There are many parties working towards treatment of cancer, but we believe that it is just as critical to identify and fix the root of the problem. Of the four primary drivers of cancer (toxins, poor nutrition, infectious disease, and genetics), two primary drivers of health or disease begin in the earth itself with soil. Soils contain life giving nutrients, and they also can be the source of cancer causing elements like arsenic and radon if exposure is high. The connection between these elements in the soil and incidences of cancer has been identified and mapped in one of the states with highest incidence of cancer in the U.S., Maine. Dr. Janet Hock, Director of the Maine Health Institute and Scientific Advisor to Greenleaf Communities, documented how rural nutrition deficits plus deposits of naturally occurring arsenic and radon in the ground were related to cancer incidence. And we have national maps produced by the USDA illustrating arsenic deposits across the country, including in region’s that produce our primary crops (organic or not). These crops could be accumulating not just macro and micro nutrients, but problem elements from the soils into the food found in your stores and on your tables. Shortly the USGS will be publishing a national map of many elements of interest across the country, and at a scale and accessibility that will enable application of research to inform attendance to what is being fed to our neighbors and the world.
Greenleaf convened the head of the National Soil Laboratory with the head of nutrition for the Institute for Food Safety, leading agronomists, and health experts to consider the connections between healthy soils for healthy food and healthy people. We are now preparing to test variant soil management practices to prove out findings from the literature that certain practices will negate the uptake of issues like arsenic or lead in soils where there is concern – an increasing issue with urban gardening. We also will measure the effect various soil management practices have on the uptake of beneficial micro and macro nutrients that are central to our health. Nutrient levels have been declining in some of our crops; perhaps due to the variant seed genetics being used. It’s less understood how different soil types and soil conditions enable or disrupt transport of important nutrient form the mineral base through the roots into the plants, and then our animal stock and us. But with our partners, who we have been working with the past couple years, we are now planning to measure this with some of the leading soil, nutrition, and human health scientists in America. This information can then be used to inform the leading companies who are committed to producing healthy nutrition for our dinner plates.