This post is really a bit of a lazy one, these types of things to me are the equivalent of “the clip show” on TV. I read a fair bit online as well as offline about all things food. Sometimes these articles help me to form or reform opinions I have and express them in my own posts here. Every so often though I collect an array of open web pages because I want to write about certain topics but for one reason or another don’t get round to fleshing out these ideas. So with out further ado I give you a series of links to interesting and thought provoking articles I’ve read over the last week or two.
It looks like Amazon are getting into the online grocery business, in the UK at least. I had a look through some of the catalogue before I realised the UK only nature of the Beta and was thinking of ordering a few bits and bobs that aren’t easily found locally but was disappointed that I couldn’t. Here’s hoping the beta goes well and it’s available to all sooner rather than later.
Peter has a really interesting post about teaching organic gardening in schools. I really enjoyed this post and to me it comes down to this… which is “greener”? “Organic” produce that may be better travelled than I am or local produce that maybe isn’t certified organic?
Think about the carbon footprint of what’s on your dinner plate this evening, how far has each ingredient travelled? Is that better or worse for the environment than non-organic farming? I honestly don’t know but it’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently and so far for me it comes down to taste, freshness and the methods used to produce the food, not whether it’s certified “organic” or not.
And now for some Food Revolution updates, it’s great to hear about positive moves in the U.S.A. like this one from the Governator himself, but then you read things like this and realise that it’s going to take a long time for real change to happen. Still it’s another reason for me to be happy that my breakfast cereal of choice is porridge.
Recently, (about a week ago) I spotted a link from @donegangardens on twitter that led to a really surprising story. Essentially Haitian farmers have been offered 60,000 seed sacks of hybrid corn and vegetable seeds by Monsanto (manufacturers of Roundup). Not only have they turned them down, they have actually vowed to burn them. Full Story here.
While at first this might seem a little ungrateful and idiotic after the recent disaster, I for one am very impressed by this. Monsanto’s GM Seeds account for 90% of the GM crops sown in the US. So? I hear you say – they developed a product that people want and are reaping the benefits.
While this is true, it doesn’t give the full picture. To see the extremes that Monsanto are willing to go to, in order to protect their monopoly it’s worth watching Food, Inc. or reading this Wikipedia article.
Now I don’t want anyone getting the impression that I’m anti GM crops, I’m not (I look forward to square fruit and veg that don’t roll off my work surfaces and bruise themselves ) in fact I believe it’s just an extension of what’s been happening in agriculture for centuries with selective breeding and cross breeding. The genetic code of many plants has been changed, possibly the best known example is the orange carrot; this is not natural, but a result of extensive breeding by the Dutch.
Where I have an issue with genetically modified crops, as we know them today, is a result of the litigiouf tactics used by Monsanto.
Throughout 2004 and 2005, Monsanto filed lawsuits against many farmers in Canada and the U.S. on the grounds of patent infringement, specifically the farmers’ sale of seed containing Monsanto’s patented genes. In some cases, farmers claimed the seed was unknowingly sown by wind carrying the seeds from neighboring crops, a claim rejected in Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Schmeiser. These instances began in the mid to late 1990s, with one of the most significant cases being decided in Monsanto’s favor by the Canadian Supreme Court. By a 5-4 vote in late May 2004, that court ruled that “by cultivating a plant containing the patented gene and composed of the patented cells without license, the appellants (canola farmer Percy Schmeiser) deprived the respondents of the full enjoyment of the patent.” With this ruling, the Canadian courts followed the U.S. Supreme Court in its decision on patent issues involving plants and genes. Source
The main effect of this is that farmers are not allowed to keep seed from their crop to plant next season, which significantly raises costs for the farmers in question.
On top of all this Monsanto’s seeds are linked to a range of new superweeds that have evolved (remarkably quickly) to be resistant to Roundup and other weed killers.
A lot of us Geeky/Techie types have been known to go on about Microsoft / Google / Apple / “flavour of the week” are pure evil and are out to control the world for their own demonic ends but those guys are amateurs compared to Monsanto, who are looking to control the food chain and in the US at least they are almost there. Think about it, Monsanto provide the corn seed, which (thanks to the processing industry) gets processed into roughly 25% of all products in US Supermarket chains (Source) and while we all know supermarkets sell more than food these days, US supermarkets take that to a whole new level with a product range that exceeds what’s available in most Irish shopping centres. So how much Monsanto GM corn is in the food?
Corn (because there is now such an excess) is now used to feed the majority of US beef cattle even though cattle are not designed to live on it. Corn feeds a lot of the chickens that are reared in the US as well, both for meat and eggs. Hell, even farmed salmon in the US are now being trained to eat corn.
So if the people eat the corn and the farm animals eat the corn and are then eaten by the people, who has majority control of the food chain… The people? The government, the farmers or Monsanto?
And these guys want to “give” all this seed “free” to Haitian farmers? With their track record, I think most will forgive my scepticism, but in my opinion there just might be a very sinister ulterior motive in play and I for one both respect and admire the Haitians who are taking this stand as the heroes they truly are.
Which to be honest doesn’t really sound like the most riveting premise for a book and if I hadn’t heard so much about Michael Pollan in the last few months (Thanks Lily and Ramana ;)) and recently watched Food, Inc. then I may never have picked it up and my life and cooking would be poorer for it.
Let me be clear this is not a cookbook and there aren’t really recipes in it but that said it’s already having a profound effect on the way I think about my food and cooking in general.
The book starts at one extreme of modern food, industrial farmed food and works it’s way through organic farming and into foraging. It’s almost like a journey back in time, think about this, currently industrial farms feed quite a large percentage of the human population but go back a century and farming (in general) was far more organic and of course if you back even further, pre agriculture, foraging really was the only way to get dinner.
But this book doesn’t preach so much as prompt you to think about things such as: Where did this food come from? How did it live? How did it die? and so on. It tackles some tough moral questions and in general gives balanced answers.
Thought provoking, entertaining and well written, I would recommend this book to those who are anyway interested in what they eat, but particularly to those who are in a moral dilemma about meat, just don’t make a final decision until you’ve read the entire book 😉