Harvest of Common Ground

By Kaitlin Liroff, FAN Summer 2011 Intern

Farmageddon is a film which warns about the overregulation of food and food production at the expense of small farms and locally-grown, nutrient-rich foods in favor of big corporations. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is a non-governmental organization devoted largely to increasing government regulation of foods to promote consumer and worker safety, healthy conditions for animals, and nutritional guidelines. So it’s ironic that these two movements, one about the regulation of food and the other about the need for de-regulation of food, find a common cause in Food Day. Despite their differences, they are united on the topic of personal choice and personal freedoms, and the benefits of eating food grown locally. As someone famous and pithy once said, “Necessity makes strange bedfellows.” It is in the need for reform of the food industry that many different people and organizations from myriad viewpoints, cultures, and causes find themselves working together.

October 24th as “Food Day” will be a national day of activities around the following principles:

FoodDay.org1. Reduce diet-related disease by promoting healthy foods

2. Support sustainable farms and cut subsidies to big agribusinesses

3. Expand access to food and alleviate hunger

4. Protect the environment and animals by reforming factory farms

5. Promote health by curbing junk food marketing to kids

6. Support fair conditions for food and farm workers

CSPI has been advocating on behalf of the American population for governmental regulation of food laws for the last 40 years. CSPI is behind the placement of nutrition fact labels on all goods. CSPI has also conducted research into the content of restaurant meals and movie theater snacks. They are currently advocating the removal of trans-fats and partially hydrogenated oils from the American diet, promoting healthier school lunches, and calling for better food regulation laws. Another CSPI goal is to reveal the influence of corporations over food policy. In preparation for Food Day, an initiative which they are sponsoring, the CSPI has been seeking out other organizations with whom to partner.

Kristin Canty produced the Farmageddon film after her son’s severe asthma and allergies were relieved by the consumption of raw milk. While this beverage is considered to be unappetizing to many people, The Weston A. Price foundation extols its many virtues. Based on systematic studies of “Blue Zones,” population pockets in which people live for unusually long times, Weston A. Price came to the conclusion that the source of their longevity is the consumption of unprocessed animal foods. To promote this lifestyle, Price founded an organization which he named after himself. The Foundation indicates that raw milk is full of probiotics and essential fat-soluble vitamins. Canty, in her quest for fresh and healthy foods for her children, discovered that many governmental regulations and laws adversely affect small farmers. On the surface level, her film may seem like an advertisement for raw milk, but the true heart of the film is the stories from farmers who were economically marginalized by government regulation laws and harassed by government raids.

One thing that unites both the CSPI and Canty’s Farmageddon and theCSPI Webinar on Factory Farms movement it highlights is that they both identify as “consumer advocacy groups” who are decidedly against large food processing plants which sacrifice sanitation, the environment, workers’ rights, and human and animal health. The detrimental effects of large agricultural corporations were alarmingly illustrated in a CSPI webinar in which FAN staff member Christy Elliott and I participated. This webinar identified the dangers of industrialized agriculture through the environmental, social, physical, economic, and epidemiological costs of our food production system.

Food and Agriculture OrganizationThe CSPI webinar indicated that each year 14 billion dollars are spent on advertising and marketing fast food, sugared beverages and candy. In contrast, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, it would cost 30 billion dollars to alleviate world hunger forever. If all of the money spent on marketing unhealthy foods were invested in food development programs, in just two years global hunger could be eliminated! If this number still sounds like an incredible amount, consider the fact that the US federal government recently bailed out Wall Street for more than 23 times 30 billion. Whoever holds the power gets their needs met first.

While it may seem that the inordinate power wielded by corporations is absolute and unimpeachable, we, regular citizens actually hold the upper hand. After all, we are the consumers. As such, paradoxical as the present political and economic climate may seem, we hold the real power. Food Day is not meant to inspire fear, nor is “Farmageddon” meant to portray a hopeless cause. Both the CSPI and Kristin Canty offer a call to action. They urge us to make responsible decisions which promote the health of the environment and the dignity of the person. My favorite of all of the Franciscan imperatives is the right relationship of justice which calls us to live out our values in a way which advocates for the protection and promotion of social and environmental justice. Following these values, as consumers, our buying patterns and preferences can translate into real reform. Thus, it’s time for us to educate ourselves in the best way possible so that we may take our place in the global economy as informed catalysts for corporate change.

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Published in: on October 14, 2011 at 10:10 am  Leave a Comment  

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