Thursday, April 26, 2012

Vegetables in Cuba Might Not Be Healthy

Vegetables in Cuba Might Not Be Healthy
April 26, 2012
Erasmo Calzadilla

HAVANA TIMES, April 26 — I don't want to be an alarmist, I'm only trying
to warn people and share a concern.

During the crisis of the 1990s, with the shortage of fuel for
transporting food from the countryside to the city, the government opted
for intensive urban agriculture. Given its delicate nature, this
strategy has become a "political" issue, and herein lies the danger
since almost no one dares to question it.

For many years it's been known that along automobile-trafficked streets,
the nearby soil and plants often become loaded with heavy metals from
the burning of fossil fuels.

In case anyone doesn't know, heavy metals are very toxic – they make
people ill and can cause death.

Cadmium and nickel, for example, are carcinogenic. Similarly, lead*
causes neurological disorders and damage to major organs, with children
being the most sensitive to it. I'll stop here, but the "menu" is extensive.

A while ago I looked through several scientific articles and journals to
find out to what degree our urban organic farms are contaminated with
these substances. My inquiry was unsuccessful, until I recently came
across a work of great value. Apparently it escaped being censured.

In 2009, the Provincial Meteorological Center and the Agricultural
Research Centre of the University of Santa Clara** conducted research on
four urban organic gardens in that central province.

On the ground, in the water and especially in plants, they found traces
of heavy metals at concentration levels that exceeded (predominantly) or
were close to the maximum limits set by international organizations such
as the World Health Organization.

If this is the case in Santa Clara — which isn't a commercial,
industrial or mining center — one can only imagine the situation in more
populous areas such as the capital city?

One person who is knowledgeable about the matter (he asked me not to
publish his name) assured me that research on the subject tends to be
road blocked or immediately shelved.

How, can they justify this silence?

If this is true, the authorities are committing a crime, and I say this
in the full since of the word, since organic gardens supply children's
daycare centers and schools.

(*) A few years ago, the medical section of the Granma newspaper
addressed the issue of lead poisoning. The specialist consulted said
this condition isn't a health problem in our country due to the
preventive and control measures to stave off environmental pollution…

(**) The referenced article is titled: Contribución a la Gestión
ambiental en el contexto de las producciones agrícolas urbanas en la
ciudad de Santa Clara (Contribution to Environmental Management in the
context of urban agricultural production in the city of Santa Clara). If
you are interested in downloading it, then hurry, in case it disappears.

Those responsible for this research proposed a list of interesting
recommendations. None of them was, by the way, tell the people about the
dangerous medals they are eating. The closest was the proposed Item 6:
"Develop environmental training programs on this subject aimed at
decision makers, leaders and farmers."

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