Today an alliance of food justice groups, environmental organizations and the Occupy movement are calling for a Global Day of Action to Occupy Our Food Supply. It is a call to resist corporate takeover of our food supply and to create and support a sustainable healthy food system for all. A recent op-ed piece by Willie Nelson and Anne Lappe highlights the importance of this issue:
Our food is under threat. It is felt by every family farmer who has lost their land and livelihood, every parent who can’t find affordable or healthy ingredients in their neighborhood, every person worried about food borne illnesses thanks to lobbyist-weakened food safety laws, every farm worker who faces toxic pesticides in the fields as part of a day’s work.
When our food is at risk we are all at risk.
Over the last thirty years, we have witnessed a massive consolidation of our food system. Never have so few corporations been responsible for more of our food chain. Of the 40,000 food items in a typical U.S. grocery store, more than half are now brought to us by just 10 corporations. Today, three companies process more than 70 percent of all U.S. beef, Tyson, Cargill and JBS. More than 90 percent of soybean seeds and 80 percent of corn seeds used in the United States are sold by just one company: Monsanto. Four companies are responsible for up to 90 percent of the global trade in grain. And one in four food dollars is spent at Walmart.
What does this matter for those of us who eat? Corporate control of our food system has led to the loss of millions of family farmers, the destruction of soil fertility, the pollution of our water, and health epidemics including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even certain forms of cancer. More and more, the choices that determine the food on our shelves are made by corporations concerned less with protecting our health, our environment, or our jobs than with profit margins and executive bonuses.
This consolidation also fuels the influence of concentrated economic power in politics: Last year alone, the biggest food companies spent tens of millions lobbying on Capitol Hill with more than $37 million used in the fight against junk food marketing guidelines for kids.
The wellbeing of much of our planet is now at the mercy of companies like Monsanto which created DDT, Agent Orange, Roundup, Bovine Growth Hormone, and PCB’s, just to name a few. Not very reassuring! We must take back control. It is going to take more than buying organic and going vegetarian. In his excellent piece “Big Food Must Go” Christopher D. Cook, author of Diet for a Dead Planet: Big Business and the Coming Food Crisis, writes “to truly ‘occupy the food system’ we will need nothing less than a fundamental restructuring of the economics and policies that currently enable our corporate food system.” This would include “a radical overhaul….of how our tax dollars are spent on food” and reforming anti-trust laws “so these companies can’t control entire food and seed markets.” So let’s get going. The time is now. This IS urgent.
- GO to the Occupy our Food site facilitated by the Rainforest Action Network and see the list of events and actions that they are promoting including Occupying Cargill
- GET POLITICAL Contact your representatives. Here is a list of them. Let them know that this is a crucial issue and that you expect them to do everything they can to create policies to support and promote a healthy and sustainable food system. Call back frequently!
- Use your purchasing power. Stay informed and only buy products from companies with sustainable practices. Boycott huge agribusiness.
- Support your local farmers. Buy your food from the farmers market and/or join a CSA. Here in Santa Barbara we are very lucky to have many wonderful organic farmers growing a huge variety of food. Enjoy It!
- Plant organic edibles. Support biodiversity and buy and grow heirlooms seeds. Island Seed and Feed is a great resource. Save and Share your Seeds.
- Look into the Occupy Movement. Read some of their declarations. As Eric Holt- Gomez, Executive Director, Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy, writes recently in the Huffington Post, “The food justice movement has no strategy to address the inter-institutional (i.e. structural) ways that inequity is produced in the food system. By openly protesting the excesses of capitalism, Occupy does address this structure. This is why the convergence of Occupy and the food justice movement is so potentially powerful — and why it is feared.”
There is a power in working together. We can take back our health. In the words of Santa Barbara beloved farmer and educator Michael Ableman, “We need to focus on what we are for as much as what we are against; occupying our land, our soils with life and fertility, our communities with good food. We need to work to rebuild the real economy, the one based on seeds and sunlight and individuals and communities growing together.”
Photo found here