May 5, 2010
Today I watched a documentary, that I have to share – The Future of Food, by Deborah Koons Garcia. The product description on Amazon reads: “One of the best-reviewed documentaries of 2005. There is a revolution happening in the farm fields and on the dinner tables of America, a revolution that is transforming the very nature of the food we eat. This documentary explores the disturbing truth behind the unlabeled, patented, genetically engineered foods that have quietly filled grocery store shelves for the past decade. It also examines the complex web of market and political forces that are changing what we eat as huge multi-national corporations seek to control the world’s food system.” The San Francisco Chronicle rated this “One of 2005’s must-see documentaries”.
If you care at all about what you’re really eating, and where your food really comes from, you need to watch this documentary. I learned a lot from this movie about the current state of farming in the U.S. A few things that really struck me are:
- 97% of the varieties of vegetables that were grown at the beginning of the 20th century are now extinct.
- Genetic uniformity leads to increased vulnerability to insects and disease.
- Genetic engineering is a cell violation technology. It is the largest biologic experiment humanity has ever entered into. The only way to invade a cell is to tag on a virus or bacteria to attack and weaken it first.
- GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) fall into the category of GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) in the U.S., so the government doesn’t require testing or labeling – even though 25 other countries do.
- In 2003, genetically modified corn, cotton, canola, and soybeans were grown on 100 million acres in the U.S. Mexico banned GMO corn planting in 1998.
- American taxpayers pay a subsidy to the agriculture biotech industry. The U.S. subsidizes crops, Europe subsidizes farmers.
- 80% of both our beef products and seeds are processed by just four companies.
- It is projected that in the next ten years all food at the retail level, in the world, will be controlled by just six companies – only one of them American.
- Biotech companies say they want to help feed the poor, yet they are trying to patent a suicide gene (the seed dies after just one crop cycle), so farmers would have to buy seeds from them every year.
- Our government is looking at approving 12 different kinds of genetically engineered fish.
- Today food in a supermarket has traveled an average of 1500 miles.
- The U.S. pesticide industry bought the seed industry. Monsanto has spent 8 billion dollars buying seed companies. They sell you both the seed, AND the herbicide.
- Whoever controls the seeds, controls the food.
- If Monsanto seeds end up on your farm, even if you didn’t put them there, you have violated their patent. If your crops become cross-pollinated with Monsanto seeds, even if they are blown in by the wind!, they now own your crops. They have sued many farmers, and put them out of business, this way.
- Monsanto came out and straight up said, that it is not their job to make sure biotech food is safe – that’s the FDAs job. Their sole job is to sell as much of it as they can.
Now I won’t lie – this documentary was depresso. It left me feeling helpless, and like there is nothing we can do to stop this, since it seems like Monsanto has the U.S. Government in it’s back pocket anyway. But I will say this – it’s not all bad news. Things can be changed, as long as we as consumers exercise our voice, and flex our purchasing power muscle. For example, I also learned that:
- Consumers spent one billion dollars on organic food in 1990, and 13 billion in 2003.
- In 1990, the U.S. Government tried to form organic standards. In 1997, it came out that the standards allowed GMOs. In the largest public response ever, 275,000 citizens wrote the USDA, and the consumers prevailed!
- The number of farmers’ markets in the U.S. increased by 79% between 1994 – 2002.
- Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), where consumers can get a basket of produce once a week from a local farm, is becoming more popular and accessible. You can either pick it up from the farm, or have it delivered right to your home.
- South Dakota, Nebraska, and eight other states have passed constitutional amendments or state legislature that banned non-family owned farming.
These are just a few examples that let me know that people do care about where our food comes from, and want it to be natural and healthy. I find comfort in knowing that I am not the only one bothered by corporations patenting seeds, and then blackballing farmers into using them – especially when they are genetically modified. I also find reassurance in the fact that we, as consumers, do have the ability to make positive change, through the choices we make. If we demand that genetically modified food be labeled, and that corporations like Monsanto not be allowed to monopolize the seed industry, the government will follow suit. If we shop at farmers’ markets, and CSAs, and continue to buy more and more organic food, they will follow the money.
For more information on The Future of Food, check out their website (www.thefutureoffood.com). You can even watch the entire documentary at the site.