This week in food politics, the Soli edition

We’ll start with this image, which I saw on Facebook last week.

I know a lot of us are having issues with being unemployed, underemployed, or just not having enough money to cover all our living expenses. I admit that I wonder sometimes how my paycheck can disappear so quickly. Food is one of the reasons why. Good, nutritious food is a right, not a privilege. But until water and air, which we also need to live, growing food takes people power. It takes knowledgeable farmers with skills and brains to make the food the best it can be. Salatin, in the above picture, is just one farmer taking this approach. Unfortunately he is in quite the minority, when most of the food Americans eat come from industrialized, monoculture farms. Too many of them use toxic chemicals to grow their food, or the food is toxic themselves. Which leads well into my next point…

A viral gene has been found in genetically engineered soy and corn/maize crops. I’ve been anti-GMO since I first learned of their existence around 1996, and one of my goals for the year is to better educate myself about these crops. Whatever your beliefs may be about them, take note of these paragraphs from the end of the article:

It is perhaps the most basic assumption in all of risk assessment that the developer of a new product provides regulators with accurate information about what is being assessed. Perhaps the next most basic assumption is that regulators independently verify this information. We now know, however, that for over twenty years neither of those simple expectations have been met. Major public universities, biotech multinationals, and government regulators everywhere, seemingly did not appreciate the relatively simple possibility that the DNA constructs they were responsible for encoded a viral gene.

Biotechnology, it is often forgotten, is not just a technology. It is an experiment in the proposition that human institutions can perform adequate risk assessments on novel living organisms. Rather than treat that question as primarily a daunting scientific one, we should for now consider that the primary obstacle will be overcoming the much more mundane trap of human complacency and incompetence. We are not there yet, and therefore this incident will serve to reinforce the demands for GMO labeling in places where it is absent.

I’ve said it before, I love food. It’s my passion. And I want to see everyone able to access real, nutritious food and have the best health possible. But more and more of the food in this culture is fake, lacking in nutrients, and making us sick. Our overculture seems to want food which is cheap, fast, and good. The way we’re doing things right now you can have the first two without a problem. The third is when things get dicey and it seems like that is what we’re most willing to sacrifice.

Meal time can be sacred. In Egypt there was a prayer which translates as this: May Netjer (God/the Gods) be satisfied with the repast to the right and to the left. When you live in a culture where food is not automatically abundant on the table at all times of the year, or you had to worry about a poor or failed harvest, you do gain a level of reverence for when you are able to eat.

Incidentally, this applied to all cultures throughout the world before modern times. Yes, it’s amazing we have such abundance and can eat so much out of season. But we don’t respect it as we once did. We don’t have to plan ahead for the fallow seasons and can, ferment, dry, and otherwise preserve the bounty. If something spoils, we can just toss it in the trash and drive down to Stop and Shop for more.

But is this abundance a good thing? We’re throwing away up to half of the food being grown or made. One argument I’ve seen for genetically engineered food is that it will help feed people going hungry. Forgetting the fact that people go hungry for reasons which have nothing to do with availability, the fact that we’re tossing half of what can possibly be eaten doesn’t speak well for bioengineering food to cover this deficit. If we can’t get the food we’re making now to be consumed, how will making more be a help? Won’t it just mean more of this food getting tossed?

I’m not going to try to present solutions here, since such things are beyond me at this point. Instead I take a lesson I learned from Jello Biafra a long time ago, that the first step to finding a solution is pointing out the problem.

Incidentally, some of the food issues I’ve discussed here aren’t just for people whose politics fall on the left. As this article puts it so well, Tea Party Libertarians and small organic farmers make strange politics bedfellows. It’s something to consider, and part of why I still question whether I am a liberal. If I’m not, I don’t mind being a left libertarian.

What do you do to get food to your table? Do you grow it? Buy organic? Or beyond organic? Do you avoid GMOs? Do you have, or wish for a garden?

One last little tidbit for this wanting to garden. The University of Connecticut now has a rain garden app if you are interested in making a garden and taking advantage of rainwater to make your environment a more beautiful place.

2 thoughts on “This week in food politics, the Soli edition

  1. picklewalsh

    Excellent article. One of my pet peeves is people throwing away food. I am one to talk as i, like everyone else, throws away far too much. This is something i am trying to change, too many people go hungry on our own streets to throw this food away. Why not make a bit of soup with the leftovers, or sandwiches, and take them out to the local homeless. I’m sure they would really appreciate it. Or maybe donate those unwanted food items to a food bank where poor families can gain some much needed assistance.

    As for GM products, i must admit i do not know enough about them to pass judgement, but i do have trust issues with them. I wouldn’t eat them unless there was no alternative.

    The best option for cheap and good fruit and veg is your local independent grocer or farm shop. Lucky where i live we have a few farm shop growing some amazing products.

    As a child of Sekhmet i cant tell you enough how much my God hates waste… you will get a stern telling off if you waste anything.

  2. Soli Post author

    Em hotep picklewash! (For the rest of you, I just said hello in middle Egyptian)

    I am so glad to hear about other people who are worried about food waste and do what they can to cut down their own. One of my favorite things to do with leftover veggies, for example, is to add them in to my scrambled eggs or heat and put fried eggs over them. Makes breakfast more filling too! Also, I can see Sekhmet getting very stern and being the ultimate mother of the statement “There are starving kids in (another part of the world) who would be thrilled to have that food on their plates!”

    Farm stands are a great resource too, just be sure to check with them about the foods they are growing. Corn, for example, can easily get cross-contaminated with GM seeds. In fact there have been lawsuits about that very happening.

    Senebty!

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