Food for Thought

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Obesity – a potent cause of evolutionary change
‘Evolution on the farm transformed society ten millennia ago and is doing the same today. Farmers have been powerful agents of selection on wheat, maize, cows, pigs, chickens and more, but the influence of those domestic creatures on the biology of the farmers has been almost as great. Diet began to act as an agent of natural selection as soon as the wild was domesticated ten thousand years ago and caused people to evolve the ability to deal with new kinds of food. Today’s shift in what we eat will have equally powerful effect on the genes of our descendants.’

Steve Jones
Steve Jones

‘A new global power – and a new agent of natural selection – is on the move. The empire of obesity began to flex its stomach in the 1980s and shows no sign of retreat. Twenty years before that dubious decade there was, in spite of a collapse in the real price of food, little sign of the coming wave of lard. Then thanks to technology, came the industrialization of diet; the last step in the scientific exploitation of the Darwinian machine. Now a tsunami of fat has struck the world and its inhabitants are paying the price …

The twenty-first century plague is a side effect of the triumph of scientific agriculture. Many of those worst afflicted suffer because they bear genes that make it hard for them to deal with the new diet. Many of the obese will die young or fail to find a mate. As a result obesity will soon be – as farming itself was when it began – a potent cause of evolutionary change.’
Darwin’s Island by Steve Jones

Darwin's Island

Darwin’s Island is available from bookshops, online and from Amazon.