Politics is one of those contentious topics most people don’t like arguing about. But regardless of party affiliation, the food we eat is becoming increases singly political topic. A recent blog post by Slow Food USA puts this issue front and center:
“Changing food and farming is political (not to be confused with partisan)—and by that we mean it has to do with issues of power and inequality. It raises questions about who controls our infrastructure and who has limited choices because of it, who defines the dominant culture (fast food vs. slow food, diverse or not?), who stays well-nourished and who is hungry or suffering from a diet-related disease.
The reality is that industrial agribusiness and government policies have more control over what farmers grow and what we eat than we do! Basta ya! Over the past decade, we’ve started to take back the power one meal, one non-GMO crop, one Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program at a time. But we’re fighting a continuous uphill battle—and it isn’t right. This is our moment to level the field, to change the food system from our plates to our policies.”
“I begin with the proposition that eating is an agricultural act. Eating ends the annual drama of the food economy that begins with planting and birth. Most eaters, however, are no longer aware that this is true. They think of food as an agricultural product, perhaps, but they do not think of themselves as participants in agriculture. They think of themselves as “consumers.” If they think beyond that, they recognize that they are passive consumers. They buy what they want — or what they have been persuaded to want — within the limits of what they can get. They pay, mostly without protest, what they are charged. And they mostly ignore certain critical questions about the quality and the cost of what they are sold: How fresh is it? How pure or clean is it, how free of dangerous chemicals? How far was it transported, and what did transportation add to the cost? How much did manufacturing or packaging or advertising add to the cost? When the food product has been manufactured or “processed” or “precooked,” how has that affected its quality or price or nutritional value?”
If eating is an agricultural act and the government controls most agricultural policies in this country, then there’s no getting around the fact that food is political. We can no longer be the “passive consumers” Berry writes of. Instead, we must pay attention, engage and make choices that support the the food future we want. Sometimes the phrase “vote with your fork” can seem meaningless. Does it really matter which eggs I buy or if the spinach is local? It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your small actions don’t matter, but they do.