A Thumbs Up Book Review
Soil, Grass, and Cancer
By Andre Voisin
Review by Sally Fallon
There are few books that can claim kinship with the soul and spirit of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston Price, but this is one of them.
Born in France in 1903, André Voisin was both a biochemist and a farmer. He taught biochemistry at the National Veterinary School of France as well as at the Institute of Tropical Veterinary Medicine in Paris. But his greatest insights regarding soils and grass came to him in the hours he spent watching his own cows graze the pastures on his farm in Normandy. Although he made his living as a scientist, Voisin remained a farmer at heart, understanding that if the soils and grasses are managed with care, they will in turn take care of the animals who live on them; and if our domestic animals are healthy and well fed, then those who consume the animals and their products will also enjoy good health.
Healthy soil, according to Voisin, is more than a collection of minerals. In fact, he demonstrated that people who ate the products of heavy clay soils suffered numerous health problems, such as thyroid disease and cancer, in spite of the fact that the soils were rich in minerals. He pointed out that organic matter served as the catalyst for mineral absorption. Minerals must first be consumed by earthworms and microscopic life and excreted as humus before they can be easily taken up by grazing animals.
In addition, balance is important. When basic fertilizers like potassium chloride and nitrate of calcium are applied to grassland, sulphur is omitted and there is a risk that after some years there will be a deficiency of sulphur. Over time, this will prevent plants from producing sufficient quantities of sulphur-containing animo acids and the health of the animals will suffer accordingly.
Of particular relevance to the work of Weston Price are Voisin’s observations on Vitamin A. Carrots dressed with manure plus a complete mineral fertilizer have greater carotene content; and the vitamin A content of the blood of infants fed with vegetables grown with complete fertilizer dressings was four times as high as that of infants receiving products grown on soil without the amendments.
When there is a shortage of carotene in the pasture herbage, rates of human thyroid disease in that district are high. Animals convert carotenes into vitamin A which is one of the principle nutrients for thyroid health. Rates of goitre are high in regions characterized by clay soils, compared to regions where the soils are rich in organic matter.
Voisin protests strongly that tuberculosis in cows is an infectious disease. Rather it is caused by crowded conditions and poor quality forage. He cites examples of whole herds that developed TB when housed in warm, stuffy cow sheds—a lesson of particular importance given the current practice of confinement feeding. By analogy, TB in humans is a disease of poverty, he states, caused by poor diet and crowded living conditions. A strong thyroid is important for resistance to TB, which brings us back again to vitamin A, one of the fat-soluble activators Price considered of prime importance in human diets.
Cancer in humans is also tied to soil health. In several fascinating chapters, Voisin delineates the role of copper in the soil. Deficiency results in a decrease of the enzyme catalase in healthy cells and a rise in catalase in cancerous cells.
“Voisin’s paragraphs sweep aside the fictions that have been foisted on mankind by the absconders of commerce.” So writes Charles Walters, Founder and Executive Editor of Acres, U.S.A. which republished this important work in 1999. Although ignored and forgotten, the pioneering soil studies of André Voisin point the way to fruitful research into the complex relationship between soil quality and human health.
Soil, Grass and Cancer deserves a place alongside Weston Price’s classic Nutrition and Physical Degeneration and can be ordered from Acres U.S.A. Publishers at (512) 892-4400.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2000.