I was traveling for about 3 weeks and let SANET mail back up. I would
like to reply to a couple of threads discussed in the last month.
* Regarding the vitamin A, GE etc. discussion. I would like to
recommend two books, "Plants, Power and Profit" by Lawrence Busch and
William Lacy, and "Making Nature, Shaping Culture: Plant Biodiversity in
Global Context" by L. Busch, W. Lacy, J. Burkhadt et al, University of
Nebraska-Lincoln, 1995. They discuss lots of ways that local knowledges
about growing and eating have been systematically under attack for the
last 500 years. Interesting stuff!
* About consumers. Debi asked if I wanted to chime in. YES!
If we really want to change the way food is produced and consumed in
this world, then I don't particularly care about labels. I'm more
interested in getting eaters to ask questions about their food and make
decisions based on what they feel comfortable with. In the process, it
requires that people get more in touch with their food system. Does it
take longer? Yes, to get people aware of what system they are
particiaping in. Does it take longer/more inconvenient to eat this way?
NO! But it does take time to relearn food cooking techniques, develop a
network of suppliers and routinize them into your life. In this way,
it becomes as convenient to eat food that supports farmers, workers,
communities and the nature in which we are embedded as it does to
participate in a globalized, industrialized food system that is based on
returning wealth to corporate shareholders.
I'm leary of organic labeling -- and forgive me for not following the
debate very closely here so this might have been said -- because of the
relationships that are beginning to predominate in the organic
"industry". I read Supermarket News regularly and pay attention to what
they are saying about natural and organic food. Kroger is doing a
superb job of integrating it into their stores, as is Wal-Mart.
Meanwhile, Whole Foods and Wild Oats are busy acquiring any community
based natural market you can think of. Their growth is astronomical.
Both retail chains say now they are going to have to concentrate on
opening stores rather than acquiring existing ones. Large-scale natural
retailers are just as interested in reducing transaction costs as other
retailers. Thus, they prefer to deal with fewer accounts (forget buying
local!), and prefer to have consistent, guranteed shipment. So what
happens to relationships throughout the organic "industry"? Well,
processors have to get big enough to meet the demand for all those
stores -- and then organic processors become attractive to conventional
processors (Alta Dena belongs to Dean Foods for example) -- and then
farmers start to lose their bargaining power vis-a-vis processors, etc.
A trend that started at the community level and incorporated ethics
about relationships between people and the earth is rapidly become an
"envirnomental" movement concerned with practices. In essence we are
replicating the same structure of the globalized, industrialized food
system in the organic arena.
There are options: Social/Ethic labelling like the Fair Trade labels in
Europe (and to some extent here). The most important thing is to involve
consumers in dialogues about what they want -- and make sure they know
what they are supporting through each and every food decision. I
encourage people to ask farmers how they produce their food and why they
do it that way. I tell them to ask farmers why they are/are not organic
certified. I tell them to ask about IPM versus organic etc. I
encourage folks to make their own decisions about raw milk versus
pasteurized based on the information they get from the farmer and their
own comfort level with alternatives. I tell people to talk about the
reasons they buy locally at church, dinner parties, potlucks, etc. I
encourage people to ask questions of their store managers and make their
opinions known. But most of all I tell people to GET INVOLVED with
their food in any way possible!
Currently I'm working this into a four page handout that we give out at
presentations. A farmer edition is already available on our website and
the consumer one will be there by mid-April.
-- Mary Hendrickson, Ph.D. Food Circles Networking Project University of Missouri Outreach and Extension 106 Sociology Columbia, MO 65211
Website: http://www.foodcircles.missouri.edu Tele: 573-882-7463 Fax: 573-882-1473
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