Have you ever wondered why tomatoes look so perfect and never seem to rot? Well, it’s largely thanks to large dosages of herbicides, like glyphosates, which zap all the bacteria and bugs that could gnaw away on the tomato and also the narrow breeding of varieties of tomatoes that last on trucks that transport them across the world. Moreover, there has a recent trend to grow more tomatoes in “soil-less” glass houses, which further distance the tomato from the messiness of nature.
You may wonder why should I care as long the tomato looks good? One reason is taste or should I say the lack of taste. But perhaps more importantly, the pest-proof tomato may actually harm our bodies. When I say our bodies, I mean the zillions of bacteria and fungi that live in our bodies, especially inside our guts.
These non-human cells or gut flora play a critical role in generating precision immunity to “bad” bacteria. By consuming tomatoes that contain industrial bacteria-killing agents (like glyphosates), our healthy gut flora could get decimated. This in turn weakens the body’s defences against “bad” bacteria and bugs, which results in chronic inflammation – the springboard for multiple diseases.
I’ve picked tomatoes, but one can generalise to most fresh fruit and vegetables (I don’t need to comment on processed food which in many cases isn’t really food). It seems that hacking farming through the laboratory, and fast-tracking the results to our supermarkets is having unintended negative consequences. It is much safer to rely on time and evolution to pick the best farming techniques.
Choosing organic food is an obvious remedy to some of this. But an awareness of how much of us is non-human is also as important – we have as many non-human cells as human cells. Experts in this field suggest it’s not just food we should think about, but also the air we breathe (and hence the bacteria and bugs we get exposed to). So take a walk and spend time in diverse natural environments – forests, parks, lakes and so on. Nature it seems is more reliable than most (ephemeral) man-made inventions.