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.🖨️ Print post
J.R. Hunn says
In the past I have seen many references to the improved absorption of minerals (and salts) when certain micro-organisms made certain compounds (such as mineral salts) out of those minerals. I will begin by addressing this portion of the book review, and then address the tangential issue of salt.
“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.”
The problem that I have seen many times is what I call “hysterical over-simplification” of an issue. Also, Sally Fallon (or any other perceived authority) saying something does not make it true.
Further, “many minerals” is not the same as “all minerals.” Also, the misunderstanding of basic biochemistry about salt had been a point of confusion for many. As I have noted many times (since I found this out), salt (NaCl) is a compound that humans MAKE (along with every other cretaure that has a stomach and a pancreas, since salt is a compound produced by combining the stomach acid with the baking soda produced by every pancreas on this planet).
The uncontroversial point which Sally emphasizes in her book review is that micro-organisms (whether in the intestines or in the soil or in the ocean) contribute to health. Further, there is no real controversy that salt is a very common substance with a very weak bond between the sodium and the chloride… so weak that merely putting salt in water results in the salt molecule breaking apart in to sodium ions and chloride ions. However, removing the water (dehydrating the salt water) will result in the sodium and the chloride rebonding, reforming salt.
The most basic confusion in these conversations is that matter is just one form of energy. Certain patterns of energy are stable, with sodium as a stable form of energy and chloride as another stable form of energy. Those two fields or patterns of energy have a mild magnetic attraction (and tend to form a less stable energetic compound/pattern called “salt”). The energetic pattern of “salt” can be easily disrupted by exposing the salt energy to water energy, which “dissolves” the energetic compound of salt in to the more stable component energies of sodium and chloride. (Further, electrons and protons and so on are also not so much material particles as fields of energy… which can form in to what we call “matter,” such as solid crystals of energy, liquid crystal plasmas of energy, and so on.)
These issues get in to broader issue of the use of langauge. In my experience, “breakthrough researchers” like Sally Fallon and Weston Price and Aajonus Vanderplanitz were not especially precise in their use of language- though perhaps much more precise than most of their contemporaries. Naturally, they adopted the linguistic conventions familiar to them and used most of them without examination.
In some cases, their use of language (…perhaps less so in the case of Dr. Price) can approach that of the mainstream hysterias of “popular science.” Since most of us are “recovering” from the unexamined presumptions of institutional indoctrination about “science,” we can forgive them of evidencing what I might call “partial recoveries.”
The basic point about soil health is uncontroversial (even if contrary to “popular science”). Further, the tendency to use language hysterically is also something that we can eventually find interesting and worth exploring. People who assert “radical” claims (such as that there are digestive systems on this planet which are designed to eat cooked foods rather than raw foods) can be challenged with the burden of establishing that their claims are not totally hysterical.
Keep in mind that there are no controversies of science. There are only controversies about science.
Good day I would like to purchase this book for a birthday gift. I’m in South Africa. Could you please help me! Thanks Harlene White
Indeed, “WE ARE WHAT WE EAT”.
Gail Koelmeyer says
Indeed we also are what we are capable of absorbing.
Sally Holt says
I would like to know where to buy the book Soil, Grass and Cancer
by Andre Voisin
Publisher: Acres U.S.A.
I reached the published, unfortunately they said it’s discontinued 🙁