Is This Factory Farming’s Tobacco Moment?

Given the regulatory coma of the FDA, the USDA, and the EPA, we need to be careful about what we eat and feed to our families. We must seek out and purchase organic foods and products whenever possible (organic standards prohibit the use of toxic pesticides, chemical fertilizer, and GMOs), but we also need to be aggressive about demanding that the current factory farm system must change. It is, after all, our tax dollars that prop up the GMOs, chemical agriculture, and junk food of Food Inc. Our tax dollars literally subsidize the production of foods that cause diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and cancer. Recent studies indicate that 68% of the U.S. population is overweight, while 34% is obese. This fattening of America over the last 20 years is a direct result of the highly processed junk foods that we eat, loaded with fat, sugar, salt, and toxic residues. Only our collective voices, votes, purchases, and demands for fundamental reform and regulation can change the nation’s dangerous system of food production and distribution. 9

But, don’t wait for the regulators to act before you change your food habits. Organic and health-minded consumers are transforming the marketplace with their purchasing power all over the world. You can too!

We need to demand that our presently out-of-control food and farming system be regulated. Like the mortgage, bank, insurance industries, and Wall Street, agriculture has not been properly regulated for decades, if ever. EPA, FDA, and the USDA regulatory practices have been severely weakened by pro-agribusiness, deregulatory administrations since Reagan. It’s time to crack down on the hazardous practice of corporate agribusiness.

As long as no one is regulating how many different toxic substances are applied to conventionally grown food, a staggering amount of chemical cocktails and synthetic fertilizer will continue to be used. The scary bottom line is that America’s corporate food handlers and processors do not care about your safety. They care about their profits.

All the “conventional” horrors of industrial agriculture are banned on organic and biodynamic farms. Why? Because organic consumers and farmers decided to create third party certification organizations in the 1980s that enforced strict regulations on how organic food could be grown. So, instead of asking: Why does organic food cost more than “conventional” food? We should be asking: How cheap would poisoned (“conventional”) food have to be to be a good deal?

The time has come to stand up and be counted, to force the chemical, genetic engineering, petroleum and sewage sludge corporations to bend to the people’s will, to endure their own tobacco moment. Only then will Rachel Carson’s hopes for a sustainable future be realized. Only then will a 21st Century Silent Spring be averted. 10 Only then will we be able to stop factory farming’s assault on public health and all Earth’s creatures, large and small.

Footnotes: 1. Will Allen, The Death of Food, Alternet, April, 2008. The Real Cost of Cheap Food, Alternet, June 2008. Organic Consumer’s Association Newsletter, April and June 2008. Bryan Walsh, Getting Real about the High Cost of Cheap Food, Time magazine, August 21, 2009

2. The Environmental Working Group’s 2008 Dirty Dozen Vegetables and Fruits (with the highest residues). Residue analyses from the United States Department of Agriculture. California EPA, Pesticide Use Reports, 1970-2006. Will Allen, The War on Bugs, Chelsea Green, White River Junction, Vt., March 2008.

3. Smith, Diana, 2010, Cancer and Pesticides: Victims Fight for Justice. Ecologist, February 4.

4. See: The Environmental Working Group’s study of EPA water quality data, and California Department of Agriculture’s Fertilizer studies from 1985 to 2006.

5. Shiva, Vandana, 2009, Soil not Oil, Navdanya, New Delhi, India. Allen, Will and Cummins, Ronnie, 2010 Beyond Copenhagen: Building a Green and Organic Future. Huffington Post, Organic Bytes, February

6. Greenhouse Gas emissions were deemed on December 7, 2009 to be deleterious to public health by the U.S. EPA. It will be interesting to see if this ruling allows greenhouse gasses emitted from agriculture to be regulated like other industries

7. The United States Environmental Protection Agency began in 1970. Instead of protecting the public the EPA has aligned itself with Monsanto, DuPont, Bayer, Crop Life and other chemical protective groups. California’s Proposition 65, passed in 1983 to regulate Cancer Causing Chemicals in public places. Instead of banning them or regulating them they now only inform you that cancer causing chemicals are present. California’s Birth Defect Prevention Act, passed in 1984 was designed to eliminate the most dangerous birth defect generating chemicals. After 25 years almost no chemicals have lost their registration.

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