I've started this blog to record my thoughts and research about food and health: how we grow our food, what we eat, the nutrition debate, food distribution, food sovereignty and environmental impact.

My life started down a new path after I read an article a couple of years ago in the New York Times magazine. I became fixated on learning all I could about our eating habits, the way our food is made, and the effects that the industrial food industry has had on our culture and our lives - physically and mentally.

This blog joins an ongoing discussion and is a place to voice interest, intrigue, and discovery. This is not a podium for lecturing, so please extend grace to each other if anything is found to be erroneous. Counter-arguments are encouraged with respect, empathy and compassion for other perspectives.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Some Discretion Required

I recently came across a new (I'm unsure of when it began) website created by the USDA (Dept. of Agriculture) called "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" that is promoting the re-engagement of local consumers with local farmers and producers. I've put the link to the site in my links at the bottom, but I wanted to think through a concern I have about supporting any new initiatives that are undertaken by a large/corporate/monopolizing and/or governmental institution with a vested interest in the money to be made.

Take a look at this website... I have perused the mission statement and the headings of all the main areas that this new initiative encompasses: supporting local farmers; strengthening rural communities; promoting healthy eating; protecting natural resources; and offering grants, loans, and non-monetary support. I also skimmed over the bios of each member, and I have to say I do like the concept and the way this appears to be set up.

I want to believe that the USDA is committing itself to these courses of action because the government necessarily should be behind the changes we need to make as a country, including the sacrifices we have to make for our survival - which involves every aspect of our economy. I am skeptical, however (and perhaps cynical), that this initiative has altruistic intentions in addition to its profit motive. I do realize, of course, that everyone needs to earn a living, but my point here has more to do with a shift in how we as consumers respond to the seemingly positive actions of a corporation. I want to be wary of confusing a marketing spin with a real and honest dedication to these issues.

Here's the thing: farms can begin or transition over to organic methods, cease to use chemicals, growth hormones and pesticides, and humanely raise/pasture their animals, but then those smaller farms can grow larger and be purchased by a large company - DuPont, for example - that owns a large diversity of other companies that are not operating sustainably, and that spends a great deal of money lobbying the government to increase our importing of oil. That's a simplification of the issue, but the question remains: Am I really supporting that organic farmer by buying her yogurt, or am I giving my dollars to an industry (oil, tobacco, GMOs, etc.) that I'm trying not to support by buying from an organic farmer?

Is the USDA really tackling these issues through "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food"? Are they aligning their expertise and experience with the goals of reorganizing our agriculture, dismantling the industrial food system and creating a new system that ensures access to and affordability of healthy, fresh food to everyone?

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