I am allergic to eggs. When I was in school, I was the only child out of about a hundred kids who couldn’t eat a particular food. Everybody thought it strange, that eggs made me so sick. I have no idea how many times I heard someone say, “I’ve never heard of food making someone sick.” Some people called me a picky eater because I wouldn’t eat eggs. Those who knew I didn’t eat cookies or cake were compassionate over this strange phenomenon.
With my history, I was amused this fall when I heard a comic song about all the foods the guests at a Thanksgiving dinner couldn’t eat. I occasionally see a cartoon with Jesus and the basket of loaves and fish. The crowd is saying, “Is it gluten free?” “I can’t eat fish.” Food intolerances have become mainstream when the comics are finding them fodder for humor.
In short, something has changed since I was the odd little girl who wouldn’t eat the cake at birthday parties. Preparing dinner for ten people is a dance around the eight most common food allergens. What changed? Did people suddenly wake up to the fact that some foods make them sick or has the nature of food changed?
My history leads me to suspect that the nature of food changed. My parents used to plant a garden every year. The happiest time was when we could go to the garden select our own ear of corn and mom would boil it for our dinner. It tasted so good. Then, something changed. My in-laws planted a shrunken gene corn that stayed sweet longer after being picked than did our good old Golden Bantam. I started to itch. I lived in the Yakima valley and started getting asthma when we drove past cornfields. Had I changed and added a new allergy? Had the corn changed? I can still be near the heirloom cornfields and handle the heirlooms, so I suspect that the corn has changed. Somehow messing directly with the genetics of corn has made it more reactive to sensitive people. To make matters worse with the corn problem, they put high fructose corn sweetener in everything, and yes, it makes me itch.
Still, we have those who insist that the changes to food, especially corn are harmless, and the things they spray on food are harmless. Are they? Why are so many people complaining about allergies? Why do so many people insist they can’t eat this or that? It is embarrassing to have to refuse food prepared by a loving hostess. Are more people into the joys of self-humiliation caused by saying, “Oh that looks lovely, but I’m allergic to…” After a lifetime of being embarrassed, I can’t see any joy in having allergies.
So, scientifically, we know that food has changed and the chemicals used to grow food have changed, and more people are obese and have learning problems and allergies and autism. Is it our food that is making us sick? Many think so. However, proving causation in humans is scientifically a very long and complicated process. It just isn’t ethical to poison people to see if they get sick. Thus we have many scientists saying there is no evidence that the changes in food and how it is grown is causing any problems for consumers. Of course there is no scientific evidence. It is unethical to do the necessary experiments, so we wait until tens of millions of people are as sick as my granddaughter before we can scientifically say, “Changes in food chemistry are causing illness.”