Eufemio T Rasco Jr., May 26, 2020

From her origins in East Africa, the fate of Homo sapiens has been determined basically by the food she eats and how she procures and prepares it. When her hominid ancestors learned to cook and eat energy-dense meat, she was able to spread to all corners of the planet. When she learned to farm 10,000 years ago, she had to abandon her nomadic ways to live in crowded communities in close quarters with her favorite livestock, poultry, and crops. Growing food built civilization, as we know it today, with all the worldly comforts. But it is also a direct or indirect cause of persistent problems such as inequality, famine, war, and plagues.

Food’s dominating influence on everyday life is most emphatically demonstrated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This virus is just the latest of the infectious diseases that have plagued humankind and threatened its existence. Most of these diseases could be traced to farming and eating animals.

Luckily, there is no known incidence yet of domesticated plants causing infectious diseases in humans. This should not mean that plants are inherently safer than animals. They may not cause infectious diseases but some of them are strongly linked to a more common type of disease today: chronic diseases; among these are heart failure, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. Together, chronic diseases cause more morbidity and mortality than all the other known causes. This is true in Metro Manila and elsewhere.