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Keeping Balanced Amid the Ashes

By Alex Jack

Following the attacks on America, the release of deadly anthrax, and the war in Afghanistan, violence, fear, and terror gripped much of the world, including the organic community. The pilot of the hijacked plane that hit the first World Trade Center tower was an organic farmer, and the local Farmers Market at the WTC was destroyed.

As these troubling events unfold, the key to peace is maintaining physical health, keeping a calm, peaceful mind, and exercising sound judgment. Throughout history, rice, wheat, and other whole cereal grains have served as the foundation for human culture and civilization. Traditionally it was understood that a grain-centered diet created strong physical vitality; a clear, tranquil mind; and spirit of oneness. In the Far East, the word for peace-wa-is made of the ideograms for grain and mouth. By eating whole cereal grains in a spirit of gratitude, ancient people intuitively knew that they could maintain a peaceful mind and spirit. In the West, the biblical phrase, And they shall turn their swords into plowshares, describes a similar process. The United Nations flag with the globe encircled by wheat sheaves is another symbol of the age-old connection between peace and whole grains.

In The Study of War, a comprehensive examination of conflict through the ages, Quincy Wright, a sociologist at the University of Chicago and an advisor to the Nuremberg Tribunal, concluded that violence, terror against civilian populations, and war are unnatural and that the trend of evolution has been toward symbiotic relations and perhaps toward vegetarian diets. He found that societies where people ate predominantly plant quality foods were more peaceful than other societies.

Contemporary scientific and medical studies have linked the modern way of eating, high in fat, sugar, and processed foods, with aggressive, anti-social behavior. Ingestion of pesticides, toxins, and other contaminants have also been directly associated with enhanced anger and violence. Genetically engineered corn, soy, and cotton have these pesticides or herbicide-resistant genes built into every cell, and today an estimated 70% of all processed foods contain GE ingredients!

At a social level, over the last several generations a legacy of oppression and upheaval in the developing world has uprooted millions of people from their homelands, transforming family farms into plantations, factory farms, and pasture. Commodity crops, livestock and other animal food, and fast foods have increasingly replaced whole grains, fresh vegetables, and other seasonal foods as principal fare. Seeking shelter, food, and work, impoverished families have flocked to cities and other urban centers, contributing to further cycles of hunger, poverty, and crime. Amid this chaos, well meaning relief organizations distribute white flour, sugar, evaporated milk, and other emergency foods that contribute to further decline. In this caldron of despair, violence and terrorism are easily nurtured.

A healthy way of eating is integral to personal and social well-being. The dietary codes of the world's major faiths, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism, stress the primacy of grains, vegetables, and other predominantly plant-quality foods. In the Bible, we read, And God said, Behold I have given you every herb-bearing seed . . . to you it shall be for meat. The Qur'an, the holy scripture of Islam, teaches, Let humanity examine its food.

In one of the most important policy changes that will help reduce crime and violence in America, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons recently began offering all prisoners the choice of a vegetarian entre at every meal. Up to 20% of all federal inmates in the U.S. are taking part in this program. The change came about after several inmates sought legal redress, claiming that the modern diet violated their religious rights! In this way, a handful of individuals, including Muslims, changed the nation's prison diet for the better. An entire new spiral of peace and harmony began. It may take several years to translate into lower crime and recidivism, but the seed was planted.

In another bold initiative, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D.-Ohio) introduced a bill this autumn to create a Department of Peace. The new cabinet-level agency would be dedicated to peacemaking at both the domestic and international levels. It would focus on the resolution of conflict through mediation and other nonviolent means, the prevention of violence, and the promotion of human rights. The bill would establish a national Peace Academy, like the military academy at West Point, and send graduates to areas of conflict around the world to promote nonmilitary solutions. In the event of war, it would require that nonmilitary action be considered. There shall be established a formal process of consultation of the Department of Peace by the Department of State and the Department of Defense, prior to the initiation of any armed conflict between the U.S. and any other nation.  Kucinich is the principal sponsor of the Genetically Engineered Right to Know Act in Congress, requiring mandatory labeling of GE foods. He believes that consumers have the right to an informed choice about the foods they eat, especially foods that contain additives or genes that may alter their consciousness and contribute to violence.

As Brillat-Savarin, who lived through the French Revolution, noted in The Physiology of Taste, The destiny of nations depends on what they eat.  In this time of global peril, our daily way of eating will help shape the future.

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