Medical Testament—Nutrition and Soil Fertility

By Sir Robert McCarrison, MD, and Sir Albert Howard

Summary: In 1911 Britain passed its National Insurance Act, a law intended to “provide for the prevention and cure of sickness” of its citizens. Yet despite the bill’s aim, rates of chronic disease proceeded to explode in the country over the ensuing decades. While medical officialdom was at a loss to explain or prevent the events, in 1939 the 600 family doctors of Cheshire county gathered to issue a public “testament” naming both the cause of the new epidemics and the means of their reversal. The physicians, reflecting on nearly three decades of clinical experience, named malnutrition at the hands of industrially processed foods as the common cause of chronic disease while marveling at the “amazing benefits” of switching patients to a diet of nutrient-dense, organic foods. Two researchers instrumental in guiding the doctors to their findings were Sir Robert McCarrison and Sir Albert Howard, both of whom were invited to speak at the famous Cheshire meeting, as recorded here. In their speeches McCarrison and Howard articulate the basic principles of what might be called “ecological nutrition”—that the health of humans depends on the health of the foods they eat, which in turn depends on the health of the soil those foods are grown in and on. With the medical industry still baffled today about the cause and prevention of chronic disease, the words of these farsighted researchers offer a blueprint for building true health and wellness in humankind, literally from the ground up. Originally published in New English Weekly, 1939.

[The following is a transcription of the original Archives document. To view or download the original document, click here.]


Medical Testament—Nutrition and Soil Fertility

Speech by Sir Robert McCarrison
[Note: When Dr. McCarrison refers to milk in the following, he means raw, unpasteurized milk, a substance he and other early nutrition researchers recognized as fundamentally different and nutritionally superior to pasteurized milk.]

In a book entitled Studies in Deficiency Disease, which I published nineteen years ago, I postulated, as a result of epidemiological, experimental, and histopathological researches, that a large proportion of the common ailments of mankind are the direct or indirect consequences of faulty food, that is, food deficient in certain essential substances—suitable protein, mineral salts, and vitamins—and excessively rich in carbohydrates. I concluded an exhortation in the introductory chapter to that book with a statement that I venture here to repeat:

“With increasing knowledge of nutritional problems, it has become apparent that our dietetic habits need remodeling and that education of the people as to what to eat and why to eat it is urgently necessary. It is clear that green vegetables, milk, and eggs should form a far higher proportion of the food of the nation than is now customary. Municipalities and other public bodies should concentrate on the provision of an abundance of milk and vegetables, for there is no measure that could be devised for improving the health and well-being of the people at the present time that surpasses this, either in excellence or in urgency.”

Those of you who are familiar with the progress of research on the relation of food to health and disease during the past nineteen years will be aware of the great mass of evidence that has accumulated from all over the world demonstrating beyond all possibility of doubt the truth of these statements.

You can imagine, then, with what pleasure I received on last Christmas morning notice of the intention of the doctors of Cheshire to prepare a “Medical Testament” in which they would affirm—as a result of their experiences during the last few years—that a large part of the illness they are called on to treat is the consequence of faulty nutrition and that this faulty nutrition is the consequence of faulty food. You can imagine too with what gladness I read the passage in their Medical Testament expressing amazement at the benefits accruing to to their patients from the simple expedient of correcting defects in their diets, and with what wholeheartedness I would support their plea for the prevention of disease by these means. You can imagine also with what feelings of thankfulness I found the statement made in their Testament that my own work had helped them in some measure to arrive at the conclusions set out in this remarkable document. It is with such feelings as these that I find myself on this platform today, glad of the opportunity and privilege to lend support to their movement and impressed by the zeal and public spirit that have impelled them to make their convictions known.

The science of nutrition tends day by day to become more and more complex. Biochemical and other facts accumulate with such rapidity and cover so wide a field that for some among us there is the risk of failing to see the wood for the trees. It is well, therefore, to have certain guiding principles constantly in mind.

The first of these is an understanding of the nature of nutrition. The second is awareness of the factors that disturb nutrition. The third is the knowledge that food—a chief but not only instrument of nutrition—is the dominant factor in determining man’s general physical endowment, powers of endurance, and resistance to disease. The fourth is that a well-constituted diet, made up of fresh natural foodstuffs largely lactovegetarian in character, contains all elements and complexes, known and unknown, that are needed for normal nutrition, so far as food can supply them—provided always that the fruits of the earth are produced on soils that are not impoverished. For me these four principles are the essence of the whole matter, and their right application provides the means of preventing and alleviating a vast amount of human suffering—no matter what future research has to reveal in regard to the factors in food responsible for this prevention and alleviation of disease.

The Nature of Nutrition

“Nutrition” is one of the most misused words in the English language. Some people seem to think that it merely means “food”; others [think] that it is a condition of body depending on food—a condition that may be good, bad, or indifferent, as the case may be. Actually, it is a fundamental function on which the condition of the body depends. Food is the instrument; nutrition is the act of using it—the series of coordinated processes concerned in the growth, maintenance, and repair of the living body as a whole or of its constituent parts. A primary purpose of the function of nutrition is, therefore, to establish and sustain the structure and function of all organs and parts of the body—in short, to keep the mechanism of the body in good repair and running order. Nutrition does for our bodies what we or our chauffeurs must do for our cars, in the way of constant attention to oiling, greasing, adjustment, and fuel supply, if they are to remain functionally efficient.

Now, health is that condition of body in which all organs and parts are sound and perform their functions duly, easily, and satisfactorily. It follows therefore that the primary purpose of the function of nutrition is to maintain health—to prevent that disturbance of structure or function of organs or parts of the body that is disease. In these days when the words “nutrition” and “malnutrition” are so loosely used, it is necessary to have this conception of the nature of nutrition—as a fundamental function of the body—and of malnutrition—as disorder of that function—constantly before us.

The acts and processes involved in nutrition are many. They include respiration, the acceptance of food and water, mastication, deglutition, digestion, circulation, assimilation, and excretion—pulmonary, urinary, cutaneous, and intestinal. Such, then, is “nutrition,” the most important of all functions of the body, since all other functions depend on it. I doubt whether, in thinking of nutrition, we always think of all these processes as part of it—of “excretion,” for instance, or of the efficient action of the bowels, the lungs, or the skin. Yet they are as much a part of nutrition as is digestion. Nor do we, I venture to say, always remember that the efficiency of the processes involved in nutrition depends on the adequate nourishment of the organs and tissues responsible for them—of the nourishment of the gastrointestinal tract and endocrine organs, for instance. Nor do we always remember that proper exercise of the body not only aids the operation of the processes involved in nutrition but is actually essential to their fullest efficiency. Indeed, such exercise is part and parcel of nutrition.

Adaptation

There is another aspect of “nutrition” that is often forgotten. I refer to adaptation, that peculiar property of the body and its constituent parts by virtue of which they adapt themselves to all sorts of conditions.

Let me give you a few examples of it, examples for which I am indebted to Alexis Carrel’s book, Man the Unknown. The body adapts itself to heat and cold, to wind and rain, to sun and soil, to altitude and sea level, to sudden changes of climate, to the most varied kinds of diet. The exercise of its powers of adaptation to these environmental conditions stimulates all organic functions, and this exercise, this stimulation, is essential to well-being and to the acquisition of stamina, vigor, powers of endurance, and resistance to fatigue. Thus: “We resist cold as we resist heat—by nervous, circulatory, and nutritive changes of our whole body. All the organs as well as the skin are maintained in constant activity by exposure to heat, cold, wind, rain, and sun. But when we spend our lives sheltered from the inclements of the weather, our adaptive functions atrophy from disuse.” We become “soft” and lack hardiness.

The same is true of different organs of the body. Thus the stomach is designed by nature to digest all sorts of natural foods. But when we constantly present it with sloppy, disintegrated, highly sweetened, easily digested food, it is relieved of half its work. It is deprived of the stimulus of effort, and the less it has to do, the less it does. So it becomes functionally inefficient. Quite recently an extensive inquiry was carried out in Sweden into the cause of the high incidence of achylia [absence of gastric juices] and its attendant gastrointestinal ailments (colitis, constipation, etc.). One factor in its causation was found to be this very thing, acting in association with vitamin deficiency.

Factors Influencing Nutrition

The efficiency of the function of nutrition may be said, then, to depend on four things:

  1. The adequate provision of the materials with which the nourishment of the body is effected: oxygen, water, food, and a substance or substances produced in the skin by the action of sunlight.
  2. The efficient performance of each one of the acts or processes involved in nutrition.
  3. The efficient exercise of the body and of its adaptive functions.
  4. The avoidance of all influences that adversely affect nutrition, such as, for instance: overeating; imbalance of the food; insufficient rest and sleep; smoke-laden atmosphere that cuts off the beneficent rays of sunlight; worry; emotional excitement; alcohol; and infection. I often think that we fail to get the fullest benefits from properly constituted food owing to neglect of one or other or several of these things: the sufficient consumption of water, proper action of the bowels, physical exercise, or adequate rest and sleep, especially in growing children.

So far I have spoken of the first two of the four guiding principles enumerated in my opening remarks. The other two may be grouped together under the single following heading.

Food—The Foundation of Health

Food, as I have said, is the dominant factor in determining man’s general physical endowment and powers of resistance to disease. The Medical Testament refers to certain experiments, carried out by me in India, that are among those that led me to this conclusion. Some of you may have read the account of them that the Testament gives, and those of you who have not will, I hope, do so and be as convinced by their results as the authors of the Testament have been. It had been my purpose to refer to them myself in some detail but inasmuch as this document does so, I shall content myself by summarizing their results in a few words.

Some races of India are of fine physique and enjoy good health; others are of poor physique and subject to much disease. The dominant factor in the production of these differences is food. Those races whose diets are made up for the most part of whole cereal grains, legumes, milk and its products, green-leaf and root vegetables, fruit, and meat in moderation—“the protective foods,” now so-called—are of fine physique and healthy, provided the foodstuffs are fresh and produced on soils that are not impoverished. Those whose diets are made up for the most part of denatured foodstuffs, such as polished rice, with little or no milk, milk products, fresh vegetables, legumes, fruit, and meat, are of poor physique and subject to disease in great variety of form. Animals (white rats) fed on these diets respond to them in the same way: on the former diet, they remain healthy; on the latter they become diseased. This is understandable when we remember what the functions of food are.

Food has two functions: the first, to provide materials—carbohydrates, fats, and, to a lesser extent, proteins—from which energy is generated for the vital activities; and the second, to provide materials—proteins, mineral elements, and vitamins—needed for the growth, maintenance, and repair of the body as a whole and of its constituent parts, and for the regulation of its processes. In accordance with these two functions, the foodstuffs available for our use are divisible into two classes: “the fuel foods” and “the protective foods.”

The fuel foods are those rich in energy-bearing substances. They include the cereal grains, bread, potatoes, sugar, and animal and vegetable fats. They may be likened to the petrol we provide our cars. Their combustion produces the energy needed for the work of the body, just as the combustion of petrol produces the energy needed for the work of the car. And just as the engine of the car needs a suitable fuel mixture, so does the engine of the body.

The protective foods are those rich in protective substances—proteins, mineral elements such as calcium, phosphorus, iron, iodine, etc., and vitamins. They are so called because these substances protect the body against deterioration of its structure and functions. They may be likened to the oil, grease, adjustments, and other attentions needed to maintain the efficiency of our cars. Without their adequate provision, structure and function will assuredly suffer, and disease will result, for disease is disturbance of structure or of function of organs or parts of the body. The protective foods protect us, therefore, against disease—disease most likely to arise while the body is growing. The chief protective foods are milk and its products, green-leaf and root vegetables, fruit, legumes, eggs, fish oils, and meat—particularly glandular organs. Some of these are rich in one or more kinds of protective substances; some are rich in others. Their proper combination ensures the presence of all.

In this country everyone gets enough fuel foods—chiefly in the form of white bread, potatoes, margarine, or butter—and nearly everyone gets enough protein—in the form of meat of one kind or another. But many millions do not get enough of the protective foods. Consequently, they are prone to suffer from disturbances of structure or of function of organs or parts of the body, just as a car will suffer when adequate oil, grease, and attention are denied it.

Let our rule be, therefore, to select our foodstuffs from the unsophisticated materials that nature provides. Let the energy-bearing foods be chosen not only because they are energy-bearing but because they are also protective, for instance, [choose] whole wheat flour, which is rich in mineral elements and vitamins of the B class, rather than white flour, which is not. We are often told that, provided the diet be varied enough, there is no need for this, but the diet of millions of people is not varied enough. This “varied diet” string is one on which many are wont to harp, but it is a string that is often out of tune with modern conditions of life. So let us follow the example of the races of northern India and consume the energy-yielding foods together with the protective substances that are linked to them by nature. Let us not divorce the one from the other; otherwise, in balancing the constituents of the diet, we will have to do for ourselves what nature does much better.

There are four chief faults in the diets of a great mass of the people in this country. First, the use of denatured white flour—and of the bread, cakes, etc., made from it—in preference to the whole wheat flour, wholemeal bread, and whole cereal grains. Second, there are the excessive use of carbohydrate foods and the inordinate use of sugar, sweets, and sweet cakes, which is one of the outstanding dietetic vices of the day. This inordinate use of sugar disturbs the balance of the diet, causing it to be excessively rich in carbohydrate relative to vitamin B1—producing, in short, a relative deficiency of this very important vitamin—and it impairs the appetite, especially in children, for more nutritious foods. Third, there is the insufficient use of fresh, green vegetable foodstuffs in the form of salads. And fourth, there are the insufficient use of safe milk and the large consumption by many people of meat and other animal foods—a practice as unnecessary as it is uneconomical. This is not to decry meat, which is an excellent foodstuff, but to decry the excessive and wasteful use of it.

Before leaving the subject of the faults of British diets, let me read you an extract from a recent review article on the subject of wholemeal flour and bread versus white flour and bread. It was published in January of this year and may be taken as the latest, if not the last, word on the subject:

Extract from a review article on “The Nutritive Value of Wheaten Flour and Bread,” by Alice Mary Copping, Lister Institute, London, published in Nutrition Abstracts and Reviews, January, 1939, Vol. VIII, No. 3, pp. 555:

“If one sums up the evidence that has been collected in the course of this review, it is quite clear that the change over from wholemeal [flour] to white flour, which took place when steel roller mills were introduced nearly seventy years ago, has resulted in reduction of the nutritional value of the protein; in serious lowering of the content of calcium, phosphorus, and iron; in reduction of the vitamin B1 and vitamin B2 complex content and carotene content; and probably in complete removal of the vitamin E—all representing dead loss nutritionally. In order to change back to wholemeal, it is necessary to alter the tastes of the people and to overcome the vested interests in the existing milling industry—and to find means of using wholemeal flour more quickly and of storing it more satisfactorily. The advantages to be gained in national health would make it well worthwhile to overcome these difficulties.”

Dietetic Malnutrition

Malnutrition due to faulty food—”dietetic malnutrition”—is widespread. Poverty, ignorance, indifference, and prejudice are responsible for it. While not attempting in any way to minimize the baneful influence of poverty, it may be remarked that much can be done to ensure an adequate diet by the right choice of food and at relatively little cost. Much can be done with little to ensure a properly constituted diet if people set about it the right way and get rid of the idea that they are starving unless continually fortified with “baked meats” and “sugar and spice and all that’s nice.”

In regard to ignorance, all that I need say is that our educational system is deplorably lacking in facilities for the acquisition of knowledge of food values. “We spend millions on feeding the minds of the youth of the nation. Is it not time that we spend a little (as an essential part of all school curricula) on showing those young people how rationally to feed their bodies and those of their prospective progeny?” (Lord Bledisloe).

Faulty nutrition—due usually to faulty food—is, as you yourselves have found, responsible for a large proportion of human ailments. It is responsible for them because it gives rise to disturbances in structure and functions of different organs and parts of the body—disturbances that vary according to the nature of the food faults—and because it lowers the resistance of the body to infection. Malnutrition and infection—these two, acting singly or more often in consort, are the chief causes of much of the disease to which man is erroneously supposed to be heir—”erroneously” because it is preventable.

“Millions of people in all parts of the globe are either suffering from inadequate physical development or from disease due to malnutrition or are living in a state of subnormal health that could be improved if they consumed more or different food. That this situation can exist in a world in which agricultural resources are so abundant and the arts of agriculture have been so improved that supply frequently tends to outstrip effective demand remains an outstanding challenge to constructive statesmanship and international cooperation.”

Such is the conclusion to which the committee of the League of Nations on “The Problem of Nutrition” has arrived (1937).

Degenerative Diseases

Within the lifetime of many of us, great progress has been made in the prevention of one of the two great classes of disease, the infectious diseases. But so far relatively little progress has been made in the prevention of the other great class, the degenerative diseases, such as rheumatism, heart disease, diabetes, nervous disease, kidney disease, gastrointestinal disease, cancer, and mental disease, to which, under modern conditions of life, man seems to have become more subject.

The degenerative diseases are due to physiological decay of the organs or parts of the body concerned, and of this decay, malnutrition is a chief cause. It is preventable only by adjusting our ways of life—social, economic, agricultural, and international—so as to ensure for everyone a diet that will satisfy physiological needs. No expenditure on health services, housing, or physical training, however vast, can ensure national fitness unless and until these needs be satisfied. Their satisfaction is the primary essential for national health. Their satisfaction is the first principle of good government.

Speech by Sir Albert Howard

For the last forty years, I have devoted a large amount of my time to the study of the health of crops, to the health of the livestock that live thereon, and to the discovery of the conditions necessary for both crops and stock to resist disease.

My qualifications for such an undertaking are these. I belong to an old agricultural family and was brought up on a farm. After a long training in science—three years devoted mostly to chemistry and physics at the Royal College of Science, London, and three years to biological subjects at Cambridge—I began research in agriculture in 1899 in the West Indies as a mycologist, where I specialized in the diseases of the sugar cane and cacao, and I also began a study of tropical agriculture. My next post was Botanist at Wye College, where I was in charge of the hop experiments, and where I had ample opportunities for the study of this interesting crop and its diseases. In 1905 I was appointed Imperial Economic Botanist to the Government of India at Pusa, and for the first time was provided with real facilities for work—land, money, and freedom to grow crops in my own way and to observe, among other things, the reaction to insect and fungous pests of suitable varieties when properly grown. My real education as an investigator then began—six years after taking my degree and after obtaining all the paper qualifications then needed for research. My duties at the Pusa Research Institute, fortunately for me, had not been clearly defined, and I escaped the fate of many of our agricultural investigators—a life devoted to a research organization already becoming obsolete. It was possible, therefore, to attempt to break new ground and to try out an idea that had occurred to me in the West Indies—namely, to see what happened when insect and fungous diseases were left alone and allowed to develop unchecked and indirect methods only, such as a combination of better varieties and improved methods of agriculture, were employed to prevent attack.

I took up all the land that was still available at Pusa, some 75 acres, and spent my first five years in India ascertaining by practical experience the principles underlying health in crops. I rapidly discovered that my best teachers were the peasants of India themselves and nature’s own professors of agriculture, the insects and fungi that attack crops. By 1910 I had learned a great deal from my new instructors—how to grow healthy crops practically free from disease without any help from mycologists, entomologists, bacteriologists, agricultural chemists, statisticians, clearinghouses of information, artificial manures, spraying machines, insecticides, fungicides, germicides, and all the other expensive paraphernalia of the modern experiment station.

I then posed to myself the principles that appeared to underlie the diseases of plants:

1. Insects and fungi are not the real cause of plant diseases and only attack unsuitable varieties or crops improperly grown. Their true role is that of censors, for pointing out the crops that are imperfectly nourished and thus keeping our agriculture up to the mark.

2. The policy of protecting crops from pests by means of sprays, powders, and so forth is unscientific and unsound, since, even when successful, such procedures merely preserve the unfit and obscure the real problem—how to grow healthy crops.

I then took steps to have my own oxen and to ascertain from firsthand experience the reaction of well-chosen and well-fed animals to diseases such as rinderpest, Johne’s disease [paratuberculosis], septicemia, foot-and-mouth disease, and so forth, which are so common in India. After a short time, my animals duly came in contact with other oxen suffering—among other things—foot-and-mouth disease. I have myself seen my oxen rubbing noses with foot-and-mouth cases. Nothing happened. The healthy, well-fed animal reacted towards this disease exactly as improved and properly cultivated crops did to insects and fungi: no infection occurred.

These preliminary results suggested that the birthright of every crop and of every animal is health and that the correct method of dealing with disease is not to destroy the parasite but to make use of it for keeping agricultural practice up to the mark—in other words, to regard the diseases of crops and livestock as nature’s professors of agriculture. These ideas were put to the test during the next twenty-one years at three centers in India, at all of which I had to manage large areas of land and look after numerous oxen: Pusa (1910–1924); Quetta (summers of 1910 to 1918); and Indore (1924–1931). Everything possible was done to grow crops properly; everything possible was done for the livestock as regards food, hygiene, and general management. The result was freedom from disease.

In the course of this work, it was soon discovered that the thing that matters most in soil management is a regular supply of freshly made humus, prepared from animal and vegetable wastes, and that the maintenance of soil fertility is the real basis of health.

It was then necessary to study how best to convert vegetable and animal wastes into humus so that every holding and every farm could become self supporting as regards manure. Eventually, a simple method of composting these wastes was devised, tested, and tried out on the 300 acres of land at the disposal of the Institute of Plant Industry, Indore. This area was manured with the humus made from the vegetable and animal wastes produced on the farm only. In a few years, production more than doubled; disease, to all intents and purposes, disappeared. The results were published in book form in 1931 under the title The Waste Products of Agriculture, by the Oxford University Press, just when I became due for retirement from tropical service.

Had it been possible to foresee the future, I should have added another item to my research program—the raising on fertile soil of all the food needed by a section of the labor force and their families, so as to demonstrate the connection, which I am convinced exists, between humus and the health of mankind. I hope some [researchers], at any rate, of the experiment stations of the world will rectify this omission at the earliest possible moment. It could also be done by any institution or any large estate in this country that controls sufficient land to feed the resident population. The contrast between the health of such a community and that of the countryside around would soon lead to “Medical Testament No. 2.”

Since 1931, steps have been taken to get the Indore Process taken up all over the world, particularly by the plantation industries directed from London, including coffee, tea, sugar, sisal, maize, cotton, tobacco, and rubber. In tea, for example, in 1938 not less than 1,000,000 tons of compost were being made every year; this was five years after the first trial had been completed. In coffee the progress has been even more spectacular. An account of the position at the end of 1935 has been published by the Royal Society of Arts in a pamphlet entitled The Manufacture of Humus by the Indore Process. In all these trials, the results have been the same: the conversion of vegetable and animal wastes into humus has been followed by a definite improvement in soil fertility and in the health of the crops and the livestock. My own experience in India has therefore been repeated all over the world.

In 1935 it was decided to make a beginning in Great Britain at a few centers, so that the results could be written on the land itself—a method that tends to reduce discussion and argument to a minimum. The first large-scale trial was carried out on a market garden at Surfleet, in South Linconshire, by Captain R.G.M. Wilson, who in 1937 summed up his results as follows:

“The method of humus making that has been employed is the Indore Process, and it has proved remarkably successful. The output in the current year (1937) will be about 1,000 tons. As a result of this utilization of humus, the land under intensive cultivation has already reached a state of independence, and for the last two years no chemicals have been used in the gardens, either as fertilizers or as sprays for disease and pest control.”

A little later, a much larger trial of the Indore Process was started at Bodiam, in Sussex, on the largest hop garden in Great Britain, the property of Arthur Guinness, Son and Co. Here the old hop bine, hop string, and the miscellaneous wastes of the garden have been composted with pulverized dustbin refuse from Southwark, about 10,000 tons of finished humus a year being manufactured. The results have been satisfactory in every way. Humus has proved considerably cheaper than the artificials. I have never seen healthier or finer hops than those grown on humus in this garden.

Another large-scale trial of humus has been carried out by Sir Bernard Greenwell on 13,000 acres of land in Surrey and Suffolk. Sir Bernard has composted the pulverized town wastes from Southwark with farmyard manure and vegetable wastes and has applied thousands of tons of humus to his land. He summed up his experiences in a paper read at the Farmers’ Club on January 30th last in the following words: “A fertile soil means healthy crops, healthy animals, and—last but not least—healthy human beings.” In the discussion that took place on this paper, it was suggested that these words should be adopted as the motto of the Ministry of Agriculture and of the Ministry of Health.

I am convinced that it will be only a few years before this motto is put into practice all over the country. Quality and taste in food is all important, as every owner of livestock in this country fully realizes. What is true for animals is surely true for ourselves.

How does humus affect the health of plants? The mycorrhizal association provides the clue. Living threads of fungus tissue pass from the humus in the soil into the active roots and are digested there. This happens in practically all crops and particularly in the grasses and clovers of our best pastures. This explains why a really good pasture will feed a bullock and yield high quality meat, milk, and cheese.

Humus, of course, will feed a plant in another way—by providing indirectly the small quantities of nutrients needed by the green leaf for growth. Artificials only supply salts for the leaf and cannot, therefore, influence quality. For this reason the use of sulfate of ammonia on some of the celebrated pastures of Europe has led to loss of taste and quality in the meat and in the cheese. A fertile soil, on the other hand, influences both quality and yield and therefore health.

The view that soil fertility is the basis of the public health system of the future is incorporated in the Medical Testament that is before this meeting. I am convinced that the adoption of this document will help place medicine on a new plane. That portion of the National Health Insurance Act dealing with the prevention of sickness will be developed. Agriculture will fall into its proper place as the real foundation of preventive medicine. The medical profession will come into its own as the guardian of the greatest of our national possessions—a healthy, virile, sturdy population. This will give the country real security. A Great Britain properly nourished can face the world in arms.

Note: The Lord-Lieutenant of Cheshire, Brig. General Sir William Bromley-Davenport, KCB, CMG, CBE, DSO, in moving a vote of thanks to the speakers, paid tribute to the care with which the Medical Testament had been drawn up by Dr. Picton, Secretary of the Cheshire Panel Committee.

“The Testament” was unanimously adopted by the audience of over 600 persons, representing the County of Cheshire, the County Council, the medical profession, and the National Farmers’ Union.

By Sir Robert McCarrison, CIE, MD, FRCP, and Sir Albert Howard, CIE, MA, Fellow of the Imperial College. Supplement to New English Weekly, England, April 6th, 1939: A Report of the Speeches of Sir Robert McCarrison and Sir Albert Howard at a Meeting at the Town Hall, Crewe, on March 22nd, 1939, in Support of the Medical Testament of the Local Medical and Panel Committees of the County Palatine of Chester.

 

Patrick Earvolino, CN

Patrick Earvolino is a Certified Nutritionist and Special Projects Editor for Selene River Press, Inc.

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