International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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Notes from the history of SCIVU
(Science Council of IVU)

From The British Vegetarian, Sep/Oct 1967:



I was very interested to attend the Science Council of the International Vegetarian Union committee meeting and the afternoon scientific which took place at Queen Elizabeth College, London, on Saturday 15th July, 1967.

The morning committee meeting with Dr. Ralph Bircher in the chair was a quiet, friendly affair ; of the eighteen people present, six were committee members and the rest observers. Dr. Bircher had flown flown in from Switzerland especially for the day's proceedings, and the meeting was also honoured by the presence of Mr. Eshuis, from the Agricultural at Wageningen in Holland; Professor W. Halden, from Graz University, Austra ; and Dr. S. J. Mount, Secretary of the McCarrison Society.

Since its birth at the IVU Conference at Swanwick, Derbyshire, in 1965, the Scientific Council has managed on a total budget of less than £100 (most of which was used in supporting the meetings at Wageningen in 1966), the members acting in a voluntary capacity and paying their own travel and accommodation expenses. However, more money is now needed so that investigations into plant foods and their nutritional values can be extended. Details of an appeal appeared in the last issue of The British Vegetarian.

So far, attention has been mainly devoted to the collection and collation of article abstracts relevant to plant foods. As a result of efforts by SCIVU and the Vegetarian Nutritional Research Centre at Watford, expected that a new journal will soon be launched by a well-known publishing house. SCIVU and VNRC will have control of this journal which will -contain the abstracts at present published in The British Vegetarian. There will also be articles on the clinical trials and chemical tests of plant foods on the large scale use of such foods and on the economic aspects of them.

A point which worries me about the proposals for the journal is that there is some feeling that the word "vegetarian" should not appear. Are we perhaps ashamed of the word - I know it conjures up some unfortunate -thoughts (cranks, for example), in the minds of some people - but are we not perhaps doing the vegetarian movement some injustice? After all, were it not for the IVU Conference, SCIVU might never have come into existence and a journal devoted to plant foods might not have been thought of!

Mention was made of the sometimes unappetising appearance and taste of plant foods. It was considered that it would be a very useful idea for the Vegetarian Catering Association members to get to work with mixing bowls and pans to produce some really attractive dishes (in the edible sense, of course !) from these foods.

There was an interval for lunch which was an excellent meal planed and provided by the College catering staff.

The afternoon meetings were attended by about seventy people including representatives of government departments and commercial food manufacturers as well as the distinguished visitors from abroad. The meetings ran smoothly under the direction of Dr. E. F. Schumacher, who is the Economic Adviser to the National Coal Board. To be addressed by four technical speakers on different subjects for two hours cannot fail to bring to mind a few questions, but there was no time for these, a point which needs attention in the future. For example, Dr. Wokes spoke of the effect of fertilizers upon crop production and how, beyond certain amounts, their use doesn't increase the crop appreciably. But was he referring to purely chemical fertilizers or was he talking of composting? This is an important point and I shall have to wait for the publication of the talks before I know the answer.

Mr. Jack Lucas spoke first and immediately put us in a receptive frame of mind with his anecdote about the award of a contract for the construc-tion of a fast-breeder type of nuclear reactor for the Central Electricity Generating Board in the North of Scotland. The local newspaper reported a large, steel sphere would he built to house " the fast breeding reactor"!

Both Jack Lucas and Dr. Frank Wokes emphasised that plant sources were becoming a necessity in these times of rapidly increasing population. By 1975 the protein requirements alone, as based on the present trend, a be would be:-

Plant protein for human consumption
Animal protein for human consumption
Plant protein to produce the above animal protein

Million metric
tonnes annually


The relative costs of the different types of protein emphasis: the sounder economics of obtaining proteins from the plant kingdom. Taking the cost of the cheapest source, de-fatted soya flour, as unity, the relative cost of skimmed milk powder is 2, nuts 4, eggs 6, mutton 8 and smoked slamon 11. That a diet including derivatives solely from the plant kingdom is adequate is no longer in doubt provided that it includes vitamin B12.

There is a remarkable difference in the protein sources in different parts of the world The countries which are already well developed get roughly one half of their protein needs from animal sources, whereas most of the protein in the developing countries is from the plant kingdom. It is extremely interesting to note that the population of the developing regions is approximately three times that of the developed ones, and yet the food consumed is only one and a half times as much. From the point of view of the long term ecological (1) balance, it can be shown that the amount of plant protein produced must be ten times more than animal so that, from the figures given above, it is seen that the estimated requirements are some way from giving ecological balance.

Dr. Wokes mentioned that those countries where the ratio of protein to animal consumption is large, tended to be Communist! However, he didn't go as far as some statisticians might have done and suggest that vegetarians are therefore Communists!

In some scientific circles it is thought that kwashiorkor (2) occurs in countries where there is a low animal protein intake, but the figures produced seemed to show that a low total protein intake was more likely to be the cause since it also occurs in parts of Western Europe.

Dr Alan Long then discussed the importance of the vitamin content of food. He illustrated this with the example of Scott's decision not to take fresh fruit with him on his expedition to Antarctica when he and his crew perished from scurvy caused by lack of vitamin C. This idea of Scott's was considered revolutionary at the time because British sailors had always taken citrus fruit with them on voyages to prevent scurvy - and this had given them the name "Limey." That the vitamin content of food deteriorates in time, even when the food is well stored, is shown to be fallacious at least for the vitamin A content of one store of carrots which was to be up to standard after many years of storage.

The problem of some plant foods lacking a supply of certainl natural vitamins was not a great one, since many vitamins could be produced artificially or extracted from particularly rich plant sources; there also exist pro-vitamins which help the body make the associated vitamin, a well known example being carotene which occurs in carrots and which helps the -body make vitamin A. Care must be taken to ensure that certain enzymes which will destroy some vitamins are not present in the plant food. We all know that some vegetables rot extremely quickly, this happens because they contain an enzyme which destroys vitamin C.

In some tropical countries, the use of animals as a protein source is impractical because of the over-activity of the dreaded tsetse-fly and plant protein has to form a large part of the diet. A cautionary note now creeps in: many of the world's farmers are illiterate and poor farming and storage techniques are used. These farmers must be carefully educated to new methods particularly so when it is realised that poor storage conditions for an otherwise excellent crop can result in the producttion of toxic materials in that crop.

Dr. Woodham was the last lecturer. He spoke about the International Biological Programme which was only now getting under way: this couldn't be an international year like the Geophysical one because, by their very nature, biological changes are slow. The international nature of this programme was already easing the biologists' task because plant samples from other countries were easier to get. The wrong sense of values that many governments have was shown by there being little money available because this project does not have any direct military use. The projects to be covered by the programme include: among others: nutritional and physique studies on naturally isolated groups of people, and crop quality studies. Although, in the past, much emphasis had been placed on getting the maximum quantity of a given product from a given area of land, the future would see the emphasis being shifted towards the quality of the product.

There was no doubt about the value of leaf protein in human nutrition, but it should only be considered as a supplementary food.

The Chairman then summed up the main points of the meeting and digressed a little to show that we should not necessarily ignore what may seem ridiculous. He quoted a book which deals with the type of plants which should be grown together so that the one should be assisted in its growth by the other. For example, when garlic plants are grown with roses a better rose plant results. There was no scientific "proof " of this until Pfeiffer, as a result of thinking about why ice patterns of many different forms grew on windows, realised that this wasn't some property inherent the water, but that it was a result of dust on the windows forming crytallisation centres ; if the glass were completely clean, no pattern would be produced. Using a solution of copper chloride he showed that no crystallisation took place under hygienic conditions, but when a drop or two of rose oil was added, crystalline patterns formed. When some garlic was added as well, the pattern was strengthened, showing that rose does perhaps, have an affinity for garlic.

The Chairman concluded the meeting with a hope for a more non-viol-ent attitude, especially in farming methods.

The scientific papers will be published in full, possibly in the first issue of the new journal. The papers created a lot of interest and were warmly received. It is perhaps not unreasonable to hope that they will play some part in establishing the case for plant foods and in creating a favourable climate of public opinion.

For me, it was a very interesting day and worth all the vicissitudes of travel by British Rail.

Notes -

  1. Ecology is that branch of biology which deals with the mutual relations between organisms and their environment.
  2. Kwashiorkor is produced by protein deficiency and results in changes in skin and hair pigmentation, thickened patches on the skin which can then leave pink almost raw surfaces. When there is also a deficiency in calories, severe tissue wasting can result and, in extreme cases, dehydration.


Nearly 200 members and supporters of the Research Centre attended the Seventh Annual General Meeting at the home of Doctors Barbara and Gordon Latto in Derby Road, Caversham, on Sunday, 18th June, 1967; Mr W. S. James, M.Sc., was in the chair. Apologies for absence and good-will messages were received from Mr. Bernard Colvin, B.Sc. (Econ.), Dr. F.R.Ellis, Dr. Andrew Hill, Mrs. Isabel James, BA., Mr. and Mrs. Cyril Oliver, Dr. E. Lester Smith, F.R.S., Mr. Arthur Swift, and a number of other supporters. The minutes of the Sixth Annual General Meeting, held at Miss Hosali's home in Biggin Hill on 26th June, 1966, were read and confirmed. The Committee's report for 1966, of which copies were provided, was submitted to and approved by the meeting. The audited revenue accounts and balance sheet for 1966, of which copies were provided, were presented by Mr. Douglas Bacon. He pointed out that the surplus of £470 at end of 1965 had become a deficit of about £77 at the end of 1966. This was due to a net reduction in income of about £120, and an increase in expenditure of about £450, mainly due to the engagement of a part-time secretary in 1966. This showed the need for more income in 1967. The meeting approved these accounts.

Mr W. S. James was re-elected Chairman, and Dr. B. P. Allinson Vice Chairman. Both were thanked for their many years of work on the Centre. Mr. Cyril Vesey. M.Sc., was re-elected Hon. Secretary and thanked for his services. Mr. Douglas Bacon was elected Hon. Treasurer in place of Mr. Bernard Colvin, who retired because of pressure of other work and was thanked for his valuable help during the last three years. Mr. Walter Fliess, Mrs. Isabel James, Drs. Barbara and Gordon Latto, Dr. Alan Long, Mr. Jack Lucas and Mr. Arthur Swift, were re-elected to the Committee. Dr. Andrew Hill was elected in place of Mr. Maxwell Lee, who had moved to the North of England and was thanked for his services.

The Director, Dr. Frank Wokes, in his report, thanked all the members who had given so much valuable assistance to the Centre. The appointment of a paid secretary in 1966 had made it possible to develop library facilities and extend research into the scientific literature in co-operation S.C.I.V.U. (The Science Council of the International Vegetarian Union. It was hoped this would lead to the launching in 1968 of a new science journal dealing with plant foods and their role in solving the world problem. This journal would be the property of the Research Cemtre and probably also of S.C.I.V.U., under their joint control.

Mr. Jack Lucas, B.Sc., F.R.I.C., lion. Secretary of S.C.I.V.U., said he felt it a great honour to address this large meeting. It would be seen from the accounts and reports already submitted that S.C.I.V.U. and the Research.Centre were in close collaboration, which he greatly valued.

The first task was to survey the scientific literature and summarise in the S.C.I.V.U. abstracts information of value to vegetarians and others interested in nutrition which was widely dispersed in scientific journals. As S.C.1.V.U. gradually became firmly established its next task would be to carry the message of vegetarianism into the scientific world, by organising and participating in meetings with other scientific bodies. The fisrt of such meetings in this country was held at Queen Elizabeth College. London, on Saturday, 15th July, and dealt with the role of plant foods in solving the world food problem, concentrating especially on economic aspects

Dr. Gordon Latto, President of The Vegetarian Society and Vice-Chairman of S.C.I.V.U., welcomed the large audience which he felt privileged to address. The gods worshipped today, he said, are power, money and science. He believed that the Research Centre was right in concentrating its efforts on the scientific approach. It was doing valuable work in sifting scientific information and making it available to all interested. Dr. Wokes was mainly responsible for this. An important advance was 1965 when S.C.I.V.U. was launched at the I.V.U. Congress in Swanwick. Two scientific meetings had since been held at the Dutch Institute of Nutrition in Wageningen and were followed up by the meeting at Queen Elizabeth College. The bulk of the people in the West are overfed but malnourished, because they are eating the wrong foods. In the East.many are underfed and starving. It would be a service to the world to bring better conditions. The proposed new journal on plant foods will be an important development in this direction. Our way of living should be presented with enthusiasm.

Dr. Allinson, in thanking Dr. Latto for his stimulating address, congratulated the Research Centre on the work being accomplished on a shoestring budget. He emphasised that for the work to progress much more money would be needed in the future. He urged members who cannot make a substantial donation now to remember the Centre in their wills.

Dr. Gordon Latto declared the Garden Party open. The stalls represented Allinsons Ltd., Beauty Without Cruelty, Granose Foods Ltd.. Plantmilk Ltd., Mapletons Nut Foods Ltd. and the V.N.R.C. which displayed its publications and other literature of interest. There were various sideshows excellently organised by Mr. John Oliver. Mrs. Mabel Cluer and her family provided vegan refreshments. Thanks are also due to all the other helpers who did so much to make the day a great success, over £50 being raised to augment the Centre's funds.

The Research Centre is deeply grateful to Drs. Barbara and Gordon Latto for allowing full use of their lovely home and garden.