Irradiation and learning
An old Latin proverb says “Mens sana in corpore sano” or “Healthy spirit in a healthy body”. This proverb underlines the importance of physical health for one’s spiritual life. In my opinion, it is equally applicable to the process of learning. In order to learn something it is important to be healthy because when a person is ill, the only thing s/he really thinks about is his/her health. In other words, to make sure that the learning process is smooth, it is necessary to keep healthy. However, there are a lot of things that keep us unhealthy and therefore are best to be avoided. Today I would like to speak about irradiation (the symbol which is used on food packaging of irradiated food is the above image).
According to Canadian Food Inspection Agency, “Food irradiation is the process of exposing food to a controlled amount of energy called “ionizing radiation” (CFIA, 2014)*.
According to encyclopedia Britannica, “Irradiation, or radurization, is a pasteurization method accomplished by exposing meat to doses of radiation” (Russel Cross, 2011).
In other words, irradiation is the process of exposing food to radiation. Ironically, nuclear wastes are used for this process. Some claim that irradiation is a safe way to prolong shelf life of products and to reduce the number of bacteria in food and thus help to avoid poisoning with food. Others admit that it may prolong shelf life of some products, but it has no practical worth in preventing food poisoning since irradiation does not kill bacteria that cause botulism or viruses.
The first camp is represented by food manufacturers or food resellers and some agencies aiming at prolonging shelf life of products and increasing revenue. The second camp is represented by scholars who study the process independently.
According to Dr. Gayle Eversole (2015):
- no one knows what the effect of irradiation on human health in the long run.
- “Irradiation exposes food to the equivalent of 30 million chest X-rays.”
- “Irradiation creates new chemicals in foods called radiolytic products. Some of these products are known cancer-causing substances (like benzene in irradiated beef).”
- “Irradiation destroys essential vitamins and nutrients that are naturally present in food” and “accelerate[s] vitamin losses occur during storage–up to 80%.”
- “Safer, well-tested alternatives to irradiation exist.”
- “Irradiation plants pose environmental threats to workers and surrounding communities.”
- “[I]rradiation both creates harmful free radicals and destroys the antioxidant vitamins necessary to fight them!”
- “In Europe, food irradiation has been used to camouflage spoiled seafood.”
- “Studies on animals fed irradiated foods have shown increased tumors, reproductive failures and kidney damage.”
- “In Georgia, radioactive water escaped from an irradiation facility; the taxpayers were stuck with $47 million in cleanup costs.”
- “Chromosomal abnormalities occurred in children from India who were fed freshly irradiated wheat.”
The information above can make one reflect on potential health issues and to seek a safer way. The alternative to irradiated food is non-irradiated food and particularly organic food. Nowadays staple organic products (e.g. wheat, buckwheat, millet, oats, apples, potatoes and many others) are affordable even to students and low income families. And this option should be tried as an alternative.
The learning process is a demanding task and every effort should be taken to help this process. Food has a tremendous effect on learning. There is food that helps learning and there is food that makes us sick and distracts from learning. Students and other learners (and instructors) are too busy to be ill. Therefore, it is important to consider all healthy options which facilitate learning.
* Bold type added.
Canadian Food Inspection Agency (2014). Food irradiation. Retrieved October 10, 2015 from http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/information-for-consumers/fact-sheets/irradiation/eng/1332358607968/1332358680017.
Eversole, G. (2015). The dangers of food irradiation. Retrieved October 10, 2015 from http://www.rense.com/general81/foodr.htm.
H. Russell Cross (2011). Meat processing. Retrieved October 9, 2015 from http://www.britannica.com/topic/meat-processing/Livestock-slaughter-procedures.