Where does our food come from? Part Two

Loss of biodiversity

Biodiversity benefits humankind by creating ecosystems from which we as a species derive nourishment and sustainability. Big agribusiness is based on a system that limits and wipes out this diversity. The practices of sustainable agriculture may indeed be the better way, but evidence of the benefits won’t readily show up in the short-term profit cycle.

Since the 1900s, some seventy-five percent of plant genetic diversity has been lost as farmers are forced by economic competition to replace diverse local seed varieties with central-sourced high-yield crops.

When we as farmers (anyone who works the earth to grow food) rotate our crops, many beneficial things happen. The nutrients in the soil are not depleted. Each successive crop leaves artifacts that are plowed under to build and benefit the next. This requires fore-planning and thought. Luckily there is a wealth of knowledge we can draw from to plan our gardens and fields most effectively. The changing of crops cuts down on insect blight, because a balanced ecosystem naturally discourages overpopulation of pests. We are then able to cut reliance on chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides.

The decision to not use these chemicals results in food that is safe, that our bodies recognize as food, and that we as a species have been assimilating for millennia. Genetically modified, chemically soaked food that has been processed and packaged is poisonous, and it is wise to avoid it.

What in the last fifty years has become known as the “Standard American Diet” (or SAD) has not been based on nutritional worth; its value is determined by profitability. SAD includes ingredients like high fructose corn syrup. This magic ingredient seems to find its way into every processed food item. It is highly addictive, contributes to obesity, is a major cause of inflammation in the body, and contributes to the generation of cancerous tissue. It fosters poor health and early death.

If a corporation can successfully justify using such toxic ingredients in something so basic to survival as food, it is easy to extrapolate that being of benefit to humanity and the planet is not paramount on its list of priorities.

Can we avoid corporate food?

Yes. We can buy certified organic. But it's expensive and not always readily available at the local supermarket. We can support local organic growers by shopping at Farmer’s Markets, but again, this can get expensive. We can grow our own food. This is tough for city dwellers and those with limited time. But we should and can strive to move toward establishing these priorities of health in our daily lives.

We can become re-acquainted with our kitchens. Modern convenience often means eating at restaurants or drive-thrus, buying prepackaged microwaveable fare, and eating junk food while watching TV. Re-learning the lost art of food preparation is pleasurable and rebuilds connection within our family relationships. Slowing down and making a ritual out of food sharing can become the most pleasurable part of the day. By putting earning money above all other things, including taking responsibility for our own nourishment, we have lost one of the secrets to a happy life.

Next week, Part Three: Seed Saving

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.
Virginia Woolf