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The loss of micronutrients

“The lack of variety of diets is the basis of many non-infectious health problems. Hundreds of medical studies demonstrate the link between fruit and vegetable consumption and lower risks of cancers and coronary- and obesity-related diseases.

Extracting individual components from vegetables and making ‘veggie pills’ is less effective than eating the entire fruit or vegetable, which is more beneficial than the sum of its parts.

Research has shown that the use of ‘junk food’ has psychologically depressive effects and encourages aggressive tendencies, while adding fruit and vegetables to the diet is associated with better-behaved, healthier citizens. It seems the answer is out there, and the choice is ours to pick” (82).

Over millions of years, the land has been losing nutrients, accelerated by intensive farming. The rain does not contain these nutrients and Nature has only limited means of returning them to the soil - as when a river bursts its banks or a volcano erupts (74).

Leeching from the land through soil and rock, streams and rivers, nutrients reach the oceans - Nature’s great ‘nutrient pool’ with a virtually constant nutritional composition.

Certain ocean vegetables - especially so-called ‘brown wrack seaweeds’ - absorb a good balance of all these nutrients. Harvesting the seaweed responsibly, for plant, animal and human foods, we can play our part in Nature to complete a natural cycle.

Since 1945 there has been a 34% decline in vegetable consumption in the UK; only 13% of men and 15% of women are meeting the minimum daily requirement of 5 portions of fruit and vegetables.

We also eat 59% less fish than we did then, even though fish is slimming, the principal source of omega-3 fatty acids, and possibly even more ‘natural’ than non-organically farmed meats (104, 105).

A comparative study based on UK government tables published in 1940 and 2002 revealed that the iron recorded in the average rump steak fell by 55% over that period.

Calcium is down 4% and magnesium 7%. Milk has lost 21% of its calcium and 62% of its iron, while cheddar cheese has lost 38% of its magnesium, 9% of its calcium and 47% of its iron.

Changes in measuring the composition of food could account for some of the decrease, as could changes in the way food is stored and transported, but the Food Commission, an independent consumer watchdog, thinks the impact of intensive farming should be investigated.

“One of the key arguments is that today’s agriculture does not allow soil to enrich itself,” said its director Dr Tim Lobstein, “but depends on chemical fertilisers that don’t replace the wide variety of nutrients which plants and humans need” (96).