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Like (some) "holistic foods"

Reader comment on item: Islamic Economics: What Does It Mean?

Submitted by Archimedes2 (Canada), Sep 28, 2007 at 00:52

Seems that "Islamic economics" is of a similar kind to many varieties of "holistic foods" that turn out to be not particularly holistically produced in any meaningful sense, just differently, and sometimes just relabelled foods with no other distinction... and "health foods", many of which are particularly unhealthy.

While I do not discount the importance of respecting the environment or basic principles of health, it is pretty obvious that our world is full of superficial "pop" versions of such respect which often, when examined, are revealed to have the exact opposite effect as intended. Although "environment" and "health" are regarded in the popular mindset as being aligned considerations they are actually often in competition. I remember an anecdote raised, I believe by Bruce Ames, inventor of the Ames test, which is the standard for determining the level of carcinogenicity of a food item.

Apparently, peanuts in the Southern U.S. are naturally infected by a fungus that does not seriously hurt production but damages the product in subtle ways. For years, therefore, crops were treated with chemical fungicides that kept the fungus at bay. Eventually environmentalists and health gurus learned of the nasty chemicals and caused the usual uproar. Their main argument was that the Ames test showed these chemicals to be carcinogenic, and that trace amounts of it could be detected in peanut products after processing. The pesticide was eventually banned. Ames makes the following point: as a result we now eat peanut products laced with the fungus, not the fungicide.

The kicker to the story is that the fungicide is also carcinogenic (basically everything is, at some level), and by the Ames test it registers FAR HIGHER levels of carcinogenicity than the banned pesticide, in the quantities in which it appears in the product. I tell this little bedtime story because the parallel to "Islamic banking" strikes me as compelling.


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