ON HUNGER AND ORGANIC FOOD
How elitist are consumers shopping for organic food when faced with 18 % of the population going hungry at times?
We will soon see ten dollar heirloom salad at grocery stores while millions of individuals live on 40 cent hamburgers and meaty buns produced with 70 ingredients.
At the Real Food Project, we would take a look at this situation and dare to look ahead on food in a few years. We try to paint a realistic view on what the situation will be given the premises of today.
Those premises are as follows:
Consumption of organically grown food is steadily growing, small-scale producers increasingly enter the markets though very few multinational companies proceed to further monopolize both the organic and conventionally produced industry.
In the U.S. companies take advantage of decade-old government subsidies on soy and corn, producing several thousand products from them. Few of them are food related.
They provide the population with inexpensive foods, at the same time several thousand additives keep this food tasty, cheap and shelf stable for long range consumption.
For the future lobbyists for big food companies argue the sharply increased meat consumption worldwide requires genetically modified foods. The counterpart argues optimized farming techniques and better distribution could achieve the same. Without active democratic engagement by the population, the winner in this field is already clear.
It should be worth to take a look at the educational status on food worldwide: With the advent of canned food, a more mobile lifestyle and increased consumption of convenience food a break in food education happened. Grandmothers didn’t cook from scratch anymore and seasonal cooking using local ingredients vanished from the face of the earth like an evil.
This gap in education has not been filled until now, schools don’t teach nutrition or food classes and family members lost traditional food tutors.
As a result few people nowadays actually know about seasons, ingredients, cooking and storing. This lack of information access hits especially the poorest, who turn to inexpensive foods making them sick.
It also hits the upcoming middle class in developing countries like Mexico and Thailand. Their families turn to status symbols like hamburger and pizza, thus losing knowledge about cooking healthy, locally sourced foods.
At the same time, obesity rates are exploding in those countries.
In the near future governments will recognize the toll on society and the immense health care cost this situation causes. Schools will take over the role of family members and teach the topic, though highly influenced by the food industry.
Individuals will receive incentives to lead a less fat and sugar loaded life, ideally with a higher percentage of home cooking involved. This way the circle will close once consequences like heart disease force individuals to reconsider, often this will happen too late.
Given better education, access to unprocessed food and incentives, poor and rich will benefit from better health, acquire more personal productivity, have more social interaction and attain higher overall happiness.
Without change the following will happen:
A sharper divide in population, social tensions, less quality of living through impeded health, more additives in food, still less biodiversity ( we now have a fraction of vegetable, fruit and cheese varieties we had even 50 years ago, thanks to mass marketed food ) and more foodborne illnesses. At the same time, society achieves higher age through better health care.
Individuals shopping organic will be considered more elitist than even today. Food without additives will only be available when self-raised or at a substantially higher price than today.
Overall food ( and additive ) input will be determined by very few gigantic producers.
The conclusion is an urgent need for government induced education on food,
Public access to information, also for the poor and better distribution of food, for the benefit of society, because no society can afford to leave the potential of its citizens on the ground while putting profits first.
And then there are pleasures we do not want to loose:
This could be just the Poppia wraps Malaysians make a cult out of, Mole Poblano in Mexico, a bun with Leberkaese in Northern Bavaria or the world’s best Baguette manufactured by a Libyan in Paris.
Ask a Chinese millionaire why he drives 200 miles to buy fried rice from a street vendor, ask your neighbor what makes him spend 40 minutes on the road to pick up his morning bagels.
Change happens, whether we want it or not. Every day and every individual makes a difference, sometimes a huge one.
Through personal engagement within communities,
personal change in behavior, small steps like local shopping, engaging actively in the democratic system, because change we can.