Before industrial agriculture and CAFOs, before processed foods, McDonald’s and TV dinners - people ate real food. This real food consisted of whole fruits and vegetables eaten in season or preserved in the summer months for a long cold winter. Real food came from animals that grazed on pasture and were allowed to live out their natural instincts by scratching, pecking, birthing and wandering as they wanted.
But now industrial agriculture has taken over our food supply. In an attempt to feed more people in a easier and more productive way, food has become food “products” full of chemicals not real food. This denatured food contributes to diseases that are shortening the human lifespan for the first time ever. Obesity, cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes are at an all time high, and most of these diseases are controllable by the food we consume.
How is the current industrial food system impacting your health?
Americans spend about ninety percent of their food budget on processed foods, which, unlike whole foods, have been treated in some way after being harvested or butchered. Almost all of these processed foods contain additives, substances intended to change the food in some way before it is sold to consumers.
Bacteria are everywhere, including on the skin and in the digestive system of humans. While bacteria are critical to normal bodily functions, some types can cause illness. In humans, antibiotics are used to treat health conditions caused by bacteria, including ear and skin infections, food poisoning, pneumonia, meningitis and other serious illnesses. Antibiotics are also used to treat or prevent infections that can complicate critical medical procedures including surgery, cancer therapy, and transplants.
The significant corporate consolidation of global food production has created a food system that values quantity over quality. Every single decision a farmer or corporation makes about growing or raising a certain kind of food affects the final product. Cutting corners on the quality of animal feed, waste management, training for farm workers, processing methods and distribution all affect the safety of our food. From E. coli in spinach to mad cow disease in beef, it is clear that lowering the bottom line at any cost creates significant concerns about the safety of our food.
Genetic engineering (GE, aka Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)) is the process of transferring specific traits, or genes, from one organism into a different plant or animal. The resulting organism is called transgenic or a GMO (genetically modified organism). 70% of processed foods in American supermarkets now contain genetically modified ingredients.
In 2005, 32.5 million cattle were slaughtered to provide beef for US consumers. Scientists believe about two-thirds of American cattle raised in for slaughter today are injected with hormones to make them grow faster. These measures mean higher profits for the beef industries, but what does it mean for consumers? Although the USDA and FDA claim these hormones are safe, there is growing concern that hormone residues in meat might be harmful to human health and the environment.
Pesticides are chemicals used to eliminate or control a variety of agricultural pests that can damage crops and livestock and reduce farm productivity. The most commonly applied pesticides are insecticides (to kill insects), herbicides (to kill weeds), rodenticides (to kill rodents), and fungicides (to control fungus, mold, and mildew). Of these, herbicides are the most widely used. Today, over 1 billion tons of pesticides are used in the United States every year.
Despite opposition from scientists, farmers and consumers, the United States currently allows dairy cows to be injected with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), also known as recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST). Developed and manufactured by the Monsanto Corporation, this genetically engineered hormone forces cows to artificially increase milk production by 10 to 15 percent. Controversy surrounds whether or not rBGH is safe for cows and humans.
But don’t give up! Buy local, sustainable and organic. You can find stores, restaurants, farms and more sustainable purveyors near you by typing your zip code into Eat Well Guide.