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Reducing meat and dairy consumption: easier said than done, or easier done than said?

In his 2011 ASSA Cunningham Lecture this month, food policy expert Professor Tim Lang suggested that we “experiment” with alternative diets to reduce our meat and dairy consumption. Lang suggested that…

Not just easy; also delicious. Caterpillar Dream

In his 2011 ASSA Cunningham Lecture this month, food policy expert Professor Tim Lang suggested that we “experiment” with alternative diets to reduce our meat and dairy consumption. Lang suggested that an evidence–policy gap exists in relation to food and discussed the range of urgent and persistent failings of our current food systems.

What do we know?

We know that livestock production has a range of negative environmental impacts. These include:

  • biodiversity loss
  • surface soil loss
  • salinity
  • pollution of waterways
  • eutrophication of seas.

We know that livestock products, and in particular dairy, have a high virtual water content. We also know that we live in the world’s driest continent and are likely to face future droughts and increased stress on water supplies into the future.

We know that the livestock sector globally is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions leading to dangerous climate change. This is despite the recent findings that the Australian northern cattle herd emit 30% less methane than previously thought.

Processes in the food and agriculture system that lead to greenhouse gas emissions and population health outcomes (click for larger image). Friel S et al, The Lancet 374(9706)

We know that phosphorus scarcity presents a considerable threat to our food security and that producing meat products require 10 times more phosphorus than is required to produce vegetable-based products.

We know that overfishing is leading to extreme pressures on marine ecosystems. And we know that fishstocks worldwide are over-exploited or depleted, requiring urgent reductions in fishing if there is to be any chance of recovery.

At the same time, we now know that well-planned plant-based diets, including vegan diets, are healthy and nutritionally sound at all stages of the lifecycle. We also know that replacing meat with more plant foods helps prevent diet related diseases such as cancer, obesity and heart disease.

Despite all that we know, oddly, the Australian government continues to invest in and provide support for our unsustainable livestock industries.

And we continue to have the pervasive presence of meat, dairy and fish in our nutrition guidelines.

It would be safe to say that an evidence–policy gap is indeed occurring.

But isn’t it all too hard?

Public discussion of sustainable diets is often plagued by an underlying belief and expectation that plant-based diets are too difficult to achieve. There’s an idea that transitioning as a nation to a new dietary and food regime is likely impossible.

This is akin to giving up before trying.

Isn’t it rather too convenient to assume that social change is just too hard? Our high levels of meat and dairy consumption are recent historical facts, which suggests otherwise.

We don’t actually need meat to live, or even to thrive. Lola Lollipop

But this defeatist attitude is no surprise really, given that Australians are bombarded consistently with messages telling them to eat more meat. Australians are told that eating meat is patriotic, essential for masculinity, leads to more sex, gets you “ready for anything” and is an “amazing food”.

The meat industry and their spokespeople hoodwink us into believing that eating less meat won’t have any environmental benefit and is not worth bothering with.

Likewise, Australians are told that drinking milk keeps us fit and healthy, is full of “goodness” and supports Australian families.

Dairy marketing messages are part of larger “demand enhancement” efforts which involve targeting “health and nutrition drivers” to maintain economic benefits for the dairy industry.

Social scientists will you please come to the table

Food and eating is gendered, classed, political and personal. Suggestions to try meat-free, vegetarian or vegan diets can be perceived as controversial or even threatening. For many people meat and dairy foods have strong cultural and symbolic meaning.

The human being is commonly understood to be biologically omnivorous but this is stretched and culturally mediated into a social norm which demands that we must eat meat.

For these reasons, social scientists – as specialists in understanding practices and contesting social norms – are very well placed to contribute to finding solutions to this problem.

Social scientists might begin to ask: how can people change diets? What strategies, initiatives and government programs could be most effective? How can psychology and values studies inform us about how best to promote plant-based diets?

The stubborn refusal of vegans and vegetarians to simply drop dead from their supposedly impoverished diets inconveniently reminds us that levels of meat or dairy consumption are historical, cultural and economic trends rather than physiological needs.

Ask the vegans and vegetarians

Any vegan or vegetarian will tell you that they are constantly barraged with questions – from the mundane to the ridiculous. “Where do you get your iron?”, they’ll be asked; or “so do you just eat lettuce leaves?”

Defensive jokes about vegans and vegetarians abound.

Vegetarians are hilarious and delicious, but we could learn from them.

As amusing as it might be for some to poke fun at vegans and vegetarians, let’s pause for a minute and consider what vegans and others adopting plant-based diets can offer us in our search for solutions.

How was their transition? What helped them change their diets? What are their underlying values? What helps them maintain their new diet? What benefits are they experiencing? What additional skills are required to eat sustainably?

These are the questions we should be asking the vegans and vegetarians in our communities. They are a huge untapped knowledge source. This knowledge needs to be socially valued, explored and promoted.

Let’s start experimenting

Tim Lang wants us to “experiment” with alternative diets. And people all around the world have started doing just that.

A range of innovative initiatives are gaining popularity and interest. These include programs such as Meat Free Monday, London Vegan Pledge, Vegetarian Thursday in Belgium and Brussels, the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change’s “Meat Free Day”, 350.org’s VegPledge and many more.

And this month in Australia, more than 800 people have signed up to the Vegan Easy Challenge.

Participants in the Vegan Easy Challenge receive a welcome pack with guidance, shopping and menu tips, as well as the opportunity to take part in activities such as cooking demonstrations, a vegan shopping bus tour and a market day. Participants are supported through regular updates, recipes and inspiration via the Vegan Easy Challenge Facebook page. Participants are then encouraged to write up and share their experience with others.

These types of initiatives provide a perfect opportunity for us to learn about what may or may not work.

We know we need to change diets

Diets are not trivial. They are perhaps the main way in which we are embedded within and interact with our environment.

It should not be a surprise that the challenges of climate change and environmental sustainability require a change in value orientation to our relationship with nature. Technical tinkering with the efficiency levels of pre-existing modes of food production is inadequate to this challenge.

We know we need to change diets; let’s now have a conversation about how best to make the shift.

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47 Comments sorted by

  1. Tim Scanlon

    Author and Scientist

    While I'm not against vegetarian or vegan diets, I don't think it is accurate to say that meat production is somehow more damaging to the environment than any other food we grow. It is also blatantly false to lay the blame of all environmental concerns at the meat industry, when issues such as salinity, erosion, biodiversity loss and eutrophication are actually the costs associated with producing all foods.

    A recent example to emphasise my point: the recent problems with eutrophication and chemicals damaging the Great Barrier Reef after the Queensland floods was not from dairy farming areas but rather intensive cropping areas, specifically cotton and sugar cane.

    Meat is perfectly healthy and no meat campaign has ever suggested more than a balanced diet (except Sam Kegovich's parochial ads). A balanced diet is required and meat can be a part of that. Please stop laying all environmental problems at the animal's industry, because it misses the bigger picture completely.

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  2. Marie Smith

    Researcher

    To the authors (as i'm not sure who is the 'we' they are referring to, which definitly doesn't include 'me'):
    Could you please provide knowledge or analysis on the land use, land use change, environmental, economic and health impacts of implementing this vegan model at the world scale?
    Could you provide more information on how healthy vegan diets are? The link you provide refers to a paper from the 'American Dietetic Association' called a position paper. It has apparently been written as a 'position…

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  3. Russell Hamilton

    Librarian

    Agree with Marie Smith's comment that it isn't right to equate a vegan and a vegetarian diet. Doesn't the vitamin B12 problem for vegans suggest that a vegan diet is not naturally an ideal diet?

    "The human being is commonly understood to be biologically omnivorous but this is stretched and culturally mediated into a social norm which demands that we must eat meat."

    Maybe it is, but that doesn't mean cutting out ALL animal products from your diet is a wise thing to do. Cutting them completely out of the diet of small children might be even more of a worry.

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    1. Heather V Osh

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      Most people with B12 deficiencies and/or pernicious anemia are NOT vegans. Very few vegans have pernicious anemia. B12 deficiencies occur primarily when:
      1.) Something is competing for your B12 (like parasites);
      2.) Something is destroying your B12 (like cyanide in cigarettes); or
      3.) Something is preventing the proper absorption of B12 (like inadequate production of intrinsic factor).

      All of the Vitamin B12 in the world ultimately comes from bacteria. Neither plants nor animals can synthesize it. But plants can be contaminated with B12 when they come in contact with soil bacteria that produce it. Animal foods are rich in B12 only because animals eat foods that are contaminated with it or because bacteria living in an animal's intestines make it.

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    2. Heather V Osh

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Heather V Osh

      I was always "slightly" anemic UNTIL I went vegan...now I have no issues what so ever with anemia...perfect health!

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  4. Stuart McMillen

    Brisbane

    I've been vegetarian for 8 years, and I must say that I don't get hassled with many questions about my diet. That could possibly be due to the crowd that I generally associate with (cosmopolitan, inner-city types), as I remember getting a bit of stick when visiting friends in regional Australia a while back. Not sure what to read into that...

    In general, I think society is quite accepting of people who choose to go vegetarian, although many people see it as a 'not for me' thing to do. Perhaps experiments like the 30 Day Vegan Challenge will give people a safe way to experiment, akin to similar challenges like World's Greatest Shave, Movember and Live Below the Line.

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  5. Michael Bates

    researcher

    As someone who has been vegan for 8 our of the last 11 years (and vegetarian for the other 3), it is good to see this kind of discourse happening. Ultimately, there are a large number of reasons why people should be, at the very least, reducing their meat consumption and ideally eliminating it completely.

    To address some of the other comments:
    - Vegan diets are healthy. Yes, there can be adverse consequences of not planning your diet properly, but, this can be said of omnivorous diets too. As…

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  6. Gerard Wedderburn-Bisshop

    logged in via email @worldpreservationfoundation.org

    If you are wondering about any aspect of veganism, just have a look at this new book by Sydneysider Kathy Devine http://vegansarecool.com/

    Lots of information there from pregnant mums to bodybuilders to environmental information. Veganism heals the planet, heals us and will allow us to feed the future 9 billion sustainably. I've been vegetarian for 16 years, then vegan for the last 2, and have never felt better.

    You could go to www.WorldPreservationFoundation.org for more.

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  7. Richard Twine

    Senior Research Associate in Sociology of Science at Lancaster University

    @ Tim, you said: "Please stop laying all environmental problems at the animal's industry" Please start reading more closely, because we in no way do that. It is rather obvious that non-animal agriculture also has an environmental impact as well as similar indirect energy inputs like transport, storage and so on. All of agriculture and its intersections with other sectors needs to be highly ecologically reflexive and with urgency. But the environmental critique of the animal industry is not the only critique and I think that is vital to bear in mind, thank you.

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    1. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Richard Twine

      Richard, with all due respect, the first half of your article does blame the animal industry and there is no point made indicating that this is a larger industry problem or that it is also a problem with all food production. You then lead into not eating meat as a solution. So by neglecting to mention these points you are in fact lending your article to a bias by not presenting a rounded view.

      I'm primarily involved in the grains industry, so I'm all for more demand for what we grow. But I can cite…

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  8. colin george

    CEO The Australian Sustianability Institute Pty Ltd

    My question is around the statement:
    'We also know that replacing meat with more plant foods helps prevent diet related diseases such as cancer, obesity and heart disease."
    My issue is around Meat and Cancer. I have not seen scientifically based evidence of the relationship of meat consumption and cancer, please show me the research.
    It is becoming more commmonly accepted that a'balanced diet' means more plant based food in our diets - the question will be where will this plant food be produced, how will it be managed and what environmental impacts can be managed?

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    1. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to colin george

      Colin, there is science behind it but it has to be taken with a large grain of salt. The biggest study done was by Singh et al. (ARCH INTERN MED/ VOL 169 (NO. 6), MAR 23, 2009) and looked at 500,000 people. They concluded red meat was bad, but the problem was that when you looked at the data it actually read more like "Red meat is bad as long as you are fat, smoking, eat too much, don't exercise, and don't eat vegetables."

      Suffice to say, not exactly condemnatory of red meat. Red meat does release…

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    2. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      The World Cancer Research Fund's 2007 report did a full quantitative meta analysis coupled with consideration of what is known about cancer causing mechanism and were astonishingly frank ... remember this is 150 epidemiologists writing and they were absolutely clear: "red and processed meat cause bowel cancer" ... and probably other cancers. If you know any epidemiologists you will know how rarely they use the word "cause". At the cellular level, researchers know that red meat damages your DNA in…

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    3. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Geoff, you didn't read my post fully. I never said meat didn't cause problems, I said that many foods cause problems. Please read the science on several of the other toxic foods that occur in our daily diet. I don't hear vegetarians and vegans arguing that as a reason to stop eating stuff like soy. The diet has to be about balance, hence my remark about leafy greens.

      Also the China Study is a work of pseudoscience. It has been roundly debunked. See these links:
      http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/the-china-study-revisited/
      http://chriskresser.com/rest-in-peace-china-study

      As to the omnivores, yes we are. Omnivores are opportunistic feeders, eating anything. We do not have the segmented gut of a herbivore, neither do we have the gut of a pure carnivore. Our need to eat lots of meat is a dubious claim with no merit, but so is saying we should be vegetarians.

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    4. Shirley Birney

      retiree

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Well nobody has yet explained to me why humans haven't evolved the canine teeth and claws to rip a beast apart or the speed in which to run an animal down.

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  9. Richard Twine

    Senior Research Associate in Sociology of Science at Lancaster University

    @ Colin on Meat and Cancer - I refer to much of the recent research in my book of last year - please refer to my profile. It's a complex picture. Some types of meat are worse, and other health issues outside of cancer are also important to consider.

    @ Tim - as your profile indicates, you work or have worked in agricultural science broadly, including animal science. Animal production has unique impacts on the environment related, for example, to methane emissions and deforestation (please don't…

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    1. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Richard Twine

      I don't disagree that climate change is a much bigger issue. But I also disagree with the idea that methane emissions from animals and deforestation are going to be solved by "going vege". This exchange will actually require more cropping land or a complete rethink of current ag practices (e.g. green high rises). The issue here is that a large proportion of the current grazing land is not actually suitable for the required substitute in caloric intake. Rangelands are one example of areas that don't…

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  10. John Harland

    bicycle technician

    I am supportive of reducing meat in our diets, and sourcing meat ethically and in ecologically sustainable ways.

    It concerns me greatly that so much of our food comes from so few crops and animals, so experimenting with diet appeals to me.

    So I should like this article, but I don't. It reads like a religious diatribe, full of moral absolutes.

    Various forms of meat production have profoundly different environmental impacts, as do various plant crops. To condemn either as a group is more like fundamentalism than reasoned debate.

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    1. Shirley Birney

      retiree

      In reply to John Harland

      Well John, what’s so bad about “moral absolutes” when Scorecard – the pollution information site for the US advised in 1997: “Almost two trillion pounds of animal waste are produced per year nationally. An increasing amount of this animal waste is produced by intensive livestock operations, which are really more factories than farms.

      "Common animal waste treatment practices used by these livestock factories are often inadequate to protect our drinking water and environment, posing one of America's…

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  11. Richard Twine

    Senior Research Associate in Sociology of Science at Lancaster University

    No problem Tim, I'm glad you recognise the folly of incessant growth. Your discourse on land that is presently used to raise animals (we must include fodder land in this) as not being suitable for growing food is a discourse trotted out repeatedly from the animal science community who understandably have an interest in not seeing the animal industry shrink. Yet I've not seen any good research that backs up that assumption, it sounds to me like a massive sweeping generalisation since we are talking…

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    1. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Richard Twine

      Very true.

      On the land use: overall the statement holds true but it is nowhere as definitive as some would suggest. I have figures for Australia where it holds very true, but the numbers for Africa, South America and the USA are more sketchy. Another issue is that many systems are mixed farming and getting data that isn't confounded is hard.

      US favours 'odd' systems due to subsidisation, but they do hold large areas of land for grazing that is ill suited for other things. But they also irrigate…

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    2. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      Only about 8.4 percent of meat is produced from pure grazing systems ... which
      and not even all of this is on land that couldn't be cropped:

      http://bravenewclimate.com/2008/10/09/the-global-food-system-and-climate-change-part-i/

      Most meat is produced either in factory farms or in irrigated mixed farms. A mixed farm is similar to a factory farm in that land that could grow food is used to grow feed but instead of bringing the feed to the animals, you bring the animals to the feed. This is much better for the animals, and more efficient in oil use, but still detracts from human food growing potential. e.g., A dairy farm growing irrigated lucerne could easily grow food instead. Ditto most mixed farms.

      Yes, indeed, large areas of Africa are grazed which could be cropped. Africa has vast food production potential being subverted by cattle and custom.

      http://bravenewclimate.com/2010/02/04/boverty-blues-p2/

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  12. Shirley Birney

    retiree

    Of course white pastoral settlement down under set new ecological forces in motion. Pastoralists bred and multiplied alien sheep and cattle to gather and process the naturally growing plant material.

    WA’s parliament was once dominated by pastoralists and the ethos of economic development favoured what may be realistically perceived as plundering the rangelands. Excessive grazing pressures have resulted in the loss of soil carbon and land degradation and fodder crops have contributed towards…

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  13. David Poynter

    Medical Scientist

    I must take issue with the premise 'Meat is Bad. Vegetables are Good'
    Before 10,000 years ago grains would have been non-existant in our diet.
    The Inuit survived quite happily on a diet of protein and fat alone (zero carbohydrate).
    You can use poorly designed dietary surveys and meta-analysis to 'decide' whatever outcome you want. One could argue that the Wests primary food related health problems: diabetes, cancer, cardio-vascular disease and obesity are attributable to the overconsumption of high calorie, nutrient-poor, immune disruptive grains.
    I myself am on a No starch diet to combat the effects of a spondylarthropathy. Even though my diet would be 60% protein, 30% fat and maximum 10% carbohydrate - I am healthy - 6 feet tall and just 60 kg.
    In essence, a paleolithic diet is in an evolutionary sense what our bodies require. Veganism is for the rabbits.

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  14. Russell Hamilton

    Librarian

    Richard,

    If you're referring to my comment when you write:

    "An 'appeal to nature' as we saw in one of the earlier comments in the form of 'we are omnivores we are meant to eat meat' is exactly the sort of discourse we are interested in as it attempts to present certain practices as 'natural' and some as 'unnatural'."

    My view comes from wide reading but also just from my own experience: I have been vegetarian all my life (stopped eating meat when I realised that 'meat' came from killing animals…

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  15. John Harland

    bicycle technician

    In answer to Shirley Birney: not all meat is produced intensively and consumers have some choice. I have toured intensive chookeries and piggeries and would much rather not eat meat if those were the only sources.

    However Russel Hamilton's description of the chooks eating scraps in the backyard holds true for a lot of the non-industrialised world. In Bali it is the pigs and the chooks working together to recycle the waste.

    To me the morality lies in how the meat in our diet is acquired, and how…

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  16. David Leigh

    Writer and Filmmaker

    There are many sides to this argument and it can be said the proof is literally in the eating. About 3 months ago my partner was diagnosed with and aggressive colorectal cancer. It came as a shock to both of us because we have considered ourselves reasonably healthy. The treatment was far more aggressive than the cancer and it led me to do some research on alternative cures. What I uncovered was quite shocking. Firstly, cancer is not, as we are told, a mutation of rogue cells, growing out of control…

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  17. John Harland

    bicycle technician

    @David Leigh: it is difficult to tell if you are exceedingly well-informed or spouting wonderfully plausible nonsense.

    Can you provide some references, preferably peer-reviewed?

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  18. Ali @ Notzarella

    logged in via Twitter

    Nice perspective. Being vegan is a piece of cake. Reducing meat and dairy is something most people will benefit from. Heart disease and diabetes type II can both be immediately reversed on a low fat vegan diet. I myself enjoy a tasty high fat vegan diet but I still hope to avoid the worst problems associated with meat and dairy, which also include cancer.

    It doesn't have to be black and white - which can seem quite threatening and insulting, as we can see from the reactions above. Reducing make sense from multiple aspects.

    Funny thing though, when you do get off meat and diary, you wonder why you ever ate it.

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  19. David Leigh

    Writer and Filmmaker

    As stated in my comment, Tim and John, there are many cures for cancer and other illnesses. There are also as many sceptics and some with a vested interest. Cancer is worth US 1 trillion dollars per year. This includes diagnosis and treatments. It is an industry that employs millions of people globally. Research done on alternative treatments is usually not peer reviewed or even published in mainstream journals. Doctors and scientists who make claims of alternative cures are usually alienated by…

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    1. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to David Leigh

      David, if there were even a shread of legitimacy in any of these "cures" then these "doctors" would have funding out the ears and Nobel prizes showered over them. Yet none of them have published any real data, nor done any real trial work.

      If their methods were really so simple and effective then they would be lauded instead of shunned. Science is all about evidence and they would have won if they had any.

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    2. Heather V Osh

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      Tim,

      I wonder if you have heard about "Burzynski", the Movie is the story of a medical doctor and Ph.D biochemist named Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski who won the largest, and possibly the most convoluted and intriguing legal battle against the Food & Drug Administration in American history.

      His victorious battles with the United States government were centered around Dr. Burzynski's gene-targeted cancer medicines he discovered in the 1970's called Antineoplastons, which have currently completed Phase II FDA-supervised clinical trials in 2009 and could begin the final phase of FDA testing in 2011–barring the ability to raise the required $300 million to fund the final phase of FDA clinical trials.

      I suggest watching the documentary...there are many individuals with cures and much like David Leigh has stated "Doctors and scientists who make claims of alternative cures are usually alienated by the medical system, regardless of their previous achievements."

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  20. wilma western

    logged in via email @bigpond.com

    The most powerful reasons that most Australian eat meat regularly is that they like it ,it is relatively cheap when compared with some other countries(not US or Latin America) , and they are not convinced that it is really bad for their health. The increase in consumption of meat and dairy products in Asian countries as they become more affluent is similarly motivated. This is not due to some plot by " the animal science industry" . And the facts are that Australian per head consumption of red…

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    1. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to wilma western

      Thanks Wilma.

      And good point on the coffee. 10 milligrams of known carcinogens per cup of coffee (similar to the amount of caffeine in a decaf coffee).

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    2. Shirley Birney

      retiree

      In reply to wilma western

      Wilma, many consumers would say the Australian "supermarket" food model is not conducive to optimal health and well being therefore the livestock industry needs to take, at least part responsibility for that.

      The livestock industry’s “proselytizing” promotion of its product obscures the fact that its “healthy” product has maintained its “health” by the use of drenches, insecticides, pesticides, vaccinations, antibiotics, hormone growth promotants, surgical procedures without the use of pain-killers…

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  21. David Leigh

    Writer and Filmmaker

    Tim,
    There are Nobel Prize winners among the many doctors and scientists, who do believe in alternative cures. There is also lots of research. What there is not is an incentive by drug companies, large charitable organisations and medical councils to allow cures to be recognised.

    One example: Dr Max Gerson found and alternative dietary therapy and had his licence removed.

    These alternative cancer treatment Doctors have received the Nobel Prize for discoveries related to my first and second…

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    1. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to David Leigh

      David, essentially what you are saying is that the greatest discoveries of the past 100 years have been ignored by science. That is just irrational. What is actually happening is that the work done by these people wasn't able to prove their hypotheses.

      E.g. Max Gerson's book (not journal paper) was not peer reviewed and when scientists tried to replicate his results they found his data was wrong. The next doctor on your list, Otto Warburg, had invitro studies but no invivo studies. When his work was done invivo his theory fell apart.

      I could go on, but I won't. This isn't a case of big money, this is a case of shoddy work or work that doesn't get past the lab. I can think of several possible cancer cures that work until you put them in the body. Once in the body they are broken down long before they reach the cancer cells.

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    2. Marie Smith

      Researcher

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      Tim,
      I have read all your comments with great interest and most of the time i would agree. In this case i reckon your approach may reduce the complexity of 'the science'. As annoying and challenging as it can be, i may recommend the reading of Thomas Kuhn, 'The structure of scientific revolution' or even some Europeans sociologists writing about the construction of 'knowledge'. In order to prove some assumption it is necessary to do some experimentation and to get funding. Thomas Kuhn also just recall…

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    3. David Poynter

      Medical Scientist

      In reply to Marie Smith

      I agree with Marie, science is often more complex than imagined.
      When I was diagnosed with a spondylarthropathy almost all Rheumatolgists believed that the condition was unrelated to gut issues and thus would be unaffected by a change in diet. It was known that there was a strong genetic link to HLA-B27. Recent Genome Wide Association Studies have linked at least 13 other genes to the disease. Quite a few of these (IL23R in particular) are also important in Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Also up to…

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    4. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Marie Smith

      Marie, I don't disagree with your point at all. I can think of several genes owned by large companies in the GM field (e.g. first gen frost and drought tolerance genes). They weren't trotted out first because the companies in question wanted their research $$ back first. They are now starting to work on those genes. I know of some research in my field that was proposed by a scientist for a decade until a farmer group went it alone and now suddenly there is research $$ for it.

      But I think the difference in the case with David's "change diet to cure cancer" is that there has been research done, and this research has been found to show nothing. If this was a new field or had not had adequate research, remembering this sort of discovery would be Nobel prize stuff, then I would completely agree to keep an open mind. But evidence is evidence. The scientist should remain skeptical, but hopeful.

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  22. David Leigh

    Writer and Filmmaker

    Tim, you will believe what you will and I will do likewise. These Nobel Prize winning scientists did not attain that position by completing shoddy work. I have also read many accounts by these and others on why some work in not peer reviewed and why many are ostracised by their peers because they have dared to spoil the status quo. I also know personally, several people who have tried these cures and have survived, after doctors had given up on them. And who have been given the all clear by their oncologists. We will have to agree to disagree.

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  23. wilma western

    logged in via email @bigpond.com

    A few points in reply to Shirley. I used the word proseletysing in regard to the original article because it was all about how to convert Australians to the vegetarian or at least minimal animal foods diet - with the help of "social scientists" who would assist the vegan and animal lib missionaries sell their message to the heathen majority, many of whom would admittedly be better off health-wise consuming less meat and dairy produce. Advertising meat and dairy products is just that - marketing…

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    1. Shirley Birney

      retiree

      In reply to wilma western

      It’s disappointing to witness Wilma’s persistent polemic against those who choose to adopt a diet that’s relatively benign in preference to acknowledging the points I raised in my post.

      There is nothing extreme about exposing an industry behaving badly which promotes bad under the guise of good. However, there is something dishonest and dangerous about not saying it when we can see the direction in which they are taking us.

      1) The late Dr Henry Schapper who introduced agricultural economics…

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  24. John Harland

    bicycle technician

    Shirley Birney's comment about landclearing in Queensland raises a point I find interesting. If you want an industry behaving badly, sugarcane would have to rank high.

    Forty years ago, when I was working on a sugar farm I was horrified at the use of mercurial fungicide to treat the stooks as they are planted. This used a fair amount of liquid for each stook (cutting) planted, and at 120g/L of Mercury (Hg) present as methoxy ethyl mercury chloride, this amounted to a pretty serious environmental hazard.

    It was also difficult not to have some of it splash on you now and then as you planted.

    Forty years later, they are using the same fungicide in the same way. Not as much land is cleared for sugar but I wonder what the relative environmental impacts are of sugar and cattle.

    Is sugar the only plant crop that uses such poisons? Should this be a factor in our choice of what we eat?

    report
    1. Shirley Birney

      retiree

      In reply to John Harland

      John - Methoxy ethyl mercuric chloride (and many other chemicals) are registered for use on sugar cane crops. The tops and trash are fed to the sentient beast despite the risk of livestock ingesting contaminated plants and soils.

      There are more than 190 chemicals registered for use on livestock in Australia:

      http://www.rawbrown.com.au/formx/esi_cattle_12-05-2010.pdf

      Several of the chemicals in use are prohibited by the EU but then Australia and the US are the bad boys when it comes to public…

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  25. wilma western

    logged in via email @bigpond.com

    Both the original article and many comments giving total support to it blame all the environmental damage done by poor farming practices on animal farming and none of it on overclearing, nutrient depletion and overcultivation leading to erosion etc caused by grain and fruit etc production for human consumption. This is just misrepresentation that weakens the environmental case for a diet less reliant on meat and dairy than a typical Australian or American diet. I've already said I agree that both…

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