Monoculture Linked to Hay Fever and Allergies
Not so long ago a family farm produced a myriad of crops the family and children ate, including vegetables, corn, squash, cabbage and others. Today’s farms are a different animal altogether, and monoculture food production is not only proving to be hard on the land, but it is also increasingly causing allergies in our children.
Allergy research on children
Allergy specialists from France’s Nancy University and the Allergy Vigilance Network conducted a large-scale study of children and adults with regard to their sensitivity to the monoculture crops of corn and rapeseed – grown on giant farms in the midst of small towns scattered throughout Europe.
The sixty-nine allergy researchers, members of the Allergy Vigilance Network, conducted a study that included 2515 children and 2857 adults. The subjects were tested for either having an allergy or sensitivity to these crops – or having an immune sensitivity that would likely to develop into an allergy.
The research found that among the 5,372 total people tested, 62% suffered from some sort of allergy with symptoms, while 10% had an allergy but no symptoms, and 27% had no allergies. Of those who had allergies, 26% were allergic to maize/corn pollen while nearly 12% were allergic to rapeseed pollen. And over 8% were allergic to corn seed.
But among those who lived closer to monoculture farms that planted and harvested these crops, the allergy rates to those crops were much higher. Of the allergic individuals, nearly 14% of those living near rapeseed crops were allergic to rapeseed, while over 21% of the asymptomatic allergic people were sensitive to rapeseed (compared to 8% among the study population).
Of those asymptomatic allergy sufferers who lived closer to farms, over 30% were allergic to corn/maize pollen (compared to 19% among the study population).
These statistics reveal not only a growing trend of allergies among Europeans exposed to monoculture crops, but the closer they live to the farms, the more likely their allergies to these crops are.
The researchers concluded:
“The incidence of sensitisation to rapeseed and maize pollen is positively correlated to the level of exposure…. The frequency of sensitization confirms the allergenicity of these plants destined for food supply and demonstrates the importance of monitoring for respiratory allergies to these pollens, not only in workers exposed to these types of crops, but also in atopic patients living in regions that contain a high density of rapeseed and maize fields.”
The researchers also correlated other studies that have shown that pollen sensitivities can lead to certain food allergies:
“Cross-reactivities between pollens and seeds could potentially elicit cross-reacting food allergies.”
Family farms are dwindling and being replaced by monoculture
In the last fifty years, families throughout the world have increasingly given up the production of food for their families and communities. Huge populations of people who once homesteaded their land to produce food have moved to the cities, where population density and pollution is making us sicker and our environment more polluted.
This trend is spawning the growth of giant monoculture farming companies that typically do not replenish the soil, but use chemical fertilizers and monoculture crops. This depletes precious soil nutrients – causing massive soil erosion. And the widespread use of chemical fertilizers is wrecking havoc in our oceans and waterways – producing “dead zones” throughout the world with massive sealife die-offs.
Monoculture has also resulted in the loss of nearly three-quarters of the plant varieties that once gave us nutrition.
Should we continue along this path, the future will no only bear us more limited varieties of food that tastes the same where ever we go: It may also result in us becoming allergic to many of our own foods.
Moneret-Vautrin DA, Peltre G, Gayraud J, Morisset M, Renaudin JM, Martin A. Prevalence of sensitisation to oilseed rape and maize pollens in France: a multi-center study carried out by the Allergo-Vigilance Network. Eur Ann Allergy Clin Immunol. 2012 Dec;44(6):225-35.