Food for thought

Class war has been out of action for two days – fighting the battle on the local front...well, producing the second issue of my local community action group’s publication The Lukes Laner, writing, edition, laying out, doing graphics etc and placing it with a printer…and, as ever, attending incessant meetings and forums and making bureaucrats look incompetent. Amongst one of the projects we have got off the ground here, at last, is to provide a fresh fruit and vegetable outlet, operating from the CA one day a week. Basically you place an order (for a box of veg or fruit) and pick it up two days later. Good stuff too, cheaper than the supermarkets, largely grown locally, and just what is needed on a deprived housing estate suffering high levels of obesity; for if you want a fresh apple, a carrot, cabbage, then its a friggin' four mile round trip.

Still, been checking up on the blogs of fellow comrades. Darren, waxing lyrical over the cult of the personality made me smile inwardly. I always loved his tongue-in-cheek humour and miss the times we’d spend sleepless nights exchanging anecdotes, jokes and working together at No 52.

Alan’s blog had me scurrying to the fridge, looking for ingredients for a sarnie. He alerts us to two items on the issue of food that show the insanity of world food production under capitalism.

The first is the UN Report, telling us that 75% of the world’s crop varieties have vanished

The second refers to a piece on the Democracy Now site, where acclaimed author and journalist Michael Pollan argues that what most Americans are consuming today is not food but “edible food-like substances.

Says Pollan, speaking in a lengthy interview about the adulteration of food for no other reason than that there is profits to be had:

“…to understand the economics of the food industry, you can’t 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. There’s no money in that, because it doesn’t have any brand identification. It’s 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, everyone’s ripping off your little circles. And so, you have to move to the next thing, which are like cereal bars. And now there’s cereal straws, you know, that your kids are supposed to suck milk through, and then they eat the straw. It’s made out of the cereal material. It’s extruded.

”… 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 isn’t designed to last a year on the shelf in a supermarket. And so, it takes a lot of chemistry to make that happen...

“… And we’ve 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, it’s 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. That’s the Western diet—it’s 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 doesn’t seem to discomfort us that much.”

What a fucked up world we live in. Did you know that 78% the world’s starving people live in countries that actually produce a food surplus? And they’re starving because they have no purchasing power; they do not constitute a market. Can’t pay, can’t fucking have.

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