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Whole Grains and a Healthy Heart

Following on from my last article on Biopesticides I thought I would briefly consider the group “Bio-Chemicals.” They have been quite prominent in the farming press this year with many folk having a plethora of opinions about their relevance to farming. So, I too thought I would say a few words about my use and recommendations around one group of Bio-Chemicals I have used through-out my career as an Agronomist.


The group of naturally derived Bio-Chemicals were first “commercialised” from plant extracts in the late 1940’s and of course, the Americans did it first! (That along with being the first country to allow the term "Whole Grains" to be used on food packaging.)

However, they had been used for thousands of years before the Americans got their hands on them! This group of natural Bio-Chemicals was not particularly effective when used in field crops since there biodegradability meant they quickly disappeared when exposed to sunlight.


Just as an aside, many naturally occurring pesticides were and still are, used effectively in agriculture. One of them, Arsenic, still available world-wide and used in one particular herbicide today – although not available in the UK!


I digress. At the time of commercialisation of this Bio-Chemical group it was considered highly effective against a wide range of insects; farmers needed to apply less of it and the possibility of accumulation within the environment was low. Also, since humans possessed an enzyme that quickly broke it down it was only toxic to people when consumed in large quantities over long periods of time.


Today this Bio-Chemical group accounts for around one sixth of global insecticide sales with global annual sales in excess of US$1.4Bn. As part of the World Health Organisation’s Global Malaria Programme, it is used to impregnate sleeping bed nets, which help to reduce the spread of malaria. What is this wonder Bio-Chemical group? The Pyrethroids, derived originally from the Chrysanthemum flower.


Whole grain: “Diets rich in whole grain foods and other plant foods low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol may help reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.” The UK followed by stating “People with a healthy heart tend to eat more whole grain foods as part of a healthy lifestyle.” Regardless of the actual merits of whole grain, the claims worked: a 2010 study showed that “Whole Grain” was the “most sought-after claim on food labels” in the U.S..