Being in the checkout line at the grocery store is not a passive event. Choosing the food you eat is the biggest political and the most far-reaching act that occurs daily in America.
The availability of a plethora of mundane items on our grocery shelves masks what is currently going on in our food system. When a shopper purchases meat, chances are the slaughter of the animal was performed by one of only four multinational corporations. Recently, authors for Mother Jones and City Pages also highlighted America’s most dangerous workplace – workers in slaughterhouse and meat packing plants. 70% of all the packaged food on the shelves contains genetically engineered ingredients in the form of corn and soybean. The seeds from which these corn, soybeans and other crops are grown are currently controlled by a handful of corporations whose guiding principals are their bottom lines and the further expansion of their reach by gobbling up more seed stock.
Most of the coffee and chocolate that is available to us is produced by slave labor. In the case of chocolate, up to 40% of the chocolate we eat may be contaminated by slavery. The use of child slaves is commonplace, particularly in the Ivory Coast, the world’s largest producer of cocoa beans for chocolate products. The issue of what a farmer receives for his labor and goods is not solely a problem elsewhere. Dairy farmers in Minnesota, for example, have been working in a system in which they often do not receive the price of production for the milk they produce.
Since the Second World War we have seen a rapid decline in independent family farms in the U.S. We have also seen an astronomical rise in the use of chemicals and unsustainable practices in food production. As the number of farms have dwindled and have been replaced with huge corporate agribusinesses, the consumer and the producers who raise our food have suffered a severing of any connection or alliance with one another. This disconnection has helped accelerate the takeover of our food systems by these large corporations.
The importance of choosing more sustainable and locally produced goods has never been greater. The act of shopping has ceased to be a passive experience. The concerned American shoppers must educate themselves as to where their food dollars are going.
This food section will help you make the connections that are the first step in taking back control of our food. How we wield our mighty consumer dollar is our most effective weapon in changing to more ecological, democratic and humane food systems.