Agribusiness


Did the USDA Just Deregulate All GMO Crops…Without Telling Anyone?.

How scary is it that American consumers, trying hard to watch what type of toxins, chemicals, genetic disruptors, etc. we ingest–we have to learn about more moves by our USDA to deregulate GMO crops. I guess it’s time to start growing a container garden! : /

Let’s talk about a reality that we all know is true: industrial farming leads to abused, neglected, filthy, inhumanely-treated animals. There is no way around that knowledge, no matter how much factory-farmed food we eat, or how many news articles we purposely avoid in order not to confront this truth. The $7.00 for two strip steaks (USDA choice!) at my local market may seem easy on my wallet–I can instead put the savings to one drip of gasoline for my car–but I know, as so many others do, that the price is much higher. The pollution, the animal welfare, the antibiotics, the health hazards–so much goes into that $7.00 package of meat.

But what really is striking is what The New York Times published this week about states attempting to ban people from publishing photographs or video footage conveying the horrid conditions inside of factory farms.

Journalist A. G. Sulzberger, author of the article “States Look to Ban Efforts to Reveal Farm Abuse” writes:

“A bill before the Iowa legislature would make it a crime to produce, distribute or possess photos and video taken without permission at an agricultural facility. It would also criminalize lying on an application to work at an agriculture facility “with an intent to commit an act not authorized by the owner.

Similar legislation is being considered in Florida and Minnesota, part of a broader effort by large agricultural companies to pre-emptively block the kind of investigations that have left their operations uncomfortably — and unpredictably — open to scrutiny.”

It’s not hard to imagine why “large agricultural companies” would spearhead a campaign to keep their hideous practices from being captured on film and published for the populace. What is disturbing is how easily they dismiss what has been published as “inaccurate” or “misrepresentations” of what is going on in a factory farm. Yet I can’t imagine why any consumer would–rather than exert our power of choice–knowingly purchase any animal products (meat, eggs, milk, etc.) from a business that would support such a Bill. I’m wondering–what is more criminal? The empl0yee who photographs heinous animal cruelty and publishes it, or the company that knowingly allows animal abuse to continue?

Personally, I am disgusted to think that states in this country are more interested in protecting the rights of agribusiness than they are concerned with human and animal welfare. Clearly, experts have proven the detrimental effects of industrial farming–the impact that it has in polluting our environment, decaying our civility and humanity (is it really “funny” to toss live chickens into bins and joke about how their legs “fall off in the process?”), and harming our health is staggering.

So here we are, America. Let’s consider the statement by John P. Kibbie, Democrat of Emmetsburg and president of the Iowa State Senate (also taken from the same article):

“Agriculture is what Iowa is all about,” Mr. Kibbie said. “Our economy would be in the tank, big time, if it wasn’t for agriculture.”

I’ll tell you what is in the tank, Mr. Kibbie. Dead, dying, and injured animals. More animal fecal matter and its methane than can ever be productive. People eating meat that is polluted with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A respect for nature. A respect for animal welfare.

Perhaps if the government weren’t so entwined with agribusiness, we would have nothing to hide in our factory farms, or our slaughterhouses. In the meantime, Bills like this –which are designed ONLY to perpetuate bad business practices, and keep the money flowing to the agribusiness elite–reveal to consumers that there is something to hide.  And what is behind the factory farm curtain, photographed or not, is still a reality.

You can read the New York Times article HERE: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/14/us/14video.html?_r=2&ref=us

There’s no one I know who makes a concerted effort to remain ignorant. And by ignorant, I mean “not knowing” or “unaware.” While people may “not care” about certain things, like what is in our food for example, it become a different story when people remain unaware because our government doesn’t regulate or publish what is in our food.

Genetically Modified Organisms, or G.M.O’s, are here to stay in our food supply–and yet, people who are concerned with their health attempt to avoid G.M.O’s in our food. H0wever, it is becoming more difficult to avoid eating G.M.O’s or eating animals that ate G.M.O’s–etc.

As reported in The New York Times on February 15th, “In the last three weeks, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved three new kinds of genetically engineered (G.E.) foods: alfalfa (which becomes hay), a type of corn grown to produce ethanol), and  sugar beets. And the approval by the Food and Drug Administration of a super-fast-growing salmon — the first genetically modified animal to be sold in the U.S., but probably not the last — may not be far behind.” –Mark Bittman, food columnist for The Times, shares his thoughts about G.M.O’s in his recent editorial entitled, “Why Aren’t G.M.O Foods Labeled?”  It’s hard to consider the concept that G.M.O foods are becoming more prevalent and “accepted” in the United States of Agribusiness, to be sure–but what is even more disconcerting is that “the  F.D.A.and the U.S.D.A. will not require any of these products, or foods containing them, to be labeled as genetically engineered, because they don’t want to ‘suggest or imply’ that these foods are ‘different.'”

Hmmm.

As far as I can tell, creating a genetically-modified organism, for the express purpose of resisting pesticides, for example–is “different” than the simple crops that my father plants in his backyard garden. Dad has to deal with ground hogs, chipmunks, tomato blights–and he hasn’t ventured into his workshop to scientifically manufacture a seed to deter nature from being nature. Obviously, my father’s labor of love–his bountiful personal garden–cannot be compared to the overflowing G.M.O soybean field or the Frankensalmon (farm) that Bittman mentions in his editorial. Yet there is something fundamentally wrong with withholding information from a consumer.

I want to know what is in my food, and I want to know why the labels won’t keep up with what is being done scientifically to our food sources. And I’m not alone. Bittman reveals that 87% of Americans want G.M.O foods labeled accordingly.

What used to be simple–growing food, buying food–has become a convoluted permuation of avoidance and deceptive marketing. When will there be some clear and direct legislation to manage the vaguery of product labels? Why should I remain ignorant to whether the salmon I purchase is factory farmed or a G.M.O product?  If the labels don’t exist, I will be buying my food “blind.”

The Bittman article is informative, interesting, and disturbing. Take a read of it and while you do, I’ll get to learning how to create a container garden this spring/ summer, so as to avoid as much G.M.O “bounty” as I can.

Why Aren’t G.M.O. Foods Labeled? http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/15/why-arent-g-m-o-foods-labeled/

So it’s disturbing to teach freshmen English when I am using Chew on This, Food Inc, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and a myriad of other sources to teach persuasive writing–and my students say things like “who cares if the chickens are factory farmed?” or “I would eat @ (insert a fast food restaurant name here) anyway.” It seems as though there’s an apathy that can’t be shaken because it’s not “cool” to care about treating animals humanely, or to learn about how genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) are not always regulated  by our government.

But then I encounter this article– http://news.change.org/stories/food-fight-college-students-demand-cage-free-eggs-on-campus

So 10,000 Penn State students are advocating for cage-free eggs in the university’s dining halls. I’m encouraged that the apathetic attitude I see from fourteen year-old students transforms into a call-to-action only a few years later.

It’s hard to live in this era without realizing the detrimental after-effects of factory farming–especially the current method of farming chickens. The manure alone pollutes our water supply, our soil, and the billions of tons have nowhere to go. Chickens–social, intelligent creatures, deserve respect–even if they are being bred to be our meal. The challenge remains to enlighten without preaching, and remove a veil of ignorance perpetuated by deceptive marketing and clever labeling. It’s great to see our collegiate generation responding to the current issues. It gives me hope that the nonfiction unit I am doing with my students will resonate with them long and hard enough to truly affect change.

And here we are again, follks, with another food recall due to agribusiness and its foul ways. The recent nationwide deli meat recall has prompted Walmart to pull it’s prepared sandwiches off of the shelves due to a possible contamination (on the deli meat) of Listeria monocytogenes. Not exactly a condiment.

Honestly, the polluted food that is making its way through our nationwide food system isn’t going away. While it is commendable that Walmart pulled all of the tainted deli meat products swiftly off of the shelves, it doesn’t explain WHY the meat is tainted in the first place. That would involve actually investigating the filthy, factory-farming that produces most of our meat and dairy products in this country. Note to self–consumers may actually want to know how this happened, how the deli meat became unsafe to eat, but news articles are skirting around the issue. We wouldn’t want to aggravate agribusiness by once again pointing out that factory farming, inhumane treatment of animals and workers, and unsanitary conditions are the current backbone in the food industry.  Let’s instead watch a puppet show while we eat our convenience foods and wonder why we are experiencing “high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness and nausea” (from CNN article).

How about this gem: ‘ “Listeriosis can also cause miscarriages and stillbirths, as well as serious and sometimes fatal infections in those with weakened immune systems, such as infants, the elderly and persons with HIV infection or undergoing chemotherapy,” the USDA said.’

Mass-produced food sold today to consumers is absolutely different than the food that was manufactured and sold during my childhood. The nation is at risk because of poor practices, and our health is suffering. When does it end?

Note that the recall affects wrapped sandwiches and not individually-packaged cold cuts. Just and FYI–although it’s not like I feel like running out to buy myself some deli meat right about now.

I heard about the recent egg recall due to salmonella and immediately checked the eggs I purchased. I was glad to see that my eggs were from Sauder’s Eggs  which has such stringent testing for their eggs quality/ safety. I found these eggs for sale at Fairway Market and immediately, I noticed the “CERTIFIED HUMANE” stamp on the carton. I’m always on the lookout for food that comes from organic, sustainable, and humanely-produced sources. Sauder’s Eggs is a company in Lancaster, Pennsylvania–a place that I love to visit!–with a genuine, honest approach to fair treatment of animals and the employees who work there. I wish that there were more businesses like this one who sold their wares in supermarkets. After watching Food Inc. and doing a bevy of research, I’ve been bypassing “traditional” factory farmed food as much as possible. I can’t imagine serving my family eggs that were produced by chickens living in such unsanitary, inhumane conditions (as most of the “agribusiness” eggs are). Now that there is more demand for healthy, organic, humane food, prices are becoming more competitive and are falling within my price range. The Sauder’s Eggs dozen that I bought cost less than $2.00 at Fairway. Not bad!

It disturbs me that so many people are sick from the salmonella–instead of spreading illness to hundreds or thousands, agribusiness should be working to improve working conditions and living conditions–lose the overcrowded cages, sheds, and fecal-encrusted enclosures in which millions of animals “live” and thousands “work.” It’s so far beyond the time for change.

In the meantime, I will continue to buy meat and eggs from Fairway Market, Whole Foods, and local businesses. 

Keep informed on these pressing issues at http://www.takepart.com/news/tag/hungry-for-change/