Chem181- Topic 6, 3.docx - We have discussed some of the interesting aspects of agricultural science and what it takes to put food on our table but of

Chem181- Topic 6, 3.docx - We have discussed some of the...

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- We have discussed some of the interesting aspects of agricultural science and what it takes to put food on our table, but of course, information in this area is always evolving. So let's focus in on some recent developments, especially in the area of pesticides. This, of course, is a controversial area. Obviously, pesticides are designed to kill. They kill weeds, they kill fungi, they kill insects. And essentially, we are large insects, so of course there is the question of whether or not pesticides can harm us. And there's always new information coming out. Recently, we had a study with implication that fertility can somehow be affected by exposure to pesticides. This was a paper published in JAMA, Journal of the American Medical Association, which is, of course, a highly reputable publication, where researchers looked at exposure to pesticides and the chance of giving live birth. This was among ladies who had difficulty in giving birth and were at a fertility clinic. And what they did was they surveyed the food that these ladies were eating, and found that those who had a diet that was richer in organic produce had a better chance of success with fertility. There are several issues, though, with this kind of a study. One is the self-reporting on questionnaires about what people were eating. That is a notoriously unreliable method of surveying, because people are not, generally, totally honest. They will often say what they think they should be eating instead of what they actually have been eating. And also, it's very difficult to rely on their measurements in terms of amount of foods that they have eaten. And also, in this particular study, there's the implication that people who were consuming organic produce were not exposed to pesticides at all, which is not correct. There are many, many pesticides that are allowed to be used on organic agriculture, it's just that they cannot be synthetic. But whether or not a chemical is synthetic or made by mother nature is irrelevant. What matters is what science says about the properties of that material. So, a study like this is interesting, it means that we should follow up on it. But by itself, it cannot prove cause and effect. It cannot prove that it was pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables that somehow impaired fertility. Among the pesticides that are being discussed, the one that gets the most frequent attention is Roundup, or glyphosate. And this is the most widely used weedkiller in the world. Herbicide, of course, is another term for weedkiller. And its use has been increasing dramatically. Why? Because it works. Now glyphosate can be used to kill weeds by directly spraying the weeds. And of course that is done, glyphosate is used around the world to just remove weeds from under power lines and fields and parks, et cetera. But the reason that its use has increased so dramatically is because of its link to so-called Roundup Ready produce. And this is, it can be soybeans, it can be corn, it can be alfalfa, it can be cotton, it can be canola. And what we're talking about here is genetic modification, and of course we
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