Sunday, January 27, 2008

What Are We Really Eating?

I, too would like to comment on “Faraway Food Production,” along with the “Be Aware of Your Food Choices” post. I was thinking of another topic for my blog but, these two posts interested me. I recently read a book which introduced me to the Slow Food Movement. The Movement encourages people to use locally grown, organic produce, locally raised animals and local dairy products in their cooking as much as possible. By doing so they are being more “green” by eating food that has not traveled great distances, using fossil fuels to do so and by supporting small farmers. There are also the benefits stated in the two posts. Researching where our food comes from can open your eyes to another example of just how far reaching the fossil fuel issue is (and how hard it is to change). Not only is it used in transportation but for the growth of non-organic foods.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has put in place a set of national standards that food labeled "organic" must meet, whether it is grown in the United States or imported from other countries. No antibiotics or growth hormones are used in the animals used for meat and dairy. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides or fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients; a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet the standards.
The USDA makes no claim on the nutrition benefits of organic food and the benefits of organic food in general are disputed. One example of a benefit would be the reduced use of the conventional pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. For example, not only is there concern about the chemical pesticides and fertilizers themselves in the environment but concern about where they are produced. These are made by chemical companies that have varying levels of standards enforced upon them based on what country their plant is in (even between the US and EU, not only developing countries), leading to varying levels of safety for the employees and the environment. There are differences in the period between inspections of the equipment and in the safety requirements in place to protect the surrounding community. And, of course, they use massive amounts of electricity. We can also take into account those plants used to produce the massive amounts of packaging used for the transportation and storage of our food.
One can argue that these plants would exist anyway, that the chemicals used there will be used for something else. And knowing what we do about the world today, we can become consumed with questioning our every decision or we can make the choice to be conscious citizens and to maybe choose a few ways we can use our life to make an impact. If we think about all the food we have, we can remember there are people in the world worried about obtaining enough food for their families and have little care for where it comes from (and our energy choices have contributed to this). And while the farmer in another country may be using his land to grow food for us, he may not have the resources to grow food for his family if he were not paid for his work. But being aware of this situation gives us another option for a change in our daily lives. You can also watch this video about new pesticide laws and potential impacts in California on today.

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