Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World's Food System


Between this blue fin tuna boat and your store shelves usually there's a cannery.

I'd say that's a given for Kansas.


In one of those rare instances where I decided to eat healthier, which usually lasts about three trips to the store, I decided to cut down on sodium.

Its nearly impossible. I thought perhaps canned tuna would work. Nope. Salt's been added to what is usually a healthy fish (except for some high levels of mercury).

All pre-packaged or processed foods have tons of sodium. Unless you can find a market where you can buy organically grown foods directly from the farmer or fresh fish straight off the boat, you're gonna get additives you probably don't want.

Hell, you probably won't even know some of them and most likely can't pronounce them.

But they're fucking good for you. Just ask the corporations supplying your market.

The following is an excerpt from Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System by Raj Patel, published with permission from Melville House Publishing.

Today, when we produce more food than ever before, more than one in ten people on Earth are hungry. The hunger of 800 million happens at the same time as another historical first: that they are outnumbered by the one billion people on this planet who are overweight.

Global hunger and obesity are symptoms of the same problem and, what's more, the route to eradicating world hunger is also the way to prevent global epidemics of diabetes and heart disease, and to address a host of environmental and social ills. Overweight and hungry people are linked through the chains of production that bring food from fields to our plate.

Guided by the profit motive, the corporations that sell our food shape and constrain how we eat, and how we think about food. The limitations are clearest at the fast food outlet, where the spectrum of choice runs from McMuffin to McNugget. But there are hidden and systemic constraints even when we feel we're beyond the purview of Ronald McDonald. Even when we want to buy something healthy, something to keep the doctor away, we're trapped in the very same system that has created our Fast Food Nations?

Try, for example, shopping for apples. At supermarkets in North America and Europe, the choice is restricted to half a dozen varieties: Fuji, Braeburn, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious and perhaps a couple of others. Why these? Because they're pretty: we like the polished and unblemished skin. Because their taste is one that's largely unobjectionable to the majority. But also because they can stand transportation over long distances. Their skin won't tear or blemish if they're knocked about in the miles from orchard to aisle. They take well to the waxing technologies and compounds that make this transportation possible and keep the apples pretty on the shelves. They are easy to harvest. They respond well to pesticides and industrial production. These are reasons why we won't find Calville Blanc, Black Oxford, Zabergau Reinette, Kandil Sinap or the ancient and venerable Rambo on the shelves.

Our choices are not entirely our own because, even in a supermarket, the menu is crafted not by our choices, nor by the seasons, nor where we find ourselves, nor by the full range of apples available, nor by the full spectrum of available nutrition and tastes, but by the power of food corporations.

Note: Headline links to source.

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