Intended for healthcare professionals


Opium production in Afghanistan

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 01 May 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:972

Plants and Animals

We underestimate the plant kingdom. Plants are so ubiquitous and stationary that we ignore them and take them for granted. We assume that plants are passive and dumb. We call lazy people "couch potatoes" and dull people "vegetables." It is natural for us to have these negative feelings about plants - after all, we are animals.

But we forget that animals can't live without plants. Plants recycle carbon dioxide and create oxygen, which we need to breathe. And most of our food comes from plants.

Plants are alchemists that combine soil, water, and sunshine to create delicious fruits and vegetables for us to eat. We can't live without these fruits and vegetables, and we owe our lives to plants. So plants are our benefactors and friends.

But sometimes, plants take advantage of our dependence on them. Some plants create addictive chemicals that make us chemically dependent. For example, cane plants create sugar, coffee and tea plants create caffeine, tobacco plants create nicotine, coca plants create cocaine, and poppy plants create opium.

Addictive plants are not our benefactors or friends, and we should avoid them. We should distinguish between nutritious plants and addictive plants. Nutritious plants enable us to fulfill our potential for life and free us, but addictive plants undermine our potential for life and enslave us.

Nutritious plants enable us to live in a democracy, but addictive plants disable us and create a "phytocracy," which is my term for a world controlled by the plant kingdom ("phyto" means plant; "cracy" means government). Phytocracies are characterized by addiction and all its inevitable consequences: sickness, poverty, misery, corruption, violence, and war.

Competing interests: None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

12 May 2008
Hugh Mann
Eagle Rock, MO 65641 USA