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environment | genetic engineering

The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved

"This book should be read by everyone who eats." Inside America's Underground Food Movements, repost from www.cascadiaconnections.com
This book should be read by everyone who eats. Sandor Ellix Katz first takes on corporate agriculture, extensively detailing how it poisons and depletes our foods and the earth. He then introduces the alternative food revolution of individuals and communities retaking control of their food and working for food justice, safety and security. In his own words," This revolution will not be genetically engineered, pumped up with hormones, covered in pesticides, individually wrapped or microwaved.... This revolution is nourishing and sensual. This revolution reinvigorates local economies. This revolution rescues traditional foods that are in danger of extinction and revives skills that will enable people to survive the inevitable collapse of the unsustainable, globalized, industrial food system."

Sandor Katz explains there is much about our food supply that most Americans, happy with our convenient, plentiful food, don't understand---for instance, the incredible hidden costs of this system. Billions of dollars are spent annually for gasoline to transport food, often over 1000 miles, to market; for military costs to maintain control of those energy supplies; for the environmental costs from polluting air, soil, and water, global warming, erosion, water table depletion, etc., and for the health care costs incurred from pollution and chemicals in food. He also speaks of the damage big corporate farms do to rural communities, not just in pollution, but also driving out small farms who can't compete, not even for government subsidies, and diminishing job opportunities and property values. He cites statistics that there were 6 million farms in the first half of the twentieth century, although only 2 million remain today, with half of these being part time operations making under $5000 a year. The average age of U.S. farmers is currently 55 years old. Less than 6 percent of the principle owners are under 35. And one quarter of all farmers are over 74! Small farms are dying out. And government regulations are making it hard or impossible for small farmers to sell raw milk or cheese, butcher livestock on their farms, etc.

There is also plenty of specific information in this book on poisons in our food and water from the pesticides, harmful food processing, and genetic engineering from corporate agriculture. Monsanto and a handful of other large seed corporations control over half of the world's food supply, largely through biotechnology and the patenting of seeds. Katz discusses the ways genetic engineering endangers us with the possibilities of allergic reactions and other health problems not yet fully researched, as well as putting other crops and wild species at risk from genetic drift. Then he explains "biopharming,"
genetically engineering plants to produce biopharmaceutical drugs. Pollen from these could turn nearby related plants into potentially lethal foods for humans who consume them. And in fact at least one such accidental contamination has already occurred in an incident he describes that had to be cleaned up with a million dollar government subsidy, no less. The pharmed plants contained a pig vaccine, he said. At least nobody ingested them---that time.

Animals on farms should live well and die humanely, Katz believes. Four firms now control 80 percent of the cattle market, and 5 control 63 percent of the hog market. Not only does he discuss various issues of animal welfare concerning these corporate farms and slaughterhouses, but also equitable use of resources for this industry and the ecological impacts of large scale animal farming.

The problems caused by corporate agriculture are daunting. But there is hope. And it is coming from many directions. Recently Sandor Katz traveled around the country visiting food co-ops, farmers' markets, community spaces, and farms, discovering new ways people are taking control of the foods they eat and the foods they produce. He calls these activists "part of a broad movement to build alternatives to the dominant food system and transform the world one bite at a time."

Just learning to raise you own food is a political action at this point, Katz tells us. But he also describes people building community gardens, urban parks with fruit trees, school gardens, and guerilla gardens in vacant lots and public lands that have been planted to grow food. Small scale food producers are also coming together to gain strength in numbers, and forming farmers' markets, community supported agriculture where people buy shares in a fruit and vegetable farm or shares of a cow or goat dairy animal to get around regulations banning the sale of raw milk, and organizations to save seeds, particularly heirloom varieties, and heirloom livestock breeds. Indigenous peoples are working to restore salmon and buffalo herds and fight for wild food sovereignty, for instance wild rice versus biotech wild rice. Traditional food processing and preserving, cheese making, brewing, butchering, smoking, and fermenting are being rediscovered by new generations. People are also foraging for foods, not just wild plants and animals, but gleaning from food co-ops, dumpsters and eating exotic foods like insects. Some people are foraging and gleaning discarded and surplus food to feed the hungry. Food recycling is happening with cooking oil for biodiesel, composting, etc,.

Katz explains how community based health care is using food as medicines, sharing knowledge, and exploring alternative forms, such as acupuncture and herbs. In 2000 a study in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. said the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind heart disease and cancer, is the medical system itself, through unnecessary procedures, hospital-acquired infections, medical errors, and adverse drug reactions. "Chemical agriculture feeds the market for chemical medicine," Katz says.

And finally he discusses water. He warns against using water bottled in plastic and explains pollution dangers from industrial wastes, agriculture, chemicals, feces, chlorine used to purify water, and fluoride. But here, too, people are cleaning up rivers, and collection rainwater and greywater, etc. Drink more water and get a good filtration system, he advises us.

Besides discussing the problems caused by corporate agriculture and alternatives to it, this book lists hundreds of other books, periodicals, and videos on related subjects, and contact information for organizations working on various aspects of these topics. He also includes some interesting and unusual recipes.

Please read this book. You will learn so many things about food, and hopefully be inspired to unite with others in our communities to find innovative ways to take back control of what we eat and how that impacts the earth's ecosystems. To quote Sandor Katz," This is a revolution of the everyday, and it's already happening. It is a practice more of us can build into our mundane daily routines and into a grassroots groundswell."

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