The Great Health Scam by Gilles-Eric Seralini and Jerome Douzelet is the English translation of the French book “Poisons cachés ou Plaisirs Cuisinés” that was first published in French in 2014. This book is printed in India by Natraj Publishers. Environmentalist Vandana Shiva argues in the introduction for a society where authentic food in its natural richness is available to all, rather than a scenario where output is more revered than quality at best, and at worst, the very food we put into our bodies cause various diseases. She calls these ‘food style diseases’, moving further on from lifestyle diseases.
Gilles-Eric Seralini is a scientist, a professor of molecular biology, and an expert researcher appointed by the French government, and various other political and social bodies for expert advice. Jerome Douzelet is a chef, known for recognizing and using the freshest of ingredients. This book is a conversation between the two.
The book starts off with simple biology with an easy lesson on how interfering with the natural process of growth by ‘adding’ fertilizers etc, causes irreversible damage to the soil, and ultimately how toxic chemicals find way into our bodies. What comes across when the reader reads the book is that what we eat, the most basic of our food is controlled by lobbies of agrochemical and processed food sectors. Genetic manipulation, chemicals entering the food, the diseases that result, all is played out. Of course, one also reads about the artificial flavorings in foods and the role of processed food in hampering health.
But there are many other startling facts that will shake you. For instance, one may have read about GMO crops and the debates surrounding them. However, the book delves into this deeper by establishing a link between GMOs and pesticides and how “the planned poisoning of life” occurs.
There are subtle factors as well, such as loss of biodiversity in microorganisms, that is also not given due attention. Standardization of taste is preferred and we lose taste and expertise of cooking in the bargain! I found the chapter on restoring biodiversity in diet quite insightful since I do believe that the richness of tastes and the variety of foods that we have access to, have been steadily declining, with focus on ‘few’(read profitable) food sources. There is also a depletion of traditional foods that our ancestors used to eat.
The language is simple and the points straightforward. The overarching theme concerns the hidden poisons in what we eat. These are fueled by ‘experts’ who are the face of agenda-driven lobbies with commercial names. Of course, all the research is based on experiments conducted by Seralini and his team, but it is worth reading and examining the issue with an open mind.
What’s in it for us?
As the pandemic taught us, what concerns one part of the world, will soon concern all. India is in no way sheltered from polluted food. Are we not also cogs in this great wheel churning out food to the world? We are links in this chain, and the matter herein is as relevant to us!
The book is literally in form of a conversation between two experts, but presented in easy style for the lay person. There is a lot of information, and it’s packed with research. However, it is still a very accessible book.
Well, the dishes are laid out, and you’re called for sampling. See you at the table! And yes, do form and express an opinion based on your own judgement. For, as the book shows, eating is a political act!