Food the challenge of our time

B12 What should I eat so I am fit and healthy – what can eight billion people eat so they are fit and healthy – what will my great grand kids be able to eat so they are fit and healthy?

feed the world Today I want to talk about the who, how and why of answering these questions. We may think that the digital revolution is the epicentre of technical innovations but the food industry has seen a similar level of innovation.

atomic bomb

 Innovation has brought great benefits to our society but just because something is new does not automatically mean that it is good. Is the atomic bomb and land mines which blow peoples legs of years after the conflict has finished good? Is food that makes us feel hungry so we end up fat and sick good?

We must learn to manage innovations so it works for the benefit of the community. If you read ‘My Story’ you will see my life has been one of innovations so I will give a few basic rules for successful innovation and how these can lead to innovations which will provide the billions of people that will inhabit the earth with food that will make them healthy.

The Anthropocene

We entered the Anthropocene on the 6th August 1945 the date of the first atomic bomb. It was then clear we had the means to destroy all human life on earth. That was almost eighty years ago – how come we are still here? The answer is information and understanding that information. The man behind the red button clearly understood that pressing the button would be the end humanity – so we are still here.

Now we face much slower and more insidious threats. Is global warming a threat? If coal and oil had never be discovered we would still have an advanced civilisation but running on the enormous power from the sun – in one hour there is enough energy falling on the earth to meet all our power requirements for the next year. We would simply have developed the technology to harness that power.

The why haven’t we? Because of the manipulation of information which is the real threat we face. And the biggest threat we face is from manipulation of information about food. We are destroying our soils, we are making ourselves fat and sick from a poor diet.

Deaths from Covid

covid deathsLet me just give one simple but dramatic example. There are numerous studies by qualified researchers that show that the people who die from Covid are either on a poor diet or subject to stress (which releases Cortisol which shuts down the immune system).

Virtually all the people that die from Covid have a weakened immune system from poor diet or stress.

Just think how different the world would be if people did not die from Covid.

We know that diet affects the immune system so it would seem reasonable that Governments around the world would be having programs to improve the populations immune strength. Yet they are not and why? Because of the flow of information.

The biggest threat that humanity faces is from food – yet we are fully capable of growing all the food we need to feed the global population food that will keep them healthy.

We have the technology – the danger comes from the manipulation and control of information. That is what I want to talk about here.

Let me tell you the story of food.

Once upon a time

pre-human Let me tell you a story, sorry no magic fairies just goodies and baddies and Pre humans.

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, a couple of millions years, there were creatures that lived in the forests that were to evolve into the most successful and dominant creature on earth. We can call them pre-humans. They were forest dwellers.

For some two million years pre-humans were tree dwellers eating plants grown in highly biologically active soil so we evolved our gut brain.

Forest floor

forest litter The forest flood was covered with dead and dying things that were once growing, plants and animals and their poop and dead bodies – probably the most biologically active area on earth. And the forest floor was just nicely moist not too wet and not to dry so living in abundance on this forest floor litter were minute creatures we now call micro biology – millions of species.

Some were simply bad and would infect these pre-humans and they would die – others turned out to be particularly good for these pre-humans – in fact without them there would be no modern humans.

Forest litter rich in biology

gut brain connectionPlants would grow in this forest litter and these plants would be full of micro-biology which the pre humans would digest when they ate the plants.

These micro-organisms began to breed inside these pre-humans – it was nice and warm with a plentiful supply of food. Now a very remarkable thing happened. Very lucky because had it not happened you would not be here to read this post.

Every one of these micro-organism or cells began to communicate with its neighbours and although each cell was not particularly smart there were trillions of them so together they formed a brain with true intelligence, and then they began to communicate with the pre-humans brain by a combination of electric (nervous) and chemical signals. We now call this the gut brain connection and is just totally essential for these creatures (and us) to survive.

Our gut brain -benefits

 greedy personThis was extremely fortunate as this gut brain did some extremely important jobs, it told the pre humans when they needed food, it made them hungry and needed to eat and when they had eaten enough it told them they were full and should stop eating.

This was particularly important as they lived in the branches of the trees and were safe from the ferocious creatures below. The pre-humans that did not have this intelligent gut would overeat and get fat and fall out of the trees and be eaten by the ferocious creatures below.

The nasty side of evolution

 It is a bit difficult to breed inside a ferocious monster and evolution is all about breeding so the pre-humans without a smart gut brain simply became extinct.

replacement partsBut the gut brain did yet more – as their body parts wore out the gut brain would send signals and often produce the chemicals needed to replace these parts.

This relationship between the micro biology and the pre humans was very beneficial for both and went on for some two million years and became the norm. The pre-humans could not exist with the micro biology and the micro biology in our gut needed the pre-humans.

Good bugs and bad bugs

 This was all good but as we all know in life good things often have a bad side and the bad side was the harmful micro biology – often this was in the food that the pre-humans were eating, there were no bottles of hand disinfectant swinging in the branches of the trees, but the beneficial micro biology worked together to defeat the harmful micro biology.

For a start the beneficial biology would simply out compete the harmful biology so they had no food and simply died out.

But the good biology and the pre humans developed a very effective system to fight off the harmful micro biology – our immune system – the beneficial biology in our gut housed, fed and trained the immune system. Still a tough battle but enough of the pre-humans survived the attacks by the harmful microbes to survive and prosper for some couple of million years.

Micro organisms

good bug Good mircro-organisms would end up in the gut of these pre-humans where in the nice warm surrounding they would breed forming a colony. Some of these micro-organisms would be good and others bad.

Both the good and bad organisms would breed inside the gut competing for food and space. If the bad organism won the pre-humans would end up sick or dead. If the good organisms won the pre-humans would survive and breed and lead to us – modern humans.

bad bugWho won depended on the conditions inside the gut – if these pre-humans ate the sort of food that favoured the good organisms the goodies would win if they ate the sort of food that favoured the bad organism then the baddies would win and those pre-human would die and not breed so they would become extinct.

The good organisms and these pre-humans formed a relationship in which both flourished – what we now call synergy. The pre-humans would provide the micro-organisms with food and a nice warm place to breed while the organisms would provide the pre-humans with services they could not live without.

The importance of gut biology

cells communicateGut Micro-biology is essential for our health. There are trillions of cells made up from thousands of species. But this is much more than trillions of dumb cells – they communicate with each other and our head brain to form an intelligent control system to manage our bodies to do some very important jobs.

Our gut brain does three very important jobs,

– it control our appetite so we have enough food without overeating and getting fat and sick

– it manufactures the complex chemicals we need to replace our body parts as they age

– it hosts much of our immune system so protect us from pandemics

Modern soils in chemical industrial agriculture lack this essential biology and nutrients. Many of the chemicals used are claimed not to harm us but they certainly harm the soil biology on which our lives and future generations depend.

Our friendly gut bugs – what they do

They would digest the food that these pre-humans could not digest themselves – they would make chemicals – we now call hormones which would tell these pre-humans they were hungry or full so they did not starve or overeat and get fat and sick – they would make complex chemicals which was need to replace the pre-humans bits as they wore out and they would support the pre-humans immune system so they could fight off any bad micro-organisms that happen to come by.

Climate change (this time natural)

Hunter gathers

Hunter gatherers But then something truly bad happened. The climate changed, this time due to natural causes, but the results were disastrous for the pre-humans as the trees which had provided protection simply died out and they were left in open land – easy prey for the ferocious beasts.

When the trees disappeared and we became hunter gathers, we learned the benefits of technology and cooperation. We developed technology for hunting and started to eat meat and cook.

But much of our diet was still based on plants so we maintained a healthy gut to fight off local infections and we lived in small groups so large scale infections simply could not happen – they were disabled.

Bad as it may have seemed this led to the creation of modern humans some two hundred thousand years ago who made two very important discoveries.

Forming cooperative groups and developing technology (sort of)

The first is now absolutely built into human nature, as they say it is in our DNA and that is forming groups and cooperating together. One human is an easy meal for a ferocious beast. A group would have been a feast except for one reason – we developed a technology.

This technology may seem totally insignificant with modern technology but had these humans not developed this laughably simple technology then none of us would be here today.

The key to our success – technology and cooperation

monkey throwing stone And that technology is that we learned to throw stones at the ferocious beasts – and the barrage of stones hurt so the ferocious beasts decided it was better to chase a few antelopes which could run much faster but had not developed the technology of throwing stones.

Humans continued to develop technologies typically with beneficial result but sometimes disastrous.


early ag Then we developed agriculture which enabled the population to significantly increase. But there were side effects. We created the city which made us much more prone to infectious epidemics which killed large numbers of people.

We also had no understanding of soil biology so we destroyed our agricultural soils. This led to a pattern throughout the world of civilisation developing in an area and thriving for several hundred years then when the soil was no longer productive the civilisation either collapsed and was overtaken by fresh civilisations or they simply moved on to a new area with fresh soil.

But despite these problems we were still eating food grown in biologically active soil so although we were under attack from infections with many deaths overall the population expanded and at an ever increasing rate.

Cause and enabling black death

black deathOne of particular relevance to today epidemic is the black death. This teaches us a very valuable lessen for today, the difference between cause and enabling and the power of dis-enabling.

Scientist estimate that the black death had been around for some two thousand years without killing that many people then in 1,300ad it spread like wild fire and in some areas killed half the population.

There is no way the black death was caused by some new technology developed by humans – but its spread was enabled by a human technology.

The new technology was a quantum jump in the improvement of boats. These boats were now sailing around the known world unknowingly carrying rats and their fleas which were the real carriers.

At first humans had no idea what caused or how to fight the black death but they did develop quarantine which slowed the spread and allowed time for the development of better weapons. Quarantine is a dis-enabling technology we still try and use today.

Another very simple dis-enabling technology was the adoption of the bed raised above the floor, so people no longer slept on the floor which created a barrier to infection. Hygiene was also improved. All these use the process of dis-enabling – they don’t cure the disease but they are effective.

London SewageThe next great plague was cholera some five hundred years later in the 1800’s. Like the black death there was no immediate medical solution and is was initially solved by the process of dis-enabling. This time initially by a very smart guy called John Swan who at first simple removed the handle from a contaminated pump.

But it did lead to the major engineering works of the London sewage system, still one of the engineering masterpieces in history.

In both of these cases the immediate solution was dis-enabling and later more sophisticated solution were developed.

The modern age

modern agThen we entered the age with modern agriculture particularly the development of synthetic fertilisers and improve genetics.

Food production increased at a staggering rate and population with it. In a period of eighty years the population increase by a factor of 3.4.

Such an increase in population is completely unprecedented and we really have no idea of the implications – other than we are right bang in the middle of the Anthropocene with multiple threats from nuclear war, climate change, epidemics which has enabled our modern life style and may be even the most important – how we feed ourselves.

The plastic age

The happy relationship between micro-biology and modern humans lasted up until about fifty years ago. Then modern humans entered what I call the plastics age – not because we started to eat plastics but because plastics are clean and inert and we started to eat food that was clean and inert, devoid of life and often wrapped in plastic.

It was cheap, convenient and tasted good but we never really felt satisfied, or more accurately our gut biology was not satisfied, so it sent out signals for us to eat more

And that was not good for us humans, we became fat and sick and prone to infections but it was a disaster for these beneficial organisms which had been our friends and looked after us for millions of years.

But humans have survived through many catastrophes by our ability to innovate.

The technology explosion

Modern humans have been developing new technologies at an exponentially increasing rate, the development of new technologies like Artificial Intelligence and DNA sequencing would have been unthinkable just a few decades ago.

In just a few hundred years we have progressed from a hand made cottage industry to modern manufacturing with mass production, the steam engine, the car and aeroplane.

Then on the 16th July 1945 there was the demonstration of a new technology which meant humans had entered the Anthropocene, the era where our technology had reached the level were we could destroy all human life on the planet. I am of course talking about the Atomic bomb which should make every living person stop and think about how we manage this mastery of technology we have acquired.

When we look back over the history of innovation and technology we see a distinct pattern.

Motive for innovation, power, money and sometimes humanitarian

Some technology is developed purely for humanitarian reasons – to make the earth a better place to live in – but sad to say much of the technology is developed either for power or money.

genghis kans army Genkis Kahn must be the one of the great examples of technology giving power. His technologies of the stirrup and the reversed bow gave him a technological superiority in battle which made him virtually invincible. He could easily have conquered the entire region from the shores of the Atlantic to the shores of the Pacific.

But for some unknown reason he turned his troops around as he was riding into Europe defeating all his enemies and went back home. Who knows why? May be he just missed his girl friend.

But many technologies are now developed for money, and there is a distinct pattern. The technologies benefits a significant number of users who are willing to pay more for the perceived benefits of the new technology and so generates large amounts of money.

That’s good

But typically new technology creates a neo-monopoly. It may not be a legal monopoly but more like a mateopoly where are few individuals or corporation together control the technology and create simply amazing wealth (for themselves).

That’s good for them – but no one else.

And on the other side are people who are severely disadvantaged by the new technology, often loosing their job and livelihood and having the value of their assets destroyed.

That is not good.

This is nothing new – this has been the pattern of innovation throughout history – what makes it all so different is that we are now in the Anthropocene, we now have the technological capacity to destroy life on our planet.

It could be the atom bomb, it could be global warming with its floods and droughts but it could be and is most likely to be something as simple as food.

The process of successful innovation

Understand the problem

We must really understand the problem – or else we will end up on the wrong road with a clever but useless gizmo. With food people say we have a problem in feeding the eight billion people on earth. That is not true – we are already producing enough food to feed thirteen billion people – it it just the wrong sort of food.

Paradigm busting

You must be prepared for a bit of paradigm bashing. Eat less exercise more – the paradigm to loose weight – that does not work.

Silo hopping

Dump the silo – experts live in their silos with a high degree of expertise in a narrow discipline – this is breeding ground for paradigms. We need to go Silo hopping, throw in a bit of ecology, evolution, psychology.

Manage ignorance

Science may not be the driver of innovation – there is a saying that science is the art of truth – engineering is the art of ignorance. Many of the great advances have been made by making something that is useful and works by overcoming ignorance then once shown to be important science has developed the basic understanding which leads to substantial improvements in the technology.

Simplest solution that works

Aim for the simplest solution that works, we live in an era of unrivalled complexity which means good ideas often fail from fragility and poor ergonomics.

Distributing the benefits

Innovations should lead to benefits, but people who innovate or manage innovation must consider how those benefits are distributed – do they benefit society as a whole, do they just make a few people very rich and harm other people, even if it is just a loss of jobs and income. These are factors which must be considered and planned for.

Innovation – the plan

We live in an era with unprecedented levels of sophistication. There are major investments in very sophisticated food technology like creating artificial meat using genetic engineering. But where do the basic raw materials come from, are they sustainable, will they just be available for the rich people leaving the poor people starving and can they really feed the expected ten billion people?

Would it be cynical to think that such ultra sophisticated technologies are being developed by the ultra rich so in the event of some food crisis they would have access to food but this would be of little benefit to the bulk of the population.

Rethinking technology

We are already supporting some eight billion people from food that comes from the sun and the soil, actually we are producing enough food to feed the anticipated growth in population for many years to come – we simply waste an enormous quantity of food which is not good for our health.

Can we do that better.

The basic of the Gbiota system

The simple fact is that for a couple millions years our pre-humans ancestors were happily and successfully living on plants grown in highly biologically active nutrient rich soil and had an immune system strong enough to defend them from the harmful biology.

Then fifty years ago we switched to a very different agricultural system which destroyed the soil biology.

How smart was that and can we re-trace our steps to a growing system based on an active soil biology which stood us humans in good stead for all those years?

That is the basis of the Gbiota system.

It is so simple that it hardly seems reasonable to call this an innovation.

But let’s go through the logic. For two million years we survived and created a beneficial gut biology by eating plants grown in the moist, biologically active, nutrient rich forest litter.

We simply cannot repeat that process because we have chopped down most of the trees and there are simply too many of us.

Mimicking the forest floor

gbiota bed principlesBut we can mimic the conditions of the forest floor. We produce an incredible amount of organic waste which often ends up in land fill creating green house gasses.

We keep animals which produce an awful lot of poop and we ourselves are animals making yet more. This may be full of pathogens which have the potential to kill us but we have the technology to manage the eco-system so the good bugs can out compete the bad bugs.

We also need minerals but these are readily available in volcanic rocks dust. Not everyone has their own private volcano but they typically will live near a quarry where the rock dust is a by product.

We also need beneficial biology ranging from the micro-biology to worms but they are very happy to breed up from an initial inoculant.

All the needed raw materials are readily available as waste, at low cost, just needing minimal re-processing to turn them into a valuable resource.

Gbiota beds are simple – breeding beneficial biology in organic waste, this beneficial biology will enter the roots of the plants and when we eat the plants the biology, neatly wrapped inside the plants enter our gut biota.

This is really a very simple technology, people living in apartments can have their own Gbiota bed and recycle all their food waste themselves.

There are many local farmers who can provide these plants at economic prices to their local community.

The details of how to set up and manage Gbiota beds are on my web site under the Creative Commons system for any one to view.

The information age

So what could possibly go wrong? We live in the information age, the internet is one of the top innovations of our era so surely who would expect there to be any issue in educating people about eating plants to enhance their gut biota and improving their health. Particularly as we are in the middle of a pandemic where a healthy gut biology and immune system could be the difference between living and dying.

Yet this abundance of information is the very source of the problem.

There is simply so much information out there – some of it perfectly valid and other just bogus information – it is simply impossible to review it all and work out what is genuine and what is fake.

Of course we do have mega corporation who are anxious to help us find the right information that they think we may like – for free. Not the information that is necessarily correct but what we want to hear. This is not done by humans with real intelligence but by machines operating according to how they are programmed with no real intelligence.

Data manipulation

 breast feedingHow do I know? My interest is in gut biology and where does that come from initially? – from our mothers at birth and later from her milk. So I research this then get bombarded with advertisement and information appropriate for a pregnant lady.

How do I know it is a machine – any human with a scrap of real thinking capacity would think that an 81 year old male is unlikely to be pregnant.

The companies that provide these so called free service are making billions of dollars from providing this information to their advertisers and the food industry is one of the largest advertising budgets running into multi billions of dollars.

We live in a world of highly filtered information. The system promotes food which will earn money while information saying that gut health can be improved by eating plants grown in organic waste is filtered out as there is no money in such a simple idea.

The real world test

How do we resolve this issue? It is so simple – just get a few people to do a real world test. Anyone can set up a Gbiota bed, or find a grower who is willing to set one up. Eat Gbiota food for about three weeks and see how your food cravings change. It is not simply that you will eat less – you will want to eat less.

If you want to be more specific you can have your gut biota tested. As everyone’s gut biota is unique this need to be done before and after changing your diet.

You can do this locally or you may be able to cooperate as part of the human gut project.

Human gut project

rob knight human gut project You can contact Rob Knight, Professor professor at the University of California, San Diego and the co-founder of the American Gut Project.

Then they can tell your friends and get them to run the test and tell their friends. No need for expensive advertising which no one believe any way – just the good old fashioned way of people talking to each other and sharing real life experiences.

ps make sure you are well stocked with toilet paper before running these trials.

Some regenerative farmers understand and grow food in soil which resembled the soil in forest litter and would control the moisture level so it would be nice and moist just like in the forest of long ago.

They call this Gbiota food and you can buy it from wherever you buy your food by looking for the Gbiota symbol.

Some regenerative farmers understand and grow food in soil which resembled the soil in forest litter and would control the moisture level so it would be nice and moist just like in the forest of long ago.

They call this Gbiota food and you can buy it from wherever you buy your food by looking for the Gbiota symbol.

Gbiota symbol

Gbiota is a registered trade mark.

Forward updateaug21

Backward overview