Category Archives: Food System

Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen

Corporate Crime Reporter – By Editor Filed in News July 18, 2018
That’s the story that Kristin Lawless tells in her new book – Formerly Known As Food: How the Industrial Food System is Changing Our Minds, Bodies and Culture.

Lawless challenges the modern food movement for focusing on individual choice – made famous by Michael Pollan’s prescription – eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

Lawless might revise it to – challenge, as much as possible, corporate power and the corporate takeover of the kitchen.

Flip to the back of the book to see how Lawless differs from Pollan and the food movement’s focus on the individual.

Instead, she targets corporate power.

Stop predatory marketing of poor quality industrial foods. Stop the marketing of infant formula to parents. Place warning labels on all industrial food packaging – “these foods may be harmful to your health.” Stop the use of thousands of chemicals in and on our food supply.

Create a federal urban farm program. Demand nutrition and cooking education in all public schools. Demand a universal basic income. Demand payment for cooking and other household work. Demand six months paid parental leave – insuring the option to breast feed as a right.

Lawless writes that ten companies control nearly every large food and beverage brand in the world – Nestle, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Unilever, Danone, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Mars, Associated British Foods and Mondelez.

And still the food movement focus is the individual, not the corporation.

“When food movement leaders say the solutions are to eat whole foods and buy organic, they leave out the crucial fact that we need to collectively reject the production of poor quality processed foods and stop the production of dangerous pesticides and other environmental chemicals that contaminate many foods,” she writes. “Critics do not often articulate this omission, but it is largely why the movement is perceived as elitist – and rightly so. If the food movement’s solutions are market based and predicated on spending more for safer and healthier food, they ignore how impossible these solutions are for most Americans. In fact, this agenda serves the agendas of Big Food and Big Ag quite well.”

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Book Excerpt Why the food movement needs to understand capitalism

Climate & Capitalism – Eric Holt-Giménez – July 11, 2018

The fragmentation, depolitization, and neoliberal co-optation of the food movement, however, is rapidly changing with the crumbling of progressive neoliberalism. The rise of racial intolerance, xenophobia, and organized violence from the far-right has raised concerns of neofascism, worldwide, and prompted all progressive social movements to dig deeper to fully understand the problems they confront.

Many people in the Global South, especially poor food producers, can’t afford not to understand the economic forces destroying their livelihoods. The rise of today’s international food sovereignty movement, which has also taken root among farmers, farmworkers, and foodworkers in the United States, is part of a long history of resistance to violent, capitalist dispossession and exploitation of land, water, markets, labor, and seeds.

In the Global North, underserved communities of color —  historically subjected to waves of colonization, dispossession, exploitation, and discrimination — form the backbone of a food justice movement calling for fair and equitable access to good, healthy food.

Understanding why people of color are twice as likely to suffer from food insecurity and diet-related disease, even though they live in affluent Northern democracies, requires an understanding of the intersection of capitalism and racism. So does understanding why farmers go broke overproducing food in a world where one in seven people are going hungry.

As the middle class in the developed world shrinks, much of the millennial generation, underemployed and saddled with debt, will live shorter lives than their parents, due in large part to the epidemic of diet-related diseases endemic to modern capitalism. The widespread “back to the land” trend is not simply a lifestyle choice, it also responds to shrinking livelihood opportunities.

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$100 billion and rising: Canadian farm debt

A. The amount of money that farmers pay each year in interest to banks and other lenders ($3 billion, on average) is approximately equal to the amount that Canadian citizens each year pay to farmers ($3.1 billion). Thus, one could say that, in effect, taxpayers are paying farmers’ interest bills. Governments are facilitating the transfer of tax dollars from Canadian families to farmers and on to banks and their shareholders.

B. Canadian farmers probably could not service their $100 billion dollar debt without government/taxpayer funding.

C. To take a different perspective: each year farmers take on additional debt ($2.7 billion, on average) approximately equal to the amount they are required to pay in interest to banks ($3 billion on average). One could say that for two decades banks have been loaning farmers the money needed to pay the interest on farmers’ tens-of-billions of dollars in farm debt.

Over and above the difficulty in paying the interest, is the difficulty in repaying the principle.  Farm debt now—$102 billion—is equal to approximately 64 years of farmers’ realized net farm income from the markets.  To repay the current debt, Canadian farm families would have to hand over to banks and other lenders every dime of net farm income from the markets from now until 2082.

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Beginning to end hunger: Belo Horizonte shows the way

Author: M. Jahi Chappell – reviewed by Martin Empson – July 4, 2018

A Brazilian city’s food program feeds the hungry and supports local farmers. It succeeds by empowering communities and challenging inequality.

Hunger is a real crisis for millions of people around the globe. Officially, about 11 percent of the world’s population are acknowledged to be malnourished today, but some studies suggest the figure is more than twice that. Also, as M. Jahi Chappell points out, 1 to 2 billion people suffer from “hidden hunger” — insufficient  nutrients in their diet. At the same time 600 million people suffer from obesity

These figures represent an obscenity: the madness of a food system structured around maximizing profit, while exacerbating hunger and malnutrition. The system also ensures that in the global south and the richer north, farmers, peasants and agricultural producers increasingly face crippling debts, poverty incomes and the pressure of big business, which devalues their crops and boosts incomes for supermarket chains and multinational agribusiness.

It is tempting for socialists to argue simply that the problem is capitalism and that only a socialist, post-capitalist world can feed the world’s population healthily and sustainably. M. Jahi Chappell’s important study shows that this is wrong. It is possible to build a more equitable and sustainable food system today at the same time as strengthening the struggle against capitalism. Chappell illustrates this with a detailed study of the experience of Belo Horizonte (BH), the sixth largest city in Brazil, home to about two and a half million people.

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Making the Invisible Visible: A Bold Strategy to Change the Food System – FoodTank Interview with Dr. Barbara Gemmill-Herren

FoodTank

Dr. Barbara Gemmill-Herren is an agroecologist who lived and worked in Africa for over 25 years and is currently working as an agroecology consultant for the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).  She is a chapter author of the new Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Agriculture and Food (TEEBAgriFood) report focused on evaluating our agriculture and food systems while considering a range of social, human, and environmental dimensions across the value chain.

Dr. Gemmill-Herrin served as the Delivery Manager for the Major Area of Work on Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). She implemented a global Pollination Services project for the FAO and worked on the FAO’s Ecosystem Services in Agriculture production. Gemmill-Herrin was a key contributor to the “Beacons of Hope” initiative for the Global Alliance for the Future of Food and served as the Director of the Environmental Liaison Centre International.

Food Tank talks to Dr. Barbara Gemmill-Herren about her chapter in the new TEEBAgriFood report about today’s realities, and tomorrow’s challenges in the eco-agri-food system.

INTERVIEW…

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Agroecology and the fight against deadly capitalist agriculture

Climate and Capitalism, June 17, 2018 by Colin Todhunter

Agroecology can free farmers from dependency, manipulated commodity markets, unfair subsidies and food insecurity. It is resisted by giant corporations that profit from the status quo.

Colin Todhunter is an extensively published independent writer and former social policy researcher based in the UK and India. This article was originally published as “Dangerous Liaison: Industrial Agriculture and the Reductionist Mindset,” on his blog, East by Northwest. Colin invites readers to follow him on Twitter.

Food and agriculture across the world is in crisis. Food is becoming denutrified and unhealthy and diets less diverse. There is a loss of biodiversity, which threatens food security, soils are being degraded, water sources polluted and depleted and smallholder farmers, so vital to global food production, are being squeezed off their land and out of farming.

A minority of the global population has access to so much food than it can afford to waste much of it, while food insecurity has become a fact of life for hundreds of millions. This crisis stems from food and agriculture being wedded to power structures that serve the interests of the powerful global agribusiness corporations.

Over the last 60 years, agriculture has become increasingly industrialised, globalised and tied to an international system of trade based on export-oriented mono-cropping, commodity production for the international market, indebtedness to international financial institutions (IMF/World Bank).

This has resulted in food surplus and food deficit areas, of which the latter have become dependent on (US) agricultural imports and strings-attached aid. Food deficits in the Global South mirror food surpluses in the North, based on a ‘stuffed and starved’ strategy.

Whether through IMF-World Bank structural adjustment programmes related to debt repayment as occurred in Africa (as a continent Africa has been transformed from a net exporter to a net importer of food), bilateral trade agreements like NAFTA and its impact on Mexico or, more generally, deregulated global trade rules, the outcome has been similar: the devastation of traditional, indigenous agriculture.

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