Feb. 2nd, 2008

bossymarmalade: blue eye with lashes of red flower petals (Default)
[ 14 Valentines - Day Two: Hunger ]

I have been a fan of Dr. Vandana Shiva and her work since I first saw her in a documentary about water as a human right; she's erudite, passionate, funny, and look at the size of her bindi! Clearly it has increased in direct proportion to how brilliant the woman is.

One of Dr. Shiva's major areas of work is biopiracy and biodiversity; she is intensely critical of the corporate laws that give companies like Monsanto and RiceTec the ability to patent foods (and when I say 'foods' here, I mean naturally-occurring ones like wheat or rice) and then prevent farmers from cultivating them without paying. She likens it to colonialism, and I think that's a remarkably apt analogy.

What does this actually mean? Well, RiceTec, for example, wanted to patent basmati rice -- a crop grown in India since antiquity -- as their own invention and then forbid poor farmers from using their own seed stock. Farmers have traditionally saved their seed and exchanged with other agriculturalists, making use of wild strains and keeping the diversity of seed-stock going. Genetically-modified "terminator" seeds created by the big corporations will not reproduce; their seed cannot be saved for the next year. Hybrid seeds won't work either. But if that's all the seed that farmers are allowed to use, it makes corporations the sole providers of seed, and a monopoly is good business, isn't it?

This is happening all over the developing world, although it's not confined there (see: Monsanto VS the 68 year-old farmer from Bruno, Saskatchewan) and anybody who thinks that food security isn't a matter of global interconnectedness isn't very well-informed. There's a myriad of politically cagey economic decisions -- structural adjustment programs, embargoes, trade agreements, export processing zones -- that result in people raising crops only to sell to rich countries, people unwittingly eating high-fructose corn syrup in all their food, people not being able to even afford basic food.

If you were Haitian, you might have to resort to eating cookies made of dirt.

Now I know that cleaning our plates won't help children starving in China, and I certainly am not the type to advocate a raw-food diet in order to cut down on supporting the industrial agricultural complex. I don't even have any wise suggestions about changing your food habits, because it's such a highly individual thing I think it would be silly to try. But I do believe that changing our own attitudes towards food, *respecting* it more and understanding where it comes from, is necessary for any improvement. All I can do is offer you some links and my own comments about what works for me, and hope that something in here will be of use to you.

And if any of you have helpful links or personal experiences, please don't hesitate to share!

Lunch in a Box - Building a Better Bento: looking at Biggie's colourful, delicious lunches has changed the way that I eat. I assemble bento lunches the night before, then just grab them on the way out the door in the morning; it's a fabulous way to include variety in your home-packed meals and if you're mildly OCD like me, the process of creating all those little sections and treats is half the fun. *g*

The 100-Mile Diet: my father tells me that when he was growing up poor in the sugar-cane barracks, he'd eat all kinds of little seeds and fruits that were growing wild to keep his belly filled. Obviously we can't graze on our surrounding foliage like that, but produce markets offer a convenient and usually very affordable alternative. When I have the time, I find that visiting farm markets and picking up small amounts of whatever's fresh, on sale, or intriguing, results in very good meals. When I only have time for the supermarket, I try not to purchase any produce that was grown outside of Canada.

Avoid food containing cottonseed oil. Here's the science, for those of you who like that kind of stuff; otherwise, just consider that cotton is *not a food crop* and so it can be treated with all kinds of insecticides. The seeds and oil are chemically treated to make them passable by the FDA as food-grade, but do you really want to be eating that? I mean, you shouldn't even be giving your dog cottonseed, much less yourself!

Sustainable Table: plenty of information and tools for making sustainable food choices
Seed Savers Exchange: based in my beloved city of Decorah, Iowa, this organization is for you green-thumbed people who are interested in growing heirloom fruits and vegetables.
The True Food Network: more helpful tips and guides, as well as many informative articles about GMOs and food additives.


bossymarmalade: blue eye with lashes of red flower petals (Default)
miss maggie

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