Watch this trailer from Food, Inc. to find out what's going on with the American food supply:
Think the recent recall of over half a billion eggs for salmonella poisoning is a unique event that will never happen again? Think again. Factory farming is making it increasingly likely that events like this with food recalls for e coli, salmonella and other horrible kinds of poisoned foods will happen increasingly often.
Why? Factory farming is the key. Animals are rammed together in huge barns with barely enough room to breathe. Dead chickens are weeded out every day and thrown in the dumpster. Animals are given antibiotics to make them grow faster and to ward off (unsuccessfully) disease. Herbicides and pesticides are used to grow their food. All these chemicals end up at the meat counter in your super market for you to consume. Any wonder why cancer is becoming more common?
The concentration and centralization of the food industry in a few factory mega farms is destructive to your health and to the economy. When there was wide spread family farming, not only were the animals much healthier and, consequently, the food was healthier for you to eat, but also income and wealth from farming was spread more democratically among wider segments of the population. Factory farmers controlling huge operations have become very wealthy enabling them to hire lobbyists who in turn get laws written in the factory farmer's (and not the consumer's) interests. Inspection of food processing plants is largely missing in action thanks to Bush era deregulation. Farm and food processing plant workers are mainly illegals working for starvation wages. Agricultural subsidies go largely to wealthy factory farmers.
And they go mainly to corn producers who provide the food for beef cattle. This makes beef products like fast food hamburgers relatively cheap compared to nutritious food like fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables, however, are also mass produced using pesticides and herbicides so, unless you buy organic, you're getting a dose of cancer producing chemicals along with your salads and strawberries. See California Strawberries Being Grown With Poison Gas. Weed killer Atrazine, which is banned in Europe, is widely used on crops. Runnoff gets into the ground water supply. It has been shown to cause cancer in rats.
5. Factory Farming
American factory farms are literally filthy cesspools of their own making, and who else is cleaning up all that shit but American taxpayers? Giant factory farms make up just 2% of the livestock farms in the U.S. yet raise 40% of all animals in the U.S., and they do it using practices that are not only harmful to workers and the animals themselves, but to the environment.
The government heavily subsidizes factory farms so they can provide über-cheap meat and dairy, raising as many animals as possible in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of care. And why should they care about finding better ways to manage manure when the government hands them $125 million annually to “deal” with the consequences, and then doesn’t bother to check up on them?
Despite the backwards funding given to clean them up, gaping lagoons of livestock waste packed with pollutants continue to be one of the biggest environmental problems in America, fouling our water and causing those depressing dead zones in our oceans.
4. Corn Ethanol
In the quest to beat back fossil fuels, cleaner fuels that we can grow seemed like a good idea – until we realized that some, like corn, make a huge dent in the world’s food supply. But that isn’t stopping the U.S. government from giving billions in subsidies to the corn industry in general, and corn ethanol in particular.
Corn-based ethanol gobbled up 76% of federal government renewable energy subsidies in 2007, leaving little for more environmentally sound renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Worse yet, it’s a huge drain on water resources, gulping down up to 2,138 liters of water per liter of ethanol.
This isn’t just an unwise investment – it’s also destroying the rainforest. As American farmers have abandoned soy for subsidized corn, soy prices have risen worldwide – and led to an increase in Amazon deforestation. Brazil is the world’s second-largest producer of soy next to the U.S., and growing demand has meant more clear-cutting for soy plantations.
3. Processed Foods
Ethanol isn’t the only product that comes to us courtesy of U.S. corn subsidies. There’s also plenty of craptastic processed “food” products packed with multiple subsidized ingredients: wheat, sugar, soy and of course, corn. Gee, could the obesity epidemic have anything to do with the fact that our government makes junk food cheap, and encourages its consumption through the food stamp program?
It’s a sad state of affairs when a Twinkie costs less, calorically speaking, than a carrot. Meanwhile, farmers who produce fruits and vegetables (aside from corn), don’t get a dime in government subsidies. While the government is considering junk food taxes, a change to the Farm Bill might be more efficient.
What can be done to encourage the reemergence of the family farm and the nonuse of pesticides, herbicides and antibiotics? Government policy for one thing could be used to encourage organic family farms and to discourage factory farming. Just the opposite is the case now. Agricultural subsidies could be given to small farming operations instead of to large scale mega farmers. Keep in mind that before World War II, all farming was organic because there simply were not the chemicals available that are being used today.
Consumers need to buy organic foods as much as possible. Sure they cost more, but that is the price one muct pay to avoid you or a family member getting cancer at a relatively young age. Is it worth it? You be the judge. Eating factory farmed food will not harm you overnight unless it is tainted with salmonellla or e coli, but the buildup of toxic chemicals in your system will perhaps harm you in 20 or 30 years. The use of antibiotics in animal food insures that they will not be available for human consumption when they are really needed to ward off the next killer pandemic. Fast food hamburgers, french fries and soft drinks won't kill you immediately, but the intake of fat, sugar and salt will do the job sooner or later. The increasing obesity epidemic is testimony to that. High blood pressure and early onset diabetes is a direct result. Poor people are targeted for fast food fried chicken because it tastes good and it is cheaper. Rich people shop in organic markets and can afford healthy, nutritious, fresh high quality food. Poor people are just a profit center for the factory farm and fast food industries.
See the trailer to Fast Food Nation:
When consumers buy organic, they are reducing the profits of the factory farmers and increasing those of organic family farmers. They are reducing the profits of the large chemical producers like Monsanto who provide the herbicides and pesticides that get into our water supplies. Lastly they are encouraging a wider spread distribution of wealth and income instead of what we currently have: the centalization and concentration of wealth and income in the hands of a few.