• Foul move by US industries against us

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    GIL H. A. SANTOS

    (Concluded from last Monday)

    A NUMBER of our noted scientists have answered—and if one really read them and think—these false claims of the American Heart Association about coconut products (that coconut oil is linked to heart disease) and concluded that they are indeed wrong!

    Former University of the Philippines President Dr. Emil Q. Javier, prominent member of the National Academy of Science and Technology and chair of the Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines (CAMP) wrote in his column early this month:

    “As if the procrastination of Congress in legislating the use of the long frozen coconut levy funds (CLF) and the mess in the board of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA),,,,were not enough, our coconut industry suffered yet another, albeit undeserved blow with the recent advisory of the American Heart Association (AHA) against the consumption of saturated fats, including coconut oil

    “This health advisory is not really new and is a rehash of the Association’s recommendation in 1980 advocating for Americans a reduction of fat intake and replacement of saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats to reduce risk of heart disease.

    “Most animal fats are saturated and tend to be solid under room temperature. On the other hand, vegetable oils (and fish oils) are unsaturated, with the prominent exception of coconut oil, which is 92 percent saturated.

    “….Our objection with the AHA advisory is its erroneous blanket condemnation of all saturated fats, including coconut oil. The AHA advisory ignores what organic chemists and nutritionists have known all along. While all saturated fats have similar chemical structures…they nevertheless vary widely in molecular size as well as in biochemical and physiological properties.

    “Coconut oil is unique among vegetable oils because…unlike the other fats [it]does not accumulate as deposits and therefore [is]not fattening.”

    Javier pointed out the three errors in the AHA survey that made it come up with its conclusion that coconut oil is related to heart disease: “1) The failure to distinguish between medium-chain versus long-chain fatty acids….it generalized saturated fats-blood cholesterol-heart disease connection; 2) …coconut oil was an insignificant part of the diets of the subject populations” (surveyed); and 3) The third flaw has to do with the actual feeding trials cited by Ancel Keys who in 1957 announced his hypothesis that saturated fat-blood cholesterol-cardiovascular disease are related….In these controlled feeding studies, subjects from Minnesota and Japan were given unsaturated fats (butter fat, margarine and hydrogenated coconut oil). Since it is well-established that hydrogenation leads to the production of trans fats (consistently associated with increased risk of coronary disease), the outcome was biased against coconut oil from the start. The comparison would have been objective if pristine coconut oil were used instead…..”

    The problem for the Philippine coconut industry—and those in the Asean member countries, India, Sri Lanka, and the tropical island states in the South Pacific like the Micronesia and the Marianas, all the way east to Latin America and westward to Africa—is that this deliberate disinformation in favor of the US has obviously contaminated the United Kingdom.

    I am trying to verify this but the Internet has carried a piece of this disinformation in The Guardian recently. As far as we are concerned, this is precisely the reason readers must not always take as gospel truth whatever they get from the Internet. These need vetting as required by ethical and responsible journalists of this 21st century.

    On the other hand, the heads of our agriculture, environment and natural resources and trade departments should take the concerted initiative to launch a strategic plan (with a fallback plan) immediately to counter this black propaganda and disinformation.

    That’s because it will adversely affect the Duterte administration’s anti-poverty efforts. Just consider these points:

    Our coconut products make up the Philippines’ biggest single agricultural exports of about $900 million annually on which more than 40 million of our 105 million (by this year’s end) population depend for their livelihood.

    Our coconut-growing areas (of three million hectares) make up 33 percent of our total arable land distributed as follows: 46 percent in Mindanao, 34 percent in the Visayas, and 20 percent in Luzon.

    Our coconut-growing regions can produce more products for our own food and water security by intercropping most of these farmlands with coffee, cacao, malunggay, guabano, cassava, potatoes or camote, ginger and turmeric (dilaw), jackfruit, papaya, mangoes, all types of vegetables and other cash crops. Livestock like cattle, goat, sheep, poultry and even fishponds for milkfish, tilapia, and other species of fish can even be integrated in these farms.

    Our best minds in agriculture and fisheries, who for now prefer to be unnamed, rightly point out that our coconut industry has its strengths, weaknesses and real threats and competitors. But it has a very wide swathe of opportunities like modern production and productivity technologies available, expansion of the established international market position, hand-in-hand with our independent foreign policy.

    What it needs now is funding. This can be easily facilitated by the release of the coconut levy funds directly to the industry to benefit the farmers and increase the production within the next five-to-six-year period. No venture succeeds without financial sustenance to achieve its vision-mission.

    In addition, we need efficient communicators to teach and guide our coconut farmers to attain our ideal productivity and inclusive growth.

    gilsmanilatimes@yahoo.com

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