We are what we Eat

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.


Navdanya stall in Dilli Haat, Feb 2013


2“Punjab Society: Perspectives and Challenges”,  edited by M.S. Gill


4 thoughts on “We are what we Eat

  1. I really like this “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.”

    The discrepancy between “how we grow and farm our food and what we are actually putting into our body today” and “the way we have evolved to eat over thousands of years” is – in my opinion – the leading cause of all kinds of problems, from cancer, depression, depleted soils, waste, pesticides…

    In terms of health it has worked out for me very well to follow a paleo approach to eating. That means emulating a hunter-gatherer diet with lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts and some animal protein and fat. Excluding all grains, legumes and very little dairy – which are all very recent arrivals in our food chain that can potentially cause a lot of health troubles.

    Have you ever tried this approach and what is your current approach to diet and food?

    Greetings from Alessandro

    PS: Today I started to create a vegetable bed in our garden to grow some fresh produce, locally and sustainably ;-)

  2. Hi Alessandro,
    thanks for your comment!
    I got a few more comments via email which I’d like to mention here – for example the remark that it is not only food, but also many other things which influence our health and have changed a lot within the last decades (such as lifestyles and even the perception of “health”).
    I also think (agree) that the food system has become so incredibly complex that it is nearly impossible to make changes at the consumers’ end. (That’s why I chose my course of studies amongst other reasons – hopefully there can be some changes made at the farm level!)
    But to answer your question, my diet is very similar to yours – I don’t eat meat and also avoid dairy products and white flour.
    I think we needn’t be radical about anything but even small changes matter.
    Best wishes from the North :)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s