The “Cancer Train” is a nickname which has been given to the train which connects Bathinda, a city in Punjab, with the town of Bikaner in Rajasthan – a 10 hour ride. Each night (!) it carries at least 60 cancer patients which hope for help from the regional cancer centre in Bikaner.1
Punjab is the “bread basket” of India producing about two-third of the food grains produced annually in the country due to its fertile soils. In the 1960s and ’70s, the Green Revolution swept across the country and within 40 years, the use of pesticides had increased from 154 metric tons to 84,000 metric tons per year – with the hightest intensity in Punjab – and the use continues to increase.2 No surprise from an agroecological perspective, considering that the soil loses more and more of its own power to recover and produce the more it is exposed to chemicals.
(If someone wants to watch more about the topic, I recommend this video.)
I was wondering, if the exposure to pesticides has such immense effects on people’s health within such a short period of time, why are we surprised about the increase of diseases of Western civilisation, with heart diseases and cancer being the leading causes of death?
Remarkably enough, the topic of food even plays a role in the holy book of Hinduism:
“Foods which promote life, vitality, strength, health, happiness and satisfaction, what are succulent, juicy, nourishing and pleasing to the heart are dear to one in goodness.
Foods which are very bitter, very sour, very salty, very hot, very pungent, very dry and burning, causing unhappiness, misery and disease are palatable by one in passion.
That food which is stale, tasteless, putrid, decomposed, foul and impure as well as the leavings of others is dear to one in nescience.”
– Bhagavad Gita, Ch. 17:8-10
With every bite we take, we take a decision about how we treat ourselves and what conditions we create for the farmers and the ecosystem.
2“Punjab Society: Perspectives and Challenges”, edited by M.S. Gill