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In The Heartland

Is Eating a Moral Issue?
By
Rick Hopkins

People have been eating since the beginning of time as eating is a basic requirement to support human life. Hunter-gatherer peoples began to develop systems of agriculture as their requirements for food overwhelmed the capacity of their environment to provide enough food for them. These agricultural systems were created by observing and accepting natural processes and learning how to work with the quintessence to ensure adequate food for survival.

Regional concentrations of semi-sedentary clans, followed by permanent settlements, grew into civilizations of self sustaining agricultural communities. The communities were established in proximity to the resources, water and fertile soil, required for the production of food. Domestic livestock became a source for protein, replacing the hunted animals and fowl which supplied more than 60% of the hunter-gatherer diet.

Civilizations began to expand, seeking additional resources to supply the overcrowded pockets of fertility. Trade became an alternative for some of the food production and allowed satellite populations to gain access to varied food stuffs. Communities became less dependent on seasonal supplies and limited diets.

As globalization continued into the 21st Century, trade has become the dominant method in securing an adequate food supply for nations and industrial agriculture has become the preferred method for nations to acquire a viable position in the food trade. But an industrial agriculture and food policy exploits the customers and mines the wealth of a nation's land resources. The corporate agricultural entities have only one goal and that is to supply a healthy return to their shareholders. They offer little consideration as to the health of the land or the patrons who consume their products.

The decisions that determine the direction of the corporate food giants are not made in a board room. They are not made by a handful of food magnates who control the world's supply of food. They are not controlled by government legislation or international trade agreements. The destiny of agriculture and the future of food is determined by the consumer.

We live in a world of technological marvels and scientific wonders. Agricultural technology has shifted from barnyard compost to an integrated and complex mechanized science. Today a farmer has an storehouse of equipment, herbicides, pesticides, transgenic crops and livestock, and pharmaceuticals to assure his success as a producer of food and fiber. The business of supplying a farmer with the prescribed arsenal of agricultural tools is a multi-billion dollar trade in the U.S. The unfortunate truth is that the agricultural subsidies paid for with U.S. tax dollars is part of our food costs. The farmers see little economic benefit of the huge subsidy payments as this money passes through to the chemical, seed, and equipment companies. In the overwhelming weight of information, technology, and science, the simplest and most powerful tool in agriculture has been overlooked. The fork has become the most powerful tool in agriculture.

When a person places a bit of food on their fork, they help to determine the future of humanity. The popularity and use of genetically modified (GMO) soy products for food and fuel in the U.S. have helped to guarantee the success of the transgenic crop and livestock industries even though many nations have passed laws restricting or eliminating GMO's. Contamination of non-transgenic crops by GMO crops have occurred in all of North American and parts of Central and South America. Most consumers are unaware of the daily consumption of transgenic food. The U.S. has no labeling and does not require GMO food to be segregated from conventional foods.

Continued and expanding use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides have destroyed much of the natural ecosystem of food producing lands. The organic matter has been consumed, the mineral nutrients have been depleted, and balance of insects has been altered. This horrendous crime has placed humanity into a downward spiral away from a capacity to feed humanity in the future.

There are choices to be made. Each time a person chooses an industrial food product, whether food, fiber, or fuel, a decision is being made that affects our environment, rural communities, human health, national security, and the survivability of our species. An alternative to industrial agricultural products exists in every community in the world. The alternative is the family farm. These family farmers accept their responsibilities as stewards of the land and suppliers of nutritious, healthful, and safe food for their families and for the world.

The family farm has become an island of independence in a sea of energy dependent industrial agriculture. The capacity of industrial agriculture is limited by the fossil energy resources that support it. As nations vie for control of the remaining petroleum reserves, they are fighting for their ability to maintain a system of agriculture that will secure the corporate profits that shape the decisions of governments around the world.

Family farms are not dependent on expensive and continued development of altered crops and weed and pest management programs. They are autonomous in the face of a catastrophic failure of the world's energy supplies. Family farms are environmentally aware. Family farms are concerned for their consumers as they are also growing for themselves, their friends, and their families.

To paraphrase Thomas Paine and alter his exclamation slightly, "The period of debate is closed. Forks, as a last resort, must decide the contest...everything that is right or reasonable pleads for sustainable agriculture." It is up to each and everyone to recognize that we receive no benefits from industrial agriculture which has been so intent on exploiting our lands and our health.

With every bite of food one places on their fork, a choice is made either for an failing industrial agricultural system supported by a depleted energy program or for a sustainable family farm. Each person has the power to change the current course of humanity by a simple choice in food. Eating has become a moral issue.

Healthy Beef

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