Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Poisonous Politics of Food Production and Consumption and What We Can Do

The article below flows from the brilliant work of people like Vandana Shiva. Here is one of her speeches on this subject:

The source website for what follows may be linked back to here: 

5 Terrible Problems With the Way We Eat (And What You Can Do About Them)

Most of the problems in our food system stem from the concentration of power, land, wealth, and political influence in the hands of a few large players.

Aquaculture may be an important food source in the future (see above) but much of it is practiced in ways that are unhealthy for eaters, native species and the environment. If GMO salmon is approved, (still pending at press time) it will only add to the list of everything that is wrong with farming carnivorous fish in the open ocean. Don’t replace that salmon on your plate with shrimp. Ever wonder why the shrimp is so cheap at restaurants like Red Lobster?

What can you do about it?

Educate yourself on sustainable aquaculture. In general, only eat farmed fish that are natural vegetarians and only buy from suppliers that are transparent about the origins of their fish.

4. Genetically Modified Crops

Besides being untested for their effects on human health, genetically modified seeds don’t necessarily produce greater yields, and can lead to over-application of pesticides that in turn can cause super weeds which have the potential to threaten overall biodiversity, and to contaminate non-gmo crops with their genetic material. The most recent case involving GMOS ended badly when the USDA issued permits allowing GMO sugar beets to be planted in defiance of a federal judge. The judge had issued a decision to stop the planting of GMO sugar beets on the grounds that they may cross-pollinate table beets and Swiss chard. Despite the fact that most other countries have laws outlawing or requiring the labeling of GMO foods, our government continues to bow down to industry.

What can you do about it?

Educate yourself about which crops are commonly genetically modified and only buy organic versions. Better yet, support the companies involved in the non-GMO project. These are the companies willing to go out on a limb and actually test their organic ingredients to make sure they are not contaminated. Also, raise your voice and let the USDA and our legislators know that you don’t want GMOS!

5. Exploitation of Workers

From actual documented slavery in Florida’s tomato fields, to daily pesticide exposure in farming communities, to the fact that America’s lowest paying jobs are in fast food restaurants – our food system crushes workers, ruins their health, and keeps them in poverty so that they need the cheap, processed, industrialized food to survive.

What can you do about it?

This is a tough one, because buying from local, organic farms isn’t necessarily the answer. Even the nicest local, organic farms don’t pay their workers much and require long hours of backbreaking work. The farmers often work just as hard and can’t even afford health insurance for themselves or their families, so even if they want to do better by their workers, they can’t. This is where raising your voice for a more fair government policy that benefits small farmers equally can help. The new USDA is doing a better job clamping down on the big guys and supporting small-scale farmers than ever before, but we’ve got a ways to go.

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