After viewing Food Inc. recently I was struck to devastating sadness. I cried much to the embarrasment of my son. Of course the horrendous treatment to the animals or the even worse treatment to undocumented workers in the slaughter houses or even the way the chicken farmers are indebted to the Big 5 is sickening. More than anything in the film though, was towards the end, flashed on the movie screen were the business cards of some top officials in the United States government. Almost all, either cabinet officials, senators, congressmen, people making the rules for us. People that we elect, year after year in trust that they are of our party, our beliefs and looking out for our best interests. As suddenly as the cards appeared on the screen, they flipped over and showed the same name with the job title each of these top officials, top law makers, each held with one of the Big 5. It struck me how stupid I must be, how trusting. Then it struck me that I am indeed an intelligent person researching issues, listening to public radio, trying to get somewhat unskewed news versions of current events. What about the people that don’t even read a newspaper but get all their knowledge off some conservative news station? We are all being duped in a very big way and it made me sad. These people don’t give a shit about what is best for anyone but themselves and their re-election campaigns. That made me sad.
I worship at the alter of food and social justice. I buy local and organic, support farms, try to recycle everything and compost even more. I teach kids how to grow their own food and take responsibility for their lives. I teach kids as well as adults how to cook and make healthier food choices. I like to think that I know a bit about the deplorable circumstances surrounding most conventionally grown and produced food and animals. I have read all of Michael Pollan’s books and seen him speak several times. I attended Slow Food Nation Conferences for a week. That is why with a very small income, I place more emphasis on my food dollars than on my new sheet and shoe dollars. But those folks on Capitol Hill making these decisions that perpetuate the unjust and horrible food system in the United States as well as other parts of the world make me feel as if my efforts could never be enough in the face of the money and deals that go down in our Nations capitol and that makes me sad.
The Big 5, the five companies that control our food system in America and other parts of the world have a whole lot of aliases. For example Cargill can be Colgate and Tyson can be Natures Bounty and Monsanto can be Nestle and well, you get the picture here. They own everything. If a person wants to be a large chicken farmer in America they need to start somewhere right? So they call the Tyson people and they start to cast the magic spell on these unsuspecting and possibly quite down and out individuals that have a piece of land. First they will need chicken houses and Tyson can help them with a seemingly low interest loan for a few hundred thousand dollars to build a state of the art Tyson chicken house. That is probably where the contracts comes in, when everyone is still on a honeymoon high and aren’t really reading all that fine print. Then they get the chickens. Tyson’s choice of course, contractually. The food? Yep, Tyson’s choice. The way the chicks are raised? Yes again. Everything thing that has anything to do with those chickens is what Tyson says. What if you don’t like the practice, it turns your stomach and goes against your morals? Tough shit, you signed a water tight contract for 7 years and you are stuck because you will lose EVERYTHING if you walk away. It is a sad truth about conventionally grown chickens. But it is the same with seeds. In that film there is this little old guy that does seed cleaning. He goes around Iowa or Nebraska with a little machine on the back of his truck that gets all the chaff and rocks out of seeds so that you can use them again for next years crop. Monsanto sued him for encouraging the reuse of THEIR round up ready patented seeds. He says he has nothing to do with where the seeds come from or if the farmer he is working for chooses to reuse seeds that he purchased from Monsanto. He does not know where the seeds were purchased and most of his clients are not customers of Monsanto anyway. They shut him down. Ran his legal funds out, ran his life savings out. The man is broke and without a business that his grandfather started a hundred years ago because Monsanto had to stop him. They were threatened by him I guess. What is that mentality? That makes me sad.
I will keep voting and researching issues and teaching kids and buying local and growing my own food and raising my own chickens but jeez….it is a sad truth about the food system in America today and only reinforces the happy truth that we need to, can and will, slowly, but surely through voting with our dollars, buying local and keeping up on the issues, change the food system in America.