I just listened to a podcast from the American Museum of Natural History (http://www.amnh.org/science podcasts are available at the bottom of the page, and in iTunes). The speaker was Michael Pollan (check out his bibliography!) and he spoke about why corporate food production isn’t sustainable (for example, if everyone in America wants to eat 8 oz of meat every day, as is the general trend, then we’ll need 2.3 more planets in order to raise all that meat). The other side of the coin is why organic and local (read: small) food production is sustainable, and why there need to be more and better incentives for small farmers to succeed. An interesting figure is that there are only about 1 million farmers in the United States. Sadly, this is an improvement from previous censuses. I highly recommend downloading and listening to the podcast. Be sure to listen to the Q&A also, because an audience member asks if he (Pollan) has seen evidence that the locavore/organic food movement is elitist. Pollan responds with some examples refuting that this is something only for rich food snobs (especially considering the current economy), like investing in a vegetable garden will more than pay for itself in fresh vegetables within the first year. Additionally, he cites groups who believe in “taking back dinner” and feeding their children only whole, healthy foods as a family value – something that is akin to home-schooling. The issue appears to be straddle both left- and right-wing groups, but the policy is lagging because of industry lobbying (so make your voice heard with your spending!)
Other interesting items from the podcast: swine flu and MRSA (the one out in communities, not locked up in hospitals) are a result of industrial pig production. And that’s not a coincidence or an accident – it’s a crappy, unintended consequence. It will keep happening, with the way these pigs are genetically modified and raised pumped with antibiotics. (Side note: Shotime broadcasts television episodes of NPR’s This American Life, and one focuses on pig farming in America: look for it here.)
Another note: he makes the point that foods that are artificially enhanced with nutrients and vitamins are not as healthy as actual whole foods that naturally have those nutrients and vitamins. No one knows why for sure, but it is absolutely the case.
So definitely try to listen to this podcast, and if you find you’re eating a lot of processed or packaged foods, think about making small differences (they add up!) And I really like the idea of taking back dinner; it’s my dinner, ding dang it (as my mom would say).