First Evidence That Weed Killers Improve Nutritional Value Of A Key Food Crop
ScienceDaily (July 9, 2009) — Scientists are reporting for the first time that the use of weed killers in farmers' fields boosts the nutritional value of an important food a crop. Application of two common herbicides to several varieties of sweet corn significantly increased the amount of key nutrients termed carotenoids in the corn kernels, according to a new study.
In the new study, Dean Kopsell and colleagues note that farmers grow about 240,000 acres of sweet corn in the United States each year, making it an important food crop. Corn is among only a few vegetable crops that are good sources of zeaxanthin carotenoids. Consuming carotenoid-rich vegetables may reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (a leading cause of vision loss among older people), heart disease, and cancer, the study notes.
The scientists exposed several varieties of sweet corn plants to the herbicide mesotrione or a combination of mesotrione and atrazine, another commonly used weed killer, and harvested mature corn 45 days later. Herbicide applications made the corn an even-better source of carotenoids, boosting levels in the mature kernels of some varieties by up to 15 percent. It specifically increased levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, the major carotenoids in sweet corn kernels, which studies have linked to a reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration.
Kopsell et al. Increase in Nutritionally Important Sweet Corn Kernel Carotenoids following Mesotrione and Atrazine Applications. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2009; 090619124509017 DOI: 10.1021/jf9013313
We are constantly told by detractors of modern agriculture that the use of chemicals is dangerous to our health and the environment. While it may be fun for some people to spread doom and gloom, the truth is a much different story. Chemicals have been an extremely safe and useful tool for producing food. Now it appears that it can also improve the nutrition of the food we are eating. Sweet corn is everyone's favorite food and now thanks to these weed killing chemicals, it's even better for you too.