Examining the relationship between modern farming techniques and disease incidence

The Australian Aborigines experiment from Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food peeked my interest due to its findings and its connections to my background in biology. The basis of the experiment was to isolate recently westernized Aborigines with type 2 diabetes into an area away from western civilization. This coerced the relocated Aborigines to rely on foraging to obtain food, resulting in improved or normalized diabetic health conditions after 7 weeks. While interesting, it’s unclear how these results can be applied in a meaningful manner without diminishing the productivity of western society. Moreover, this experiment reminds me of my parent’s belief that everyone would be healthier if food was obtained through fully natural processes. However, this notion is outright impossible because it would require states to revert back to older agricultural technologies and practices that would reduce crop yield and increase the prices of crops. An example of this would be to stop genetically engineering spinach plants to have bigger spinach leaves. This, however, will be strongly opposed because it will induce mass starvation if the human population continues to grow at a rapid rate. Furthermore, we should think more critically about the relationship between advances in technology and disease incidence. Specifically, my biology classes periodically mentioned this idea and stated that hunter-gatherer civilizations would simply die very young, which prevented them from encountering diseases like cancer. Thus, a reversal of these technologies would likely just reduce lifespans rather than reducing disease incidence. Instead of imagining impractical, utopian solutions, we should think more critically about the food industry and think of more feasible ways to refine our lifestyle. One such change we could be to utilize more environmentally friendly techniques to grow food without bad side effects like growing meat from stem cells.


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