and that it constitutes any threat to human being.
There are two main types of hormones :Naturally – occurring hormone and synthetic hormones. Human beings are not at risk when consuming meat treated with naturally occurring hormones as the quantity of hormones is minimal compared to its untreated counterpart. Though the FDA is strict on the hormone and hormone residues of synthetic hormone people still are a bit apprehensive on its use
Threats of hormones to human beings
The main argument on the use of hormone though approved by the FDA resides in the EU ban of meat treated with steroid hormones. Though some consider this as a political ploy but still people are apprehensive. The reasons to support the EU decision on meat product treated with hormones are as follows:
- In 1999, the European Union presented a well-documented report that though hormones and hormonal residues are found in very minute amount in food but they still constitute a threat to the health of human being. To prove their point they used epidemiological statistic to demonstrate that the highest rate of breast cancer is found in North America, where hormone treated meat consumption is the highest.
- Another finding is that growth hormone may cause carcinogenesis by promoting growth and metasis of tumours
- From 1979 to 1981 in Puerto Rico, approximately 3000 children experienced premature sexual development after consuming meat with an elevated amount of oestrogen.
- Strong correlation between consumption of meat laden with hormones Zeranol and oestrogen and uterine cancers, ovarian cancers, fibrocystic disease of breasts, polycystic ovaries, menstrual irregularities and infertility problems in women .( Diaz, 1999)
Though the researches done may not have studied directly the impact of hormones in food and health problems but still there are evidence that are demonstrating that human endocrine system is very fragile. In the past decades, the rising number of women with breast cancer in developing countries where the population are mimicking the developed countries eating pattern can be the way to show that unless we take a stance in this battle about hormone laden food products.
Definition of pesticides
Pesticides are substances that are used for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest. (US Enviromental Protection Agency)
Use of pesticides in food globally
Pesticides are used to control pest in food industry at various stages; during food production, storage or transport. It benefits both consumers and farmers. Pesticides allow farmers to increase their yield at the time of harvest; it may also improve the quality, safety and shelf life of certain foods. For consumer they have a wide variety of food products both local and imported at a reasonable price,
Threats to the environment due to use of pesticides
The uses of fertilisers and pesticides have increased dramatically over the past 50years.
- These are used on large scale resulting in pollution of nearby rivers, ground water in period of rain and thereby targeting other living organism that is beneficial for human beings such as insects , soil and marine lives. The product in itself may not be harmful or toxic but there presence is altering the nutrient composition of water and soil. This may cause an increase in nitrogen and phosphorous in the environment. These simple phenomenon are causing huge problems such as eutrophication and harmful algae blooms that can kill fish, marine mammals seabirds and eventually human being. This problem will eventually create a dead zone where any type of life is non-existent. 400 areas around the world have been identified as ongoing the eutrophication process and 40 as being a dead zone.
- Biodiversity is threatened by the use of pesticides and fertilisers as they do not decimate only the harmful pest but also beneficial insects. Tgis is having a negative impact on the food resources of other animals.(Euroactiv Germany Report,2015)
- Gandhi. R &. Snedeker .S .Consumer concerns about hormones in food. June 200. http://envirocancer.cornell.edu/factsheet/diet/fs37.hormones.cfm
- Storrs.C, Hormones In food . should you worry? 01/31/2011 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/31/hormones-in-food-should-y_n_815385.html
- National Pesticides Information Centre . Food Safety http://npic.orst.edu/health/food.html
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