Tag Archives: Big Agriculture

Family vs. Corporate farming

Jack forwarded me another NYTimes op-ed piece (LI: accidental PW: hedonist)about food, and it’s definitely one that should be read to get a good idea on the nuances of the “organic vs. local” debates that have been going on of late.

Written by Nina Planck, author of “The Farmers’ Market Cookbook“, she touches upon a thought that I’ve been pondering myself over the past few months:

The organic standards – which ban synthetic fertilizer, antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, genetically engineered ingredients and irradiation – are good for farming, the environment and health. The organic seal is vitally important in shops, where the consumer is several steps removed from the farmer. “Organic” is a legal guarantee that food meets certain standards.

That’s why it is a shame that the Organic Trade Association – a food-industry group whose members include such giants as Kraft, Dean Foods and General Mills, which own national organic brands – is seeking to dilute the organic standards.

The Organic movement has taken off in large part as a response to the tasteless products and horrible environmental practices that a fair amount of the corporate farms have delivered to consumers. As there is finite space within the food market, when organic foods sales grow 20 percent a year, the big boys are going to take notice. More importantly, they’re going to want a piece of the action and use whatever political capital they have to insert themselves into a market that was designed to keep them out.

In response to this, we’ve noticed over the past few years a change from the “organic versus corporate” argument to a discusiion that includes the “local versus organic” one as well.

This is not a small accomplishment.

Because the core essence of the “local” debate, is not organic standards, but rather a rejection of agri-business as a national enterprise. The central tenet of “Local farms” is that you know who grew your corn, tomatoes or wheat. This is a philosophy that the Monsanto’s and ConAgra’s of the world simply cannot compete against, as their business model, by definition, removes any interaction between consumer and grower.

It will be interesting to see how this discussion plays out over the next few years. It took 25 years for the phrase “organic foods” to become part of the everyday lexicon. I expect it will be a much shorter period of time before the “local food” movement gets the same momentum.

Check out the op-ed. It’s a good one.

Technorati Tags: Food and Drink, Organic Food, Buy Local

Factory Farms are not Organic Farms

Jack sent me this last night, which I’m going to quote in its entirity.

Stop Factory Farm Dairy Feedlots from Labeling Their Products as “USDA Organic”

Under pressure from big agribusiness, the USDA is deliberately refusing to take action against factory farms who are unethically selling their products as “organic.” This blatant labeling fraud is compounded by a loophole in federal organic regulations that is allowing unscrupulous organic dairy farms to import young calves from non-organic conventional farms (where the animals have been weaned on cow blood, injected or medicated with antibiotics, and fed genetically engineered corn, soybeans and cotton seeds, laced with slaughterhouse waste and tainted animal fats). These confinement and feeding practices are inhumane, unhealthy, environmentally unsustainable, and unfair to genuine organic farmers, who follow strict organic principles on pasture access and animal feed, and do not import animals into their herds from conventional farms.

Some of the factory farms that currently confine thousands of cows in close quarters are operated by leading organic dairies such as Dean Foods (Horizon Organic) and Aurora Organic Dairy (producer of store brand organic milk to chains such as Wild Oats, and supplier to Horizon).

On November 16, in Washington, DC, organic consumer and farm representatives will attend the National Organic Standards Board meeting to urge the USDA to stop allowing giant intensive confinement dairy feedlots to illegally market their milk as “organic.” The OCA will be presenting a petition with thousands of signatures:

Sign Petition to USDA by clicking here

We’ve discussed this aspect of the “organic” labels before. Read the Salon article, as they can sum up better than I.

For those of you who disagree with the above, move along. I’ll get to the high-fat, high butter posts a little later.

Technorati Tags: food, food politics, milk, organic food, organic milk, USDA

Food and Class, Culture and Education – pt 2

Mithrandir, a regular here, posted his own response to yesterday’s post Food and Class, Culture and Education. He takes a contrary view to my point. He writes:

Do you know what made well-fed poor people possible? Big Ag. Large-scale agriculture, and the government regulation that went with it, made food cheap, safe and plentiful. Yeah, there’s room for improvement. But we, as a culture, have done absolutely incredible things with the food supply in the last century alone. When was the last time that you met an American-born person suffering from rickets, scurvy, beriberi, pellagra, or any other disease caused entirely by malnutrition. I know I never have.

Two points:

Firstly – I agree that Big Ag needs to be commended for delivering the calories that they do. I do understand the sheer amount of infrastructure that needs to be in place in order to feed the citizens of a nation. I do not dispute that. However…

Point Two: As pardoxical as it sounds, obesity and malnutrition go hand in hand. Yes, rickets, scurvey, beriberi, etc have been reduced. But let me mention one word that trumps them all:

Obesity. Obesity reflects a diet containing excessive cheaper, carbohydrate rich foods. Obesity can and does lead to type 2 diabetes, especially when one has a diet primarily of sugar heavy carbohydrates. The number of diabetes cases among American adults jumped by a third during the 1990s, and more increases are expected. This rapid increase in diabetes is due to the growing prevalence of obesity and extra weight in the United States population.

Just a few thoughts one should think about before bringing scurvey into the picture. Nutrition is still an issue when it comes to feeding the country, and believing otherwise doesn’t change the fact that obesity, poverty and nutrition all go hand in hand.