Friday, January 6, 2012

Victories and Defeats in the Food Movement - so far

I've been absolutely derelict in my duties to this blog, but with the whirlwind of the holiday season, followed by a 16-day composition course, I haven't had the time (or energy) to write a post. Since there's been a flurry of movement in the food landscape - some exciting, some disappointing, and some plain crazy - I feel compelled to discuss these issues:

  1. A lobbying group is fighting to keep the EPA from releasing the limits for safe exposure to dioxins, an industrial pollutant that causes cancer, the same stuff used in Agent Orange. Americans consume this toxic chemical through the fats in meat. Again, the food industry objects to the proper labeling of food which would help American consumers can make informed decisions. The group's central argument? “You will have a whole lot of folks running in circles saying there’s nothing safe to eat, it will scare the crap out of people.” Right, because releasing this information will immediately result in mass mania. 
  2. Agricultural pollution is laying waste on the American landscape. The Environmental Working Group reports that farms are losing valuable topsoil at a rate 12 times faster than the government's estimates. This is of course a direct result of monocultural farming demanded by the food industry. 
  3. Pizza is now considered a vegetable in school lunchrooms. What the fuck? Do you know how much the food industry spent lobbying to make this happen? 5 million. 5 million. Schools spend less than a dollar per meal. The government subsidizes surplus products from the industry, but the industry charges more to process the food for the schools. A chicken might be free, but turning that into an insipid chicken nugget costs a lot more. Watch Seth Myers and Kermit the Frog's hilarious response here
  4. The FDA finally placed higher restrictions to the amount of antibiotics in livestock, a critical change since 75% of the antibiotics in America are used on animals. I'm hoping that this will have a positive effect on consumers' medical treatment. 
  5. Because of anti-obesity incentives in schools, I'm so pleased to report that childhood obesity rates in New York City are declining! I hope this momentum can be sustained and, at best, accelerated. 
  6. Since 2012 is an election year, there's been talk that progress in the food movement will be slow. Now that corporations are people, candidates have to keep them happy. Corporations like the ones  in Big Food. Here's to hoping that we at least don't move backwards. Obama's the first president to acknowledge that there is a huge problem that stretches back to agricultural policy, but lip service doesn't fix things. I hope whichever candidate wins 2012 will help make strides in the food movement, though that might be asking for too much. 
Happy 2012! 

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