Food and nutrition; time for a paradigm shift - Editorial

27 January 2014 04:43 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Food and nutrition are the most vital factors for human life and growth, but the Ministry of Health and Nutrition and officially-recognised groups like the Nutrition Society of Sri Lanka (NSSL) appear to be doing little to educate and empower the people on how to get nutritious and unpolluted Sri Lankan food at affordable prices. As a result, investigations have revealed that most people including children are consuming small doses of toxins with every meal because most food items including rice and other grains, vegetables and fruits have been polluted by the excessive use of imported chemical fertilisers, weedicides and pesticides.

 Dr. Damayanthi Perera, one of Sri Lanka’s highest qualified nutritionists—in a comprehensive 10- page article published in the Lanka Magazine - has rvealed a grave picture of food and nutrition in Sri Lanka.

 According to her, the data given in the article with statistics, facts and figures support the argument that the western economic, agriculture and nutrition models have failed. Most western consumers are faced with the biggest human-made or diet-based disasters since the Second World War -- ranging from obesity to diseases like diabetes that lead to premature death and debility.

 International experts have questioned the western medical officers, nutritionists and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the face of such food and nutrition problems. They highlight the need to engage economists to reform the failed western economic, agriculture and the food processing models. The big picture demonstrates that globalisation and unrestrained free trade are not good for health, environment or democracy.

Referring to globalisation and obesity Dr. Perera says globalisation and unrestrained free trade are destroying traditional food cultures and this has led to a rapid increase in global obesity now called globesity. Many Americans in the prime of their life are ailing or dying due to morbid obesity, diabetes and related ailments.
 In Britain, children as young as three are dying literally chocking on their own fat, according to a British parliamentary committee report. Babies do not choose their food or read food labels. Most disturbingly, it has also been reported that children of this generation from industrialised nations are facing the prospect of dying before their parents.

 In essence, humanity has arrived at a dangerous juncture – getting sick by industrialised diet. With various simulated fake milk products in the market and faulty western nutrition and agricultural policies and practices we can expect a similar scenario in Sri Lanka too, unless effective nutrition and agriculture policies and consumer protection measures are introduced soon, Dr. Perera warned.

 The intensive agricultural and animal farming methods practised and promoted by industrialised nations have led to environmental pollution, soil degradation and also global warming. The western methods are damaging the eco-system, on which the very survival of humans, animals and plants rests. Rachel Carson, a marine biologist, in her book 'Silent Spring' warned the world regarding the dangers of synthetic pesticides. It is clear that in contrast to our ancient systems, the modern western economic, agricultural and nutrition models have led to crises such as the chronic kidney disease in the North Central Province. Therefore it is time for a paradigm change. Answers to the economic woes of the west and also other modern lifestyle woes such as stress are found in eastern philosophies and wisdom, said former US President Bill Clinton who is now a vegetarian.

 Bhutan that gave the 'Happiness Index' to the world is working towards becoming the world's first organic nation. The time is ripe for a paradigm change in Sri Lanka also. We should follow such models and not the failed western mega model.

 Unfortunately the Nutrition Society of Sri Lanka at its annual scientific sessions over the weekend, again sought or accepted sponsorship from transnational western-based pharmaceutical and food companies. So how can we expect a food and nutrition model based on the time-honoured eastern wisdom including Buddhist philosophy?

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