Industrial vs. Organic

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There are other arguments against "industrial" agriculture but this is the first I came up with.
The Fatal Harvest Reader by Andrew Kimbrell (Editor) (Amazon.com product link shortened) />/ ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid20837838&sr=1-1
pgs 19 - 23 MYTH FOUR INDUSTRIAL AGRICULTURE IS EFFICIENT THE TRUTH Small farms produce more agricultural output per unit. area than large farms. Moreover, larger, less diverse farms require far more mechanical and chemical inputs. These ever increasing inputs are devastating to the environment and make these farms far less efficient than smaller, more sustainable farms. Proponents of industrial agriculture claim trial "'bigger is better" when it comes to food production. They argue that the larger the farm, the more efficient it is. They admit that these huge corporate farms mean the loss of family farms and rural communities, but they maintain that this is simply the inevitable cost of efficient food production. And agribusiness advocates don't just promote big farms, they also push big technology. They typically ridicule small-scale farm technology as grossly inefficient, while heralding intensive use of chemicals, massive machinery, computerization, and genetic engineering ‹ whose affordability and implementation are only feasible on large farms. The marriage of huge farms with "mega-technology" is sold to the public as the basic requirement for efficient food production. Argue against size and technology ‹ the two staples of modem agriculture ‹ and, they insist, you're undermining production efficiency and endangering the world's food supply. IS BIGGER BETTER? While the "bigger is better" myth is generally accepted, it is a fallacy. Numerous reports have found that smaller farms are actually more efficient than larger "industrial" farms. These studies demonstrate that when farms get larger, the costs of production per unit often increase, because larger acreage requires more expensive machinery and more chemicals to protect crops. In particular, a 1989 study by the U.S. National Research Council assessed the efficiency of large industrial food production systems compared with alternative methods. The conclusion was exactly contrary to the "'bigger is better"'' myth: "Well-managed alternative farming systems nearly always use less synthetic chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and antibiotics per unit of production than conventional farms. Reduced use of these inputs lowers production costs and lessens production costs and lessens agriculture's potential for adverse environmental and health effects without decreasing ‹ and in some cases increasing ‹ per acre crop yields and the productivity of livestock management's systems." Moreover, the large monocultures used in industrial farming undermine the genetic integrity of crops, making them more susceptible to diseases and pests. A majority of our food biodiversity has already been lost. This genetic weakening of our crops makes future food productivity using the industrial model far less predictable and undermines any future efficiency claims of modern agriculture. Moreover, as these crops become ever more, susceptible to pests, they require ever greater use of pesticides to produce equal amounts of food ‹ a classic case of the law of diminishing returns. This increasing use of chemicals and fertilizers in our food production results in serious health and environmental impacts. With all this evidence against it, how does the "bigger is better" myth survive'' In part, it survives because of a deeply flawed method of measuring farm "'productivity' which has falsely boosted the efficiency claims of industrial agriculture while discounting thee productivity advantages of small-scale agriculture. OUTPUT VERSUS YIELD Agribusiness and economists alike tend to use "yield" measurements when calculating the productivity of farms. Yield can be defined as the production per unit of a single crop. For example, a corn farm will be judged by how many metric tons of corn are produced per acre. More often than not, the highest yield of a single crop like corn can be best achieved by planting it alone on an industrial scale in the fields of corporate farms. These large "monocultures" have become endemic to modern agriculture for the simple reason that they are the easiest to manage with heavy machinery and intensive chemical use. It is the single-crop yields of these farms that are used as the basis for the "bigger is better" myth, and it is true that the highest yield of a single crop is often achieved through industrial monocultures. Smaller farms rarely can compete with this "monoculture" single-crop yield. They tend to plant crop mixtures, a method known as "intercropping.' Additionally, where single-crop monocultures have empty "weed" spaces, small farms use these spaces for crop planting. They are also more likely to rotate or combine crops and livestock, with the resulting manure performing the important function of replenishing soil fertility. These small-scale integrated farms produce far more per unit area than large farms. Though the yield per unit area of one crop ‹ corn, for example‹may be lower, the total output per unit area for small farms, often composed of more than a dozen crops and numerous animal products, is virtually always higher than that of larger farms. Clearly, if we are to compare accurately the productivity of small and large farms, we should use total agricultural output, balanced against total farm inputs and "externalities,''' rather than single-crop yield as our measurement principle. Total output is defined as the sum of everything a small farmer produces ‹ various grains, fruits, vegetables, fodder, and animal products ‹ and is the real benchmark of 'efficiency in farming. Moreover, productivity measurements should also lake into account total input costs, including large-machinery and chemical use, which often are left out of the equation in the yield efficiency claims. Perhaps most important, however, is the inclusion of the cost of externalities such as environmental and human health impacts for which industrial scale monocultured farms allow society to pay. Continuing to measure farm efficiency through single-crop "yield" in agricultural economics represents an unacceptable bias against diversification and reflects the bizarre conviction that producing one food crop on a large scale is more important than producing many crops (and higher productivity) on a small scale. Once, the flawed yield measurement system is discarded, the "bigger is better" myth is shattered. As summarized by the food policy expert Peter Rosset, "Surveying the data, we indeed find that small farms almost always produce far more agricultural output per unit area than larger farms. This is now widely recognized by agricultural economists across the political spectrum, as the "inverse relationship between farm size and output."' He notes that even the World Bank now advocates redistributing land to small farmers in the third world as a step toward increasing overall agricultural productivity. Government studies underscore this "inverse relationship.' According to a 1992 U.S. Agricultural Census report, relatively smaller farm sizes are 2 to 10 times more productive than larger ones. The smallest farms surveyed in the study, those of 27 acres or less, are more than ten times as productive (in dollar output per acre) than large farms (6,000 acres or more), and extremely small farms (4 acres or less) can be over a hundred times as productive. In a last-gasp effort to save their efficiency myth, agribusinesses will claim that at least larger farms are able to make more efficient use of farm labor and modem technology than are smaller farms. Even this claim cannot be maintained. There is virtual consensus that larger farms do not make as good use of even these production factors because of management and labor problems inherent in large operations. Mid-sized and many smaller farms come far closer to peak efficiency when these factors are calculated. It is generally agreed that an efficient farming system would be immensely beneficial for society and our environment. It would use the fewest resources for the maximum sustainable food productivity. Heavily influenced by the "bigger is better" myth, we have converted to industrial agriculture in the hopes of creating a more efficient system. We have allowed transnational corporations to run a food system that eliminates livelihoods, destroys communities, poisons the earth, undermines biodiversity, and doesn't even feed the people. All in the name of efficiency. It is indisputable that this highly touted modern system of food production is actually less efficient, less productive than small-scale alternative farming. It is time to re-embrace the virtues of small farming, with its intimate knowledge of how to breed for local soils and climates; its use of generations of knowledge and techniques like intercropping, cover cropping, and seasonal rotations; its saving of seeds to preserve genetic diversity; and its better integration of farms with forest, woody shrubs, and wild plant and animal species. In other words, it is time to get efficient.
--

Billy
Bush and Pelosi Behind Bars
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When General Mills decides to do a production run of Coca Crispies cereal, they order the box printing by the hundred thousand units, to get the cheapest price from the printer, they order the plastic bag for the cereal by the hundred thousand units, to get the cheapest price for the bag, and they want to order the corn by the hundred tons, because when their production line gets going they are slamming those boxes out at a box a second at the end of the assembly line, and they have to feed the corn into the assembly line at a tremendous rate.
They do not want to go out and separately negotiate orders of corn of this magnitude from 100 separate small farmers who can each only supply a ton of corn.
This is why the big agribusinesses thrive, it is the presence of a market.
If you want to get rid of large farms and go back to a lot of small farms, you need to figure out an efficient marketing and distribution system.
Ted
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Ted Mittelstaedt wrote:

It's called a "Co-op". Just go to any farming community and look for the grain elevators.
Bob
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You didn't read the chapter. Chem ferts kill top soil. The less top soil, the more chem ferts, and more pollution of ground water and fishing areas. Who pays to remediate the land and the water? The tax payer does. It is called "privatize the profits and socialize the costs". The price of the box is only part of the price.

And the 34 billion dollars of advertising for products we don't need. The American farmer produces 600 calories/consumer more than we need. Adverti$ing ---> consumption ---> over weight ---> medical bills.

It is being done with no help from Washington. The 2008 Farm Bill is same ol', same ol'.

Price of corn in a box of corn flakes: 4 cents Price of a box of corn flakes: $4 Fuck 'em.
--

Billy
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You don't actually have to remediate the land and water, you know. At one time we didn't. People would just use the resources until they were all gone, then move to a new place. However, nowadays people are valuing clean water and clean land more than they used to. So now there is a cost for those things that we didn't have before, which is now being factored in. That is why you have to file environmental impact statements nowadays when you want to build a factory. They didn't require environmental impact statements when those large farms were created years ago. So the real question is, are we going to apply current laws retroactively?
Since it's illegal to smoke Marijuana today, is it right to go to everyone in Alaska, including Sara Palin, and arrest them today because they smoked it years ago when it was legal to do so then?
If not, then how are you going to justify taking current environmental requirements for creating a large farm and apply it to large farms that were created years ago?
Grandfather clauses are an integral part of law, particularly land-use law, today. Sure, you can argue that it might be good to set them aside for these large farms. In which case the suporters of those large farms might decide to come after your own house that you live in which is in violation of current insulation codes, and demand you rip it apart and re-insulate it to current code, so that you use less energy.

Great! It's something to sell overseas to other countries to help balance our foreign trade.

I am sure you think your a liberal but a real liberal believes in people having the freedom to make their own decisions, that is why real liberals are pro-life and are not in the crowd trying to shut down Abortion clinics and take away more of our rights in the process.
If people choose to listen to the advertising, and choose to follow it and get the size of Porky Pig, then are you going to advocate the Republican way of we just pass a law banning things? Hell why not? Let's ban sex on TV, books, flag burning, and advertising food on TV. After all, Big Brother knows best, you know.

People can buy the bagged corn flakes in bulk, I have done so and they taste the same as the $4 box. Enough people do so regularly that the bulk cornflakes are readily available in any decently sized city. As for the rest who are buying the cardboard box, if you are so incensed about this, then I would suggest that you take one of your Saturday afternoons, and buy a couple bags of the bulk cornflakes, then about 100 sandwitch bags and make up 100 little "sampler" bags of the bulk cereal, and then stand there in the parking lot of your local grocery store and hand out samples. With any luck you will be able to give people who have never bought the bulk cereal a taste test of it and they may just start buying the bulk cereal as a result.
Ted
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Slash and burn agriculture is really old fashion and not recommended for anyone, given our fragile ecosystems. It amazes me that you post in a gardening group yet seem to be unaware of cover crops and crop rotation, which slow the loss of top soil and don't pollute the environment.
Personally, I don't have time for your Newt Gingrich impersonation, so I leave you to the ministrations of our fellow posters.
--

Billy
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[...]
What? When the Earth's population was only a few million? Surely you are not defending this practice in the current timeframe?

No, I don't think that is the real question at all. Environmental laws have been on the books for decades. Nowadays? The Clean Water Act goes back to at least the 1960s, no? That's nearly 50 years FCOL. Since when has it been legal to pollute and contaminate your neighbor's property with a stinking mountain of pig or cow shit (pardon my French) like those created by factory "farms"? What are you talking about and how is that possibly a meaningful defense for destruction of other people's property?

What "environmental requirements for creating a large farm" are you talking about? How is this even relevant? What are you talking about when you refer to "large farms" created years ago? How many years ago? I'm just trying to understand what you mean here. Keep in mind that the average size farm in the 1950s was around 200 acres. [...]
Isabella
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wrote:

I never was.

You should ask Billy. He is the one that is asserting that such behavior is legal. From his list post:
"...the more chem ferts, and more pollution of ground water and fishing areas. Who pays to remediate the land and the water? The tax payer does..."
YOU just said here that pollution of ground water from chem ferts is against the Clean Water Act. If so, then Billy is full of baloney.

You can't have it both ways. Either what the factory farms are doing is legal or it isn't. If it is then what I said stands and your out of order - as I said, when the farms got going, people didn't value the environment the way they do today. If what they are doing is -illegal- then Billy is out of order when he rants against them, implying there's nothing we can do.
So, make up your mind.

It has only been in the last 10 years that ranting against agribusinesses has become fashionable due to environmental concerns. Now, farm subsidies, that's a different matter - people have been complaining about farmers being propped up by the government since the 70's. But before the advent of the large agribusinesses, nobody was ranting against large farms because, as you pointed out, they didn't exist.
Billy's problem is that he sees that large agribusinesses are bad, which so far is true. However he is unwilling to grasp the simple fact that it is not the agribusinesses fault that they are bad. It is the CONSUMER'S fault.
Every time someone walks into the supermarket and picks up a box of Frosted Flakes for their kids, instead of getting the bulk sugar corn flakes from the bulk food bin which cost half of Frosted Flakes, they are contributing to the problem.
If people didn't buy all of the processed food they do, then the large food manufacturers like General Mills wouldn't be setting up large production runs of Frosted Flakes and demanding 100 tons of corn at a time. (or whatever it is) There would be no need for the agribusineses and they wouldn't exist. Billy needs to be ranting and railing against the dumb consumers not the agribusinesses.
Ted
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Then what exactly did you mean when you said, "You don't actually have to remediate the land and water, you know."

No, I am responding to what *you* said, not Billy.

You appear to be making a ridiculous inference but it's up to Billy to counter that, not me.

Point to where I said that, Ted. Quote me exactly. You won't because I said no such thing. Pardon me but if there is baloney here, it seems to have your name on it. First you concocted a false dilemma with the ridiculous inference (above) and then used that to draw other erroneous conclusions. Your reasoning is circular.

Have what both ways? You haven't even explained yet what you were talking about in your previous post when you said: _______________________________________________ "However, nowadays people are valuing clean water and clean land more than they used to. So now there is a cost for those things that we didn't have before, which is now being factored in. That is why you have to file environmental impact statements nowadays when you want to build a factory. They didn't require environmental impact statements when those large farms were created years ago. So the real question is, are we going to apply current laws retroactively?" ________________________________________________
Let me see if I can simplify this by asking how applying laws retroactively is relevant. There isn't anything about that in Billy's article which, essentially, contests the idea that bigger farms are better. I cited the Clean Water Act, in response to your assertion about retroactivity, because it's been around for nearly 50 years. Many communities have statutes on the books going back a lot farther than that. It's why most cities don't have outbreaks of cholera and typhoid fever anymore--- not for at least 100 years anyway. I'd call that a pretty long time of caring about clean water. Wouldn't you? So I don't understand either what kind of timeline you're talking about when you say "retroactive" or how that is even relevant to the quoted article or anything I said.

Sorry Ted, but I think you are maybe attributing to me things I've never said. I'm having a hard time figuring out what you are talking about (which is why I keep asking you to clarify!). Are you talking about my remark about the mountains of pig and cow shit? I cited that example in response to your assertion that the real question is "are we going to apply current laws retroactively?"
I think you are wrong about that. I do not think that applying current laws retroactively is the real issue here. Factory farms are relatively new. They came way after most of the environmental laws. So I don't understand how retroactivity came into the picture or even how that relates to the main thrust of the quoted article which is that bigger is not necessarily best in terms of farm size.

Wait just a minute; you are sidestepping again with more balderdash. Once more, you failed to explain yourself. Can you not answer a direct question? To reiterate, What "environmental requirements for creating a large farm" are you talking about? I don't recall ever having heard of such a thing! That sounds pretty strange to me. To reiterate, what are you talking about when you refer to "large farms" created years ago? How many years ago and, for that matter, how large?

I am not here to discuss Billy. Defend your other assertions.

Yes, I can agree with you here that overly processed foods are huge part of the more general American food industry problem. When they have to add something to a food-like product to make it "more nutritious", that is the first really bad sign. I can honestly say that I never, ever fed my children any cereal coated with sugar. My opinion is that most so-called convenience foods are a contrivance of marketers to make more money by marketing to children or by refining valuable nutrients out of real food. Why sell a quart of real apple juice when you can sell a quart of only 10% apple juice and 90% water + HFCS for an even higher price and still call it "apple juice"?

Let me defend the consumer. How "dumb" are consumers who buy boxes of incredibly sugared cereals that have the American Heart Association logo on them, Ted? How dumb are consumers who, for decades, have based their meals on the "USDA" dictated food pyramid, therefore consuming a diet vastly overloaded with carbohydrates and starches? How dumb are consumers who buy a box of anything that our government allows to say "0 transfats" when it actually has significant amounts of the same? I could go on and on.
My point is that you can't put this all on the consumer's back. Our own government and agencies that are supposed to be working for us have allowed industry to defraud the public at an ever-increasing rate.
Isabella
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wrote:

top
tax
Billy's statement was:
"...Who pays to remediate the land and the water? The tax payer does...."
This is a false statement for a number of reasons. First, as I pointed out, the land and water isn't always remediated. Someone might dig out a gravel quarry on their property then just abandon it when they are done and let nature reclaim it. Remediation only occurs when someone decides that they -want- to do it. There's tons of stories of polluters who never remediated, some legally, some illegally. And some who wern't originally designated polluters, and now are.
Another reason this is false is that the taxpayer doesen't always pay for remediation, private industry does quite a lot. Google up brownfield properties. Property values in certain areas are now so high that it is cheaper in many cases to buy polluted properties for a song, clean them up, then build on them, rather than buying and building on unpolluted properties.
But the most important reason this is a false statement is that it makes an implicit assumption.
The CORRECT way for Billy to write this would have been:
"...Who pays to remediate the land and the water if the public demands that the land and water be remediated? A lot of times, the tax payer does..."
THAT would have been logically correct and internally consistent because it removes the FALSE assumption that the land and water -always- get remediated.
But, then it would have destroyed Billy's rant. Because it would have made it obvious that when the public wants something fixed, many times the public has to pay for it to be fixed. In other words it gets rid of this emotional straw man of the big, ugly, polluting agribusiness and replaces it with reality, which is much greyer and not black and white.
I recognized Billy's rant style a mile off. Take a complex issue, strip out all of the complexity until it is so simple that it's black and white, then frame it like the other guy is an absolute demon.
That is why Billy refused to engage in debate with me. He knew that I saw through this and was busy introducing reality into his rant and he knew if I did that would kill it, so he ran away so he could live to rant another day.

laws
goes
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He will not because his goal is to make an illogical, emotional argument and he doesen't want it dissected.
Here is Billy's argument in a nutshell:
Big agribusinesses are bad because they game the system to get everyone else to pay for their operations cost. Therefore we need to tell everyone this so they realize how bad big agribusinesses are and maybe rise up on their haunches and ban big agribusinesses.
Of course, Billy isn't interested in admitting that big agribusinesses exist because we, the consumers, WANT them to exist. We buy products that only they produce. He would much rather live in his fantasy world that big agribusinesses exist because somehow they figured out an angle to game the system and drive the small farmers out of business.
This is the same logic that, for example, Michael Moore used in his film Roger and Me about the devastation of Flint, Mich.
Now, I love Michael Moore films. And some of his, like Farenheight 911, are right on target. The bad guys in -that- film have, with the benefit of history, turned out to be even worse than he portrayed them in that film.
BUT, with Roger and Me, the point of the film is that it was Roger Smith's fault that the auto plants at Flint closed. But in reality, Roger was merely reacting to losses that GM had begun experiencing. Yes, those specific plants were profitable when they were closed - Roger Smith was a terrible CEO for his time, and GM is still in trouble because of his legacy - but if it had been a different CEO then other plants would have been closed and the same sob story would have happened. If GM had not experienced losses in 1981 then Smith would not have reacted and the plants at Flint would not have been touched.
And, WHY did GM experience a loss? Because people were not buying as many of it's cars, and were buying more foreign imports.
But, wait a minute. Who where those people buying foreign imports? Yes, that's right - US customers. Some of these even living in Flint, itself.
Roger and Me is a film about American outsourcing of manufacturing and how it destroys America, just like Billy's rant is about big agribusinesses destroying American small farmers. Both the film and the rant cast the bad guys as the corporations. But both ignore the true facts - which are that the American consumer is causing the outsourcing as well as the emergence of the big agribusinesses, mainly by their insistence on buying the cheapest thing possible and ignoring everything else, like product quality, manufacture location, etc.

OK, then if your insistence is that factory farming came after the environmental laws, then how does that square with your claim that it's illegal to pollute with big mountains of cow shit like those created by the factory farms?

Retroactivity is central to this. Not necessairly legal retroactivity, although that is some of it - despite your assertion that the factory farming came after laws like the clean water act (which I doubt but it doesen't matter) - but retroactivity in terms of changing societal values
Despite the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1977, the fact of the matter is that the -majority- of people in US society haven't been that interested in the environment until around the last 10 years. Seriously!!! I was born in 1966 and I've seen this firsthand. What spurred the Clean Water act wasn't medical issues like germs in the water. What spurred it was the VISIBLE pollution like foaming rivers, lakes that caught on fire, etc. Things that were obvious to everyone. But once that was cleaned up, it was same old, same old.
What is different now is that people are beginning to see THEMSELVES as polluters. Thus we have laws now (or will real soon) making it illegal to throw lead in the trash (tv sets carry about 5 pounds of lead in their picture tubes) and people are told not to flush meds down the toilet, etc. And people are starting to spend MORE MONEY on products like organic foods that don't use pesticides, etc.
And so now, people are starting to realize that THEIR OWN CHOICES are creating factory farming and those proverbial mountains of shit you were talking about.
Billy is still stuck back in the 70's - asserting that the corporations themselves are what is driving factory farming when the reality is that the consumers have always driven it by their product selections. It's not all consumers, of course, but some.
We don't need tired old rants like Billy's. We need rants that actually put people up to a mirror and say: "Hey, you! YOUR buying of cheerios is causing factory farming which is causing mountains of pig shit that are polluting YOUR water!!"

ago?
the
agribusinesses
about
Your saying here that there are no environmental requirements for creating a large farm. Then earlier your asserting large farms are breaking the clean water act?

it
As my assertions are in a response to Billy, your discussing Billy's rant, whether you like it or not.

What did you feed them?

Actually, they sell both the real apple juice and the 10% stuff in the grocery store, and the real stuff is more expensive - unless your buying the individually packaged juice boxes, in which case your buying convenience in packaging. I'd presume that if they put 100% real apple juice in the individually packaged juice boxes it would be even higher priced than the 10% stuff.

If people spent the same amount of energy researching the food they purchase as they spend researching a new car, they wouldn' t be buying these scam foods. Dollar for dollar they spend MORE money on the food they eat than the new car. The difference is that they pay for the food in bits and pieces and the car in one lump sum.
It's why practically all states opt to get tax money through a sales tax than a higher property and income tax.
It IS the consumer. The comsumer has the money. The problem is that too many dumb consumers out there think they are paying less when they pay me $10 a day for a whole year than if they pay me $3,500.00 once a year. These are the same people who are having homes foreclosed because they got ARMs instead of traditional 30-year fixed mortgages.
Food choices tend to remain stable. When a person buys a brand and likes it, they typically won't buy a different brand. With a little effort when they are in their early 20's they can figure out which food brands are the good ones and they will be buying them the rest of their lives.
Ted
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Bozo boy, the debate here is organic vs. industrial. $32 billion in advertising vs. $100 million in consumer education. Healthy foods vs. medical bills. Environmentalism vs. commercialism. Honesty vs. deceit. Good vs. bad. Me vs. you.
--

Billy
Bush and Pelosi Behind Bars
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sometime in the recent past Ted Mittelstaedt posted this:

Seriously major yawn. IS IT OVER YET? Christ Ted, you have a lot of time on your hands. I recognize your style too. Throw everything you know at something until you figure you have buried it, and in fact you have.
Just so you know, I only scrolled down once and then I saw the volumes you typed and my eyes glazed over ... need more rest ... yawn, pages of Mittelstaedt to go ... yawn... never gonna make it ... arrhhgg .
--
Wilson N44º39" W67º12"

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[...]
No, I wanted to know what *you* meant--- whether you were advocating not remediating ruined lands and waterways (which is what it sounded like), whether you stating that as a legal position, or whatever.
<snip long rant about Billy>

No reasonable person would draw such a ridiculous conclusion. What you have fashioned here is another strawman of convenience in an attempt to give your own position credibility. Pardon me for pointing this out but this is really a very bad habit you would benefit from breaking.

I have eyes and have read what Billy has written, Ted. I certainly don't need you to interpret for me.
<snip additional immaterial rant about Billy, Michael Moore, etc>

No. Not logic.

It has nothing to do with "insistence", as you call it. It's a fact. If you can disprove it, then do so. Otherwise, I stand by my position that applying laws retroactively is not the issue here. You've yet to show, even remotely, that the application of laws retroactively with regard to factory farm environmental issues is even a fact, let alone a problem.

Once again, I need to point out that you really have a problem with misquoting other people, Ted. I never really stated that explicitly. Had *I* done so, I'd have been far more specific and discrete. I did, however, mention mountains of cow and pig shit in a pejorative sense.
Now as to your question (such that it is), let me see if I can shed some light on at least part of it. First of all, given US laws, the word "pollute" does have some legal meaning. Recognize that while it is possible to have a mountain of pig shit that doesn't pollute, use of the word "pollute" in your question does imply illegality. Furthermore, I'd point out that this illegality is not conferred strictly by your general description but, rather, by statutory prohibitions against the act as under laws and their codified regulations. This is an important distinction.
What I mean is that either it is legal to pollute or illegal depending on the findings facts in a given case, such findings determined by a qualified court of law. In light of the fact that (1) you have yet to prove that retroactive legal determinations are even an issue and, (2) you have not given a single factual (or even hypthetical) example, your question makes no sense whatsoever.


Then prove it. Any of your claims. You talk a lot but prove nothing. Where are your facts?

Maybe a fact.... maybe not. You play fast and loose with your claims of fact when you've given not the slightest bit of data to support your claims. [...]

People have seen themselves as polluters before now--- like when they stopped emptying their chamber pots in rivers and streams. So I do not agree that this is as much a difference as you assert. But I agree that there is a building awareness. Off the top of my head, I suspect one major difference is a new awareness of far more substances that pollute and actually how that affects us directly.

Yes, I agree that there is increased awareness that personal choices have consequences.
<snip more ranting about Billy>

NO. I said no such thing! *You* said there were such requirements and I've asked you repeatedly what requirements you're talking about. And you still have not explained. What in the heck are you talking about? Since you refuse to explain, one can only assume you cannot.

Where did I say that? Pardon me, but when are you going to stop pulling these statements out of your backside? Stop attributing to me things I never actually said. It only makes you look foolish.

Nonsense.

Real, unprocessed or minimally processed food.

I merely used that as an example to illustrate both the folly of processed foods as well as the ease with which companies actually convince people that such crap is better for them than real food. Juice is simply another processed food lacking in many nutrients, enzymes and other substances found in the real food it attempts to emulate--- fruit. My family eats fruit but rarely juice.

I agree.

I've already stated my position on this. You have not convinced me that consumers are solely responsible.

Isabella
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A black helicopter just flew over my place with an ADM logo on it. I think it was headed towards Billy's place.
cheers
oz
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Ted, your Byzantine efforts at defending an indefensible position are boring. The the important features of eating local organic produce are: 1) increased nutrients in the produce when consumed locally 2) a marked decrease in pesticides, pesticide residues, and other industrial chemicals in the food 3) cleaner water 4) reduced use of petroleum for shipping (typically 2,400 mi. to your table), cleaner air, and less chance of contamination in transit 5) reduce and eliminate the hazards of GMOs (unknown effects of unique proteins that they produce, encouragement of increased pesticide use, terminator genes)
(points 1 thru 5 lead to better health and lower medical costs, i.e. another example of business profiting from a problem that they created and deferring the cost to the public)
6) better flavor of food 7) reduced erosion of top soil, and the possibility of adding to it and restoring loss habitat 8) reduce our dependence on petroleum
Food processors like Archer Daniels Midland, don't farm. They along with their co-conspirators, screw farmers and consumers alike leading to fewer family farms (thus reducing food security), and over-fed and under-nourished consumers.
If you have any desire to know more, keep reading.
http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/nov2002/2002-11-21-06.asp
Food Travels Far to Reach Your Table
By Cat Lazaroff
WASHINGTON, DC, November 21, 2002 (ENS) - As families travel across the United States next week to gather for the Thanksgiving holiday, many will sit down to eat food that has traveled even farther - between 1,500 and 2,500 miles (2,500 and 4,000 kilometers) from farm to table. A new study by the Worldwatch Institute details the lengthy journeys that much of the nation's food supply now takes, finding a growing separation between the sources and destinations of American food.
Supermarket produce may have traveled thousands of miles to reach your local store. (Photo by Ken Hammond. All photos courtesy U.S. Department of Agriculture)
The distance that food travels has grown by as much as 25 percent, according to the report by the Worldwatch Institute, an environmental and social policy research institute based in Washington DC. The nation's reliance on a complex network of food shipments leaves the United States vulnerable to supply disruptions, the group argues.
"The farther we ship food, the more vulnerable our food system becomes," said Worldwatch research associate Brian Halweil, author of "Home Grown: The Case for Local Food in a Global Market."
"Many major cities in the U.S. have a limited supply of food on hand," Halweil added. "That makes those cities highly vulnerable to anything that suddenly restricts transportation, such as oil shortages or acts of terrorism."
This vulnerability is not limited to the United States. The tonnage of food shipped between countries has grown fourfold over the last four decades, while the world's population has doubled. In the United Kingdom, for example, food travels 50 percent farther than it did two decades ago.
This reliance on long distance food damages rural economies, as farmers and small food businesses become the most marginal link in the sprawling food chain, says the Worldwatch report. Long distance travel also creates numerous opportunities along the way for food contamination, and requires the use of artificial additives and preservatives to keep food from spoiling.
Shipping fish and other products from around the world requires the burning of fossil fuels, contributing to global warming. (USDA Photo by Ken Hammond)
Food transportation also contributes to global warming, because of the huge quantities of fuel used for transportation. A typical meal bought from a conventional supermarket chain - including some meat, grains, fruit and vegetables - consumes four to 17 times more petroleum for transport than the same meal using local ingredients.
"We are spending far more energy to get food to the table than the energy we get from eating the food. A head of lettuce grown in the Salinas Valley of California and shipped nearly 3,000 miles to Washington, D.C., requires about 36 times as much fossil fuel energy in transport as it provides in food energy when it arrives," Halweil said.
While most economists believe that long distance food trade is efficient because communities and nations can buy their food from the lowest cost provider, studies from North America, Asia, and Africa show that farm communities reap little benefit from their crops, and often suffer as a result of freer trade in agricultural goods.
"The economic benefits of food trade are a myth," said Halweil. "The big winners are agribusiness monopolies that ship, trade, and process food. Agricultural policies, including the new [Bush administration backed] farm bill, tend to favor factory farms, giant supermarkets, and long distance trade, and cheap, subsidized fossil fuels encourage long distance shipping. The big losers are the world's poor."
The Crescent City Farmer's Market meets in New Orleans, Louisiana every Saturday morning, offering baked goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs and canned goods. (USDA Photo by Bill Tarpenning)
Farmers producing for export often go hungry as they sacrifice the use of their land to feed foreign mouths, Halweil writes. Meanwhile, poor urban dwellers in both developed and developing nations find themselves living in neighborhoods without supermarkets, green grocers, or healthy food choices.
"Of course, a certain amount of food trade is natural and beneficial. But money spent on locally produced foods stays in the community longer, creating jobs, supporting farmers, and preserving local cuisines and crop varieties against the steamroller of culinary imperialism," Halweil added. "And developing nations that emphasize greater food self reliance can retain precious foreign exchange and avoid the instability of international markets."
Halweil points to a vigorous, emerging local food movement that is challenging both the wisdom and practice of long distance food shipping.
"Massive meat recalls, the advent of genetically engineered food, and other food safety crises have built interest in local food," he said. "Rebuilding local food economies is the first genuine profit making opportunity in farm country in years."
Communities that seek to meet their food needs locally will reap benefits including a more diverse variety of regional crops, cheaper food that avoids added costs from intermediate handlers and shippers, and a boon for the local economy as money spent on food goes to local growers and merchants. Of course, many consumers will choose local produce just for the flavor.
Unlike supermarket tomatoes, which are often shipped green and ripened artificially, these locally grown tomatoes ripened on the vine. (USDA Photo by Bill Tarpenning)
"Locally grown food served fresh and in season has a definite taste advantage," Halweil said. "It's harvested at the peak of ripeness and doesn't have to be fumigated, refrigerated, or packaged for long distance hauling and long shelf life."
In the United States, for example, more than half of all tomatoes are harvested and shipped green, and then artificially ripened upon arrival at their final destination.
Consumers now have a growing variety of local food providers to choose from. The number of registered farmers' markets in the United States has jumped from 300 in the mid-1970s and 1,755 in 1994 to more than 3,100 today. About three million people now visit these markets each week, spending more than $1 billion each year.
Innovative restaurants, school cafeterias, caterers, hospitals, and even supermarkets are beginning to offer fresh, seasonal foods from local farmers and food businesses.
Consumers can promote local growers by choosing to buy their produce and baked goods from farmers markets. (USDA Photo by Bill Tarpenning)
North America now boasts more than a dozen local food policy councils, which track changes in the local food system, lobby for farmland protection, point citizens towards local food options, and help create incentives for local food businesses.
But the most powerful force behind the growing local food market is the consumer. The Worldwatch report offers several suggestions for how consumers can help to promote local food systems, including:
* Learn what foods are in season in your area and try to build your diet around them. * Shop at a local farmers' market, or link up with your neighbors and friends to start a subscription service featuring seasonal foods from local growers * Ask the manager or chef of your favorite restaurant how much of the food on the menu is locally grown, and then encourage him or her to buy food locally. * Take a trip to a local farm to learn what it produces. * Host a harvest party at your home or in your community that features locally available and in season foods. * Produce a local food directory that lists all the local food sources in your area * Buy extra quantities of your favorite fruit or vegetable when it is in season and experiment with drying, canning, jamming, or otherwise preserving it for a later date. * Plant a garden and grow as much of your own food as possible. * Speak to your local politician about forming a local food policy council.
For more information on the report, "Home Grown: The Case for Local Food in a Global Market," visit the Worldwatch Institute at: http://www.worldwatch.org/pubs/paper/163/orderpage.html ---------
February 13, 2008
In Defense of Food: Author, Journalist Michael Pollan on Nutrition, Food Science and the American Diet
Acclaimed author and journalist Michael Pollan argues that what most Americans are consuming today is not food but ³edible food-like substances.² His previous book, The Omnivore¹s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, was named one of the ten best books of 2006 by the New York Times and the Washington Post. His latest book, just published, is called In Defense of Food: An Eater¹s Manifesto.
Guest:
Michael Pollan, Professor of science and environmental journalism at UC Berkeley. His previous book, The Omnivore¹s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, was named one of the ten best books of 2006 by the New York Times and the Washington Post. His latest book, just published, is In Defense of Food: An Eater¹s Manifesto.
AMY GOODMAN: ³You are what to eat.² Or so the saying goes. In American culture, healthy food is a national preoccupation. But then why are Americans becoming less healthy and more overweight?
Acclaimed author and journalist Michael Pollan argues that what most Americans are consuming today is not food, but edible food-like substances. Michael Pollan is a professor of science and environmental journalism at University of California, Berkeley. His previous book, The Omnivore¹s Dilemma, was named one of the ten best books of 2006 by the New York Times and Washington Post. His latest book is called In Defense of Food: An Eater¹s Manifesto.
Michael Pollan recently joined me here in the firehouse studio for a wide-ranging conversation about nutrition, food science and the current American diet. I began by asking him why he feels he has to defend food.
MICHAEL POLLAN: Food¹s under attack from two quarters. It¹s under attack from the food industry, which is taking, you know, perfectly good whole foods and tricking them up into highly processed edible food-like substances, and from nutritional science, which has over the years convinced us that we shouldn¹t be paying attention to food, it¹s really the nutrients that matter. And they¹re trying to replace foods with antioxidants, you know, cholesterol, saturated fat, omega-3s, and that whole way of looking at food as a collection of nutrients, I think, is very destructive.
AMY GOODMAN: Shouldn¹t people be concerned, for example, about cholesterol?
MICHAEL POLLAN: No. Cholesterol in the diet is actually only very mildly related to cholesterol in the blood. It was a ‹ that was a scientific error, basically. We were sold a bill of goods that we should really worry about the cholesterol in our food, basically because cholesterol is one of the few things we could measure that was linked to heart disease, so there was this kind of obsessive focus on cholesterol. But, you know, the egg has been rehabilitated. You know, the egg is very high in cholesterol, and now we¹re told it¹s actually a perfectly good, healthy food. So there¹s only a very tangential relationship between the cholesterol you eat and the cholesterol levels in your blood.
AMY GOODMAN: How is it that the food we eat now, it takes time to read the ingredients?
MICHAEL POLLAN: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: You actually have to stop and spend time and perhaps put on glasses or figure out how to pronounce words you have never heard of.
MICHAEL POLLAN: Yeah, it¹s a literary scientific experience now going shopping in the supermarket, because basically the food has gotten more complex. It¹s‹for the food industry‹see, to understand the economics of the food industry, you can¹t really make money selling things like, oh, oatmeal, you know, plain rolled oats. And if you go to the store, you can buy a pound of oats, organic oats, for seventy-nine cents. There¹s no money in that, because it doesn¹t have any brand identification. It¹s a commodity, and the prices of commodity are constantly falling over time.
So you make money by processing it, adding value to it. So you take those oats, and you turn them into Cheerios, and then you can charge four bucks for that seventy-nine cents‹and actually even less than that, a few pennies of oats. And then after a few years, Cheerios become a commodity. You know, everyone¹s ripping off your little circles. And so, you have to move to the next thing, which are like cereal bars. And now there¹s cereal straws, you know, that your kids are supposed to suck milk through, and then they eat the straw. It¹s made out of the cereal material. It¹s extruded.
So, you see, every level of further complication gives you some intellectual property, a product no one else has, and the ability to charge a whole lot more for these very cheap raw ingredients. And as you make the food more complicated, you need all these chemicals to make it last, to make it taste good, to make‹and because, you know, food really isn¹t designed to last a year on the shelf in a supermarket. And so, it takes a lot of chemistry to make that happen.
AMY GOODMAN: I was a whole grain baker in Maine, and I would consider the coup to be to get our whole grain organic breads in the schools of Maine for the kids, but we just couldn¹t compete with Wonder Bread‹
MICHAEL POLLAN: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: ‹which could stay on the shelf‹I don¹t know if it was a year.
MICHAEL POLLAN: That¹s amazing.
AMY GOODMAN: Ours, after a few days, of course, would get moldy, because it was alive.
MICHAEL POLLAN: Right. And, in fact, one of my tips is, don¹t eat any food that¹s incapable of rotting. If the food can¹t rot eventually, there¹s something wrong.
AMY GOODMAN: What is nutritionism?
MICHAEL POLLAN: Nutritionism is the prevailing ideology in the whole world of food. And it¹s not a science. It is an ideology. And like most ideologies, it is a set of assumptions about how the world works that we¹re totally unaware of. And nutritionism, there¹s a few fundamental tenets to it. One is that food is a collection of nutrients, that basically the sum of‹you know, food is the sum of the nutrients it contains. The other is that since the nutrient is the key unit and, as ordinary people, we can¹t see or taste or feel nutrients, we need experts to help us design our foods and tell us how to eat.
Another assumption of nutritionism is that you can measure these nutrients and you know what they¹re doing, that we know what cholesterol is and what it does in our body or what an antioxidant is. And that¹s a dubious proposition.
And the last premise of nutritionism is that the whole point of eating is to advance your physical health and that that¹s what we go to the store for, that¹s what we¹re buying. And that¹s also a very dubious idea. If you go around the world, people eat for a great many reasons besides, you know, the medicinal reason. I mean, they eat for pleasure, they eat for community and family and identity and all these things. But we¹ve put that aside with this obsession with nutrition.
And I basically think it¹s a pernicious ideology. I mean, I don¹t think it¹s really helping us. If there was a trade-off, if looking at food this way made us so much healthier, great. But in fact, since we¹ve been looking at food this way, our health has gotten worse and worse.
AMY GOODMAN: Let¹s talk about the diseases of Western civilization.
MICHAEL POLLAN: The Western diseases, which‹they were named that about a hundred years ago by a medical doctor named Denis Burkitt, an Englishman, who noted that there‹after the Western diet comes to these countries where he had spent a lot of time in Africa and Asia, a series of Western diseases followed, very predictably: obesity, diabetes, heart disease and a specific set of cancers. And he said, well, they must have this common origin, because we keep seeing this pattern.
And we¹ve known this for a hundred years, that if you eat this Western diet, which is defined basically as‹I mean, we all know what the Western diet is, but to reiterate it, it¹s lots of processed food, lots of refined grain and pure sugar, lots of red meat and processed meats, very little whole grains, very little fresh fruits and vegetables. That¹s the Western diet‹it¹s the fast-food diet‹that we know it leads to those diseases. About 80 percent of heart disease, at least as much Type II diabetes, 33 to 40 percent cancers all come out of eating that way, and we know this. And the odd thing is that it doesn¹t seem to discomfort us that much.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about coming from another culture and coming here.
MICHAEL POLLAN: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: When you specifically talk about sugar, refined wheat, what actually happens in the body?
MICHAEL POLLAN: Well, that¹s where you see it most directly. When populations that have not been exposed to this kind of food for a long time‹we¹ve seen it with Pacific Islanders, if you go to Hawaii, we¹ve seen it with Mexican immigrants coming to America‹these are the people who have the most trouble with this diet, and they get fat very quickly and get diabetes very quickly. You know, we hear about this epidemic of diabetes, but it¹s very much of a class and ethnically based phenomenon, and Hispanics have much more trouble with it. And the reason or the hypothesis is that, culturally and physically, they haven¹t been dealing with a lot of refined grain, whereas in Europe, we¹ve been dealing with refined grain for a couple hundred years.
AMY GOODMAN: And what does refined wheat do?
MICHAEL POLLAN: Well, what happens is, when you‹there was a key invention around the 1860s, which is we developed these steel rollers and porcelain rollers that could grind wheat and corn and other grains really fine and eliminate the germ and the bran. And the reason we wanted to do that was we loved it as white as possible. It would last longer. The rats had less interest in it, because it had less nutrients in it. And also you get a kind of a real strong hit of glucose. I mean, basically it digests much quicker, as soon as it hits the tongue. I mean, everyone has‹you know, if you¹ve ever tasted Wonder Bread, you know how sweet it is. The reason it¹s sweet is it¹s so highly refined that as soon as your saliva hits it, it turns to sugar.
Whole grains have a whole lot of other nutrients. You know, it once was possible to live by bread alone, because a whole grain loaf of bread has all sorts of other nutrients. It has omega-3s, it has, you know, lots of B vitamins. And we remove those when we refine grain. And it¹s kind of odd and maladaptive that refined grain should be so prestigious, since it¹s so unhealthy. But we¹ve always liked it, and one of the reasons is it stores longer.
AMY GOODMAN: We¹re talking to Michael Pollan. His new book is In Defense of Food: An Eater¹s Manifesto. ³Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.² Talk about the funding of nutrition science.
MICHAEL POLLAN: Well, nutrition science is very compromised by industry. Organizations like the American Dietetic Association take sponsorship from companies who are eager to find‹you know, be able to make health claims. Not all nutrition science. And there are very large, important studies that are, you know, published‹that are supported by the government and are as good as any other medical studies in terms of their cleanness. But there is a lot of corporate nutrition science that¹s done for the express purpose of developing health claims. This science reliably finds health benefits for whatever is being studied. You take a pomegranate to one of these scientists, and they will tell you that it will cure cancer and erectile dysfunction. You take, you know, any kind of food that you want. And now, it¹s not surprising, because food is good for you, and that all plants have antioxidants. And so, you know, you¹re bound to find‹
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what an antioxidant is.
MICHAEL POLLAN: Well, an antioxidant is a chemical compound that plants produce, really to protect themselves from free radicals of oxygen that are generated during photosynthesis. They absorb these kind of mischievous oxygen radicals, molecules, atoms, and disarm them. And as we age, we produce a lot of these oxygen radicals, and they¹re implicated in aging and cancer. So antioxidants are a way to kind of quiet that response, and they have health benefits. They also help you detoxify your body.
So‹but my point is kind of, you don¹t need to know what an antioxidant is to have the benefit of an antioxidant. You know, we¹ve been benefiting from them for thousands of years without really having to worry what they are. They¹re in whole foods, and it¹s one of the reasons whole foods are good for you. And there are not that much in processed foods.
AMY GOODMAN: Isn¹t it odd that the more you put into foods‹so that¹s processing fruits‹the less expensive is? The simpler you keep it, getting whole foods in this day and age in this country, it¹s extremely expensive.
MICHAEL POLLAN: Yeah. Well, there are reasons of policy that that is the case. You¹re absolutely right. Most processed foods are made from these very cheap raw ingredients. I mean, they¹re basically corn, soy and wheat. And if you look at all those very-hard-to-pronounce ingredients on the back of that processed food, those are fractions of corn, and some petroleum, but a lot of corn, soy and wheat. And the industry¹s preferred mode of doing business is to take the cheapest raw materials and create complicated foodstuffs from it.
The reason those raw ingredients are so cheap, though, is because these are precisely the ones that the government chooses to support, the subsidies‹you know, the big $26 billion for corn and soy and wheat and rice. So it¹s no accident that these should be the ones, you know, grown abundantly and cheap, and that¹s one of the reasons the industry moved down this path. There was such a surfeit of cheap corn and soy that the food scientists got to work turning it into‹
AMY GOODMAN: In fact, getting away totally from sugar to corn syrup.
MICHAEL POLLAN: Yeah, that¹s right. And we don¹t‹yeah, there¹s very little sugar in our processed food. It¹s all high-fructose corn syrup, which, in effect, the government is subsidizing.
AMY GOODMAN: Cottonseed oil, is it regulated by the FDA? Is it considered a food, even though it¹s in so many of the processed foods we eat?
MICHAEL POLLAN: Is it considered a food? Yeah, I think it¹s probably‹
AMY GOODMAN: I was wondering, because‹to do with the pesticide that is in it‹
MICHAEL POLLAN: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: ‹that if it¹s considered‹if it¹s done for cotton, it doesn¹t matter how much pesticide there is.
MICHAEL POLLAN: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: But if it¹s for food, it does matter. And it¹s in so much to keep it right, stable for so long on the shelf.
MICHAEL POLLAN: That¹s right. That¹s right. And it¹s a food I would avoid. I mean, you know, humans have not been eating cotton for most of their history. They¹ve been wearing it. And now we¹re eating it. And you¹re right, it receives an enormous amount of pesticide as a crop. How many residues are in the oil? I don¹t really know the answer, but it has been approved by the FDA as a foodstuff. And‹but it¹s one of these novel oils that I¹m inclined to stay away with. I mean, my basic philosophy of eating is, you know, if your great-grandmother wasn¹t familiar with it, you probably want to stay away from it.
AMY GOODMAN: Michael Pollan is our guest. Talk about‹well, you started with a New York Times piece called ³Unhappy Meals,² and in it‹and you expand on this in In Defense of Food‹you talk about the McGovern report, 1977, what, thirty years ago.
MICHAEL POLLAN: Well, that¹s really, I think, one of the red letter days in the rise of nutritionism as a way of thinking about food. It was a very interesting moment. McGovern convened this set of hearings to look at the American diet, and there was a great deal of concern about heart disease at the time. We had‹we were having‹you know, after a falloff during the war in heart disease, there was a big spike in the ¹50s and ¹60s, and scientists were busy trying to figure out what was going on and very worried about it. McGovern convened these hearings, took a lot of testimony, and then came out with a set of guidelines. And he said‹he implicated red meat, basically, in this problem. And he said we¹re getting‹we¹re eating too much red meat, and the advice of the government became‹the official advice‹eat less red meat. And he said as much. Now, that was a very controversial message. The meat industry, in fact the whole food industry, went crazy, and they came down on him like a ton of bricks. You can¹t tell people to eat less of anything.
AMY GOODMAN: As Oprah learned when she said she won¹t eat hamburgers.
MICHAEL POLLAN: Exactly. This is just a taboo topic in America. So McGovern had to beat this hasty retreat, and he rewrote the guidelines to say, choose meats that will lessen your saturated fat intake, something nobody understood at all and was much to the‹and that was acceptable. But you see the transition. It¹s very interesting. We¹ve been talking about whole food‹eat less red meat, which probably was good advice‹to this very complicated construct‹eat meats that have less of this nutrient. It¹s still an affirmative message‹eat more, which is fine with industry, just eat a little differently. And suddenly, the focus was on saturated fat, as if we knew that that was the nutrient in the red meat that was the problem. And in fact, it may not be. I mean, there are other things going on in red meat, we¹re learning, that may be the problem.
AMY GOODMAN: Like?
MICHAEL POLLAN: Well, some people think it¹s the protein in red meat. Some people think it¹s the nitrosomines, these various compounds that are produced when you cook red meat. We see a correlation between high red meat consumption and higher rates of cancer and heart disease. But, again, we don¹t know exactly what the cause is, but it may not be saturated fat.
AMY GOODMAN: And then the political economy of, for example, eating meat?
MICHAEL POLLAN: Well, that‹because of that‹I mean, that¹s why McGovern lost in 1980. I mean, the beef lobby went after him, and they tossed him out. And so‹but from then on, anyone who would pronounce on the American diet understood you had to speak in this very obscure language of nutrients. You could talk about saturated fat, you could talk about antioxidants, but you cannot talk about whole foods. So that is the kind of official language in which we discuss nutrition.
Conveniently, it¹s very confusing to the average consumer. Conveniently to the industry, they love talk about nutrients, because they can always‹with processed foods, unlike whole foods, you can redesign it. You can just reduce the saturated fat, you know, up the antioxidants. You can jigger it in a way you can¹t change broccoli. You know, broccoli is going to be broccoli. But a processed food can always have more of the good stuff and less of the bad stuff. So the industry loves nutritionism for that reason.
AMY GOODMAN: So, for people who don¹t have much money, how do they eat? I mean, when you¹re talking about whole foods, they have to be prepared, and if you don¹t have much time, as well, processed foods are cheaper and they¹re faster.
MICHAEL POLLAN: Well, processed foods‹you know, fast food seems cheap. I mean, if you have the time and the inclination to cook, you can eat more cheaply. But you do‹as you say, you do need the time, and you do need the skills to cook. There is no way around the fact that given the way our food policies are set up, such that whole foods are expensive and getting more expensive and processed foods tend to be cheaper‹I mean, if you go into the supermarket, the cheapest calories are added fat and added sugar from processed food, and the more expensive calories are over in the produce section. And we have to change policy in order to adjust that.
AMY GOODMAN: How do you do that?
MICHAEL POLLAN: You need a farm bill that basically evens the playing field and is not driving down the price of high-fructose corn syrup, so that, you know, real fruit juice can compete with it. You need a farm bill that makes carrots competitive with Wonder Bread. And we don¹t have that, and we didn¹t get it this time around.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you feel like any candidates are addressing this issue?
MICHAEL POLLAN: No, because they all pass through Iowa, and they all bow down before conventional agricultural policy. In office, I think that, you know, there have been‹Hillary Clinton has had some very positive food policies, basically because she has this big farm constituency upstate, and she¹s very interested in school lunch and farm-to-school programs and things like that. John Edwards has said some progressive things about feedlot agriculture and what¹s wrong with that, while he was in Iowa.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain feedlots.
MICHAEL POLLAN: Feedlots are where we grow our meat, in these huge factory farms that have become really the scourge of landscapes in places like Iowa and Missouri, I mean these giant pig confinement operations that basically collect manure in huge lagoons that leak when it rains and smell for miles around. I mean, they¹re just, you know, miserable places. And they¹re becoming a political issue in the Midwest. And I think they will become a political issue nationally, because people are very concerned about the status of the animals in these places. My worry is, though, that when we start regulating these feedlots, they¹ll move to Mexico.
AMY GOODMAN: Michael Pollan¹s latest book is In Defense of Food: An Eater¹s Manifesto. We¹ll come back to him in a minute.
[break]
AMY GOODMAN: We return to our conversation with award-winning author and journalist Michael Pollan. His latest book is called In Defense of Food: An Eater¹s Manifesto. I asked him about his earlier book, the acclaimed bestseller The Omnivore¹s Dilemma.
MICHAEL POLLAN: The Omnivore¹s Dilemma is, if you¹re a creature like us that can eat almost anything‹I mean, unlike cows that only eat grass or koala bears that only eat eucalyptus leaves‹we can eat a great many different things, and meat and vegetables, but it¹s complicated. We don¹t have instincts to tell us exactly what to eat, so we have‹we need a lot of other cognitive equipment to navigate what is a very treacherous food landscape, because there‹as there was in the jungle and in nature, there are poisons out there that could kill us. So we had to learn what was safe and what wasn¹t, and we had this thing called culture that told us, like that mushroom there, somebody ate it last week and they died, so let¹s call it the ³death cap,² and that way we¹ll remember that that¹s one to stay away from. And, you know, so culture is how we navigate this.
We are once again in a treacherous food landscape, when there are many things in the supermarket that are not good for you. How do we learn now to navigate that landscape? And that¹s what this book was an effort to do, was come up with some rules of thumb. And so, you know, I say eat food, which sounds really simple, but of course there¹s a lot of edible food-like substances in the supermarket that aren¹t really food. So how do you tell them apart?
AMY GOODMAN: You talk about shopping the periphery of the supermarket?
MICHAEL POLLAN: Yeah. Well, that was one rule that I found really helpful. And if you look at the layout of the average supermarket, the fresh whole foods are always on the edge. So you get produce and meat and fish and dairy products. And those are the foods that, you know, your grandmother would recognize as foods. They haven¹t changed that much. All the processed foods, the really bad stuff that is going to get you in trouble with all the refined grain and the additives and the high-fructose corn syrup, those are all in the middle. And so, if you stay out of the middle and get most of your food on the edges, you¹re going to do a lot better.
AMY GOODMAN: What is the localvore movement?
MICHAEL POLLAN: The localvore movement is a real new emphasis on eating locally, eating food from what¹s called your foodshed. It¹s a metaphor based on a watershed. You know, a certain‹draw a circle of a hundred miles around your community and try to eat everything from there. It¹s an interesting movement, and I¹m very supportive of local food. I think that it¹s verging on the ridiculous right now‹I mean, you know, because, frankly, there¹s no wheat produced in a hundred miles of New York. You know, do you want to give up bread? I¹m not willing to give up bread. So people get a little extremist about it.
But the basic idea of when products are available locally, eating them and eating food in season, is a very powerful and important idea. It supports a great many values. The fact is that food that¹s produced locally is going to be fresher. It¹s going to be more nutritious because it¹s fresher. You¹re going to support the farmers in your community. You¹re going to check sprawl. I mean, you¹ll keep that farmland in business. You are going to keep basically, you know, some autonomy in our food system. I mean, make no mistake: the basic trend of food in this country is to globalize it, and there will come a day when America doesn¹t produce its own food. In California, the Central Valley is losing, you know, hundreds of acres of farmland every day, and the projections there are that we will no longer produce produce in California by the end of the century. I don¹t want to live in that world. I‹you know, we lost control over our energy destiny, and we don¹t want to lose control over our food destiny.
AMY GOODMAN: What are the environmental effects of transporting food across the globe?
MICHAEL POLLAN: Well, the biggest is energy. I mean, it¹s a‹people don¹t really think about food in terms of climate change, but in fact the food system contributes about a fifth of greenhouse gases. It is as important as the transportation sector, in terms of contributing to greenhouse gas. It¹s a very energy-intensive situation. What we did with the industrialization of food, essentially, is take food off of a solar system‹it was basically based on photosynthesis and the sun‹and put it on a fossil fuel system. We learned how to grow food with lots of synthetic fertilizers made from natural gas, pesticides made from petroleum, and then started moving it around the world. So now we take about ten calories of fossil fuel to produce one calorie of food energy. Very unsustainable system.
AMY GOODMAN: And what about the argument of efficiency, and if you want to feed the planet? You have sugar growing in Cuba. You have grapes and meat in Argentina and Uruguay and Chile.
MICHAEL POLLAN: Well, that¹s the argument. There are a lot of problems with it. First, it does depend on cheap fossil fuel, and we are not going to have cheap fossil fuel, so that if Uruguay loses its ability to produce anything else, they¹re going to be hungry. It¹s very important that you have local self-sufficiency in food‹some self-sufficiency, not complete‹before you start exporting. If you put all your eggs in the basket of, say, coffee, when the international market shifts, as it inevitably does, because it will always go to whatever country is willing to produce it a little more cheaply, you will decimate your industry. And‹
AMY GOODMAN: What if you only consume coffee and nothing else?
MICHAEL POLLAN: Oh, you have all sorts of problems we don¹t even want to get into. You cannot live on coffee alone. It¹s not like bread.
So globalizing food has certain advantages of efficiency, but it also has very high risks. And, you know, efficiency is an important value, but resilience is even more important, and we know this from biology, that the resilience of natural systems and economic systems is something we have to focus more on. This globalized food system is very brittle. When you have a breakdown anywhere, when the prices of fuel escalates, people lose the ability to feed themselves.
What¹s happening with Mexico and NAFTA and corn, you know, they opened their borders to our corn, and it put one-and-a-half million farmers there out of business. They all came to the cities, where you would think, OK, now the price of tortillas should go down, but it didn¹t go down, even with the cheap corn, because there was an oligopoly controlling tortillas. Tortilla prices didn¹t go down. And so, a lot of these former Mexican farmers became serfs on California farms, and this was the effect of dumping lots of cheap corn.
AMY GOODMAN: And now they¹re the target‹
MICHAEL POLLAN: Now the price ­
AMY GOODMAN: ‹of main politicians all over the country to‹³We send our food down, and you send immigrants back who are coming here.²
MICHAEL POLLAN: Yeah, ³And we don¹t want your immigrants.² And, you know, we don¹t understand that these things are connected, that we make a decision in Washington and that this is what leads to an immigration problem. And‹but the dumping of our corn on Mexico is a big part of the immigration problem.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you know anything about cloned livestock? The Wall Street Journal says cloned livestock are poised to receive FDA clearance.
MICHAEL POLLAN: Yeah, well, the FDA has been looking at this. There are techniques now to clone livestock, usually for breeding purposes. If you have a really champion bull, the semen of that bull is very valuable. So, gee, if you could turn that bull into five bulls, wouldn¹t that be great? Actually, it won¹t be great. It¹s the rareness that makes the semen so valuable. But‹
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?
MICHAEL POLLAN: Well, if you‹you know, if you multiply your champion bull, the supply will go up and the demand will go down. So‹but, anyway, so the FDA needs approval so that once they¹re done using these animals for breeding purposes, they can just drop them into the food system as hamburger. And there is some controversy over whether we should be eating cloned livestock. I¹m not, you know, familiar with the risks. I¹m a skeptic on genetically modifying food. But the specific risk of cloning livestock, I don¹t know. I don¹t want to be eating them. But‹
AMY GOODMAN: You have the French farmer, Jose Bove, who has just gone on a hunger strike to promote a ban on genetically modified crops in France.
MICHAEL POLLAN: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I hadn¹t known that. The Europeans have reacted much more strongly to genetically modified crops than we have.
AMY GOODMAN: Why do you think it¹s so different?
MICHAEL POLLAN: A couple reasons. We have a misplaced faith in our FDA, that they¹ve vetted everything and they¹ve taken care of it and they know what¹s in the food and that they know the genetically modified crops have been fully tested, which, in fact, they have not, whereas the Europeans, after mad cow disease, are very skeptical of their regulators. And when their regulators tell them, ³Oh, this stuff is fine,² they¹re like, ³Oh, wait. You said that about the beef.² So they¹re much more skeptical. They also perceive it as an American imposition, as part of a cultural imperialism. Even though a lot of the GMO companies are European, the perception is it¹s Monsanto. And for some reason, the European countries have managed to get under the radar on this issue.
AMY GOODMAN: Does it also have something to do with our media sponsored by food companies?
MICHAEL POLLAN: Yeah, it does. And we‹and the fact that our‹we have not labeled it, so nobody knows whether you¹re eating it or not. I mean, that¹s been a huge fight. You know, Dennis Kucinich has tried to get labeling. Very simple. You know, he¹s not saying ban the stuff; he¹s saying just tell us if we¹re eating it, which seems like a very reasonable position.
AMY GOODMAN: And Monsanto fought this.
MICHAEL POLLAN: Viciously.
AMY GOODMAN: They said that if you say it does not have GMO‹
MICHAEL POLLAN: That¹s right.
AMY GOODMAN: ‹genetically modified organisms, in it‹
MICHAEL POLLAN: Yeah, you can¹t even say that.
AMY GOODMAN: ‹that that suggests there¹s something wrong with it, so when Ben & Jerry¹s tried to do that‹
MICHAEL POLLAN: That¹s right.
AMY GOODMAN: ‹they weren¹t allowed.
MICHAEL POLLAN: That¹s right. There¹s a lot of litigation over that still in Vermont and other states, in California, as well. Now, why is the industry so intent on not having this product regulated‹labeled? Well, they think, rightly, that people wouldn¹t buy it. And the reason they wouldn¹t buy it is it offers the consumer nothing, no benefit. Now, if you could‹Americans will eat all sorts of strange things, if there was a benefit. If you could say, well, this genetically modified soy oil will make you skinny, we would buy it, we would eat it. But so far, the traits that they¹ve managed to get into these crops benefit farmers, arguably, and not consumers.
The other reason, I understand, that they resist labeling is that if there were labels, there would be ways to trace outbreaks of allergy. Any kind of health problems associated with GMOs you could tie to a particular food. Right now, if there are any allergies that are tied to a GMO food, you can¹t prove it. And so, one of the reasons the industry has fought it is that they¹re vulnerable to that.
When the GMO industry was starting transgenic crops, they made a decision not to seek any limits on liability from the Congress, as the nuclear industry did, and they decided that would not look good to ask for that, so they just took a chance. And this is, in the view of many activists, their great vulnerability, is product liability. And so, labeling is a way to help prevent that eventuality. So they fought it, you know, ferociously and successfully.
AMY GOODMAN: Michael Pollan, what were you most surprised by in writing this book, In Defense of Food?
MICHAEL POLLAN: I was most surprised by two things. One was that the science on nutrition that we all traffic in every day‹we read these articles on the front page, we talk about antioxidants and cholesterol and all this kind of stuff‹it¹s really sketchy that nutritional science is still a very young science. And food is very complicated, as is the human digestive system. There¹s a great mystery on both ends of the food chain, and science has not yet sorted it out. Nutrition science is where surgery was in about 1650, you know, really interesting and promising, but would you want to have them operate on you yet? I don¹t think so. I don¹t think we want to change our eating decisions based on nutritional science.
But what I also was surprised at is how many opportunities we now have. If we have‹if we¹re willing to put the money and the time into it to get off the Western diet and find another way of eating without actually having to leave civilization or, you know, grow all your own food or anything‹although I do think we should grow whatever food we can‹that it is such a hopeful time and that there¹s some very simple things we can all do to eat well without being cowed by the scientists.
AMY GOODMAN: The healthiest cuisines, what do you feel they are?
MICHAEL POLLAN: Well, the interesting thing is that most traditional cuisines are very healthy, that people‹that the human body has done very well on the Mediterranean diet, on the Japanese diet, on the peasant South American diet. It¹s really interesting how many different foods we can do well on. The one diet we seem poorly adapted to happens to be the one we¹re eating, the Western diet. So whatever traditional diet suits you‹you like eating that way‹you know, follow it. And that‹you know, that¹s a good rule of thumb.
There¹s an enormous amount of wisdom contained in a cuisine. And, you know, we privilege scientific information and authority in this country, but, of course, there¹s cultural authority and information, too. And whoever figured out that olive oil and tomatoes was a really great combination was actually, we¹re now learning, onto something scientifically. If you want to use that nutrient vocabulary, the lycopene in the tomato, which we think is the good thing, is basically made available to your body through the olive oil. So there was a wisdom in those combinations. And you see it throughout.
AMY GOODMAN: The whole push for hydrogenated oils? I grew up on margarine. ³You should never eat butter! Only margarine!²
MICHAEL POLLAN: Yeah, I know. I did, too. And that was a huge mistake. That was a mistake.
AMY GOODMAN: Can we go back in time?
MICHAEL POLLAN: Yeah, we can. Yeah, the butter, fortunately, is still here.
AMY GOODMAN: Re-eat?
MICHAEL POLLAN: We can¹t re-eat, but we can switch to‹one of the important‹
AMY GOODMAN: Where did it come from?
MICHAEL POLLAN: Well, margarine was cheaper. Again, take a cheap raw material, which was to say they had developed these technologies for getting oil out of cottonseed and soy and all this kind of stuff, and there then was this health concern about saturated fat, the great evil. I mean, one of the‹another hallmark of nutritionism is that there¹s always the evil nutrient and the blessed nutrient, but it¹s always changing. So the evil nutrient for a long time has been saturated fat, and the good nutrient was polyunsaturated fat. So people thought, well, let¹s take the polyunsaturated fats, and we¹ll figure out a way to make them hard at room temperature, which involved the hydrogenation process. You basically fire hydrogen at it. And then you had something that looked like butter.
It was very controversial, though. People‹actually, in the late 1900s, several states passed laws saying you had to dye your butter pink so people wouldn¹t be confused and would know that that¹s an imitation food. And then the Supreme Court‹the industry got the Supreme Court to throw this out. So butter was elevated as the more modern, more healthy food. And it turned out that we replaced this possibly mildly unhealthy fat called saturated fat with now a demonstrably lethal one called hydrogenated oil.
AMY GOODMAN: How is it demonstrably lethal?
MICHAEL POLLAN: Well, they have since proven to, you know, pretty high standard that trans fats are implicated both in heart disease and cancer.
AMY GOODMAN: Michael Pollan is a UC Berkeley professor. His latest book is called In Defense of Food: An Eater¹s Manifesto. Oh, and by the way, this interesting note: the New York City Board of Health voted to require restaurant chains operating in New York to prominently display calorie information on their menus and menu boards beginning on March 31st. It applies to any New York City chain restaurant that has fifteen or more outlets nationwide and includes posting calorie information about cocktails. -------
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Billy
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Small farms in the US have had cooperative distribution systems since the mid-1700s. I think I recall reading that even the Sumerians (or was it the Babyonians?) had cooperative distribution systems for their agriculture. Lack of distribution systems is clearly not the cause of factory farming but it certainly was an idea worth exploring.
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I don't think that the small farm co-ops can deliver the quantities of basic grains - corn, wheat, oats, etc. - with the regularity that the large commercial food processors need.
If you went to a co-op and asked them to sign a contract guarenteeing you would get (for example) 200 tons of a specific variety of wheat, every summer Aug 1st, for the next 10 years, I doubt that they would be able to do it. By contrast an agribusiness that has vast tracts of land in several different weather regions, very likely can do it. And the breakfast cereal makers spend so much money setting up a production line to make a specific product, that it isn't profitable unless your making large quantities.
This isn't to say that there's not a market for smaller quantities and that co-ops don't exist. It is just that there IS a demand for quantities of such a large scale that -only- the agribusinesses can service that demand, that is why they exist at all.
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Why not? Upon what are you basing your opinion? It seems to me that the weather, which is the most major factor in farm production, does not distinguish between small and large farms.

Has that--- the requirement of a contract guaranteeing production of a crop for any time period, let alone an entire decade--- ever been a common practice in American agriculture? Can you support this contention with evidence? Seems like a false premise to me.

Can the people actually farming each of those "vast tracts of land in several different weather regions" guarantee a crop? I can't imagine how. So, then, why is it not possible for such companies to acquire their grain from either a large enough co-op or several co-ops in different regions? It seems to me that quantity, as you stated, is not really the issue.

Sorry, I just don't think you've shown that quantity is the problem, though I value your opinion.
Isabella
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this is

was
And large farms don't irrigate when there is no rain, nowadays?
An agribusiness can deal with a lot of the weather by simply buying another large farm in a different weather pattern and running both farms. They can also spend a lot of money on irrigation and use their political influence to win water rights battles.

Very few business supplier contracts are public record for what should be completely obvious reasons. I have no reason to believe agribusinesses are any different in that regard.
But it is common in the manufacturing industry to have suppliers under contracts of extended length. Once more, I have no reason to believe agribusinesses are any different in that regard, either.
Ted
Seems like a false premise to me.

Kellog has spent years building up a customer base that buys it's processed food on a regular basis. They are not going to stop selling corn flakes for 9 months out of the year because their supplier tells tham corn is not in season, or was rained out. They are going to tell their supplier that they expect their shipment of 50 tons of corn every month come hell of high water and if it's a bad year for corn that's the suppliers problem.
Ted
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Non-sequitur. Irrigation is not the issue.
You didn't answer the question. Why can't co-ops comprised of many small farms deliver large quantities of basic grains? Upon what are you basing your opinion?

You were talking about companies that *buy*--- not produce their own--- grain for making boxed cereal. Recall your own discussion about negotiating contracts? You're changing horses in the middle of the stream here. Please address the question.

You are equivocating--- hiding behind an invented obstacle because you cannot support your contention. I think you well know that no outdoor farming entity, no matter what nomenclature you use to describe it, can ever guarantee crops for a period of ten years.

Again, you are changing terms. A long term contract is not necessarily the same as guaranteeing a crop each year for a period of ten years. Contract terms can be as simple as the farmer promising whatever crop he happens to produce to the buyer at a specified price for a period of years.

You've talked an awful lot but you have to to give a single shred of evidence as to why farmers' co-ops can't deliver large amounts of grain. I can only conclude your opinion here has no basis in fact.
Isabella
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