Dr Abe V Rotor
It is not enough that we produce food. We must produce food that ensure good health, reduce risks to diseases and ailments, and prolong life. We must produce food that also insures the health of our environment and the stability of the ecological system.
While science and technology continue to explore new ways to increase food supply with genetic engineering, people are yearning for organic food – or naturally grown food.
Here are issues raised by the proponents of organic farming.
1. Many ailments and abnormalities are traced to the food we take. Cancer for instance, is often related to carcinogenic substances. High uric acid leads to kidney trouble. High cholesterol and high sugar levels are associated with high blood pressure and diabetes. Aftatoxin causes cirrhosis of the liver. Ulcers are food-related, so with many allergies.
2. Proper nutrition and balanced diet can be attained by eating the right kind and amount of natural food without fortification with vitamins and minerals, and other forms of altering food value. Thus there is no need to process food unless it is really necessary. Fresh foods – vegetables, fish, and the like – are still the best. And why modify the genetic composition of crops and animals? Leave that to nature. Nature knows best.
3. Taking excess foods rich in animal fat and protein, and foods high in calories foods has predisposed many people to overweight conditions. Gaining unnecessary weight leads obesity now an epidemic sweeping many countries today particularly in cities where there is a proliferation of fast foods and junk foods. Or simply there is too much of the “good life” – excess in food and pleasure. In the US today one out of five Americans is an obese, two are overweight.
4. There are natural substances that keep our body always alert to fend off stress due to overwork and diseases. They are known as probiotics. We get probiotics from fruits and vegetables. We also get them from seaweeds, mushrooms, yoghurt, algae such as Chlorella, and Cyanobacteria such as Spirulina. And there are many more sources that occur in nature. We are beginning to realize that eating foods rich in probiotics and antibiotics (substances that directly kill germs) makes us healthier and live longer.
These are the rules set by the advocates of organic farming.
1. It is always better to eat foods grown under natural conditions than those developed with the use of chemicals.
This statement can be captured with one term "natural food". All over the world this is a label found in food grown without chemicals. People are afraid of becoming ill because of chemicals introduced into the food. There are banned pesticides still in used such as methyl parathion, endosulfan, DDT, BHC, among others. These are also harmful to all living organisms and to the environment.
2. People are avoiding harmful residues of antibiotics and pesticides.
Poultry, hogs and cattle are given high levels of antibiotics to safeguard the animals from diseases. As a result, the antibiotics are passed on to the consumers. Unless we are ill, the body does not need supplemental antibiotics. We have adequate natural sources. Every time we eat commercial eggs, chicken, pork chop, steak, and the like, we are taking in antibiotics which accumulate in our body, shutting off our immune systems, punishing our kidney and liver. To many people, antibiotics cause allergic reactions.
3. People are getting scared of food contaminated by radiation. Nuclear reactors are being built in many countries as a fallback to fossil fuel.
With the recent nuclear plant meltdown in Fukoshima, Japan, the Chernobyl nuclear incident in Russia, and that of the Three-Miles Island nuclear plant in the US, people have become wary about the consequences of fallout. A trace of radiation can be absorbed by grass in the pasture, finds its way to milk, then to infants. Radiation can remain active for hundreds of years. People are still dying today in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, more than sixty years since the bombing of the two cities with the first atomic bomb.
4. People are becoming aware of the deleterious effects of toxic metals, such as lead, mercury and cadmium.
These find their way through the food chain and ultimately reach humans. They escape to the air and enter our lungs, as in the case of dusts from old paints. Since they are in soluble compounds, they are easily absorbed by plants and animals. Kangkong (Ipomea reptans) for example absorbs lead. Tuna has high mercury in its tissues and liver. Cadmium from batteries is absorbed by crops.
5. People are becoming more conscious of the nutritional value of food rather than its packaging and presentation.
More and more people are shunning away from junk foods, in spite of their attractive packaging. Soft drinks have taken the backseat, courtesy of fruit juices and mineral water. People have even learned that different plant varieties have different levels of food value. Beans grown on naturally fertile soil have higher calorie and protein content than those grown on poor soil, or with chemical fertilizers. This is also true with animals. Animals raised with proper nutrition give meat, milk and eggs with higher protein, minerals notwithstanding.
6. Freshness is the primordial rule in choosing a perishable food.
There is no substitute to freshness. While freshness is a function of efficient handling and marketing, the farmer must enhance farm-to-market freshness. By keeping his standing plants healthy, his produce will stay longer on the shelf life. Products that are free from pest and diseases also stay fresher and longer. Too much water or fertilizer reduces shelf life of the commodity.
7. Food processing must be efficient and safe.
Food processing, such as drying, milling and manufacturing is key to higher profits. Whenever feasible, food must reach the table fresh. But processing is designed to extend the shelf life of perishable commodities. There are products that require processing before they are used. These food items include vanilla, coffee, cacao, wine and vinegar, soya, fish sauce and the like. Profits generated through processing are value-added to production.
8. Food must be free from pest and diseases.
By all means, food must be free from insects and pathogens. There are cases of food poisoning as a result of food deterioration, or contamination. Take salmonella and E. coli. Khapra beetle in grains may even cause death to animals. Weevils hasten the deterioration of the food.
9. Food preservation must ensure quality, and above all, safety.
Be aware of the fish that is stiff, yet looks fresh. It is easy to detect the odor of formalin. Salitre is harmful, so with vetsin or MSG (Monosodium glutamate). Too much salt (sodium) is not good to the body. Some puto makers add lye or sodium hydroxide to aid coagulation of the starch. We wary of sampaloc candies enticingly made red with shoe dye. The same diluted dye is used with ube manufacture to make it look like the real violet-colored tuber.
10. Beware of GMOs.
Many countries warn of the potential dangers of genetically modified food and food products, popularly called Frankenfood, after the novel Frankenstein, a mad scientist who created a monster. This move is not only to safeguard health, but also the environment. Genetically modified plants and animals – as well as bacteria, protists and even viruses – are now a threat to the natural gene pool, giving rise to a new kind of pollution - genetic pollution. Once a gene pool of a certain species is contaminated with a GMO genetic material, the genic pollutant cannot be eliminated, even in subsequent generations. Thus, it also disturbs natural evolution.
Next time you go to market, remember these guidelines. Why not convert that idle lot to raise food that is safe to your health and the environment? That little corner could be the start of a new green revolution. x x x