A popular anthropologist, Jarod Diamond, asked the question, is agriculture the biggest mistake in the history of the human race? He focuses on important infectious human diseases, including smallpox, influenza and tuberculosis, saying they arose because we began cultivating crops and raising animals rather than continuing to hunt and gather our food. Agriculture and modern food systems impact human health in other ways. Non-infectious diseases such as obesity, diabetes and celiac have been linked to the predominance of processed foods, particularly sugars and other simple carbohydrates. Modern diets from infancy may be too “clean”, failing to develop a healthy immune system, leading to diseases like Crohn’s. We depend on only three plant species for over half our calories, inviting catastrophic crop epidemics, famines waiting to happen. Environmental degradation caused by modern industrial farming can also sicken people, polluting water and sometimes the food itself. Overuse of antibiotics on confined animals hastens antibiotic resistance in pathogens, particularly food-borne. Animal agriculture sends climate-warming gasses into the atmosphere, with major implications to human health. While diseases come in many forms, this seminar will show how ultimately a huge part of our health is all about the ecology of food.
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