Farmer’s Daughter: Anti-science fads infect medicine and ag alike


“Amanda, can an alkaline diet really cure cancer?”

I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when my dad came home one evening and asked this question. I knew exactly why the he was asking me. He had been visiting a fellow farmer and family friend (we can call him Dan) who had a cancer scare about a year ago. Some routine tests had come back indicating Dan had elevated levels of something that might be cancer or pre-cancer. Although Dan initially hesitated to get any follow-up testing done, his wife finally convinced him, and it revealed his condition was only pre-cancer.

But that didn’t stop Dan from obsessively trying every pseudoscientific approach to beating cancer currently trending.

He first gave up all genetically modified crops (despite the fact that there is no evidence linking GMOs with cancer — but some GMOs could prevent it!). He then decided that wasn’t enough and started splurging on organic produce (despite the fact that eating organic doesn’t decrease your chance of getting cancer). It wasn’t long before Dan dropped gluten (I have no idea what gluten has to do with cancer, honestly). Then, Dan decided to ditch all red meat (this one is quite questionable, too). Now, along with his wife, he’s doing daily shots of coconut oil and trying to change the pH of his body.

Image courtesy of Phu Thinh Co, Flickr

Just like agriculture is currently suffering from an anti-science furor, so too is medicine. Vaccination rates are falling, and we are seeing outbreaks of diseases that have not been a problem for decades. Women are rejecting epidurals and births at hospitals in lieu of at-home births that lack medical facilities that can be vital if something goes wrong. More and more people are turning to homeopathy and so-called natural cures and away from proven pharmaceuticals. Television doctors boasting the latest herbal remedies have become rich and famous. People claim oncologists are just hiding the cure for cancer.

It is like we forgot that modern medicine is the reason we’re living longer, healthier lives.

For the record, the answer is no, an alkaline diet cannot beat or cure cancer. The simple explanation is that human beings cannot meaningfully change the pH levels of their body. According to Cancer Research UK, such an idea is pretty preposterous:

“Some myths about cancer are surprisingly persistent, despite flying in the face of basic biology. One such idea is that overly ‘acidic’ diets cause your blood to become ‘too acidic’, which can increase your risk of cancer. Their proposed answer: increase your intake of healthier ‘alkaline’ foods like green vegetables and fruits (including, paradoxically, lemons).

“This is biological nonsense. True, cancer cells can’t live in an overly alkaline environment, but neither can any of the other cells in your body.”

By the way, Cancer Research UK has done a really awesome job explaining and debunking several prevalent cancer myths here.

We all know what Dan’s rejection of modern medicine is about: he’s afraid.

I understand. I’ve been there. Medical testing, lab work, specialists, medicine side effects … none of it is fun or pleasant. No one wants to go through it. It would be so much easier if we could just use food as our medicine and everything would be perfectly fine. We also don’t want to face the fact that we’re still mortals and science hasn’t yet found a cure for it.

But that isn’t the reality.

Instead of shunning modern medicine, modern agriculture, modern science, modern technology, and modern life, we should embrace it. It is bringing us answers for some of our toughest problems. The future might be scary, but turning backwards is even worse.


Amanda Zaluckyj blogs under the name The Farmer’s Daughter USA. Her goal is to promote farmers and tackle the misinformation swirling around the U.S. food industry.

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