I’ve always wondered why so many people seem to have a peanut allergy. According to this article by Robyn O’Brien, the number of people with a peanut allergy is four times higher than it was 13 years ago. Quite obviously, there must be something causing this immense increase. It just so happens that it may not be the actual peanuts causing the allergy, but the way they’re grown.
Peanuts are not technically nuts; they are legumes and they grow underground in pods. Their shells are very absorbent; therefore, they take in great amounts of whatever chemicals are used in the soil on farms. Farmers stated that the peanut and cotton crops are rotated, therefore they are planted in the same soil. Cotton, they say, is given many doses of crop chemicals, including glyphosate, which is an herbicide that is used to kill weeds. The soil’s microorganisms are damaged by the glyphosate, which leads to unhealthy soil for the peanut crop. Insecticides and fungicides are then used every 8-10 days to treat the unhealthy soil of the peanut crop, but all the while, they are adding more chemicals to the crop. The USDA Pesticide Data Program not only found eight pesticides in peanut butter; they also found in it piperonyl butoxide, a component of pesticides. This chemical, which was found 30% of the time, is extremely toxic and cancer-causing. Several different amounts of aflatoxin, a harmful chemical produced by mold, have also been found in peanut butter.
It would make a lot of sense that all these harmful chemicals could cause the body’s allergic reaction, but how can we know for sure that they are the cause? This article states that although this generation is already infested with peanut allergies, changing the way we grow peanuts now could decrease the amount of people who develop the allergy in the next generation. This could possibly lead to an answer on whether people are allergic to the peanut itself, or to the chemicals in it.
Here is a video of Robyn O’brien, the woman whose article I cited throughout this post, talking about how the global food system is affecting our health.