By Anchan Vegetarian
Living in Thailand has brought me closer to traditional healthcare and the use
of herbal medicine than ever before in my life. Europe used to possess this
knowledge but through the years it has been lost, or replaced by make belief
alternatives at best, only to slowly emerge in recent times in non-mainstream
In this new column we will discuss the topic of alternative healthcare on a case
by case basis, shedding light on the benefits of this fruit or that herb,
sometimes grouped and compared for educational and informational purposes.
The old saying “you are what you eat” holds a lot of truth; it should therefore
come as no surprise that the subject of this pilot column will be agriculture.
As realization of the threat to our surroundings became prevalent,
sustainability was launched in recent years as one of the key words that apply
to many aspects of our daily lives. Sustainable agriculture however has been
around much longer, being the original way of farming. Growing vegetable and
fruit crops coincided with animal husbandry in an ecologically balanced system
following natural patterns, without the use of chemical fertilizers or
Unfortunately the agricultural revolution changed these traditions and in doing
so has destroyed priceless knowledge. It was replaced with chemicals leading to
a general decrease in soil fertility, creating a downward spiral from which
there seemed no escape possible.
But all is not lost as sustainable agriculture is being pushed to the foreground
again by several movements and applied by more and more people. Not just
individuals but also commercial farmers are making the transition. New
ecologically viable systems are being created on a daily basis, the existing
ones being rediscovered and maintained or restored. Several examples can be
found in South East Asia and Thailand, such as the 300 year old food forest in
Vietnam and the new permaculture rice farmers in the North East of Thailand.
One of these movements carries the name permaculture, focusing on sustainable
forms of livelihood, of which organic farming and food forests are a big part.
This system results in natural soil fertility, pest control and water
management, reducing or even eliminating the need for chemical applications and
Whether you are a vegetarian or not, over the years research has shown that the
quality of the food products you eat does matter. Food scandals keep surfacing
on a regular basis all over the world from milk with chemicals over diseased
meat to medication with disastrous side effects.
But is organic so much healthier? According to the most comprehensive study to
address the question to date, conducted by researchers at the Stanford
University in California, the findings do suggest that eating organic foods can
reduce the likelihood of consuming pesticides and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Conventional produce carries a much higher chance of pesticide contamination
when compared to organic vegetables, while nutritional contents showed to be the
same for both conventional and organic products.
What amazed me about this study is the enormous paradox contained in its
conclusion. It stated that almost no long term research on the health benefits
of organic vegetables has been conducted. Yet at the same time they claim that
the levels of residual pesticides in conventional produce remains well below the
allowed safety limits in most cases. But if no long term research has been
conducted, how are these safety limits set? The public should never be asked by
the media to blindly accept these results, without questioning who ordered these
studies in the first place. As my professor at university used to say when
teaching historical criticism, never readily accept what is being said by the
media and never believe they say anything without a reason. If you think this is
just one more of these loopy conspiracy theories, just have a look at the recent
research conducted with GMO produce on rats and the cancers they developed.
Especially have a look at the cover up antics and smoke curtain tactics deployed
shortly after by this very company.
The truth remains that we live in a consumer based society where over
consumption is stimulated and the solution to the ensuing health problems is
heralded as one of human’s major achievements. We hold responsibility for our
own lives, to live healthy and to maintain a healthy mind in a healthy body.
Start with a healthy diet and you will go a long way in avoiding many health
Let’s work together to a more sustainable future, it doesn’t matter if you’re a
farmer or a balcony gardener; everyone can grow something for themselves.