The International threat of the Western Diet?

One of the ideas that I would like to elaborate on after reading Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food” is the warning of the Western Diet becoming a global phenomenon. Due to the fact that agriculture revolution and production world wide has follow the trends of the Western nations. The idea that our agriculture production today focuses on high quantity yields and the hidden cost of this is the deprecation of nutrition per yield. As Pollan pointed out that the food that we are consuming today has less nutritional value than the food that our grand parents ate. So today, with the scientists, doctors, food industry and nutritionists all not helping us to eat the right food has led to many western diseases such as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and more. Also by looking at food through the lens of the world system, we are able to see that this is not only unique to Western nations as Middle Eastern countries, Southeast Asian and East Asian nations also are prone to these western diseases.So the question that I would like to ask Pollan is to what extent is this true? Is the world world really going to move down the path of western agricultural modernity where people everywhere will start eating similar to the Western Diet?

I would like to answer these questions by bringing in my personal anecdotes and my experiences of what I have seen in my home country, Myanmar.  Personally, coming from a family with a history of diabetes, our family often visits our next door neighbor country, Thailand, for anything relating to health because Myanmar doesn’t offer international standards in terms of medicine. Growing up in country like Thailand, I am exposed to the western diet that Pollan talks about in his book. Yes, in Thailand I am well aware that there is a dedicated section just for organic food. The shopping culture in terms of the way food is presented is very similar to the way food is presented in the U.S. But I would like to tell Pollan is that, just like his perception of food is viewed through an American middle or upper class lenses. I am saying this because outside of the realm of the supermarkets, in Southeast Asia countries such as Myanmar or Thailand, there are more affordable farmer markets that caters to a larger population than an western form of supermarket. The local farmer market will surely sell you food cheaper than a western form of supermarket in Asia and this is where the majority of the population would go to buy their groceries. Also let me mention that, especially in Myanmar, a nation that isn’t westernized or have industrialized in any sector when compared to Thailand, still is big on organic food. I have never seen white shell color eggs until I come to the United States and back home in Myanmar, all the egg shell color is yellow. Here in the States, the the yellow shell colored eggs are marketed as to be “caged free organic eggs.” The only white shell color eggs that you will find in Asian groceries stores are duck eggs. So I would like to tell Pollan that, no, Western Diet has not petered throughout the majority of lower income which is majority of the population in Southeast Asia. Yes, maybe in agriculture sector where crops in Asia now is ever more GMO when compared to the past, but in Asia, food is viewed through a cultural lens unlike the way most Americans view food as. So going back to the French paradox, it helps explains why French people have a healthier diet pattern when compared to the U.S despite France being a western nation. Connecting this idea to Southeast Asia, the Burmese or Thai culture see food as a celebration and a gathering for families. Most don’t even have the opportunity to shop in western supermarkets that are available in the city, so maybe the statistical data showed in “The Cost of Cheap Food” on why lower income nations spend so much more on food when compared to higher income nations. This food culture that America lacks is all the reason the problem with the way food is seen in Pollan’s book. So no I don’t agree with Pollan that everyone around the world is going to follow the Western Diet and all start having Western Disease, because in other nations we still eat food that our “mothers make” just like the Americans once had before the food industry, agriculture industry, or the nutritionists starts cluttering the American’s diet with not so really “cheap food”


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