By Ronnie Cummins, Organic Consumers Association
After decades of chemical-intensive agriculture, factory farms and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food, and an ongoing war against natural systems and traditional knowledge, America’s rural communities, environment and public health are rapidly deteriorating.
The fatal harvest of Big Food Inc. includes rural economic decline and depopulation throughout the Americas, forced migration from Mexico and Central America, water and air pollution, aquifer depletion, pollinator and biodiversity destruction, soil erosion and fertility loss, climate destabilization, food contamination and nutrient degradation, and deteriorating public health.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Congress and the White House, aided and abetted by collaborators north and south of the border, are still dishing out their standard culinary message: Shut up and eat your GMOs.
Don’t worry about toxic food and obesity, heart disease, learning and behavioral disorders, the cancer epidemic, food allergies, asthma and other chronic diseases. Forget about mutant genes, pesticide residues, antibiotics, hormone-disruptors, saturated fat, refined carbs, salmonella, campylobacter, listeria, e-coli, slaughterhouse waste, added sugar and a growing list of other horrors in your food, food packaging and drinking water.
Agribusiness, the Farm Bureau, and an army of public relations flacks want us to stop complaining. They want you to believe that if we work together — farmers and consumers — we can make Fast Food Nation great again. Just follow the example of our corpulent commander in chief in the White House: Chow down on a juicy Big Mac today, and every day. Keep the faith in America’s industrial food system and Monsanto’s minions — indentured scientists, politicians, dieticians, regulatory agencies and the mass media.
Factory Farmed GMO Food Is a Public Health Disaster
Without going into the alarming damage of industrial agriculture to our environment, climate and social fabric, which you can read about in the essay “Degeneration Nation 2018: The Darkest Hour,” let’s focus on the impact of America’s degenerative food and farming system on public health.
The U.S. now spends more money on so-called health care than any other nation on Earth — $3.5 trillion a year. Yet, public health continues to deteriorate. This degeneration arises not only from an increasingly toxic environment laced with 84,000 industrial and agricultural chemicals, but via the cheap, unhealthy grub featured in supermarkets and dished up in restaurants, schools and institutional settings.
Even the government admits that: “About half of all American adults — 117 million individuals — have one or more preventable chronic diseases, many of which are related to poor quality eating patterns …” Approximately 85 percent of Americans do not consume the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recommended intakes of the most important vitamins and minerals necessary for proper physical and mental development.
In this “Fast Food Nation,” the conventional (i.e., chemical-tainted, genetically engineered, factory-farmed) U.S. diet is made up primarily of highly-processed packaged foods, garnished with small amounts of low-grade produce (fried potatoes, iceberg lettuce and tomatoes), with a typical supersized main course of factory-farm meat, eggs and dairy.
The vitamin and nutritional composition of these conventional foods and food-like substances is typically far below the nutritional density of fresh organic whole foods (organic produce and grains) grown on fertile soil, and 100 percent organic grass-fed or pastured meat, eggs and dairy. Research consistently shows that organic foods are significantly higher in vitamin C, vitamin E, polyphenols and total antioxidants, especially in no-till regenerative organic systems.
Poor Nutrition and Disease Go Hand in Hand
The fact that organic produce contains significantly more antioxidants than chemical food is especially important given that higher levels of antioxidants are associated with reduced risks for chronic diseases, including heart and brain disease and certain cancers.
Since the advent of industrial agriculture and GMOs, the nutritional value of foods, including important trace minerals and micronutrients, has dramatically declined, in large part due to the degradation of the soil from heavy tillage, chemical fertilizers and pesticides. In contrast, healthy microbe-rich soil associated with regenerative (soil-centered) organic practices, produces crops with higher levels of nutrients. As Dr. Mercola has previously pointed out:
“The sad fact is, most of the food consumed by Americans today is not real food — it’s genetically engineered, saturated with pesticides and added chemicals, and processed in a number of different ways. Many are so used to prepackaged foods, they struggle to understand what real food is.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 87 percent of Americans don’t eat the USDA-recommended 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit per day; 91 percent do not consume the recommended 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day. And, assuming the average person did consume these recommended amounts, unless these fruits and vegetables are organic — or better yet organic and regenerative — even the USDA admits that conventionally grown (i.e., nonorganic) vegetables and fruits contain far less nutrition than their counterparts 50 years ago. National Public Radio cited a nutrition expert:
“‘We have a serious disconnect between agriculture and health policy in our country,’ said Marion Nestle, a leading nutrition researcher and author at New York University. ‘The USDA does not support ‘specialty crops’ [like vegetables] to any appreciable extent and the Department of Commerce’ figures show that the relative price of fruits and vegetables has gone up much faster than that of fast food or sodas.’
So while Americans are told to eat fruits and vegetables for their health, the government has meanwhile mostly just subsidized other crops that end up in cheaper, less healthy processed food. ‘Price has a lot to do with this,’ she adds.'”
Factory Farms Are Major Sources of Environmental Pollution
America’s appetite for cheap meat and animal products has spawned an intensive confinement, factory farm system of production that not only makes us sick, but pollutes our water and air, exploits workers, is causing an antibiotic resistance crisis and is unconscionably inhumane.
Factory-farm (GMO grain-fed) meat, eggs and dairy, compared with 100 percent grass fed and organic pastured products, are lower in omega-3 fatty-acids and typically contain less vitamin E, beta-carotene, antioxidants and conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA.
The public health and economic consequences of our degraded environment and food system are alarming. A recent Rand Corporation study found that 60 percent of Americans are now suffering from at least one chronic health condition such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and arthritis; 42 percent have two or more, and that these chronic diseases now account for more than 40 percent of the entire U.S. health care spending of $3.5 trillion.
As indicated earlier, most of these chronic diseases are attributable to toxic food or other contaminants in our environment. One of every 2 Americans are now expected to come down with cancer in their lifetime. According to recent research, U.S. men born in 1960 have a lifetime cancer risk of 53.5 percent. For women, it’s 47.5 percent.
Seventy percent of U.S. drinking water is now contaminated with Monsanto’s top-selling herbicide, Roundup, and 93 percent of consumers have traces of this toxic poison (active ingredient glyphosate) in our urine.
Today in the U.S., 1 in 13 children has a serious food allergy; 6 to 24 percent have serious intestinal problems; 20 percent are obese; 60 percent have chronic headaches; 20 percent suffer from mental disorders and depression; while 1 in every 41 boys and 1 in every 68 girls are diagnosed with autism.
A New Recipe
The movement for healthy, eco-friendly and humane food that many of us are now calling the “organic and regenerative food and farming movement,” has made huge strides in the past several decades in the U.S. and worldwide, fighting GMOs and industrial agriculture and promoting organic and regenerative food and farming.
But now is not the time to sit back and just be satisfied with what we’ve accomplished. We must build on our success and ride our momentum to a future where organic and regenerative food and farming are the norm, not just the alternative. Here’s what we need to do next:
Boycott GMOs, including every nonorganic packaged food product that displays a QR code.
Since Congress stabbed us in the back in 2016, killing mandatory GMO labeling and substituting new federal regulations that will replace Vermont’s on-package mandatory GMO labels with QR Codes and 1-800 numbers, these QR Codes must become a veritable “skull and crossbones” symbol on food and beverage containers, helping us launch the largest boycott in modern history.
The easiest way, of course, to avoid GMOs is to buy organic, today and every day, or else look for the “Non-GMO Project” seal on food products. Keep in mind, however, that many “Non-GMO Project” labeled foods (unless they are also labeled organic) are produced using pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
Boycott factory-farmed meat, dairy and poultry, i.e., everything that isn’t labeled or marketed as organic or 100 percent grass-fed or pastured.
Factory farms are the lynchpin of GMOs, industrial agriculture and fast-food restaurants. The U.S. factory farmed meat, dairy and poultry cartel is an out-of-control, trillion-dollar industry based on cruel, filthy, disease-ridden and environmentally destructive animal prisons (euphemistically called concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs).
Factory farm production is characterized by GMO- and pesticide-tainted animal feeds, labor exploitation, false advertising, corporate corruption of government, and the use of massive amounts of dangerous pesticides, chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones and growth promoters.
Factory-farmed meat, dairy, poultry and fish are the No. 1 cause of water pollution, soil degradation, food system greenhouse gas emissions and human diet-related diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
We will never get rid of GMOs, chemical-intensive monocrops, antibiotic resistance, animal cruelty and agriculturally derived greenhouse gas emissions until we eliminate factory farms, which now imprison 95 percent of farm animals in the U.S., and 70 percent of all farm animals in the world.
Right now, the overwhelming majority of U.S. farmland is used to raise factory farm-destined animals before they are sent to the feedlots, or to grow GMO- and chemical-intensive grains to feed them. We need to stop feeding herbivores (cattle, sheep, goats) GMO- and pesticide-contaminated grain, and instead put the world’s billions of farm animals back onto the pastures, rangelands and agro-forestry paddocks where they belong.
Make organic, grass-fed and regenerative food and farming the dominant force in the market by 2025.
We need to educate consumers and change public policy so as to make organic and regenerative food at least 50 percent of the market by 2025, just as France and other nations are starting to do.
To do this, we will need to eliminate the multibillion-dollar taxpayer subsidies for industrial agriculture and GMOs that make chemical food seem inexpensive compared to organic and grass-fed food, despite industrial food’s massive and costly damage to the environment, public health and the climate.
|Pressure investors, universities, municipalities, states and pension funds to divest, not only from fossil fuel companies, but also from industrial agriculture corporations, and reinvest in organic and regenerative agriculture, to reach our goal of 50 percent organic and regenerative by 2025.|
|Lobby governments — local, state and federal — to move to zero fossil fuel emissions and support the International 4/1000 Initiative to sequester as much carbon in our soils and forests through regenerative farming, grazing and land use as humans are currently emitting.|
|Move beyond single-issue thinking (“my issue is more important than your issue”) and silos and “connect the dots” between food and farming and all the burning issues: health, justice, poverty, climate change, environment, peace, forced migration, humane treatment of farm animals and democracy.|
|Work together to build a Movement of Movements powerful enough to bring about a revolution in food, farming and land use, not just in the U.S. but in all the nations of the world. Subscribe to the weekly online newsletter of the Organic Consumers Association by clicking here: Subscribe to Organic Bytes.|
About the Author
Ronnie Cummins is co-founder and International Director of the Organic Consumers Association and a member of the Regeneration International steering committee. Ronnie has been active as a writer and activist since the 1960s, with extensive experience in public education, grassroots mobilization, and marketplace pressure campaigns.
Over the past two decades, he has served as director of US and international campaigns dealing with sustainable agriculture issues including food safety, genetic engineering, factory farming, and global warming.
*Article originally appeared at Mercola. Reposted with permission.