I can be an activist, but this food blog was started as a celebration of food. The intent was positive writing that reflected my joy in cooking and eating food in diverse places and circumstances. Even my Warzone category has tried to stay positive and avoid my commentary on the wars and US policies except in an amusing way (such as the stupid things the military does that have nothing to do with fighting a war).
Anyway, my activism on this site has been limited to information about genetically modified organisms (GMO), also called genetically engineered (GE) foods. But, I think we are rapidly approaching a tipping point worldwide in regard to what we call conventional agriculture. Conventional agriculture is industrialized agriculture and has been touted by many, especially the US government and the huge agribusiness companies and their academic allies, as the only way to feed a growing world population. Conventional agriculture is characterized by use of synthetic chemicals (pesticides and fertilizers), hybrid seeds (including GMO seeds), inhumane and unsanitary animal raising practices, and huge farms using tractors and other machinery that cost more than a luxury home. There is very little place for family farms in today’s agricultural world in the United States and many other developing countries, and farmers in developing countries are an endangered species.
One of the saddest facts and one that most people don’t even think about is that agriculture is one of the most, and possibly THE MOST, polluting industry. Any pollution is bad, but people just don’t realize when they ride by a crop field, that, when you take all the various aspects of conventional agriculture, it is an incredible polluter. And, agriculture should be contributing to healing the effects of pollution and improving the earth. There are plenty of good agricultural methods, but the US uses the worst possible methods and pushes these methods down the throats of every other country it can.
These facts about the destructive impact conventional agriculture has on the planet have been widely known for years. The impacts on our actual food qualityare much less known in the US than in Europe. People just don’t think about where their food comes from. Unfortunately, even conventionally grown and transported fresh vegetables and fruits are pretty bad, something we are programmed to think otherwise about. Many people don’t even know what some vegetables and fruits should taste like. And, in the US particularly, a huge percentage of what we consume is processed. Even some foods that we think are not processed actually are.
Over the past few months, I have seen evidence that people are finally starting to react against the food the American system produces. People are learning things they did not know and it is making them mad. Here are a few examples of recent events and information that is coming to light in the media:
- I already reported on lawsuits against Kashi and a few other “natural” food producers because these “natural” foods have GMOs and/or agricultural synthetic chemicals (pesticides) in them. Now Tropicana orange
juice was just sued for not producing natural orange juice as they claim. They market their juice as “fresh from the grove,” but the lawsuit claims that it is so heavily processed that it cannot be called fresh or natural. This is one I was duped by, paying extra for Tropicana. I was also duped by Kashi and others. In Tropicana’s case the lawsuits claim the company adds chemically engineered “flavor packs” to its juice, making it taste the same year-round. Bottom line is that Tropicana and other “not from concentrate” premium “fresh” juices actually sit in tanks for months. To keep it from spoiling, the juice is put through a process that removes the oxygen and, by the way, also removes the volatile oils that give the juice is wonderful taste. To get the taste back, “flavor packs” of oils and essences are added to the juice. Not very natural to me.
- The US government, pushed by the agribusiness lobby, will not require labeling for GMOs in our food. In Europe, where GMOs are actually banned in some countries, anything with GMOs in it must be labeled, including animal feed. This is only fair. Let the consumer know what is in his or her food and let them decide. In the US, they don’t want us to know. In fact, some states have laws against saying bad things against conventionally grown crops or foods. The latest idiocy in this regard is an “Ag Gag” bill passed in Iowa and signed into law by the governor earlier this year. This bill makes it illegal to blow the whistle on inhumane and/or unsanitary conditions at animal “factory farms.” Doing so could get you a year in prison and a $1,500 fine. This is scary on a number of fronts, including free speech. People should know how their food is produced if they want to know. Factory chicken farming, that I have seen up close, is one reason I rarely eat grocery store chicken.
- I reported earlier about the little girl who was forced to eat a school lunch because her turkey sandwich with fruit lunch packed at home was not nutritious enough according to school food nazis. She ate three chicken nuggets. If you have ever seen a chicken nugget, you know that it does not even remotely resemble meat of any kind. Ironically, just after that, the “pink slime” scandal broke all over the news. Pink slime, also called lean finely textured beef (LFTB) and boneless lean beef trimmings (BLBT), is made, according to Wikipedia, as follows: “LFTB is produced by processing “trimmings”, which contain high amounts of fat and small amounts of lean beef, and mechanically separating the lean beef from the fat through the use of a centrifuge heated to approximately 100°F (38°C). The heating process liquifies the fat and allows the small amounts of lean beef to be separated from the fat and other meat by-products, such as bone fragments, connective tissue and sinew. The recovered beef material is then processed, heated, and treated with ammonium hydroxide gas or citric acid to kill E. coli, salmonella, and other bacteria.” Now, I know I wouldn’t eat this crap under any circumstances, but it is found in virtually all hamburger in grocery stores and fast food restaurants (up to 15% of ground beef can be pink slime with no labeling), as well as many, many other meat products. Yummy. People are really pissed off by this and all the other horrible food stories coming to light.
- Finally, before this entry turns into a thesis, let’s discuss those fresh fruits and vegetables in the grocery store that we think are so good for us. I mentioned in a recent post that I do not do well in consuming as much fruit as I should. That is partly because the taste of most “fresh” fruit in grocery stores is bland and usually the fruit is unripe. Many of those unripe fruits never ripen in my experience. And those that are artificially ripened don’t taste ripe. Take tomatoes, for example. First, the variety of tomato grown by conventional farmers is determined NOT by taste, but by looks, how well it will hold up in shipping, and how long it will last after being picked. They are picked while still green (and unripe) so they can take more abuse in shipping. Ethylene gas chambers are used to artificially induce color and ripeness and it might be a month or more before they hit your grocer’s shelves. Many are irradiated, a practice touted as being completely safe and having no effect on foods by those same folks pushing GMOs. I have read enough about irradiation to know I don’t want to eat foods going through this process.
I realize that this post is way too long, but it is perhaps the most important topic facing us today. We cannot continue down the path of conventional agriculture. Return to sustainable means of production and local consumption is essential. There will be more of these posts in the coming weeks.
Tags: Ag-gag, Ag-gag bill, agribusiness, agribusiness lobby, agriculture pollution, BLBT, chicken nugget, conventional agriculture, EU, europe, factory farm, family farm, fertilizer, Finally, food activism, food labeling, food processing, food security, food supply, for example. First, fruit, GE, genetically engineered, genetically modified organism, GMO, grocery store, hamburger, herbicide, industrial agriculture, Iowa, label, LFTB, orange juice, perstcide, pink slime, pollution, sustainable, sustainable agriculture, synthetic chemical, tomato, tomatoe, Tropicana, USDA, vegetable