gussow_-_local - viewpoinlt ina'E 1_a an n aa a an mosw M...

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viewpoinlt ina 'E' 1_a an - - n - aa a an '_ mosw M mftwa. By Joan Gussow, Ph.D. Photos by Mick Hales Author Joan Gussow, photographed in her garden in New York, tells why and how we must move toward local, seasonal, sustainable diets. A young neighbor who watered and harvested my garden for a few days last sum- mer left a message on my answering machine while I was away. She had read my new book, This Organic Life, which tells the story of my quarter-century ef- fort to eat locally in downstate New York. "I was just thinkg," she said. "This may be the only time in his- tory when humans have had complete strangers-strangers who ,are badly treated or ignored-growing and preparing all our food." One could nitpick her facts, but she has the right idea. Not even a century ago, most of us had a pretty good idea where our food came from. Now-if the eaters I speak to are typical-most people. can't identify the origin of anything they ate yesterday. And, as my young friend's comment suggests, if we knew where our food was gorning from, if we knew who and what was involved in getting it to our tables, we would doubtless be appalled at the evils wrought on our behalf-not only to strangers, but to the planet and its other living beings. We might even be scared. Here are a few reasons why we should be: The contamination of crops-even organic crops-with ge- netically modified organisms, whose long tern effect on our ecosys- tem is unknown and whose effects on human health are untested; 100 MOTHER EARTH NEWS February/March 2002
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[email protected] - The horrors and cruelties of the hog factories with their lagoons of waste; -Meat and poultry plants with their speeded-up disassembly lines threatening not only the lives and limbs of the people who work them, but the health of those who eat the flesh they produce; - Our growing dependence on perish- able foods shipped to us from poor coun- tries everywhere; * And most critically, the hemorrhaging of farmers and fanniland from our national landscape. (The latest figures show that for every fanmer under 35 there are five fanmers over 65.) All these portend a future that seems anytiing but secure where our food is concerned. In losing farmers we are losing the ca- pacity to feed ourselves. A couple of years ago, economist Steven Blank wrote a book with the ominous title The End ofAgriculture in the American Portfolio (Greenwood Publishing Group). Blank believes agricul- ture may move overseas because investing in it is just not profitable. I'll say. In 1999 production costs rose 20 percent, and prices for commodities fell an average of 7 percent. On average, farmers and ranchers now get 7 percent to 8 percent of food system profit. Who'd invest in that? As for what that means in the field, con- sider the potato. In his brilliandy devastating book Fast Food Nation (Houghton Miffin), Eric Schlosser explains that a few companies control most of the potato market. Fast food purveyors now buy frozen fries for about 30 cents a pound, reheat them in oil and sell them (with added grease) for about $6 a pound. On every $1.50 order of flies a
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