Sunday, October 3, 2010

Ethical dilemma in food modification

I found today yet another example of the ethical dilemma in food modification. Let me start first with a story. A few years ago we got to know a couple. The guy was addicted to smoking. He also was on ACC (off work) for back problems. Therefore the couple didn't have much money. Seeing some tobacco seeds for sale I contemplated growing some tobacco (I enjoy gardening) so they could save money instead of paying absorbent prices for cigarettes. However would this be helping, or helping support his addiction? I never could resolve that question....... so hence I never did grow tobacco.

So the same ethical dilemma occurs in food modification. Do we take our modern, processed, dead food and add stuff to it, to make it healthy. Or would that support the infatuation we have with unhealthy food. The example that set this off was a review paper that discussing adding fish/marine products into breads and pastry's. The logic being that marine products are good for us, we eat a lot of bread, so adding good stuff to what we already eat. Other examples abound, for example cows can be feed on fish oil and the fish oils make it into the milk, but without having any fishy smell. There is an army of researchers out there investigating ways to make our unhealthy eating choices "more healthy".

Ethically I have come to the conclusion that this is misguided. A better value for money would be training/coaching people how to change their lifestyle eg how to stop eating so much white flour (says he who has just had a white flour sandwich as my wife purchased a loaf of white bread for a holiday treat). My logic is that improving foods that are unhealthy would give people an excuse to continue eating them. For example chocolate, everyone likes to justify eating chocolate cause it is good for you. However they forget that it must be dark chocolate and only one or two small squares a day. Now who actually does this? Nobody!

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