I call myself an 80’s kid, but what people label me as is a millennial. The last analog generation to see the landscape change from land lines with rotary dials to the i-phones. If we see a chart with the evolution of communication devices we had access to from the 80’s to now, we realize two things.
1) Damn! we are getting old.
2) The advances in the field of science and technology in the last few decades have been immense.
I remember reading about the mapping of the human genome when the news broke in the early 2000’s. Although I did not understand the most technical details of it then, the takeaway message was that we have unearthed the blue-print of how the human body worked. We had indeed come far, in terms of magnitude of scientific discoveries.
Surprisingly enough, with regard to diseases we have not been able to eradicate many in the same time period. The last major disease to be eradicated in India was polio in 2014, when there were no reported instances of the disease for a 3 year period. More surprising is the fact there has been a steady increase in the onset of diseases over the same period of time. Added to the list of microbial diseases, we have a new breed of diseases looming over our heads and they have been termed as ‘Lifestyle Diseases.’
Imagine that, a whole category of diseases that have crept up in the last few decades because of our living conditions. The main causes of the disease being increasing wealth in the society added with the food and lifestyle choices that go with it. Diseases that come under this category include Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, atherosclerosis, asthma, cancer, chronic liver disease or cirrhosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndromes, chronic renal failure, osteoporosis, stroke, depression and obesity.
Most of the diseases in the list can be controlled by bringing about changes in our lifestyle and also with the food we eat. The food that we consume today come from crops that are generally laced with chemicals that are supposed to help in cultivation. On closer inspection of these supposedly helpful chemicals; the story is different.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Dept. of Health have determined that of the 25 most commonly used agricultural pesticides:-
- 5 are toxic to the nervous system.
- 18 are harmful to the skin, eyes and lungs.
- About half are comprised of cancer-causing (carcinogenic) chemicals.
- 17 cause genetic damage.
- 10 are harmful to reproductive organs.
- 6 disrupt normal functions of hormones.
We are what we eat, and if what we eat is toxic, carcinogenic and disruptive to normal human function, then what are we?
Another aspect of the advancements in science that relates to agriculture is the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s). One example of this is the genetically modified cotton cultivated today called Bt Cotton. It is called so as it has got genes from the bacteria Bacillus thuringenesis that enables the plant to gain resistance against the pest bollworm. The model has been so successful that today most of the cotton grown in the world is done so using this strain. Another plant that was modified in the same way was brinjal. We now have Bt Brinjal, but the catch here is that it is a food-crop, so is it safe to eat?
The Indian government for a long time has been advocating the use of Bt cotton, but is still on the fence with Bt Brinjal. If we look around the world more than 15 European countries have banned the use of GMO’s, due to the possible ill effects it could have on us.
GMO’s lie on one end of the spectrum, while on the other lies antibiotics. A common practise by poultry and dairy farmers that goes unnoticed is the rampant use of antibiotics. Many of them use antibiotics, many which are even banned a anti-biotic growth promoters to aid in the growth of the farm yard animals. But the continuous exposure of the pathogens to these antibiotics in excess has led to two fold problems.
1) Antibiotic Sensitivity – Microbes developing resistance to major antibiotics, making it harder for effective treatments of diseases
2) Antibiotic Residues – Milk and eggs, which we consume coming from such farms would have antibiotic residues, far beyond acceptable levels. We, therefore become factories for these superbugs.
We know that eating organically grown food is a healthier option we have. Consuming organically grown food has got a lot of benefits that can play a role in improving our health. Specifics will be discussed in greater detail later blogs.
Buying organic and free range produce may not help you solve all health related problems, but it limits your exposure to the various toxic entities that normally available food carries with it.