The late Dr. Walter Yellowlees, founder of the McCarrison Society, author and much respected general practitioner in rural Scotland, published a series of lectures in 1985 that are still relevant today. This is an edited version of the introduction to his booklet “Food and Health in the Scottish Highlands."
Often after attending meetings at which I have tried to stress the enormous importance of the part played by faulty food in causing disease, I have sensed, from questions and discussions, that the audience, sometimes including medical graduates and undergraduates, has not grasped the essence of a very simple message.
I make no apology to those readers who may object to repetition of the same theme; the theme bears repetition. The lesson cannot be repeated too often at a time when confusion reigns in the ranks of scientists, health educators and physicians, no less than among bewildered consumers all seeking the best nourishment for health. The confusion of conflicting theories on the dietary cause of disease is partly caused by the financial power and influence of commercial interests.
SCIENTISTS OFTEN BIASED
Scientists employed by food manufacturers inevitably become biased in support of their employers. Government departments are subjected to pressures by manufacturers who are more interested in selling industrial products than in promoting the health of the soil or the health of the people who live on it. The history of the mass production of bread and of the government's role in promoting the sale of chemical fertilizers, are examples of this process.
Thus government dictate, by tax or by subsidy, now determines the priorities in land use and in the production of food. In the United Kingdom these priorities have not so far included the preservation of mixed farming or a halt to rural depopulation, or the availability of fresh, organically grown food. To blame the "greed" of farmers for this state of affairs is unjust. Farming policy is now determined by government ministers and their officials, sitting not in London or in Edinburgh, but in Brussels.
CIRCLE OF HEALTH IGNORED
The choice of priorities in preventing disease is not made easier by the attitude of the medical profession. The concept of unity in the health of the soil, plants, animals and man seems to be beyond the comprehension of professional leaders with their passion for specialization and their consequent limited vision.
I am sure that in most general practices the most frequent users of the Health Service are the lower income groups and that their ill-health has nothing to do with a lack of skilled medical advice. Surveys of domestic food consumption have shown repeatedly that at the lower end of the social scale, the use of refined processed foods is the order of the day.
Salads, fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy produce, whole grain cereals including whole-wheat bread, are consumed in greater quantities by the upper classes. A staff member of the BBC recently told me that, according to research into public viewing habits, lower income groups almost invariably watch ITV. So those least able to withstand powerful advertising of foods are most exposed to it.
Techniques in medicine or in surgery, however advanced, do not create health. Health cannot be created without good food based on sound agriculture. That is the essence of my argument.
POWER OF SMALL FARMERS
There is a terrible and growing imbalance between town and country. Is there a more sinister reason, I wonder, for the withering away of small-holdings and small farmers? They are the "bold peasantry" of Oliver Goldsmith. A man with his own acres, more or less self-sufficient in food, can afford to be bold. He is not nearly as amenable as the city mob to the manipulations of Orwell's thought police and the worship of Big Brother. That was, I imagine, the reason why Stalin simply butchered the small farmers who would not be herded into collectives. He saw in them a very real obstacle to the power of the State. Do the same thoughts run through the minds of those who by financial means are destroying our own small farmers?
WHAT OF THE FUTURE?
In the field of health and disease I believe some things can be said with certainty. Unless there is a change in our national diet so that we replace refined, processed and chemically manipulated food by fresh whole food, our National sickness will not improve. There will be no substantial reduction in the modern killing diseases. The cost of the National Health Service will go on escalating.
Nothing has changed since these words were written more than 30 years ago. With small farmers being forced out of business at an alarming rate time is running out. Fundamental changes need to be made at Govenment level now, before it is too late.
Read about the late Dr. Walter Yellowlees.