I recently watched the documentary Fresh, which is an informative look at the food system. The documentary points out that Americans fear inconvenience, and in the quest for efficiency we have applied industrialization and economies of scale to everything even though these concepts are clearly unsustainable when applied to the food system. For example, corn and soybeans are the most prevalent crops and are mostly not directly grown for food, but rather for ethanol, processed foods, and animal feed. We’ve lost 90% of diversity in crops and soil is depleting 13 times faster than it can be replaced. There is a reason there are not monocultures in nature. It’s no wonder there is so much need for antibiotics for animals raised for food and pesticides for crops; we have tipped the natural cycle too far. The film encourages the audience to respect the design of nature as stewards of the earth. In nature, and in a “normal” farm that is a sustainable closed-cycle with plants feeding the animals, and in turn the animals feeding the plants with their manure.
The industrialization of the food system has made food cheaper, but at high cost to the environment and our health. “Cheap” food is an illusion. Decentralizing our food system is of major importance to our safety (our ability to feed ourselves), and to our health. Fresh encourages people to buy local and organic, and press our government for policy that supports the family farm. Currently corn and soy are the most subsidized crops, which is good for the food processors, feed lots and other buyers of cheap corn (i.e. ethanol producers), but not good for the family farmer.
The big food companies want you to believe that the heavily processed products that fill grocery store shelves are healthy, and they spend a lot of marketing dollars touting the supposed benefits (low-fat, natural, etc.), but these words and claims are empty. There are no regulations for these terms that food companies use on their packaging, so your best bet is to stick with whole foods that don’t have labels. Shopping the perimeter of the grocery store is a good place to start. Buy from local farms via community supported agriculture (CSA) or farmers’ markets when possible. Make every day Earth Day and do your part to protect the environment and your health by eating a whole, plant-based diet sourced from local, organic farms.