Waking up to NPR yesterday morning, I was delighted to hear a rumor confirmed: The Obama administration is going to investigate anti-trust violations within our food supply chain – you know that questionable group of growers, producers and packers which use to be known as farmers and farms but are now known as agri-engineers and agri-businesses. Though the piece only mentioned Monsanto once, this flourishing, some say evil, corporation was cited and may finally be yoked. Muzzled. Pulled, heaved and/or drug into line, thereby ending their decades-long reign of terror on farmers, livestock and consumers.
By scrutinizing mergers, supply chains, lawsuits and sales practices, the Justice Department hopes to take aim at monopolies (formed with the express approval of past administrations) within the agriculture market. And thanks to scheduled public workshops, as well news sources, publications and movies such as NPR, Mother Earth News, The New Yorker, “Fast Food Nation,” Food Inc and The World According to Monsanto, the American public will have plenty of opportunity to educate themselves to the dangers of factory farming and the decline of small farmers who are being forced out by enormous corporations bent on producing the cheapest food possible no matter the consequences to our health or economy.
Even if you don’t care about eating healthy, organic, minimally processed foods, even if you don’t take much interest in farmers and harvests and the passing of our national heritage, this is an issue we should all be aware of and embrace. Why? Don’t ask me, ask your body.
Have you ever noticed that when you eat whole corn, a vast majority of the kernels leave your system largely undigested? Little dots of yellow (or white) where there should be only… well, you know. Did you ever wonder why? Hundreds of years ago, beginning in Mexico, corn was grown primarily as a grain – to be ground into maize for bread and pudding and mush. A few short weeks of the year, it was eaten fresh, straight from the cob. It was, even then, a wonder crop – cheap, tasty and filling. As time wore on, however, corn began traveling, filling not only the bellies of new inhabitants to the north, but also those of their burgeoning livestock populations. Then in the 1960s and 1970s, partly in response to the world food crisis, a search was launched for the perfect, “super seed,” one that could resist disease and insect damage and feed enormous populations of people on the brink of starvation. Monsanto, until that time a chemical company (saccharine, DDT, Agent Orange, aspartame), entered mainstream food production. Fast forward twenty years and we are the “livestock,” force fed a product – Round Up ready corn, genetically modified and engineered, mass produced and very different from its ancient ancestor – that makes its way into nearly every processed food we eat. Whether as syrup, starch or an additive, corn can now be found in cereals, chips, crackers, soft drinks, fruit drinks, sports drinks, ice cream, yogurt, aspirin, lunch meat… the list is endless. Read the labels, they’ll shock you.
Aside from the obvious health issues of having a product like high fructose corn syrup, which swarms your system faster than a fresh injection of heroin, appear in your daily diet, most corn is no more than a high calorie filler with little to no nutritional value, grown and plumped with all manner of unnatural and/or harmful chemicals. Even if you eat totally organic, chances are your food includes corn grown in a field that has been contaminated by blowing winds and roving bees recumbent with genetically and chemically modified spores and pollen. In fact, such contamination is so common, Monsanto routinely SUES farmers whose crops test positive for their chemicals – on the grounds that said farmers are “benefiting” from the use of their product.
Why is corn, more so perhaps than milk or soy or rice, first on my list? The others do, after all, contain the same contaminates.
Well, besides the fact that I’m assuming you don’t have all day to read one blog – I am not a pig. You are not a pig and our families are not pigs or piglets. We are human beings and no human being should be forced to eat a food product that at its very best passes nearly intact through our digestive system. Much less a product that has been genetically and chemically modified to the point that it is virtually unrecognizable from its true form. And finally, current estimates say that over half of our food comes from a pool of only 2 percent of agri-giants called “farms.” Monsanto is their number one seed supplier – over 90 percent of corn seed (some sources say 95%) in not only our country but others as well (I’ll save the story of farmers in India who commit suicide because they cannot pay debts racked up when Monsanto moved in and monopolized their seed supply for later) is “Round Up Ready.” Round Up is Monsanto’s baby, the seed is their fortune. As for the agri-giants, well they don’t have our best interests at heart either. The have their eye on one thing and one thing only – the bottom line. They don’t have families that eat from their harvests, they aren’t contributing to or dependent upon the local economy, they aren’t growing manageable, sustainable fields of crops minimally dependent on chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides and rotated to preserve diversity and health. And they are not a part of your or my community. In short, they are not farmers. They are industrialized corporations bent on taking all they can from the earth and giving as little as possible back in return for huge profits. And for decades our government has helped see that they continue to just that. Today, perhaps, we can hope for change.
Sources and resources:
1. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, by Eric Schlosser (Penguin Books, 2001)
2. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, by Michael Pollan (Penguin Press, 2006)
3. In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, Michael Pollan (Penguin Press, 2008)
4. Naturally Savvy, “Documentary: The World According to Monsanto” – http://www.naturallysavvy.com/naturally-green/eco-living/multimedia/2335-documentarythewroldaccordingtomansanto
5. NPR, “Small Farmers See Promise in Obama’s Plan” – http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112035045
6. The Union of Concerned Scientists, “The Hidden Costs of Industrial Agriculture” –