Friday, August 31, 2007

Who do you trust?

This is a very long article, but it is well worth reading.

News: An evangelical Virginia farmer says a revolution against industrial agriculture is just down the road.

No Bar Code

By Michael Pollan Photos: Jim Franco May/June 2006 Issue

...Much of our food system depends on our not knowing much about it, beyond the price disclosed by the checkout scanner; cheapness and ignorance are mutually reinforcing. And it’s a short way from not knowing who’s at the other end of your food chain to not caring—to the carelessness of both producers and consumers that characterizes our economy today. Of course, the global economy couldn’t very well function without this wall of ignorance and the indifference it breeds. This is why the American food industry and its international counterparts fight to keep their products from telling even the simplest stories—“dolphin safe,” “humanely slaughtered,” etc.—about how they were produced. The more knowledge people have about the way their food is produced, the more likely it is that their values—and not just “value”—will inform their purchasing decisions...

...Their talk of distrusting Wal-Mart, resenting the abuse of animals in farm factories, insisting on knowing who was growing their food, and wanting to keep their food dollars in town—all this suggested that for many of these people spending a little more for a dozen eggs was a decision inflected by a politics, however tentative or inchoate... would be a fatal mistake to “try to sell a connected, holistic, ensouled product through a Western, reductionist, Wall Street sales scheme...reversing the damage done to local economies and the land by the juggernaut of world trade would take nothing less than “a revolt of local small producers and local consumers against the global industrialism of the corporations.” He detected the beginnings of such a rebellion in the rise of local food systems and the growing market “for good, fresh, trustworthy food, food from producers known and trusted by consumers.” Which, as he points out, “cannot be produced by a global corporation.”

...Indeed, the most powerful protests against globalization to date have revolved around food: I’m thinking of the movement against genetically modified crops, the campaign against patented seeds in India (which a few years ago brought as many as half a million Indians into the streets to protest World Trade Organization intellectual property rules), and Slow Food, the Italian-born international move- ment that seeks to defend traditional food cultures against the global tide of homogenization...

...the promise of global capitalism, much like the promise of communism before it, ultimately depends on an act of faith: that if we permit the destruction of certain things we value here and now, we will achieve a greater happiness and prosperity at some unspecified future date...

...All of which is to say that a successful local food economy implies not only a new kind of food producer but a new kind of eater —one who regards finding, preparing, and preserving food as one of the pleasures of life rather than a chore. One whose sense of taste has ruined him for a Big Mac, and whose sense of place has ruined him for shopping for groceries at Wal-Mart. This is the consumer who understands—or remembers—that, in Wendell Berry’s memorable phrase, “eating is an agricultural act.” He might have added it’s a political act as well...

...All we need to do is empower individuals with the right philosophy and the right information to opt out en masse.


I have said before that many people believe kosher certification is equivalent to "healthy." But it is not. Rabbis don't care about whether or not the products are healthy, they just want their fees. Their "Torah" can't deal with modern chemicals and factory production methods.

Many people think that kosher certification guarantees the quality of the product they are buying. They think that "American" corporations would never go behind their backs and make substitutions that were cheaper but not kosher. Will a piece of paper and a once a year visit stop them? Those do not.

Many people think that if it's sold in a grocery store, it must be ok, because the government wouldn't allow a corporation to sell anything that would harm them.

[Ok, I've stopped laughing now.] Ummmm, that's not true, either.

And many people don't understand that we have absolutely no food security at all in this country because most of our food comes from foreign nations that could turn on us or suffer problems of their own overnight and we would have no ability to replace the lost produce - it takes a long time for food to grow. You can't just go out one day, sprinkle some seeds, and expect to eat tomorrow.

Globalized factory farmed produce and animal husbandry has destroyed small American farms in exactly the same way that globalization has destroyed the rest of the American economy. First, small farmers, like local craftspersons, were driven out of business by giant agribusiness conglomerates. Then, just like domestic factories packed up and left to find people willing to work dirt cheap with no annoying safety or pesky environmental regulations to worry about - giant agribusiess conglomerates looked to poor foreign farmers to supply them ever-increasing amounts of ever-decreasing quality products.

The result is the epidemics of obesity, health problems, and the shrinking stature and lifespans of the American people - not to mention the further destruction of your local economy and the national economy in general. The result is killing you.

Garbage in, garbage out.

We need to return to sustainable farming methods and seasonal eating - the way our ancestors lived for thousands of years. We need to stop paving over farmland and instead create more local farms - and stop subsidizing the giant agribusiness conglomerates. They don't need a free ride for any reason at all. Small, local, sustainable farms need a level playing field.

Whether or not any of this happens depends entirely upon us. If more of us are willing to give up pre-packaged junk and cook wholesome real food from scratch, if more of us are willing to join CSAs for fresh, seasonal vegetables and fruits, join a local dairy co-op and buy fresh, local, minimally processed dairy products, and buy organic, locally farmed, naturally pastured meat, we can influence the market. We must vote with our pocketbooks and do not compromise quality in favor of quantity. Money is the only thing that will ultimately help our local farms and local economy. Either we give our money to them, or we give it to giant transnational corporations whose only and overriding concern is making profit - at the expense of all other considerations, mark my words. The choice is ours.

As this article says, that takes putting some actual effort and some actual decision making into your eating habits. Americans are in the habit of trusting corporations, trusting the FDA and USDA, and trusting foreigners with our very health and lives.

But should we?

The unfortunate answer is "no."

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