As part of my research about food and nourishment, I have been starting to read the lectures/philosophy/ideas of Rudolf Steiner who develop a movement called "Anthroposophy". Anthroposophical ideas are the core of Bio-Dynamic Agriculture, which goes beyond the idea of growing organically, but additionally growing in harmony with the balance of cosmic and biological forces. I became interested in this idea as the CSA farm that I have a share with in Illinois, Angelic Organics, grows both organically and bio-dynamically.
I was reading an introduction written in 1958 by Dr. Ehrengard Pfiffer in a book of lectures on agriculture that Steiner gave in 1924, and came across a statement that really struck me:
"Rudolf Steiner pointed out that many plants which had been "violated" in the sensed of having been estranged from their cosmic origin, were already so far gone in degeneration that by the end of the century their propagation would be unreliable. Wheat and potatoes were mentioned were among the plant types mentioned, but other such grains as oats, barely, belong to the same picture...The degeneration of wheat is already and established fact. Even where the soil is good, the protein content has declined; in the case of soft, red wheat, protein content has sunk from 13% to 8% in some parts of the United States. Bio-dynamically grown wheat maintains it's high protein level...When the biological balance is upset, degeneration follows; pests and diseases make their appearance...Pests are therefore to be regarded as nature's warning that the primary forces that the primary forces have been dissipated...It has been established by the most advanced research that one-sided fertilizing disturbs the protein-carbohydrate balance in plant cells, to the detriment of proteins...Experienced entomologists, who have witnessed the failure of chemical pest-control and to the threats to health associated with it, are beginning to speak out about and demand biological control."
As a person with a wheat allergy and gluten intolerance, I am awestruck by this research statement. I feel this is part of the answer to why gluten (and food) intolerance is becoming an epidemic in our current generations and these guys knew through scientific evidence in the early 20th century. The homogenization of our crops degenerate the nutritional value of the crop itself. Makes sense doesn't it? If the protein content has declined and at this point in our history of agriculture, most likely genetically altered (probably a fact, but I'm just gonna make this statement), our smart protein synthesizing bodies don't know how to react to these degenerate proteins. There's so much more I could riff on this, but I will leave it here for now.
I feel cheated though. If research was evident about this degeneration of grains and scientists were trying to take control of the situation (or at least share this knowledge) in the early 20th century why are we still growing crops in this degenerative manner? Perhaps I would still be able to enjoy wheat and bread had this information been taken seriously and put into widespread agricultural use.