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Vegetables in Cuba Might Not Be Healthy

Vegetables in Cuba Might Not Be Healthy

April 26, 2012

Erasmo Calzadilla

HAVANA TIMES, April 26 — I don't want to be an alarmist, I'm only trying

to warn people and share a concern.

During the crisis of the 1990s, with the shortage of fuel for

transporting food from the countryside to the city, the government opted

for intensive urban agriculture. Given its delicate nature, this

strategy has become a "political" issue, and herein lies the danger

since almost no one dares to question it.

For many years it's been known that along automobile-trafficked streets,

the nearby soil and plants often become loaded with heavy metals from

the burning of fossil fuels.

In case anyone doesn't know, heavy metals are very toxic – they make

people ill and can cause death.

Cadmium and nickel, for example, are carcinogenic. Similarly, lead*

causes neurological disorders and damage to major organs, with children

being the most sensitive to it. I'll stop here, but the "menu" is extensive.

A while ago I looked through several scientific articles and journals to

find out to what degree our urban organic farms are contaminated with

these substances. My inquiry was unsuccessful, until I recently came

across a work of great value. Apparently it escaped being censured.

In 2009, the Provincial Meteorological Center and the Agricultural

Research Centre of the University of Santa Clara** conducted research on

four urban organic gardens in that central province.

On the ground, in the water and especially in plants, they found traces

of heavy metals at concentration levels that exceeded (predominantly) or

were close to the maximum limits set by international organizations such

as the World Health Organization.

If this is the case in Santa Clara — which isn't a commercial,

industrial or mining center — one can only imagine the situation in more

populous areas such as the capital city?

One person who is knowledgeable about the matter (he asked me not to

publish his name) assured me that research on the subject tends to be

road blocked or immediately shelved.

How, can they justify this silence?

If this is true, the authorities are committing a crime, and I say this

in the full since of the word, since organic gardens supply children's

daycare centers and schools.


(*) A few years ago, the medical section of the Granma newspaper

addressed the issue of lead poisoning. The specialist consulted said

this condition isn't a health problem in our country due to the

preventive and control measures to stave off environmental pollution…

(**) The referenced article is titled: Contribución a la Gestión

ambiental en el contexto de las producciones agrícolas urbanas en la

ciudad de Santa Clara (Contribution to Environmental Management in the

context of urban agricultural production in the city of Santa Clara). If

you are interested in downloading it, then hurry, in case it disappears.

Those responsible for this research proposed a list of interesting

recommendations. None of them was, by the way, tell the people about the

dangerous medals they are eating. The closest was the proposed Item 6:

"Develop environmental training programs on this subject aimed at

decision makers, leaders and farmers."

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April 2012
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