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T. Colin Campbell’s groundbreaking 2004 book The China Study has inspired another film, this one closer to home. Campbell’s son, Nelson, is executive producer and director of PlantPure Nation, a film that documents the younger Campbell’s demonstrating the health benefits of a plant-based whole-foods diet in his hometown of Mebane, North Carolina. The film also explores big-picture issues such as current medical practice and the political influence of the animal agriculture industry in the U.S.
In the film, a doctor observes that people can accept nutrition as a cause of a lot of our chronic diseases, while at the same time not accept diet as a treatment. Why do you think that is?
Years and years of misinformation. We’ve found that people are open to the idea that diet can be a treatment when this is properly explained to them. But in the absence of this explanation, they equate treatment with pharmaceuticals.
Why isn’t nutrition regularly taught in medical schools? Do you see that changing?
My father has researched commentary from leading medical practitioners going back to the 1700s and earlier. There’s been a pronounced bias against nutrition in large part because of ego. Historically, the fathers of modern medicine—and they have been mostly men—haven’t like the idea that the locus of control resides with the patient. However—and this is an important point—many practitioners of medicine today are open to the power of nutrition. These doctors have lived with the system of drugs, procedures, insurance hassles, liability problems, 10-minute visits, etc., and are fed up. This is why when we made the movie, we decided to utilize as experts physicians who have practiced medicine conventionally, but discovered the power of nutrition and embraced it.
The committee advising the USDA on new dietary guidelines has already come under fire by the meat industry for including sustainability in their report and recommending a decrease in animal products in our diet. Can the average citizen have a voice in the USDA’s accepting the committee’s recommendations?
We will try to give at least some voice to the public through a rally we’re organizing for May 9, next to the Capitol building in Washington. We’re going to do our best to draw a big crowd. We’ll also tell people as we cross the country about the battle raging in Washington and encourage them to express themselves to their elected officials.
But the real solution is to have a strategy that transcends the debate in Washington. Of course it would be great if the USDA accepts the committee’s recommendation, but if they don’t we can still forge ahead with a grassroots movement and achieve success. And if they do accept the recommendations, we’ll still require a movement because transforming society through plant-based nutrition will not be easy. Anyone who things otherwise is being overly idealistic. We need to create awareness and then practical options for people everywhere, as well as financial incentives for people to take responsibility.
Most of all, we need to create community around this idea. When people see those around them taking responsibility through plant-based nutrition, they will be much more inclined to do the same, and once they have made the change, to stick with it. I’m a big believer in community.