Note: This post reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily those of The Local Dish as a publication.
Our nation has some very difficult decisions to make about money and politics if we intend to ensure the quality, safety and long-term security of the food we place on our dinner plates. Increasingly, a variety of bleak news articles appear describing human behavior that is having an impact on the food we produce and consume. For instance, two weeks ago the Washington Post published an article with disturbing statistics from the EPA. Only 21% of our nation’s rivers are in “good biological health,” the rest contaminated with high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, common ingredients in fertilizer and detergents that are washing into our rivers and damaging aquatic life.
The Associated Press recently ran an article informing us that not only are our honeybees disappearing in far greater numbers than ever before, but so is the darling of all bees, the American bumblebee, equally important as the honeybee to crop pollination. Although the science behind what is causing colony collapse disorder remains controversial, research shows a strong and convincing link to a class of pesticides made by Bayer and Syngenta known as neonicotinoids. If things aren’t bad enough, hundreds of small American farmers are losing expensive lawsuits by Monsanto for violating the company’s patent that protects their genetically modified, Roundup Ready seeds. This brand strategy has been extremely effective in driving farmers to continue, and even increase, their use of GM (genetically modified) seeds.
Are we a nation lulled into a false sense of food security by government, big agriculture and factory farms? As a nation of consumers we’ve demonstrated far more demand for cheap food than quality, nutrient-dense food. Our politicians appear to demonstrate little vision for long-term crop sustainability other than through patently supportive policies in favor of the chemical and biotechnology industries. Although the key players in these industries like to claim that their products benefit sustainable farming practices, they appear to be better suited to sustaining our addiction to cheap food which is becoming an environmental disaster. Nitrogen is streaming into our rivers, pesticides are spreading throughout the vascular systems of food producing plants, chemicals are invading bees’ central nervous systems, possibly resulting in their catastrophic decline, and whether you want it or not, an increasing amount of food is being produced from genetically modified seeds.
Last Thursday, Congress passed the short-term funding resolution to keep the federal government open for business. Inserted anonymously into the legislation is a provision, which critics are calling the “Monsanto Protection Act.” This rider “explicitly grants the U.S. Department of Agriculture the authority to override judicial rulings that stop the planting of a genetically modified crop.” Our nation’s and the world’s food production and distribution systems appear to be on a collision course with the long-term sustainability of our planet or our species. If our way of life continues to prioritize corporate profits ahead of people and allow big business to drive policy, then from where will come the impetus critical to spark the needed change?