Summary: In this powerful 1959 speech before the U.S. House of Representatives, Utah Congressman David King warns our government that “the progressive deterioration of the condition of our health has been confirmed,” blaming the negative trend on the country’s chemically-laden and overly processed food supply. “There are many approaches to the prevention and treatment of…complex diseases,” King says, “but there appears to be one common denominator as the basic cause of degenerative diseases. That one factor is malnutrition.” Representative King calls for the creation of a congressional commission to officially investigate the adulteration of America’s foods as well as the fluoridation of public water supplies. Unfortunately—and predictably—the congressman’s calls went ignored. From the Congressional Record of the 86th U.S. Congress, 1959. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 111.
Summary: In this thoughtful speech before the National Wildlife Federation, a Mayo Clinic physician presents his opinion on the causal effects of farming chemicals on human health. Citing numerous cases studies from twenty-five years of clinical practice, Dr. Hargraves presents a strong correlation of pesticide exposure with specific illnesses. While Hargraves concedes that “no one is capable of speaking with authority about exact causal relationships of pesticides and human health,” he maintains that “the vast majority of patients suffering from the blood…and lymphoid diseases have a significant history of exposure to the various hydrocarbons which in turn includes most of the pesticides of today.” Original source unknown, 1959. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 105.
Summary: From the 1950s through the early 1980s, Edith Kermit Roosevelt wrote about issues of health and fitness in her popular syndicated column “Between the Lines.” In this article—the title of which pretty much sets the tone—she exposes the dangerous adulteration of America’s food with agrichemicals through facts, figures, and the outrage of someone aware of what was actually going on. Long before Rachel Carlon’s SilentSpring hit the stands, the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research was publishing fact-filled pieces like these warning the medical profession and the public of the wholesale poisoning of the country’s food supply. Original source unknown. Reprint 102, circa 1957.
Summary: One of the earliest scientific assessments of DDT and pesticides in American agriculture. Ginsburg and Reed, of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station in New Brunswick, report the results of their study measuring the amounts of DDT accumulated in the topsoil of various food-crop fields within the state. (DDT was introduced to the American market in 1947; this report was published in 1954.) Their findings agree with previous studies conducted in other parts of the country, namely that “DDT does not readily decompose in most of the cultivated soils and may, after repeated annual applications, remain in sufficiently large quantities to interfere with the growth of certain crops.” Ginsburg and Reed also note that while some crops were tolerant of the insecticide, others, such as tomatoes, squash, and snap beans, were significantly damaged by application of the chemical. From the Journal of Economic Entomology. Reprint 73, 1954.
Summary: An early warning from a medical doctor about the effects of agrichemicals on the health of livestock and humans. Dr. Biskind cites multiple studies showing that insecticide use and “nutritional defects” combine to significantly increase the incidence of various types of chronic degenerative disease. In a telling disclosure, he also points out that the infamous pesticide DDT was released onto the market “against the advice of investigators who had studied the pharmacology of the compound and found it dangerous for all forms of life.” From the American Journal of Digestive Diseases. Reprint 69, 1953.
Summary: In this 1956 article from the popular magazine American Mercury, author Jack Scott warns the public of the toxic stew that accompanies each bite of the modern diet. DDT and DES lead the list of hundreds of chemicals contaminating America’s food supply, either coming from the farm or added by food processors. With regulation of these chemicals admittedly lax (see “The Peril on Your Food Shelf” by congressman James Delaney, chairman of the House Committee to Investigate the Use of Chemicals in Food Products during the 1950s), the American public had become one giant guinea pig colony for the alliance between the chemical and food industries. Articles like these led to the popular revolt in the 1960s and ’70s against commercially grown foods and the phony health experts paid by the food industry to assure America that it was the best-fed nation in the world with the safest food supply. From American Mercury, 1956. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 89.
Summary: From a California physician comes this remarkably lucid discussion about pesticides and their use in America. “Under the present laws,” Dr. Knight writes, “any company wishing to use a new chemical in or on food is not required to first consult with the Food and Drug Administration relative to merits or potential harmfulness.” Indeed, he adds, any “partially tested pesticide may be manufactured, advertised, sold, and widely used!” (Sadly, this policy remains true today.) And what about concerned citizens and scientists who had the courage to speak out against America’s mammoth agribusiness and their untested pesticides? “‘Hysterical alarmists’ is the quaint description applied to…those who even suggest that the public is being harmed,” Knight says. Articles like this served as an early warning to America’s homemakers about the chemicalization of the food supply and sowed the seeds of today’s organic-foods movement. From Modern Nutrition magazine. Reprint 86, 1952.
Summary: In 1906 the U.S. Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act. Though the bill was expressly intended to keep harmful chemicals out of American mouths, it quickly became a loophole through which the drug and food manufacturing industries could introduce untested substances into homes across the country. In 1937 this laxity culminated in the Massengill Elixir Tragedy, in which 105 people died from drinking a “health tonic” containing diethylene glycol, a lethal industrial solvent commonly used in brake fluid today—this despite Massengill’s internal lab having “tested” the tonic for safety. The disaster forced Congress to revisit chemical additive regulations in 1938 in the form of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which tightened rules for drug testing but still left a wide berth for food additives, the number of which exploded in the 1940s. Finally, in 1950, amid growing public concern, Congress created the House Select Committee to Investigate the Use of Chemicals in Food Products. The chair of that committee was New York congressman James Delaney, who wrote the following disturbing article after heading a year of investigation into the matter. Basically, he tells readers, when it came to testing the long term effects of the thousands of chemicals being added to the nation’s food, there was “no law to compel” manufacturers to make such investigations. Moreover, he says, many chemicals known to be dangerous were ending up on the market nonetheless through continued loose regulation. Referring to the Massengill tragedy, he warns, “There is no legal way at this moment to prevent something like this happening again [but] in food!” To this day food additives in America are tested for safety not by the U.S. government but by the companies that manufacture them. And as the Messengill incident reminds us, safety is found all too easily by those who profit from its discovery. From American Magazine, 1951. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 67.