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Estimates that mineral levels in vegetables have dropped by up to 90% since 1914 (nih.gov)
743 points by hispanic 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 301 comments



This happened due to extermination of soil life through modern farming practices of heavy tilling, fertilizing and monoculture crops. Dead soil is more susceptible to erosion and requires ever increasing amounts of synthetic fertilizer to grow anything. More soil has been lost from the US than the amount of food that has been produced. Soil fertility can be returned to historical levels by changing farming practices to make living soil. The benefits of treating the soil as a living organism include increased fertility, water infiltration, moisture retention, and nutrient availability as well as decreasing or eliminating synthetic fertilizer requirements.

https://theweek.com/articles/554677/america-running-soil

This is a long video but it has completely changed my home gardening practices. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUmIdq0D6-A


Not exactly disagreeing with you, but it seems like increasing yields and inadequate fertilization focusing on macronutrients would also explain the drop. If I grow crops that preferentially absorb certain minerals and then take away most of the vegetable matter from the plot, the soil content of the absorbed minerals is going to drop without something to replenish it. Now, I'm not saying soil bacteria and mychorrhizal networks can't pull minerals from the underlying bedrock and transport it to the top layer, but even assuming they did, I would think high-yield farming would tax their ability to keep up with mineral outflows.


Both parent and grandparent are saying something important here. Mineral availability from the microbiome via root interactions is critical. But throw nitrogen at a plant and it will rapidly grow utilizing CO2, O2 and water, leaving a mineral deficient plant. And that is true in any soil. Also, modern plants have been selected to be large and tender, which tends to be inversely coorelated to mineral density. So it's been a perfect storm against.


That's right! They throw on Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium, but they do not add the other 14 elements, which yes, carbon, hydrogen and oxygen come from CO2 and H2O. But they also need iron, cobalt, selenium and others: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plant_nutrition


Are nutritional supplements a sufficient solution for the full 17(?) in the meantime?

I've heard many people say they get their nutrients from eating enough vegetables where the don't need any pills or vitamins. I'm curious how true this is as the internet doesn't offer much clarity.

Not to mention the always vague scientific literature about multivitamins and other supplementations. Or the extremes like Ray Kurizwel who take hundreds of supplements "just in case".

If agriculture doesn't provide us with any realistic solutions in the near term this may still be a worthy area for future innovation to deliver legitimately useful supplementation, minus the snake oil. But I fear that is too optimistic of a goal vs the current state of things, where there's already an over supply of people offering 'solutions' merely exploiting the never ending pool of shame hyped up over mass consumption, not only in western culture but even more so in the new eastern entrants to middle classdom.


The funny thing is that current advice is that nutrition supplements aren’t necessary. I finally got around to taking a “one a day” pill every day, but stopped when I read in the “American College of Sports Medicine’s Complete Guide to Fitness and Health (2nd Ed)”:

“If you are thinking about taking a multivitamin–mineral supplement, you should analyze your diet first to assess if a supplement is required. The best way to obtain nutrients is through whole foods (e.g., fruits, vegetables, whole grains; foods that are not processed). ... If you do decide to take a multivitamin–mineral supplement, consider taking it every other day to enhance your ability to digest and absorb it and to save money” (chapter 3).

They aren’t the only group with that kind of advice either: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/do-you-need-a... .

Maybe I should rethink that.


The supplements-aren't-necessary-advice is often the lawerly "you don't need supplements if you're not malnourished" or "if you're getting a balanced diet."

Left unsaid is my takeaway: modern agriculture has damaged our food supply to the point where a nourishing and balanced diet isn't readily available in the produce section of your local supermarket. If you're eating stunted frankenfood, you need to supplement, because you're malnourished from eating an unbalanced diet.


Costco multivitamins cost 2 cents per pill. I don't think saving money is a good reason to try to get all your minerals from whole foods.


I did a blind trial on myself by getting liquid multivitamin (bargain large European superstore brand, powdered), and creating a sequence of vitamin or placebo based on a pseudorandom hash function to take every day with breakfast in drink. The sequence is prepared a month ahead so I don't know on any specific day what I'm getting.

I also record my mood and excercise at some time most days with a survey.

After 2 years, I saw a significant decrease in general happiness on days I took the multivitamin, and a lesser (not p<0.01) effect the following day. I was less likely to leave the house, and less likely to plan a social activity on those days.

I've now stopped taking the multivitamin for that reason.

I'd still like to know if I have stumbled on a p<0.01 fluke, or if I'm unique somehow, if the multivitamins have a negative short term but positive long term effect, if these particular multivitamins are harming me somehow, or if all multivitamins have this issue.

Life isn't long enough for me to find out, but if anyone else is happy to take on a bigger trial, results could be interesting.


I am also worried they put toxic doses of vitamins and minerals. My hair supplement used to contain 10000 micrograms of biotin and caused acne. Other supplements put 100 micrograms. Melatonin doses also vary too wildly, like 4x. They seem to be concerned about bragging rights at our expense.


Agreed the standard dose is probably 300mcg, but there’s a reason it doesn’t get sold at that amount. There’s communities that track what the right amount is for them and take that, see https://trackmystack.com


my own experience is that I have to eat a sickening amount of meat to get enough minerals so I started to get some supplements. apparently vegs that I can buy are little more than starch and sugar.


You get what you incentivize. Produce is typically sold by weight.


produce rich in nutrients are typically also tastier. However, modern groceries (such as massive chain stores) require huge logistics and scale, and thus expect farmers to produce a steady, homogenous and sturdy crop that also happen to lack nutrients. It's unfortunate that for the produce to be cheap, it has to be done the way it is today.

Not everybody can afford to have "organically grown" heirloom tomatoes, because it's too expensive, and labour intensive. May be genetically modifying foods to also take in minerals properly is the answer...


heirloom crops are not as productive. I grew many different varieties and some of the plants engineered for greenhouses would produce 5x as many tomatoes per plant than heirlooms in the same greenhouse, getting the same amount of water and fertilizer -- and they still tasted good. Much better than typical grocery store tomatoes. More modern varieties are also more resilient to disease and pests.


What's been incentivized in most countries farming-wise has had the scales significantly tipped in certain directions where it's not simply the most valuable plants/animals at the maximum weights.


Produce is sold by weight, and bought by appearance but neither nutritional content nor taste.


And, higher CO2 levels.


There may be some unintended consequences with that approach...


The "perfect storm" includes the fact that CO2 levels are higher today than in 1914.


Glomalin was only discovered in 1996 and it contains up to 30% of soil carbon! Fungal cell walls degrade into a sticky product that makes the soil more loamy. Glomalin levels are strongly correlated with soil fertility.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glomalin

I think artificial supplementation can be greatly improved, as you suggest. However, it increasingly looking like the soil biome is directly responsible for plant productivity, rather than only indirectly assisting in nutrient transport.


Not even focusing on macronutrients. We’re just focussing in mass.

I’m not looking forward to the end of tomato season and the inevitable disappointment when I buy them from the grocery store.


The worst is strawberries. The huge strawberries you can buy in the store have the same flavor content as the tiny ones you can grow in your yard, but it's completely diluted with water. They're disgusting.


Where I live, I can buy tiny fruits and vegetables from local farmers, or I can buy imported ones that are 3x as large and get twice as much for half the price.

The difference in fruit flavor is unbelievable. Tiny strawberries grown on a couple acres of land versus mega farm strawberries aren’t even in the same flavor category. The tiny ones taste almost identical to strawberry candies, but large ones that draw people in with the wow factor are like firm lumps of sour water.


> but large ones that draw people in with the wow factor are like firm lumps of sour water.

Sounds like they were grown hydroponically. I can't stand hydroponically grown tomatoes for the same reason. Just bags of water.


sreet protesters like them.

:)


Same thing with carrots. Or tomatoes. It's amazing how vegetables can taste good when they haven't been bred into giant lumps of blandness.


Is it just because they are giant? I’ve had relatively big strawberries that are sweet and flavorful in China. But in the US, they taste like cucumber plus citrus, no sweetness, no aroma, just incredibly sour and watery.


I don't know what Chinese strawberries are like, but I always figured that American strawberries are watery and sour because they're not only big, but they're also grown too quickly for flavor to develop. I think they're engineered to artificially mature early and are basically still unripe.


It's really weird to me that people are generalizing this by nationality. Sure, a lot of supermarket strawberries are terrible. They also frequently (but not always) come from outside the US. Some are ok, and some people get flavorful ones somehow, because I've had excellent quality ones with dessert in a restaurant. Also, there are farmer's markets and stands, even though I'm not in the habit of going to them.


I have had amazing and bland Strawberries from Safeway in the US. Not sure how to pick the good ones. Time of year?


Yes, local in season fruit is always tastier. I suspect because out of season fruit has to come from further away, meaning it has to be picked before it normally would be if it didn’t have to travel so far.


I too have had this experience. Now I always sample one from a pack before I buy. I used to feel guilty doing that, but the quality varies so much and I got sick of wasting fruit purchases when they turn out to be sour or gross. Same with grapes and blueberries from Costco.


I noticed the striking difference between strawberries grown in Thailand (yes, it's true, during the cool season in the mountainous regions) which are small, non-uniform in shape and intensely flavored, compared to the huge, beautiful and watery tasteless hothouse grown strawberries imported from Korea.


To be fair to the cucumber, actual homegrown ones do have a taste.


There were people arguing how great increased crop yield was in the last few weeks. [0] Some comments were made about how the exponential factor of crop yields outweighed the loss of output nutrients. Glad to see the counterargument on the table.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20667031


Tomatoes can particuralry well so for the out of season times I've come to preffer using canned and avoiding the unripe tomatoes, which are often ripened (turned red) by truckloads using nitrogen. America's Test Kitchen has lot's of reviews on canned tomatoes[0].

https://www.americastestkitchen.com/taste_tests/231-canned-w...


Store-bought tomatoes are just a pale reminder of what a real tomato tastes like. It's no wonder that people who never ate a ripe tomato fresh from the garden don't like tomatoes; there is nothing good about them but the memory of something incomparably better.


Maybe my gardens faulty, but within the same variety, superstore and my-personal-garden tomatoes are near indistinguishable.

The only difference I see is my garden tomatoes seem to have a thin layer of city dirt on the skin that's hard to wipe off... (That black dusting of tyre rubber and brake dust that makes a tissue dirty if you wipe it over the surface)


When you want to " pull minerals from the underlying bedrock and transport it to the top layer", trees do that. Composting with tree leaves would seem to be beneficial, although perhaps a rather slow process. And of course you need lots of trees around. Incompatible with large scale monoculture farming.


Healthier soil may also capture carbon. There are many reasons to look at optimization of farming and food production for a whole range of concerns beyond profits. The question is how to broadly incentivize and fund those concerns - reinvigorating agricultural dept programs with a wider focus at a federal and state level is one way to do that; others would likely come up under a Green New Deal type framework too.

https://e360.yale.edu/features/soil_as_carbon_storehouse_new...


Aside from a few farmers that are motivated by ideology, profit is the only motivation that will change practices.

I have recently been researching biochar(biologically charged charcoal). Use of biochar is a form of carbon sequestration that reduces nutrient leaching and provides immense surface area for bacterial and fungal life to thrive in soil.


I met a potato farmer whose primary crop is for a large chain supermarket. He produces almost double his required yield, doesn't use fertilizer nor pesticides... and has been so for a decade. To use his words: he's a potato farmer, but spends most of his time preparing the soil for the next year. He's right into cover crops (ie not leaving the soil exposed), and several 'rotational' crops that assist in root and nutrient management, as well as pesticide control (yes, plants to control pests). These rotational crops are generally 'terminated' early by finely mulching them back into the earth while simultaneously seeding the next preparatory crop. His biggest expense, fuel, is reduced with a smaller tractor, which also assists in minimising soil compaction.


Yeah biochar is very interesting. We definitely shouldn't massively start using it in the short term though - its effects are not so well understood. Most "knowledge" is based on terra preta, Amazonian dark soil which is hundreds of years old and man-made with charcoal, pottery shards, bones and other organic matter. There have been field trials but many of them by biochar organizations/companies who might not be completely objective and once we put it in the soil we can't really take it out anymore.

I think the evidence suggests that turning waste into biochar and applying it to fields at a local scale has a lot of potential. Growing trees for the purpose of biochar might be a different story (this has many of the downsides of biofuel production).


the free carbon soil test is used by many farmers to evaluate the amount of microbial life in their soils. Several I have spoken to have expressed interest for a more reliable field test for microbial health in their soils. One side effect is that microbes in soil tend to help soils hold more water.

OP is right, though. Net mass lost is still a major problem.


> The benefits of treating the soil as a living organism include increased fertility

This is a pretty interesting (and correct) point, and there's a lot to say about it from a few different perspectives.

You get much higher all-inclusive yields from a unit of land by growing several different crops in the same space. They (can) complement each other, using different resources from the ground and providing resources to each other.

American agriculture is not set up to do this. Instead of optimizing yield as a function of land input, we optimize yield as a function of labor input, because we have tons and tons of fertile land relative to our small-for-the-size-of-the-country population. If you have one person growing food on a thousand acres of land (remember, one acre is originally "the amount of land one man can plow in a day"), it makes more sense to give that one person just one thing to do. There's no way they're going to be able to care for 5 different crops simultaneously, or even adjust their practices to better suit the specifics of individual fields. We prefer to get a lot of land under low-labor cultivation, even though the cultivation isn't very effective, because our tiny population doesn't require high agricultural yields per unit land.

A more traditional model involves starving peasants intensively cultivating scarce land. With cheap and abundant labor inputs, you can get much more from one unit of land. But most of that increase goes to feeding the peasants who provide the labor. This is similar to how models of the effect of immigration on American GDP tend to show large increases in GDP -- the benefits of which, if you account for them, mostly accrue to the new immigrants.

I don't think there's an easy way to combine the ideas of "infinite cheap peasant labor gives us higher agricultural yields" and "a middle-class lifestyle should be in reach for everybody". Americans are rich, from a historical and current-rest-of-the-world perspective, specifically because we use so few people to grow food. One guy with enough food to feed three million people is a huge benefit to the rest of the country, and he's personally stinking rich. Five million peasants in huts who collectively produce enough food to feed 5,100,000 people are all dirt poor, and they produce only a minor benefit to the rest of the country.


It's pretty bizzare to me to say we can't. Perhaps the statement is better that we can't under inflexible solution points of our current technology. However, with impending sensor & robotization of agriculture other models are foreseeable.


That's quite the argument to extremes. Surely there are points in between the single rich farmer and the five million poor farmers.

Could the balance be shifted somewhat to slightly more labor intensive farming practices without causing us all to become starving peasants? I suspect so.


The increase in productivity would have to compensate the laborers for their time. This was traditionally accomplished by using laborers whose time was of very little value. The richer society is, the more difficult this is to do.


Robots?

They can be your peasants.


Exactly.

Rock dust, nitrogen etc...

I work in cannabis tech, and there is a really interesting farm i work with.

They have been using / revitalizing the same soil for a decade.

Here is what is really interesting, they grow their cannabis on top of an 18” thick mycelium fungus bed. They mulch out their detritus and then keep growing their cannabis in that same soil - and their quality levels are top fucking notch.

Big ag is like FB of agra: trying way to hard to scale and quality is near zero.


> Soil fertility can be returned to historical levels by changing farming practices to make living soil.

Seems easier to just add the missing minerals/chemicals to the soil.


Isn't that kind of thinking what got us here in the first place?

We may not even know the full range of micro-nutrients that the soil has been depleted of.


> We may not even know the full range of micro-nutrients that the soil has been depleted of.

You may not know the full range of micro-organisms needed or how to care for them to achieve this 'living soil'. Taking agriculture backward a hundred years isn't a path forward.


There is also evidence due to higher concentrations of CO2.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6104417/

Essentially there's around the same mineral content it's just the vegetables are also on average larger in size and mass - yet yield the same mineral content.


+1 on Living Web Farms. They have a lot of great videos about sustainable farming practices. I've learned a lot from the whole gang there - but especially from Mr. Pat Battle. If you have any interest in learning how to grow some of your own food, you should check them out.


To learn more about soil health, watch Dr. Elaine Ingham's talks available on YouTube. Also see: https://permies.com/wiki/redhawk-soil


I think it also happens because of synthetic fertilizers (and possibly modern genetics).

It's a race to grow as big a product in as short of time as possible which causes the mineral ratios to be different.

A tomato which takes months to grow and ripens on the vine has more time to assimilate minerals than a tomato that is "pushed" with synthetic fertilizers, then snatched off the vine unripened and ripened with ethylene gas in transport.


Must be one hell of a tomato if it takes multiple months to grow. I’ve only grown ones that take a few weeks.


(pasted from the webz)

Standard-sized tomatoes take 20 to 30 days from blossom set to reach full size–commonly called “mature green”; they take another 20 to 30 days to ripen, that is begin to change color.


Thanks for sharing, Tastyfreeze.


The link got that actual paper is much better than a sentence or two on LinkedIn. The paper’s title isn’t as catchy to put in nicely.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6163803/

From my link:

>It is important to note that the USDA mineral content of vegetables and fruits has not been updated since 2000, and perhaps even longer, given that the data for 1992 was not able to be definitively confirmed for this review.

I’d like to see if it’s improved recently. Healthy foods and organics are more readily available now.


I used to run an organic farm experimenting with hydroponics and I did a ton of research on this.

What I found, organic does not mean healthier. In fact, a larger percentage of food related illnesses are reported for organic foods than foods without the organic label, which itself is controversial and misleading. This is largely due to the types of fertilizer used. Animal waste is used to fertilize organic foods. Yes, that is a fact. Organic foods can also use BT pesticides, which are the same chemicals in GMO crops where the BT is produced inside the plant.

The nutritional content also depends on many factors, including what types of fertilizers are used. Are those fertilizers available to be absorbed by the plant. It also varies by variety. Some plants, especially strawberries are better grown outside in the soil than in hydroponics. That was a rare case. I also read many studies on nutritional content of plants grown hydroponically vs organically and some studies found some varieties were more nutritional when grown organically, others when grown hydroponically.

The reality is, the industry is so competitive and the studies are funded by folks with an agenda, so the data leaves me skeptical on both sides.

Only 17 elements are required to grow a plant and these elements can be provided entirely through hydroponics. From my research, hydroponic vegetables, for the most part, are actually healthier for people to consume than organic vegetables according to the science, but there is a stigma that since hydroponics is produced by science and technology and the industrial farming complex that it is worse for our bodies.

The research indicates though that hydroponic plants can more easily absorb nutrients, they are healthier and better able to resist fungus and insects, so not only are they more nutritious, but they don't need fungicides, pesticides or herbicides to be sprayed on them. Plus, plants can actually absorb salmonella and other bacteria into the plant from composted manure, which even when washed can still infect the human gut.


The USDA National Organic Program used to put it quite nicely on an older version of their home page:

  Our regulations do not address food safety or nutrition. 

( https://web.archive.org/web/20190103075936/https://www.ams.u... )


Hydroponics can’t scale like industrial farming. Our farming practices need to improve to make industrial farming sustainable.

My own foray into hydroponics has been lack luster. Lettuce didn’t taste as good and it’s much more maintenance. I can setup water timers and fertilize every x weeks in my garden. You have to constantly check hydro and put chemicals in it very often. Too labor intensive.


it absolutely can scale and does scale. It is being done at scale right now.

My experience was the opposite of yours. We found through experimentation that the flavor of the crop was directly related to the mineral concentration in the solution. We too had bland crop, but a little research suggested we starve our plants of water. In other words, if you want more flavor, increase the concentration of nutrients. It was easy to check the PPM and pH of the water with two devices you can get on Amazon for under $20. We also used timers.

Our organic farming required a dump truck load of compost, while the hydroponics was about a 5 lb bag of minerals and used about 10% of the water as the soil based. It's much more efficient. In the back yard, it's not that big a deal, but at scale, farming is largely about material movement.

The amount of labor to run an organic farm was incredible. It's also expensive and requires heavy equipment to scale a large farm. Hydroponics not as much, because there is no soil to move, which is heavy! Tilling, raking, tons of fertilizer and pesticides distributed across acres by machines and planes. Whereas hydroponics does that all just by pumping water, which is already being done in those same industrial farms.

Hydroponics requires a lot less labor. Just more thinking. You have to research. You have to engineer things. But you lift less. You move less. Physically its easier. Yes, it's harder because you have to think smarter, but it's not more labor intensive, precisely the opposite.


> it absolutely can scale and does scale. It is being done at scale right now.

It certainly does. The videos of automated hydroponics farms are fascinating to look at. This is one such automated system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tI17ZwWOEcI


Recent trends in vertical farming are to heavily automate all of this and use sensors to maximize yields and minimize waste. Greenhouses in the Netherlands have been using hydroponics at scale for decades and are a reason it's a leading exporter of e.g. tomatoes and many other crops. The whole point of hydroponics is industrial scale and maximizing yields.

What you call industrial farming started roughly mid last century when people were people figured out how to grow a handful of crops at scale using large machinery at the cost of diversity and quality. The modern variant of that heavily relies on overusing pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, etc.

The downside of farming like this is the lack of diversity of crops and the negative side-effects on the environment. Industrial farming has destroyed vast amounts of land and turned them into eroded wastelands and deserts.

Modern farming is becoming more high tech and using data driven approaches, automation, etc. enables smarter use of land, a wider variety of crops, better quality produce, and more efficient use of resources (water, chemicals, nutrients, light, energy, etc.). Hydroponics are one form of that but also organic farming has evolved way beyond hippies growing small amounts of produce like the industrial revolution never happened. Organic farming at industrial scale is becoming a thing.


Interesting. Examples?


Eventually the timers and sensors will be able to apply the right inputs to hydroponics, too.


> Only 17 elements are required to grow a plant and these elements can be provided entirely through hydroponics

This claim is diametrically opposed to the "soil as living organism" claim above. What gives you confidence that there is no interaction between soil, fungi mycelium, plant roots, worm dung microorganisms etc. that you could possibly be missing?


The question is then how do you source those 17 elements at scale. With traditional farming, they are naturally replenished with the lifecycle of soil and its surrounding fauna. In the case of hydroponics, they will be extracted in some form of industrial process that is most likely not sustainable.


Very interesting! Where could I learn more about this, in particular how to run my own experiments growing plants with the 17 elements and so on? Also, have you looked into aeroponics as well?


There are lots of good books on it and youtubes. It largely depends on what you want to grow. Fruiting plants are different than leafy plants, for example.

I suggest starting with a nutrient blend like this: https://www.amazon.com/MasterBlend-4-18-38-Tomato-Vegetable-...

You can look up the ratios of the elements for different plants on the web. It's all out there. mhpgardener on Youtube is amazing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXy32Dr4Z4A He has videos on how to set up different types of hydroponic systems, there are 3 main types, the video link is to an Ebb and Flow system called Dutch Buckets and is mainly used for fruiting plants like tomatoes, eggplant and peppers.

There's also Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) which is more like what you see in PVC systems that pump water along the roots of the plants. There's also a raft system where the plants float on top of the water and the roots are constantly submerged.

I looked at Aeroponics too and I believe that is an excellent system as well, though did not try it.

Watch mhpgardener's experiments with different nutrients. He does one with organic nutrients, but they didn't grow as well as the masterblend recipe, which you can learn about here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYv9iu2NI3M

I remember watching a video about a Japanese company that can tweak the flavor of different herbs to exactly cater to what their chefs wanted to accentuate different notes for different dishes.

For equipment, you'll need a pH meter: https://www.amazon.com/Poit-Digital-Meter-Tester-Resolution/...

a PPM meter for nutrient concentration: https://www.amazon.com/HM-Digital-TDS-EZ-Measurement-Resolut...

The rest depends on the setup you want and the plants you want to grow. What do you want to grow? I can point you to a good kit to get started. Here's one for dutch buckets on amazon, real cheap. https://www.amazon.com/Deep-Water-Culture-DWC-Hydroponic/dp/... You could grow two tomato plants in one bucket and get 20-30 pounds out of it in one season very easily.

Pretty much anyone here can do hydroponics. It's like programming plants!

And they do not taste like grocery store hydroponic veggies. Those are grown to meet other priorities: thick skin, shelf life, uniformity, color (sometimes). They are not concerned with flavor or nutrients.

In your home, in your yard, you can prioritize any aspect of the plant you want, what's important to you: Flavor, Nutrients, Color, Size, harvest dates.

They are all just numbers. It's not that hard. It's not easy and you have to care but it's the same as anything. If you care and you want it, you can do it. I know, because I did and I want more people to know they can too.

YOU CAN!


Thanks, very interesting! I'll take note, and start playing around when I have more space in my apartment :)

I'm generally interesting in hydro-/aeroponics from the perspective of growing plants in space, via, as you mentioned, "programming" them - basically, what's the minimum of nutrients (not just minerals, but also water, air and sunlight) that's needed to grow food (and air) for people.

I also thought about actually programming plants, I wonder if there's any research in this direction - e.g. why do I need an orange plant to grow a trunk? If I could inject the right hormones at the right place, I could skip all that and just have it grow leaves (energy production) and fruit (energy consumption) without any other superfluous parts.


If organic food actually had a noticeably higher mineral count than nonorganic, I would start eating it. But I don’t see why organic food would actually have more minerals. Organic doesn’t mean healthier it just means that it uses different kinds of pesticides, to my knowledge


Adjacent: Butter/milk from grass-fed cows has a noticeably better amino acid profile

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10531600/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7905466/


This makes sense, because grass and the alternatives(probably corn/oat meal) don't have the same nutritional profile. A more apt comparison might be whether cows which get sprayed with a manufactured anti-fly compound have a different nutritional profile than cows that are sprayed with, say, lavendar oil to keep the flies away.


The biggest difference in food I’ve ever seen is eggs from pasture raised chickens vs farmed ones - it’s night and day.


Organic farming includes crop rotation, fertilizer, soil quality, and erosion control standards that would hypothetically affect mineral contents.

Monoculture (conventional corn or soybean for example) uses huge amounts of synthetic fertilizer to increase yields per acre far beyond what the soil can naturally sustain. Wide swaths of American farmland has lost literally feet of topsoil over the past 50 years. The soil is largely sterile, and depleted of minerals. Monoculture also means the ecosystem that can replenish the soil is absent.


Corn and soybeans are most definitely rotated. Peanuts are a common nitrogen fixer and Alfalfa is great too.

>This crop rotation benefits both alfalfa and wheat/barley/corn. On the one hand, cereals tend to decrease the development of weeds, leaving the field free for the alfalfa cultivation. On the other hand, there are findings suggesting that corn following alfalfa yields approximately 10% more than corn following corn.[1]

[1]https://wikifarmer.com/alfalfa-crop-rotation/


Peanuts increase nitrogen and probably no nothing for micronutrients. They may allow time for the underlying rock to transfer minerals to the soil which are consumed more heavily by the opposing crops, but they probably won't do anything for the issue reported in TFA.

Having more corn doesn't mean that the corn or soil has more micronutrients. Corn is nitrogen heavy, so rotation makes sense if yields are all you care about.


Farming has changed since the dust bowl of the 1930s. Soil has been lost, but conservation factors have been found. Farmers are now building topsoil. We can only build top soil by about 1mm/year so it takes a long time to get any measurable change (vs the rate of loss which was much higher).


> Organic farming includes crop rotation, fertilizer, soil quality

No, that's not what it means. Farmers producing food that meets the "organic" label may follow those practices but it's not a requirement.


> Organic farming includes crop rotation, fertilizer, soil quality, and erosion control standards that would hypothetically affect mineral contents.

So does ‘conventional’ farming


That's not totally true. I remember as a kid going to my grandfather's farm in Iowa and there would be an alfalfa rotation every 6 years I believe. Now they don't bother with that anymore since the fertilizers/seeds and other treatments mean that the low value alfalfa no longer needs to be in the mix.

Fertilizer is like doping. It works! But it comes at a long term cost. Anyway, now we can go down two paths, hyper-modern indoor farming which is expanding in Europe and organic farming that is growing in the US and Europe. Conventional industrial farming is going to get hit from both sides.

Also, the big things keeping corn going is sugar duties and ethanol subsidies. Without those, alot of the crop would disappear.


I have no idea how old you are but the truth is farming techniques have changed significantly, even in the last 20 years. Nowdays if you don't consider yourself a steward of the land then you aren't doing the right thing by it.

My family are farmers in Australia. We are currently going through the worst drought we have ever had. We've had 7 inches of rain this year vs our annual rainfall of 26 inches. We are still growing a (very small) crop. This is possible because of soil conservation, no-till agriculture, and having healthy soil that conserves moisture.

Farmers who haven't adopted these techniques are bankrupt.

in the US and Europe, it is possible to not engage in best practice farming techniques, because government subsidies (20 Bn USD in America, 59 Bn Euro in the EU) remove the competitive pressures that that force best practice (it really isn't as simple as 'just forcing more production out of the soil by adding more fertilizer_.

Yes, of course there are still farmers not following best practice. It's a normal distribution


> Farmers who haven't adopted these techniques are bankrupt.

If only the world were just. As you say, countries with legislature captured by farming lobbies are no longer subject to survival pressures.


Can't imagine why this was downvoted.


Because it is inaccurate.


Please point out the inaccuracies.


Presumably, using natural fertilizers would make a difference, as you'd expect a wider range of minerals than in straight haber-process fertilizer. I don't know if natural fertilizers are always a requirement for organic food, though.


[flagged]


Ten thousand years of agriculture is an assumption?


People have put up with a lot of shit -- literal and metaphorical -- over the last ten thousand years. I don't understand the assumption that it simply must be better than anything chemistry has to offer, and I find the aversion to measurement and control inherently suspicious.


The problem with how you're framing this is that the scientific methods that go into such developments don't take into account certain "externalities". Measurement and control can only be exercised inasmuch as you can understand the totality of the system. In this case: broader effects on human health and ecosystems. As someone with a strong scientific background, it sometimes seems to me that the science and engineering of the past couple centuries has been so focused on the intricacies of specific problems that they haven't left their practitioners enough leeway to consider their place in the constellation of human activity. I'm not saying that there would have been another way to accomplish these feats, but that the problems are so difficult that it's left to other (sometimes non-scientific) people to evaluate their value to society.


Of course. I'd never suggest that soil science is complete or perfect -- but it's at least falsifiable. It can be meaningfully discussed, debated, compared, reproduced (or not), and improved. Insofar as alternative strategies can be held to that minimal standard, I absolutely agree that we should welcome them.

However, there's a lot of non-falsifiable marketing woo out there, and it needs to be held accountable for that deficiency. If we don't, the woo wins every time, because it can't be held accountable for its problems, and we lose our ability to collectively learn and improve.


No one is saying don't measure things. Fertilizer doesn't come from mysticism and homepathy but from science - make a guess (hypothesis) and test to see if it works. The issue is that we've focused on volume of output from a field, rather than mineral content of vegetables, which is far harder to measure.


The problem is one of underestimating the vastness of what we don't yet understand. We know extensively (nearly completely) about physics and basic chemistry at the unit level. As we increase the complexity, we know less and less. Protein folding, hormone interactions, DNA, getting there but lots of unknowns. Go up another few levels and you get to entire organisms like yeasts, which we can model reasonably well. Plants and their soil environment is several levels of magnitude more complex yet.

Using shit will get you an outcome you can count on. Trying to formulate things otherwise is sure to get whatever you are testing for, but likely to miss something important that we won't understand for years to come. That's happened more times than I'd care to count.


The idea being that Nature (more specifically evolution/natural selection) has demonstrated a remarkable tendency to converge on closed-cycle ecosystems when left to her/their own devices.

An idiom about never taking down a fence one knows not the provenance or reason for comes to mind.

Not that I'm saying I entirely agree with the viewpoint myself, but the rate of catastrophic unintended consequences we facilitate (I.e biodiversity crisis, creation of superbugs, introduction of invasive species) through artificial selection pressures tends to elicit pause at the suggestion we just "toss some minerals in and be done with it".


> I find the aversion to ... control inherently suspicious.

Interesting. Could you please expand on that? Personally, I find the desire to control inherently suspicious.


I'd assume he/she means control in the engineering sense of the word: testing and inspecting.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/control

Merriam Webster says that meaning (definition 1a) of the word "control" is archaic, but I still hear it used from time to time. It's commonly used in a number of European languages.


Could also be in the sense of "control theory", where a feedback loop like measure->analyze->predict->change->repeat is applied.


People drank river water for ten thousand years, but most of that is very far from clean/good.

Manure works fine. That doesn't mean it's anywhere near optimal.


Why do you prefer that? I don’t particularly care either way, so blanket-preferring man-made chemical fertilizers strikes me as odd.


Preferring measurability strikes you as odd?


You can't miss what you can't measure.


For what it's worth, I totally agree. Without artificial fertilizer, half the world would starve. I don't think that kind of process makes sense within the context of capitalism, though. One obvious driver in the downward nutritional trend is the fact that faster-growing, larger, longer-lasting vegetables are better products, even if they taste worse and do less for the body. The problem with products is they're optimized for sale, not for use. Adding in extra nutrients is unlikely to improve the product, since it would increase costs.


> faster-growing, larger, longer-lasting vegetables are better product

Whatever product fits into the economies of scale, and selective commoditization solely for the sake of profit concentration not nutrition or environment.

But back to the idea of measuring everything. These are the counterpoints I can think about regarding measuring and controling:

* Measuring and controlling cost resources, some less, some more. E.g. It is easier to measure yields than to measure nutrition.

* There is imperfect knowledge on how to respond (control) after a given measurement, or even what measurements are important. E.g. Premature optimization, Goodhart's law, lack of certainty regarding nutrition.

* There are conflicting interests on what the result of controlling should be. E.g. more profits or more nutrition?

* Under appropriate circumstances systems can respond to variability or keep functioning without human control or input. This is resilience. E.g. Pollinating insects, edible weeds.


What, just because you're grossed out by poo?


https://www.ams.usda.gov/publications/content/introduction-o...

>Soil Fertility: Crops more easily resist disease, survive drought, and tolerate insects when grown in good soil. Organic crop producers build soil quality by adding compost, animal manures, or green manures. As soil organisms break down these inputs, they convert nutrients into forms plants can absorb and create humus that sustains soil quality. Organic producers must not apply sewage sludge or biosolids to soil. Additionally, organic crop producers use cover crops to protect the soil from wind and water erosion. Soil-conserving practices include the use of cover crops, mulches, conservation tillage, contour plowing, and strip cropping.


There is nothing about organic that means it builds soil. Conventional farmers are adapting the same practices. In many cases conventional farming with "chemicals" does better: because of roundup a cover crop can be applied much easier - you can kill it when you are done vs having to plow it up (plowing is a horrible thing to do to soil). I find it amusing they separate "sewage sludge" from manure as if they are not the same thing.


They are not the same thing. Manure is animal poop. Sewage sludge is the output of our sewers. Despite our best efforts to filter this, there is a lot more than poop in there. Heavy metals, drugs, etc.


While there are many benefits to unfettered trade, a downside is lack of quality control of the inputs into the system. Garbage in, Garbage out...


"But I don’t see why organic food would actually have more minerals."

It could be the opposite too. There's some evidence that, in some cases, purely hydroponic greenhouse-grown produce, which often qualifies and is sold as "organic", has fewer nutrients than soil-grown produce.


I think you’re forgetting about fertilizer. You can’t spray the common green fertilizer on Organic crops.

Some organic fertilizers I’ve used at my home garden: bone meal, blood meal, fish emulsion and egg shell.


Organic particularly means "no roundup". Non-organic crops tend to be round-up resistant strains. If the seed engineers for said strains weren't being careful, they could have affected other aspects of the seed's physiology while selecting for round-up resistance.

One concrete example is how certain modern strains of apple seeds have weaker dormancy, causing imbibing and radicand emergence to occur prematurely, usually before the apple is even eaten. Such changes are an unintended consequence of human selection for size. It's possible that the tinkering required to increase plant vigor in the presence of non-organic pesticides has a greater adverse effect on mineral content. Though there are lots of other variables to consider as well such as soils, fertilizers, storage and transportation, the positioning of plants, whether they are able to share nutrients.


It's going to be very much case-by-case. 'Organic' is a very big tent, with lots of different practices. Some is, as you say, quite conventional but with different chemical use. But organic can also incorporate other sustainable farming practices that are more likely to result in real differences.


Slower growth through less fertilizer (including CO2), leads to a higher mineral rate if I remember correctly


Minerals need to be in the ground before they can get into the plant. The depletion of soil & vegetable quality has been going on for years. This isn't the first study on the topic by a long shot. [1]

[1] - https://www.vitacost.com/blog/food-nutrition/nutrition/how-i...


That sounds reasonable if the absorption rate is not uniform. Any source for this?


No, bioavailability of the nutrient is the only real thing that matters when it comes to fertilizers. Most organic fertilizers are not as bioavailable as even the most basic hydroponic fertilizer.


Thats the legal requirement for organic but I’ve noticed it varies a lot in other aspects depending in the food. In US supermarkets standard food is generally big ag, bland, commodity level junk. I think organic has now become a byword for a subset of consumers who want to opt out of our low quality US food system and are willing to pay to do that. For example organic chicken seems to me to be often a different (smaller, better tasting) breed, free range, not water frozen, better packaged etc, not just organic, so that overall it is healthier in a variety of ways.


I expect organic food to have a substantially lower mineral count. Organic farming uses a lot more tillage than conventional farming does.


> Healthy foods and organics are more readily available now.

There doesn't seem to be any evidence that "organic" foods are more nutritious than conventionally farmed foods: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19640946


I’d like to see a study where they actually take crops and determine the mineral content. The one you reference is a paper where they combed other papers until they found data they wanted.

They went through 50k+ studies, found 167 they liked, and only 55 of 167 were of quality.

>No evidence of a difference was detected for the remaining 8 of 11 crop nutrient categories analyzed.

Not sure how to interpret this.


> They went through 50k+ studies, found 167 they liked, and only 55 of 167 were of quality.

That is how meta analyses are meant to be performed. This is a heck of a lot better than listening to one study that you like.


why would one expect thst? How would the method you choose to keep insects and other pests off of your produce affect the contents of the produce?

I can understand organic food having less "inorganic" pesticide in it, but I don't see why the other contents of the product itself would differ.


If the soil has been depleted of nutrients like magnesium, I'd bet that practices which largely shun fertilizers are going to exacerbate any problem in this regard.


Why not just add minerals to our fertilizers? Organics is such a regression after the green revolution (which has saved billions of lives).


https://farmingfirst.org/2011/01/selenium-fortified-fertiliz...

Apparently Finland made it mandatory, and it worked.


Chuckled. HN taught me that nitrogen fixing used to be a natural bottleneck to human population growth and factory-made nitrates made calories cheaper and caused a population explosion. And farming practices left the land less suitable for feeding them.


Thanks for linking to the original source. The original source appears quite dubious, for reasons detailed below.

The eye-catching graph reproduced on the LinkedIn post is Figure 2 in this paper you linked, "Challenges in the Diagnosis of Magnesium Status." It is labeled as "The average mineral content of calcium, magnesium, and iron in cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, and spinach." Note that 3 of the 7 data points -- including the two highest points -- are marked with asterisks as "numbers could not be independently verified." Excluding the asterisked points, there is one measurement in 1948 at around 200 mg and then 3 measurements in 2000, 2004, and 2018 all of which look similarly low -- I eyeball them as around 25 mg.

The oldest non-asterisked value is from 1948, cited as

Firman Bear. Ash and Mineral Cation Content of Vegetables. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 1948;13:380–384.

The actual paper is here:

https://dl.sciencesocieties.org/publications/sssaj/abstracts...

Sadly, it appears to be in a journal old/obscure enough that sci-hub does not properly retrieve the full text of the article.

The results appear to be from a report commonly cited as the "Bear Report," numbers reproduced here:

https://njaes.rutgers.edu/pubs/bear-report/phosphorus.php

https://njaes.rutgers.edu/pubs/bear-report/ash.php

(See also https://njaes.rutgers.edu/pubs/bear-report/ for a top level overview of the report.)

What is the value plotted in Figure 2? It does not correspond to the sum of iron, calcium, and magnesium across any of {cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, spinach}. Taking a guess, it looks closest to the highest reported value for spinach in magnesium (203.9 mg in the Bear report). Note however that the lowest value for magnesium in spinach in the Bear report is 46.9 mg. Whatever is being plotted here, it's also not an average.

Now take a look at the citation for the modern numbers in spinach:

https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/11457?fgcd=&manu=&fo...

It reports an average of 79 mg of magnesium, 99 mg of calcium, and 2.71 mg of iron. There is no single nutrient number or sum of numbers that makes sense as the value plotted in Figure 2 of "Challenges in the Diagnosis of Magnesium Status." Figure 2 shows a number that I eyeball as around 25 mg for the modern (2000 and later) measurements.

The eye-catching claim of "estimates that the mineral content of vegetables has declined by as much as 80–90% in the last 100 years", buttressed by Figure 2 and apparently valid citations, seems to fall apart once you actually look at the citations.

Why would authors put so much effort into making such a confused, thinly supported claim?

2 out of 3 authors, including the first author, are employees of the Balchem Corporation. Their paper helpfully suggests that low serum magnesium levels "could warrant a medication change or dietary recommendations to increase intake of raw vegetables with higher magnesium content and reducing soda and processed food consumption with low or no magnesium and/or recommending magnesium supplements." (My emphasis.)

Balchem Corporation sells supplements to supply magnesium, calcium, and iron:

https://www.balchem.com/our-products/

What about the third author, Robert P. Doyle? He is an apparently legitimate professor at Syracuse University. Here's his faculty page:

http://thecollege.syr.edu/people/faculty/pages/chem/Doyle-Ro...

He links to this full list of his publications from his faculty page:

http://thecollege.syr.edu/people/faculty/pages/chem/Doyle-Ro...

This paper, "Challenges in the Diagnosis of Magnesium Status," is not listed among them. In fact, scanning over the titles of his listed papers, I don't see anything mentioning magnesium, nutrition, or soil in his publication history. Did the Balchem authors get some preliminary involvement from an actual professor and then add his name to the paper to confer legitimacy? Did the professor consider the final result so low-quality that he didn't want it listed even in his "full" publication list?

This paper has many problems that you can see just by trying to reconcile its Figure 2 with its corresponding citations, and other circumstantially suspicious factors. I would not put much stock in it.


Did you miss the graph? It looks like \___. But then they have asterisks because the historical measurement methods are probably not accurate.

I like one of their references, suggesting it's due to modern farming practices: https://journals.ashs.org/hortsci/view/journals/hortsci/44/1...


Hoe come HN so often spends the top comment correcting Some popular outlet? Why dont we get it straight from the source?


Because submitters are lazy and HN only has two admins/moderators who can correct the link.


I’ve been living in Ukraine for the past few months, trying to figure out why the food here, especially the vegetables, simply taste so good. The very same dishes (e.g. steak and veggies) from popular mid-range restaurants are far more enjoyable to me over here in Kiev than I ever ate in Canada. When I went back to Canada for a brief visit, my body was craving Ukrainian food. Now this study on vegetable mineral content may explain why. I’m very keen to see a comparison study on Eastern European agriculture and produce versus North American. Ukraine was once the “breadbasket” of the Soviet Union, so there must be an explanation. Ukrainians who migrate to other countries are often said to complain about a loss in food taste - previously I assumed that was just some form of homesickness, but this study lends some potential scientific ground to their complaints.


> I’ve been living in Ukraine for the past few months, trying to figure out why the food here, especially the vegetables, simply taste so good.

I had exactly the same feeling when I was living in Lviv and buying vegetables from the local Farmers Market[1] to cook at home.

It seems that Ukrainians are still growing vegetables like their grandparents did in the 1930s, as it's one of the poorest and most isolated regions of Europe.

In my own post-soviet EU country, most people living outside the big cities still grow their own vegetables in their backyard[2], but more as a rewarding hobby.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yI0VnuZObjE

[2] http://imgur.com/a/3afScVR


Wow, I wonder if this is why I thought the food was so bad in San Francisco after I moved there from New Zealand. We went to a lot great restaurants, but I remember thinking that the restaurants in New Zealand was 100x better. We have an amazing cafe/restaurant scene in NZ, and I never found anything in San Francisco that could come close to a nice brunch in Auckland. (I was trying almost every place that had a good Yelp review over a period of ~2 years.) Maybe this was mostly a subconscious thing related to the mineral content of the ingredients.


This is close to what I was looking for in this thread. Don't want to clutter with anecdotal chat, but:

I worked in Australia some years ago (2015) and I was amazed by the taste of vegetables (and meat, as well, just less so). The experience sounds banal I suppose, but I really felt that my quality of life had improved. In the U.S. I feel totally unexcited by vegetable shopping, and I sometimes feel that I am simulating cooking. In Australia two vegetables and a small piece of lamb or beef completely satisfied me.

This article led me to the same thought found in your conclusion, but I'm hoping someone on HN has expertise in Aussie/Kiwi farming and can offer some perspective.


Same thing happened to me in the south of Bulgaria, just shopping at regular grocery stores. I couldn't figure out why the tomatoes tasted amazing.

It's like I'd been eating tomato-flavored potatoes all my life until that moment, and now trying a real tomato for the first time.


Same when I moved back to New Zealand after years in Canada. The first trip to the fruit and vege store I went overboard...


I wonder what effect nuclear accidents have on the food as well.


At least in Eastern Europe, most nuclear facilities were built near the borders with other countries, and in this case Belarus was affected much more than Ukraine[1].

Belarus itself is currently building its first nuclear power plant just 45 km (28 mi) away from the capital of Lithuania[1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_Exclusion_Zone#/medi...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belarusian_nuclear_power_plant


Growing food has turned into an engineering problem where people think you solve it by investing the least possible resources into it. Whatever the consumer will buy and you can produce as cheaply as possible wins the day. Our tasteless vegetables are like cheap Bose (no highs, no lows, must be Bose) speakers or pressed paper furniture at Walmart. On the surface they look like a vegetable should look, but the taste, what’s inside, is completely deficient.


> Growing food has turned into an engineering problem where people think you solve it by investing the least possible resources into it.

This is not a bad thing. Food is so abundant that globally, more people are obese than underweight. This is pretty remarkable considering that for all of human history, up until recently, periods of mass starvation was the norm.


How does obesity prove your point? It's possible (and indeed common) to be overweight and malnourished at the same time. Also, the mass starvation events that I am aware of are actually human-created (results of egregious public policy or breakdown of normal sociopolitical conditions), not caused by traditional food technologies. This is why, for instance, we've seen so much famine in the last couple of centuries. See the case of British-Raj India, for example: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Famine_in_India


Malnutrition may be a contributing factor to obesity. We crave more food when we’re not getting what we need. If it’s not there to begin with, or at best a lesser amount, then ever more never satisfies.


This.

I lost multiple dress sizes while making zero effort to lose weight by working on improving my nutritional status.

Or at least while working on it.

(Insert some XKCD comic about cause and correlation.) ;)


How? Like where may I find such food? Or what did you do?


I was diagnosed with a specific medical condition that gave me a lot of information about where things had gone wrong.

I did a lot of research into what kinds of nutrients I was likely short on.

I started with supplements because they are far easier to deal with. This comment by me might cast a little light on that: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20714419

Some things I found useful:

Celtic sea salt is the single best sea salt. But any sea salt, kosher salt or canning and pickling salt is better than table salt.

If you are on any medication whatsoever, research "nutrient depletions" for that drug. So, for example, if you take Ibuprofen a lot, it depletes a specific B vitamin. This helps you determine specific nutrients you probably need.

Keep a food journal.

Look up super foods. So, for example, when I decided to work on my selenium deficiency, I ate one or more Brazil nuts most days for about six months until I was sick of them and apparently no longer deficient because they are crazy high in selenium.

(Quick and dirty answer. Not to be mistaken for a comprehensive answer.)


Wow thank you so much for your reply! I hadn’t thought that medications could make me deficient in nutrients, but it makes sense in hindsight.

What makes Celtic sea salt the best?


It's something like 84% sodium chloride (aka salt) and 16% minerals and micronutrients found naturally in sea water.


It's not a bad thing if your only criteria is the immediate ability to fill one's belly. It's a bad thing in a lot of other ways, including many measures of "wellness".

Don't get me wrong; I'm thankful that we possess this technology from the perspectives of advancement of knowledge and having more tools to avert food crises. But these technologies were all developed recently enough that while our understanding of the directly attributable outcomes is fairly good, our understanding of long-term and systemic effects on society is anything but complete.


Imagine how much more food could be grown with just making sure the soil is healthy.


Obesity worldwide is not exactly caused by simply eating too much food as much it is about eating junk that is correlated to obesity.


> Growing food has turned into an engineering problem where people think you solve it by investing the least possible resources into it.

Our economic system optimizes for exactly this.


You optimize for what you can measure.

Food and consumer products will have to change greatly when hand-held tricorders let you compare nutritional value of two foods, or the amount of harmful chemicals on the surface of an item.


While we wait for Star Trek magic, our economic system refuses to account for its inability to maintain a robust, sustainable and healthy agriculture industry, or its destruction of the environment.


> Our economic system optimizes for exactly this.

It seems to be a facet of globalization in particular. When all your food came from a dozen local farmers whose names you knew, they each had to worry about reputational damage for doing things like this.

Today the decision is made by a mid-level manager whose name you'll never know and who doesn't even work for the same company by the time the public discovers the issue. Even the company itself generally isn't known to the customers. Do you know if the food at your grocery store is from Cargill or Conagra or someone else? What does a company have to fear about reputational damage if you don't even know who they are?

Capitalism requires informed customers whereas globalism smushes different quality products from different quality producers into the same pipeline based on broad categories that don't fully capture what customers actually need out of the products.

But we also can't expect everyone to have to grow their own food just so they know what went into it. It takes some middle ground where farming has enough size to get reasonable economies of scale and specialization but not so much that nobody has any idea where their food actually comes from.


… which is a good thing! The challenge is investing the right amount of resources that retain the necessary minerals, is ecologically sustainable long term and healthy. Anything more is waste, which has its own problems.


> The challenge is investing the right amount of resources that retain the necessary minerals, is ecologically sustainable long term and healthy.

Our economic system refuses to account for these things, and refuses any attempt at being held accountable for them, as well. It optimizes for a supply chain that depletes soil, replaces robust ecosystems with fragile monocultures, forgoes sustainability, and enjoys the luxury of not having to account for the negative externalities of turning a profit.


What if we had one world religion where everyone's goal in life was to become infinitely loving and utterly selfless?

Would we grow food for eachother differently? Would we be compensated differently for doing so?


We try:

"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind"

"Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."

God be our Nature/Universe as space, soil, water air, plants, life.


No, it turns out that the adherents of the religion of "love thy neighbor" and "it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" have no problem with our economic system.


I'm talking about psychedelic induced direct experiences of the point of life as utter selflessness and infinite love.


Weird that it requires a special compound to give you a direct experience of this.

You’d think that if the point of life was selflessness and love, this would be more obvious.

Also, what do you think of the people whose medicine comes from the coca plant, who have direct experience that the point of life is greed and self-satisfaction?


the concept of "a special compound" is something you made up. It takes a special compound to experience numbness of your teeth for dental work, does that mean the numbness is something that takes away from the value of the dental work or the protection from pain? Watch the videos that correct the stigma of psychedelics and see the human history of them.


It sounds like you have no experience with cocaine, and no experience with psychedelics ... I can understand this position coming from ignorance, so I don't blame you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TazyFTavMyA


Firstly you are just wrong.

I have experience of both, especially psychedelics, and I am familiar with and have been involved in research on the topic.

Secondly, your reasoning is clearly impaired because you drew a conclusion for which you obviously don’t have any facts to support.

Thirdly, you lept to defend an ungrounded claim that a particular drug experience gives access to spiritual truth. Temporary distortions of experience can be valuable but to quote from a famous drug culture movie, “why trust one drug and not another?”.

This is an extraordinary claim that requires serious examination.

Your reflexive defense suggests that you have lost sight of this.

These kinds of failures of reasoning are attributed to psychedelics by even the most optimistic of researchers.

See this article by one of the world’s leading researcher in the field: http://pharmrev.aspetjournals.org/content/71/3/316?fbclid=Iw...

The section ‘what about the woo’ in particular talks about the problem.

I think psychedelics can be very positive, but they can also damage your ability to reason.

As a temporary tradeoff this may well be a reasonable price to pay for relief from trauma.

It’s a red flag when you start proclaiming that psychedelics are the door to experienced of fundamental truth and you are unable to reason about it.

This kind of thinking is a symptom that you haven’t addressed the side effects the psychedelics have had on you.


Like I said, this also appears to be the result of you not validating things in your direct experience and instead relying on dogma. This is an example of false skepticism, rather than True skepticism. More info if you're open-minded: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kzZdps9PG4


Are you familiar with the research on psychedelics?

Here is another extremely respected commentator who expresses skepticism: https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/09/10/ssc-journal-club-relax...

Do you dismiss Scott Alexander as a false skeptic also?

Also - that dude in your video is presenting a false dichotomy and no true Scotsman fallacy in order to market himself an authority on personal development. I’d be careful with that stuff because it’s classic cult leader behavior. Having a ready dismissal for threatening ideas generally does not make us smarter.

Having looked at your bio I feel compassion for you, since I think you are sincere, and it seems like your desire for enlightenment and healing are being exploited.


You're obviously ignorant to the material, there are 2 videos that expound on what cults are and how cults work. You wont have a proper understanding until you can try on the content for more than just a few hours, with the attitude of open mindedness. Yes, I will dismiss any arguments that are obviously false skepticism. You have to validate psychedelics in your direct experience. I appreciate your compassion, but I implore you to examine the implicit metaphysics and default position you are coming from.


“You have to validate psychedelics in your direct experience”

Can you not consider the possibility that I have done so, and I have examined the implicit metaphysics and have come to the conclusion that the experience offers a valuable perspective but not one which is privileged in its truth?

You seem unable to consider this possibility, instead only being able to imagine that because my view is not what you think it should be, I must be ignorant.


Are you ready to use violence to enforce your religion of love? There is no way in hell I'd willingly submit to you drugging me.


Notice that the devil is what makes you think you're separate from God. And for your statement to be true for you you'd literally have to be in hell ...


You're describing humanism. We'd probably end up looking a lot like an ant colony. Unfortunately, as a non-hivemind species, it is unlikely that we will ever have that level of cohesion.


I'm not actually referring to humanism: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YE1yPCeF1Cc


Has it really? I thought it would be useful to share a paper from the opposing viewpoint, which argues the opposite of the conclusions you might first arrive at from looking at this chart...

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S088915751... (Mineral nutrient composition of vegetables, fruits and grains: The context of reports of apparent historical declines, published in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis March 2017).

As a non-expert I have no opinion as to which viewpoint is correct. However, as usual the issue is more complex than that...


Something that has puzzled me recently: how is anyone supposed to get the daily recommended amount of potassium? If you look at foods like bananas that are supposed to be good sources of it, you still need to eat something like eleven bananas a day to get enough (according to US recommended daily intakes, anyway). At least with the minerals mentioned in this posting, you can fall back on supplements if you need to...but if you try to buy potassium supplements, the max dosage you can get over the counter is 99mg, which is only about 3% of the daily recommended intake. WTF?


the max dosage you can get over the counter is 99mg

This is an FDA limit on potassium chloride supplements. Too much potassium can cause heart rhythm problems and cardiac arrest.

Some organizations propose 3500 to 4500mg as a daily potassium intake, and 98% of people do not eat this much potassium, and unless you are living on beans and beats you probably aren’t. Yet there isn’t a huge “get more potassium” movement. I wonder if those targets need reassessment.


Lots of foods contain potassium, it just isn't included in the nutrition label.

I was once on a low potassium diet and had to avoid half the of foods I normally ate. You are likely getting enough potassium in your diet without needing any effort.


>if you try to buy potassium supplements, the max dosage you can get over the counter is 99mg

I had no problem buying potassium (gluconate) powder by the pound off of Amazon for cheap. (I am in the US.) Be careful with it because if the ratio of potassium to sodium in your blood gets too high, it interferes with the mechanism that sequences the contractions of the chambers of the heart or such.


I eat potassium chloride (usually sold as salt substitute for people on low sodium diets) on occasion, like when fasting or working out. It has this awful, stingy metallic taste, but I’ve noticed I tend to have less fatigue and soreness from strength training afterwards. Might be placebo but YMMV.


I have leftover potassium bicarbonate from when I was making wine. I use it as an antacid, mixing it with water. It tastes like absolute shit, a little less so if mixed with some baking soda, and does a pretty good job of helping my heartburn.


There's a nice table here: https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/appendi...

Quite a lot of common staples (eg: potatoes, greens, vegetables, pulses) have a fair amount of potassium, if you look at the "potassium in a standard portion" column (and remember these are fairly small portions, the assumption being that a meal has a portion of several different things).


Through something like Soylent maybe? That is supposed to contain the recommended daily intake of everything.

I'm not seriously suggesting we all move to 100% cardboard-tasting goo, but if you are worried about one or more of your daily intakes, this could be an easy way for some people to get a good dose every now and then (for example for lunch on weekends, I notice that I'm often in the middle of something fun and will neglect to have lunch).


> the max dosage you can get over the counter is 99mg

Most people get enough potassium from their diet. It's easily available in larger quantities but safety is the main concern:

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1364/can-salt-subst...

Nu-Salt salt substitute is 100% potassium chloride in a 3-oz container. Morton Lite Salt is a 50-50% mix of potassium and sodium salt. Both are available in grocery stores. But use with caution and usually with the advice of a physician.


Second the Lite Salt approach. After you adapt it seems just like regular salt--but with half the sodium and it provides the potassium.


Tubers and root vegetables and are about equivalent to bananas in potassium content. Some fruits have a bit less, and some a bit more. Leafy greens have about the same level of potassium per unit of weight, much more per calorie.

11 bananas worth is about 1000 calories. So if you get about 1/2 of your calories from varied non-grain plant foods, you should be good.


You'll find higher doses of potassium in "electrolyte replacement" drink powders.


It's a misconception that bananas are high in potassium. E.g potatoes have higher potassium content on avg


The limited amount in multivitamin/mineral supplements is actually a legal restriction, to boot.


You can buy potassium citrate in bulk and measure out your own dose.


You gotta be careful with it, though. Excessively high concentrations of potassium can cause hyperkalemia, which can be lethal. That's why potassium supplements aren't sold in large doses; potassium bound up with fiber and whatnot slows digestion and absorption rates, minimizing the chances of an adverse buildup.


Eat durian.


I've wondered about this too. I have no idea why people never discusses it.

I suspect it's an Illuminati secret.


These are normalized mass rates, ie grams per gram of plant mass. However, the mass yield per acre of cabbage has radically increased over that time period. Is it possible that a cabbage plant is capable of absorbing an absolute amount of minerals, and this is simply being diluted by ever-larger cabbages?


The explanation I've heard is that the total mineral content is about the same, but plants are producing more carbohydrates now due to an increase in atmospheric CO2, diluting the minerals.

Consequently, if humans eat according the amount of minerals in the food, the increase in carbohydrates could also explain the increase in obesity.


I don't think the lack of minerals in food explains obesity issues. In fact, I'm pretty sure we know what causes obesity. Significantly lower levels of activity and increased sugar consumption are two of the main culprits.


Obesity is increasing for animals - pets and even wildlife: https://psmag.com/social-justice/just-people-getting-fatter-...


Ten fold larger?


Soil depletion: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/soil-depletion-an...

I have a friend who refers to vitamins as "expensive pee". He means taking vitamin pills when you eat a good diet containing fruits and veg is unnecessary because your body will excrete out the excess. I like to point out to him that fruits and veg are not what they used to be.


It's not only expensive pee, but also potentially damages your kidneys.

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-preventi...

You shouldn't take supplements unless your doctor advises you to due to some (actual and not perceived) deficiency.


Its difficult to find out if you've got deficiencies when testing for them is almost never covered by US insurance plans. Only a few are. The tests can cost $50-$200 per type of nutrient if you want to pay cash.


Did you mean to link something else? That page doesn't appear to mention kidneys.


It was more supplemental than citation. Maybe they won't affect your kidneys. That's just something I heard when the NIH study broke in the news. Consult your doctor, etc.


The last time I saw my doctor she mentioned Calcium supplements can cause kidney stones(1). They can also be bad for your heart(2). Also, it often is not clear how pure supplements are. She advised me to get as many nutrients as I could from my regular food.

1 - https://www.webmd.com/kidney-stones/news/20151013/calcium-su... 2 - https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-attack/...


I found this on supplements that can cause kidney harm. Seems it can happen even absent kidney disease.

https://www.consumerlab.com/amp/answers/can-taking-a-lot-of-...


Don't forget meat has absolutely tons of essential nutrients and vitamins, some of which can't be found in fruits and vegetables.


Shouldn't all vegetarians or vegans fall ill sooner or later then? It seems like a weird statement given how many people do it successfully. Of course, as a vegan/vegetarian you have to look at replacements for what you are missing, but saying that "don't forget that you need your meat!" in this modern world with no source or mention of any specific nutrient is a little weird.


I've personally known of a handful of vegans and vegetarians who've all reported back after years of being on that diet of being extremely deficient in nutrients. Brain fog, lack of energy, anemia, pale skin, thinness, a ton of symptoms. Doctors recommend them to begin eating at least fish and these people got noticeably better.

Have heard of dozens more of similar cases from friends of friends. I think the vegetarians and vegans are indeed falling ill, it just happens over a long period if time and not very noticeable.


I also know that half the population is overweight or obese and has various problems and they eat meat. Both vegans and meat eaters can have good or bad diets. I know vegans who only eat processed junk foods or who are deluded with some weird restrictive diets. But eating varied whole food plant based diet provides all the nutrients needed.


No it doesn't. B12, K2 and DHA based Omega-3s that your brain runs on are non existent in plant foods. Cholesterol, Choline, calcium, Vitamin D are difficult to come by in plant based diets. Finally, the plant based form of Vitamin A (beta carotene) is only bioavailable to humans in 0-8% of the quantities consumed depending on your individual genetics. And women can convert this better than men.


Plainly false, read my comment (search for ssijak on the page) in this thread about b12, k2, vit D and dha so I dont repeat myself.

Regarding cholesterol, why would I need any additional cholesterol? Liver and cells make enough for what the body needs. Choline RDA is questionable and European food agencies are lowering RDA for Choline. But anyhow when I track my food intake through apps like Cronometer I consume RDA levels of choline from plants only.

As for the Retinol/Beta carotene, RDA for retinol is about 3000IU/day, just one sweet potato has about 30 000IU of beta carotene, so even with a low conversion rate it is very easy to go over RDA for Retinol.

Calcium is abundand in whole food plant based diets too. And osteoporosis is not a simple issue as the amount of calcium, D and K2 vitamins are very important for this issue too, for example Japanese vegan woman who eat Natto (k2) and low (what is concidered low) calcium do not have problem with osteoporosis.

Point is that you can have crap diet being vegan or not but you can also have very healthy one if you are smart with the food. And again, if vegans miss on some very essential nutrient (except maybe b12 which should be suplemented), why are vegan populations living longer on average?


To your above point about Vitamin A, some people can't convert vegetable forms of caratanoids to a useable AT ALL. It is entirely genetic in the same way that roughly half the world is lactose intolerant.

Natto does have K2, but that is not the common form that Westerners consume at all. Meanwhile soy has quite a lot of lectins and phytic acid that inhibits uptake of nutrients.

The thing is with a vegan diet it requires this carefully balanced cocktail of complex foods that require fermentation, sprouting, etc to get around the many trade offs in the diet. And people just pitch it as some cure all approach to human health.

Hong Kong eats 50% more beef per capita on average than Americans do and they're the 3rd longest living population in the world. The Sami (an indigenous group of carnivore reindeer herders in Northern Scandinavia) and Swedish people (mostly omnivorous) have comparable life expectancies, but the Sami suffer from lower rates of heart disease.

India has a very large population of vegetarians, and their life expectancy is less than 69 years.


People in India eat very processed food and add a lot of refined oils and live in very bad conditions overall with no proper medical care. And phytic acid and lectins are not some vilans, they have also many positive effects. You can google that easily. And I did not say 100% of people should go vegan, I responded to say that an average human CAN trive on vegan diet, but it is not the one diet to rule them all in every situation.


If you take a dive on PubMed you'll find again and again that people with nutrient deficiencies have a longer lifespan, for some reason.

It occurred to me that nutrient deficiency might be an indicator of inadequate caloric intake, which might explain the increased lifespan.


I too don't understand this attitude. Vegans exist and are not all ill. Clearly animal products are not required for good health. It's certainly possible that meat makes getting all necessary vitamins easier and it takes great diligence as a vegan.


From my experience they are. They gain a ton of weight, loses muscles, hair, skin softness, become weak, emotionally unstable and underproductive.

Almost all women experience menopause, and some lost their ability to reproduce.

Becoming a vegan and getting nutrients you need is especially hard and almost all vegans fail on that.


And from my experience they are not. I have never met an unhealthy looking vegan. If we are both telling the truth then it must mean that it is entirely possible to be a healthy vegan, but some of them are not.


Those are just some random anecdotes that aren't based on facts or anything remotely scientific. Do you have any sources to back up your claims?


Vitamins B12, K2, DHA based Omega-3 (the kind your brain runs on) are all animal-based nutrients not found in plants.

Furthermore, some plants like Spinach for example, have oxalates that bind to nutrients and prevent your body from absorbing them. It binds to calcium and prevents your body from absorbing it. Animal foods have a lot of calcium. Plants not so much, and you couple that with the antinutrient effect of some plants and you end up with deficiencies. That's not even getting into lectins and phytic acid.


Farm animals are also supplemented with b12. There is b12 in some algae but it is not reliable source and it is the only thing smart vegans should supplement. There is no RDA for EPA and DHA, just for ALA but you can buy algae derived EPA/DHA if you want. Just FYI, yes, brain is mostly DHA but DHA from supplements cant cross blood-brain barrier. For k2 the best source bay far is Natto which is fermented soy and it is in the form of mk7 which stays much longer in the blood thank mk4 form of k2 from animal sources. Other fermented veggies also have k2 but much less. D3 over the winter can be obtained buy eating sun dried mushrooms (i dried mine over the summer), yes plants are amazing and mushrooms make d2 and d2 vitamin in large quantities by drying them in the sun or under UV light. Etc, etc.. But in the end just look at vegan populations or plant based eating population and on average they live longer and healthier so they are not missing anything in the diet, not anything essential anyhow


> Animal foods have a lot of calcium. Plants not so much

Broccoli has plenty of calcium.[1] B12 is easily supplemented and also present in dairy (which vegetarians consume) and eggs (which also many vegetarians consume). I'd never heard of vitamin K2 but it also is apparently present in eggs, butter, cheese and natto (fermented soy).[2] I love meat but let's not state with complete confidence that eating animals is mandatory for good health. India has more lacto-ovo vegetarians than the rest of the world put together and they're doing fine.

1. https://www.iofbonehealth.org/osteoporosis-musculoskeletal-d...

2. https://kresserinstitute.com/vitamin-k2-consuming-enough/


"Effect of different cooking methods on vegetable oxalate content" - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15826055

Boiling vegetables removes a lot of oxalate. Recommended for people with a predisposition toward kidney stones.


I wouldn't doubt that meat suffers from similar nutrient deficiencies. After all, livestock are fed from the same supply chain.


Cows are still fed grass. Over 90% of their diet even in grain-finished beef is grass. Chicken and pork I can't speak to as much.


In American feed lots? That's not what I read in the Omnivore's Dilemma. It was the opposite actually.


In feed lots they're fed grain, but that's only the last few months of their life. That's why it's called grain-finished rather than grain-fed.


Pretty much. My dad's a doctor and has always told me Emergen-C is just fizzy Tang, if you remember that stuff.


I don't think this is new or that unexpected, but it should be talked about. We use to breed plants based on both taste and size, taste being altered significantly by mineral contents. Currently, we mostly only breed plants based on weight, taste doesn't factor into it, and increasing sugars and starches increases weight far better than any mineral count. Heirloom plants are generally considered luxury products and since they don't have as large of yields, aren't a good competition against commercial plants, despite the fact that most people agree heirloom plants taste better and usually have higher mineral counts.

Now I don't know how much the the growing medium effects this, our topsoil is getting thinner and is fed primarily on 'purified' artificial fertilizers, and heirloom plants are far more likely to be home garden or 'organically' grown, but im willing to bet plant genetics play a much bigger role in mineral contents than anyone wants to admit. It would be another hit to the idea that current farming practices are sustainable long term and nobody wants to admit that.


Plants are also bred so that they can be picked before they are fully ripe and survive a multi-day trip to the grocery shelves of a supermarket.

This may be less important for vegetables that go from field to cannery or freezers, so canned or frozen might be a better choice than fresh vegetables.


"increasing sugars and starches increases weight far better than any mineral count"

No, increasing bioavailable silica content (like potassium silicate addition) increases weight far more than any starch or sugar could possibly do.


This isn't necessarily a bad thing. High iron consumption appears to be at the nexus of a vast array of diseases from colon cancer to Alzheimer's. As for Calcium there's really no evidence of it strengthening bones. And high consumption is probably causally increases CVD mortality.

[1] http://nautil.us/issue/67/reboot/iron-is-the-new-cholesterol [2] https://www.bmj.com/content/351/bmj.h4580 [3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3336363/


Another reason to roll out Enhanced Olivine Weathering, get some minerals back into the dirt.

http://www.innovationconcepts.eu/res/literatuurSchuiling/oli...


Derek from Vertasium on YouTbe has a nice explanation. Even showing how the nutrient levels in weed specimens are also falling. The weeds were collected by researchers over the last 100 or more years. The weeds were vital because it showed it wasn't limited to farming practices it's all plants.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yl_K2Ata6XY


Wait until everyone learns about bioavailability of nutrients with respect to type of food -- ie. Animal-based nutrition is more bioavailable than plant-based nutrients. [1]

[1] - https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/78/3/633S/4690005#1098...


I think it's important to consider the inputs. Carnivorism is just herbivorism with more overhead. Perhaps I do need to eat ~3 times the non-heme iron to get the same level of absorption, but plant crops usually win out over cattle when it comes to scalability.

Is plant iron more bioavailable to cattle animals than humans? That might tip things slightly in favor of carnivorism, however cattle does a lot more than just convert non-heme iron to heme iron and facilitating that excess resource usage may be more trouble than the heme iron is worth.


Heme iron is implicated with some cancers, main reason being bioavailability where our body cant regulate it as easy as non heme iron


I don't see why genetic engineering like the Impossible Burger can't let us have our cake and eat it too.


The iron and zinc from vegetarian diets are generally less bioavailable than from nonvegetarian diets because of reduced meat intake as well as the tendency to consume more phytic acid and other plant-based inhibitors of iron and zinc absorption. However, in Western countries with varied and abundant food supplies, it is not clear that this reduced bioavailability has any functional consequences. Although vegetarians tend to have lower iron stores than omnivores, they appear to have no greater incidence of iron deficiency anemia.

-- Your Link


In India, Subhash Palekar is a name you often hear these days. He was awarded fourth highest civilian award the Padma Shri in 2016. He is a proponent of Zero Budget Natural Farming- (which some agri bodies have claimed does not work as the claims would indicate).

A few links, if interested. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subhash_Palekar

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masanobu_Fukuoka

http://www.palekarzerobudgetspiritualfarming.org/home.aspx


I want to see the study. If we are saying that average mineral content of calcium, magnesium, and iron in cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, and spinach has dropped 80–90% between 1914 and 2018, where were the subject vegetables taken from? Are we needing to look at farming methods, large agriculture process such as early harvest, soil depletion, delivery method, sun exposure, etc?

And, if we are looking at findings from the USDA, Agricultural Research Service and USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, they really need to update their research. As stated by the study's author, " the USDA mineral content of vegetables and fruits has not been updated since 2000"


Article seems suspicious. How were these measured 100 years ago? Same techniques as today? Can we verify the 100 year old data?


In many countries in Eastern Europe the soil is poor in iodine, which historically meant a lot of thyroid problems. Good news is that governments mostly solved the issue by requiring table salt to contain iodine. In some countries you can still buy table salt that doesn't contain iodine ("Himalayan" and so on) but people still use the mandated kind indirectly by buying bread and cheeses made with iodine.

My point is the same can be done with magnesium and other minerals, which can solve the public health aspect while the soil is restored.


Isn't a big part of the problem that for nearly all of duration of life, all animals had their own excretion patterns? If a monkey eats a banana, and 2 days later excretes nutrients in forms it cannot use... then typically the distance between plant and and dropping is not that far. Plants also spread throughout the landscape.

Birds may perform a larger diffusion work part of the time (random droppings while flying), yet a large part of the time it would eat some fruits from one type of tree, then fly to another type of tree, and leave droppings that represent a mixture of the nutrients the different types of trees had access to, but for a large part what came from trees returns to trees even if it's different types of trees. So by producing one type of fruit the tree can trade it's nutrients through birds-as-traders with other trees. Humans ban birds from trees because we want to keep the fruits to ourselves.

Perhaps we are simply wasting too much of our faeces into rivers and the sea? and generally disturbing the natural transport patterns (hidden labour) performed by different types of animals.

Migratory birds might trade nutrients over huge distances, which may sound ridiculous since they can't hold their droppings that long, but their bodies in general also contain nutrients, and the bird could die at either end of the migratory path.


Our increase in food production comes at the expense of fertilisers, pesticides, soil depletion and water poisoning. We are feeding the world alright, but on empty calories.

Was Malthus right after all?


This is a side issue in the paper linked. The paper itself cites a more useful-seeming source: "Declining Fruit and Vegetable Nutrient Composition: What Is the Evidence?"

https://journals.ashs.org/hortsci/view/journals/hortsci/44/1...

Freely available too, nice one.


The graph of male testosterone levels looks very similar to this one. I'm not suggesting there's necessarily a correlation between the two, but modern life is taking its toll on our health.

Life expectancy may be longer in present times, but quality of life is in some ways lower (a notable exception to that is the status of even relatively minor infections, which were frequently fatal in pre-modern life).


I grew up on a farm in Norway. I love how people who have never even driven a tractor suddenly know how to save the planet because they have a garden. Oh please.

It's really simple: we consume more resources than the planet can reasonably sustain. And because we do not intend to stop procreating and consuming we're fucked. (No, really, we are)


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