I’ve been reeled in by “Boss,” a cable television series in which Kelsey Grammer plays the part of the mayor of Chicago – Tom Kane in the movie, clearly inspired by the likes of the late Richard Daley.
In the most recent episode, a candidate campaigning to replace the ailing Kane meets with a group of farmers who clearly are tired of dealing with politicians clearly in the pockets of agricultural manipulation giants. One of the more vocal farmers specifically decries companies that “create the seed so that I have to go back to them each year to buy more.”
The fictional farmer’s objection was directed at genetically modified hybrid seeds that do not generate their own offspring.
When we eat an ear of corn, for instance, we are eating the seeds of what ordinarily would, left to nature, be next year’s crop. But the seed used for most of our industrial corn crop are genetically modified, in part to make them resistant to pests and the insecticides used to combat them. That seed cannot reproduce; forcing the farmer back to annually return to Monsanto or Archer Daniels Midland or whichever other company may have created the seed.
Mark Winne, food safety activist and author of two books – “Food Rebels, Guerrilla Gardeners, and Smart-Cookin’ Mamas” and “Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty” – told a group at the end of a day-long seminar in Chambersburg last week that the big ag companies spend millions trying to convince consumers to buy their products.
The spend millions on advertising that attempts to convince consumers, and especially consumers’ children, that they want to buy products that often are not the healthiest choices. They bombard us with the hazards of anything that has not been homogenized, pasteurized, irradiated or cooked to the point where if it’s safe to eat, it’s not fit to eat. And they spend more millions lobbying legislators for laws that criminalize taking pictures of factory farm operations.
Winne told of a conference held in January at “a very plush resort” in Arizona, that was billed as “The Legislative Agriculture Chairs Summit.” The event gathered heads of legislature agriculture committees from the 50 states. It was paid for, Winne explained, by agri-industrial companies such as Monsanto, ConAgra, and Archer Daniels Midland.
“The people with the most wealth,” he said, “in fact, the people who have been directing the evolution of our food system, were the people who brought these folks together.”
But beneath the advertising, he said, lies genetic engineering and factory farms, the latter which confine animals in dense populations that lead to disease, such as a salmonella outbreak in eggs produced by a single producer in a single state that resulted in a nationwide egg recall in August 2010.
“So there’s a connection between the threat to our health,” said Winne, “as well as a threat to the workers, a threat to the animals and the threat to the environment”
In spite of industry claims that their products are good for us, the Central Intelligence Agency reports 134 nations have lower mortality than the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control report 3.9 percent of children under 18 have food allergies, an increase of about 18 percent in the decade ending 2007.
The idea of non-factory food is catching on; the organic food industry is the fastest growing segment of U.S. food production. Schools are beginning to buy produce direct from local farmers.
And cities such as Cleveland, Ohio are re-writing laws to allow small-scale urban farming – a lettuce patch here, a couple of egg layers there. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in office nearly a year, has reportedly promised to renew urban agriculture in his city, enabling year-round growth that would provide fresh fruits and vegetables for sale within the city.
The big companies are not deliberately out to kill us and most of their food, at its worst, won’t hurt us.
But many of us seem to have figured out, “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.”
Photo by ilovebutter
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