Professor Diba Khan-Bureau
Seminar 5 Date: 3/5/2014
Speaker: Hedley Freake
Food, Health and The Environment
Hedley Freake was the speaker for our fifth seminar. He was an absolute pleasure to have in class, and informed us all with new exciting information that most have never heard ofor seen before, about Food, Health and the Environment. I was definitely interested in knowing more about Hedley Freake, mostly because it was noticeable that he was not from around here because he had a British accent! According to Hedley, he is the first generation college student among his family, which is something we both share in common. Hedley was born in London, and started off his education in London also. He obtained his Bachelors of Science degree in Nutrition in 1976-79 , at Queen Elizabeth College, University of London. From there, he furthered his education, and got his Ph.D. degree in physiology from the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, University of London in 1979-83. In 1983 after Hedley obtained his Ph.D, he moved to America, and spent three years in a fellowship program in Molecular Endocrinology, department of medicine, at the University of Minnesota. He then started his teaching career at the University of Connecticut in the Department of Nutritional Sciences. The classes he teaches are about nutrition, food, health and the environment, and our seminar revolved around those concepts also.
Hedley Freake started off our seminar with a question, what is food? Then that question was proceeded with a dictionary definition. But to everyone's knowledge, food is much more than just any nutritious substance that we consume, food is greatly influenced by culture and circumstances. Above is a picture of stinky tofu. Apparently, this is rotten, moldy tofu, that stinks horrendously, and tastes awful, but yet, it is something that you can easily find on the streets of Hong Kong, along with snakes, insects, sheep penis, and many more “foods” that Americans wouldn't consider as something delicious to eat. But yet our cultures are very different, and so is our idea of what food is. In our culture, a lot of people would consider coke zero, for example being a food because it is something that we consume with a lot of meals. However, though, coke zero has absolutely no nutritional substance, the only thing it has that is somewhat beneficial would be the presence of water, everything else is like poison. Aspartame for example is very awful and is shown to be linked with various cancers. In some countries, people experience Pica. Pica is the consumption of non nutritious items, mud pies are an example. In developing countries where people have access to little or no food, they will eat mud pies just to feel up their stomach and cure the hunger pains they are experiences. Mud pies though, have very little minerals in them, and are basically not nutritious at all. This proves the point that food has a more complex definition than what it is defined as. Cultural and circumstances need to be taken in consideration when trying to answer the question, what is food?
A good point that Hedley Freake brought up would be two major transitions historically. The first would be the transition from hunter gatherers to early agriculture, and the second transition from traditional agricultural and industrial agriculture. Hedley mentioned that The United States agriculture is more interested in quantity vs. quality. I couldn't help but to agree with that because of the overwhelming presence of GMO’s in our food supply. With the help of Genetically Modified Organisms, companies and farmers can give their products a longer shelf life, bigger appearance, better flavor, etc. all for a cheaper price, and a hefty profit. Genetically Modified organisms drive profitability for businesses, which is why they are present in over 70% of products in our grocery stores. No wonder why industrial agriculture is heavily subsidized by the U.S government. However, industrial agriculture has it’s consequences. Those downsides are that monocultures erodes biodiversity, energy costs are extremely high, the need for fertilizers and pesticides rack up a hefty bill, not to mention they heavily pollute the environment. These consequences bring up the question, why do we have a high demand for something, GMO crops specifically, if they are not proven to be safe for human consumption, and takes a toll on the environment? My answer would be because it is cheaper for americans to buy a genetically modified product than an organic one. The more GMO products profit, the longer they are going to stick around.
Hedley Freake touched upon many different subjects that revolve around food. Nutritional benefits, foods of different cultures, nutritionism, industrial agriculture, statistics, and many more topics. His seminar was very informative and I enjoyed it a lot! I was very surprised when I found out the types of food people eat in Hong Kong. Hedley told us that they even slaughter and eat dogs! That would tear at my heart, and I would never eat the dog because in our society dogs are similar to humans. What our country considers to be the norm and food, can vary significantly between other cultures. Great class!