The biggest event of my summer here at Food and Water Watch was this week! We’ve been prepping for this book tour with phone banking and all sorts of shenanigans and it finally came! In summary the events are centered around our Executive Director, Wenonah Hauter, and her new book Foodopoly. She’s and absolutely amazing woman and it was wonderful to meet her and get so informed, so I think the most interesting way to fill this post would actually be to talk about how absolutely important the material is in her book, but also how interesting it is for everyone.
Foodopoly is essentially a non-fiction book about our food system, and though that may sound boring to some, you’d be surprised by how many preconceived notions you already have about farming and the food system overall. For example, I bet that many people don’t know that over 3/4 of the food that you buy at the grocery store is made with corn and that that corn is genetically engineered (GE). Well, not only are there many health risks associated with GE foods, but grocery stores aren’t even required to label them, which means that as a consumer you don’t have enough information to make informed decisions about your food. Also, almost all of the meat, even the fresh stuff is coming from factory farms. Factory farms or CAFO’s are places where animals are confined to essentially not move their entire lives, and not only are these places extremely inhumane, the waste that they produce is unsustainable and extremely bad for our environment. All of this is rooted in an extremely messed up food system.
Now, there’s a very long history behind this mess up involving deregulation, a little corruption, poor planning, and greed, but it all boils down to the corporate consolidation of our food system. Once anti-trust law was loosened, it allowed many companies to merge and create these super-organizations that have a lot more control and a lot more money to throw around. This meant that farmers either had to “get big or get out” in order to compete for the big grocer’s attention and money. After decades of this going unchecked, even the factory farmer (not to blame by the way) is only receiving $11,000 per year (most of which has to go back into updating the farm), while the independent family farmer can only sell foods at local farmer’s markets to make any money.
“So what” you might say, and I totally get it. That’s how I was too, and how I sometimes am when I’m really craving a cheeseburger. It’s difficult to feel pity for animals that don’t look like you, and to care about farmers who are so far away, and to get angry at corporations that are just trying to make money. But it is important because these mega-corporations are the reason that you pay so much more at the checkout counter than a farmer gets paid for creating the food.
So if you don’t want to change your diet, I completely understand, but if you do want to see this system change then you have to hold your local officials responsible. Debbie Stabenow, our governor and a democrat consistently votes against local farmers because she pays for her compaigns through big agriculture. So this obviously isn’t a question of party lines, but a question of responsibility towards constituents and their health.
I’ve already given way too much away about what my poster’s going to be about but if you want to learn more about Foodopoly and the food system here are some links!:
Farm Bill 101: http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/tools-and-resources/farm-bill-101/
GE labeling: http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/factsheet/the-case-for-ge-labeling/
FWW website for misc info: http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/
Also, my week in pictures: