Food

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

Where does our food come from?Part one

Home grown organic raspberries, Ashland, Oregon.

Home grown organic raspberries, Ashland, Oregon.

Corporatization is not competition

In the United States, our food sources have become corporatized. This means that over time, large agribusinesses have bought out family farms. Vast tracts of land have been given over to mechanized monoculture.

Monoculture: Bad for the soil, good for short-term profit
The US has 96,000,000 acres dedicated to the production of corn, the majority of which is used for livestock feed. This corn is grown in the same geographical area again and again. This practice depletes the soil of nutrients over time. Monoculture crops are very vulnerable to insects, so increasing resources must be spent on chemical pesticides and herbicides. Chemical fertilizers must also be used to amend the soil.

Monsanto: Products that harm us for short-term gain
The Monsanto corporation has engineered solutions to these monoculture problems. Glyphosate is an herbicide. It is used to kill weeds, especially annual broadleaf weeds and grasses that compete with crops. It has recently failed to conclusively pass tests which would absolve it from a direct link to cancer in humans. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto'sRoundup. Monsanto has recently been shown to actively recruit scientists at the EPA who would be amenable to signing off on conclusion papers written by Monsanto executives. This would go a long way towards muddying the waters of scientific consensus regarding Roundup's safety.

GMOs: Utilizing the "straw-man" argument
Monsanto is at the forefront in genetically modified seed products. One of it's most successful GMO efforts are crop seeds that resist the toxic effects of Roundup. This way, the plants are protected from harm, but the humans who ingest the plants that have been soaked in Glyphosate are not. This is the main reason people are clamoring for clear labeling of GMO products. They simply want to know if they are buying products that might be toxic to themselves and their families. Many in the skeptic community have used the argument that GMOs have gotten a "bad rap" and that, if clearly labelled, their products will not sell. They label those of us who are resistant to Monsanto's efforts as "anti-science." This is a classic use of the straw man fallacious argument. "Straw man" is defined as an intentionally misrepresented proposition that is set up because it is easier to defeat than an opponent's real argument.

What does all this have to do with meditation and consciousness?

Stick with me. More will be revealed in parts 2 and 3.

“Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open.”  - B.K.S. Iyengar