By Greer Gregory
Our food supply is more intertwined with our government and the decisions made by our seemingly intangible congressmen than we’d like to think. Do you know where your food is coming from? The ideal of farm to table is nice and all but it simply isn’t possible, so I enrolled in a government class about food politics to see how we cope with this issue. We’ve had a major economic shift over the past century, with most of our population living in cities and farms left with the stress of feeding an increasing population. I was particularly struck over how much of the food we eat is not produced nearby or even in the United States.
The number of people living on farms has drastically depleted, and big companies have taken over the little remaining farmland to produce single commodities, resulting in various stress factors on the environment. We are consuming more processed foods, producing what is only the most profitable, and it all ties back to our capitalist political economy.
We can’t possibly produce all the food we need, well that is if we didn’t overproduce dairy and meat to make a profit. The government has remedied our increasing population partly by subsidizing things such as dairy and meat, even overestimating the recommended daily amount of these products because their campaign funding depends on it. 80% of our seafood is imported and 2/3 of our fruits and vegetables are imported. And incredibly, if Americans ate the daily-recommended amount of fruits and vegetables we wouldn’t even have enough. The USDA’s nutrition assessments include things such as ketchup and French fries in consumption of vegetables…does that seem right?
In many ways our food supply and what we are recommended to eat is controlled by big companies, which have the resources to employ lobbyists and fund reelection campaigns for congressmen. In an article from a recent USDA employee, he mentioned that they were not allowed to recommend that Americans eat less dairy and meat products, simply high fat and high cholesterol foods. Not only are dairy and meat highly subsidized, but they’re also some of the most heavily marketed types of food aside from highly processed snack foods. Big companies stand to profit the most if they employ marketing to make us believe that we need to eat more dairy and meat, overproducing these products for maximum profits. However this overproduction also causes detrimental effects on the environment and harms the people living around these processing plants.
Interestingly enough, we the consumers are greatly to blame. Big companies market to US; WE choose to buy their products, ignorant of their origin and the corners cut in the process. In a country run by capitalism it makes sense that even our food supply is controlled by it, each man for himself in fierce competition to make a profit. What we tend to underestimate is the power of the consumer.