How many consumers base their food purchases on informed decisions surrounding nutritional content and sustainable production practices? Many may elicit an awkward face of confusion as this is an uncommon question. However, it is an important subject in today’s form of food production. According to a recent poll, less than 50% of us utilize nutrition labels entirely.
Do you know how you ended up with the (processed) Pop-Tart in your hand for breakfast? When you look at this sweet little pastry, what do you think of? Do you think of who made it? Where it came from? More importantly, how does it impact your overall health and nutrition? The final product of this simple, sweet little tart is much more complex in its production than it lets on.
Quantity vs. Quality
The industrialization of food production has rapidly moved our society toward a philosophy of quantity rather than quality. Industrial farming has separated consumers from the origin and production of their food, and our supermarkets of processed food aisles have replaced the varieties of fruits and vegetables from the home garden and farms.
In the past, farmers successfully provided for their families and local community. This model of sustainability has been replaced by monocrop production of hybrid corn and soybeans created for these highly processed foods. Essential nutrients have been extracted at an exponential rate from the mass production of once nutrient rich corn. This removal of bio-diverse agricultural practices and production has significantly impacted the security of farmers and, most importantly, the future of our food supply.
Corporate industries have without a doubt revolutionized the life of the American farmer and consumers across the globe. Our entire food pyramid has been altered and regulated for our industrialized and processed system. The picture of the “American farm” has been warped into a corporate industry of mass production. Cows and pigs are artificially inseminated, dosed with hormones, and deprived of a humane existence. Fruits and vegetables have been planted in artificial fertilizers and treated with toxic pesticides. The flora and fauna of life has been modified to the extent of destruction through these “innovative” agricultural practices of capitalist agribusiness. Through the influence of corporate industries, farmers have found themselves in a perpetuated cycle of destruction.
Cycle of Dependence and Public Confusion
Although government agencies, such as the Small Business Administration (SBA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), administer policies that seem to reflect the best interest for our society’s health and safety, they are continually influenced by lobbyists of corporate industries. The FDA and USDA are constantly influenced by the self-interest of corporate food industries, thus shaping our guidelines of proper food production and consumption. As a result, policies have been administrated in order to reflect and promote the interests of corporate industries, rather than addressing the issues of health and overall well-being.
Not only are consumers oblivious to the true reality of food production, producers are dually subjected to the corruption of industrialized production practices. The implementation and requirement of patent seeds for farmers has created a perpetual cycle of dependence among both producers and consumers of society. Farmers and laborers are unable to successfully subsist on their own production or wages, and must therefore submit to the market and purchase the subsistence they were once able to provide from corporate industries.
Not only does the industry employ cheap labor, it creates an endless population of consumers. As Marion Nestle reflected, “They talk in euphemisms that make people not understand what it is they’re supposed to do with food… the wording makes it easier for people to get confused. And I’ll ask the question, to whose advantage is to have the public confused about nutrition?”
This shift in agriculture has perpetuated an unequal distribution of power among the producers and consumers of society. However, the producers are no longer the farmers as they once were. Rather, they are the façade of “local production” linking consumers to the corporate food cycle instead of fork to farm.
The philosophy of capital industry ignores the ecology of natural production, thus threatening our future existence. Instead of focusing on the capitalist ideology of profit, we must move toward (back to) more sustainable production practices for our subsistence. Most recently, the FDA released their intent to update the nutrition label on our store shelf food products. The label has not been revised for 20 years. However, it is clear our food has evolved in the last 20 years. As consumers, we must voice our essential need to be given a clear and accurate label reflecting the true ingredients and nutrients of our food. This is one progressive step toward creating knowledgeable consumers. As informed consumers, we have the appropriate tools to request further progression, such as sustainable production practices.
Nestle, Marion. “Influencing Governemnt: Food Lobbies and Lobbyists” from Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (p.95-110) Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.
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