The Layman’s Thoughts on Food and its impact on Cancer

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Last Sunday I had an interesting chat with a friend who, a few weeks prior, had completed a Masters Degree in Medicine at a university in Seoul. The banter started with the commonplace complaints on weather, school(on my part) and then transitioned to her field of research and then cancer. Being an expert, she waxed lyrical about the emerging forms of cancer and how doctors have taken to research to combat its growth. However, it did not stop her from worrying about the possible causes. The increase in global warming (read depletion of the ozone layer) and the ‘chemical’ laced foods that keep filling up grocery stores by day have worried her sick. Her latter worry rung true when I bumped into this DW documentary, that questioned the hype we place on organically farmed foods. The recent cases of chemical abuse in the preservation and processing of foods in my country Kenya have made me sympathize with the hazardous trajectory we are now trudging on.

A couple of decades ago we ate healthy. A good number of humans ate foods straight from ‘healthy farms. The air, soils and water were less contaminated and so the food we grew sprouted ‘naturally with more nutrients to boot. Humanity relied less on ‘manufactured’ foods and since the demand and supply mechanisms did not work in their favor there was no room for (capitalist) opportunists to manipulate the production process for profiteering purposes. But fast forward to present day and things are different. With the increase in population, global warming and urbanization the market for ‘processed’ foods has widened. And because the demand has overpowered the other side of the see-saw, ‘opportunists’ are doing everything in their power to speed up supply to the detriment of people’s health. This sense of haste has taken over the farms and now conventional/inorganic farming has domineered over organic farming. When you walk into grocery stores or supermarkets to purchase ‘fresh’ food stuffs it is crystal clear that most are products of conventional means of farming.

To illustrate how ‘capitalism’ has influenced farming, let us look into this simple example. A farmer signs contracts with grocery stores, and because they are keen to mint much from the rising urban population they will demand that the produce is brought as soon. Left with no choice, the farmer yields into this pressure and turns to conventional/inorganic farming (which requires a high use of pesticides and chemicals) to speed up the production process. Turns out that the harvested fruits, vegetables and grains will carry traces of pesticide residues that will eventually enter our bodies. Because the cattle are fed on fodder/grass cultivated on pesticides, milk is not spared either. Do not get me started on broilers and pigs.

How about the little organic farming going on? Danger lurks too. It is noted that somewhere in Europe when conventional farmers spray their farms, pesticides get blown to ‘organic’ farms. Also, when it rains some chemicals spread out to other farms by help of running water. This means when organic farmers take to farming their crops are prone to contamination.

Well, I am not against the use of pesticides or chemicals in food processing but rather the abuse. Unless we bring in serious reform mechanisms, the rain will not stop beating us. And however serious my determined Doctor friend pours herself into cancer research, her efforts will prove insignificant when the causes get increasingly fueled.

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