By Dr. Mercola
"Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control the people." ~ Henry Kissinger, Ph.D.
"In so many poorer countries food is money, food is power." ~ Catherine Bertini, executive director of the U.N.'s World Food Program1
Yes, food is power, and all around the world we now see how the monopolization of the food supply has created a vast gulf between the "have" and the "have nots." Far from fostering greater food security, we've become more food insecure than ever before.
It's quite simple really. If you have access to clean, nutritious food, you survive and thrive. If you don't, disease and premature death is your lot.
Today, malnutrition is not a problem relegated to developing countries. Never before have affluent nations had so many malnourished yet obese people — a paradox rooted in a poor and toxic diet, churned out by industrial crop growers, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and fish farms.
The strategy to control people by controlling the food supply, first through the conversion from many small farms to fewer, gigantic farming operations and associated price fixing schemes, and later through the creation of genetically engineered (GE) seeds, effectively destroyed family farming both in the U.S. and abroad.
It wasn't that long ago (2011) that a class-action lawsuit on behalf of consumers was filed against a number of dairy companies and trade groups, charging they killed more than half a million young cows in order to artificially inflate the price of milk — a classic price fixing scheme, and certainly not the first, nor likely the last.2,3
In 2013, the Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) paid a $158.6 million fine to settle a 2007 lawsuit alleging the DFA conspired with a number of companies to suppress milk prices by closing bottling plants and stifling competition.4
Consolidation, Concentration, and Monopolization
Today, 95 percent of all grain reserves in the world are controlled by just six multinational agribusinesses.5 The same concentration of power can be seen all through agriculture, from beef packers (four companies) to flour milling (four companies) and pork packers (four companies).6
As noted by The Natural Farmer, this consolidation and concentration has occurred through horizontal integration, vertical integration, and global expansion.7
Along with the destruction of family farms we also lost a tremendous amount of diversity, both in terms of the types of foods grown and the flora and fauna existing in the areas surrounding the farms.
All of this, and more, has occurred under the guise of improving food availability and safety. Yet all of these "improvements" have led to nothing but corruption, destruction and disease.
Worst of all, these corporations have become so wealthy and (as a result) politically powerful, that in order to really effect change, we must do it from the ground up, by altering our daily shopping habits.
Support House and Senate 'Meat Processing Revival' Bills
Slaughterhouse consolidation is particularly problematic for small farmers specializing in organic and pastured meats. As noted by National Public Radio (NPR) last year:8
"Under the Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906, farmers who want to sell meat commercially across state lines must get their animals slaughtered and processed at a meat plant that has been approved by the USDA.
Government meat inspectors are required to be on the floor anytime those plants are operating.
To make it easier for more homegrown meat to reach consumers, a small but vocal group of farmers and local food advocates is trying to change federal meat inspection law."
March 8, 2016 Senators Angus King (I-ME) and Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced the Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption (PRIME) Act (S. 2651), which would allow states to permit sale of meat processed locally, thereby making it easier for small farms and ranches to serve their consumers.9
Representatives Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) introduced an identical bill, H.R. 3187,10 in the House of Representatives last summer. I encourage you to call your senators and urge them to support the PRIME Act.
You can find their contact information by clicking the button below, or by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.
Plant Species and Food Choices Are Dwindling
As noted by Irish Times,11 more than one-fifth of all plant species are now threatened with extinction. Reasons why include out-of-control plant diseases and changes in climate.
But factory farming is also a significant contributing factor. In fact, factory farming in and of itself is an "anti-biotic" in that it is "against life."
Chemical monocropping (the repeated growing of a single crop on a vast amount of land using chemical additives like fertilizers and pesticides) prematurely denatures the soil, promotes "super pests" and "super weeds," and destroys diversity of both plants and insects in the wild, not to mention curtail food choices at your local grocery store.
Pesticide Exposure From Food Is Now a Serious Threat to Health
More than 1.1 billion pounds of pesticides are used on U.S. farmlands each year,12 and chemical exposure through food is now a serious health threat.
Worldwide, 5.2 billion pounds of pesticides are used each year, and many of these chemicals are either known or suspected to be harmful to human health. As noted by Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR):13
"The required toxicity studies do not include many important endpoints such as immune system toxicity, endocrine system disruptions, learning deficits, or chronic illnesses.
Yet, all of these endpoints have been linked to pesticide exposure. Harm also occurs because pesticides are reviewed only every 15 years, leaving long lag times between science and regulations.
Recent Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) research revealed another problem with pesticide regulation: the majority of pesticide products are granted "conditional registrations" without all required information.
Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) own analysis confirmed NRDC's findings that 69 percent, or 11,000, of all 16,000 pesticide registrations are conditional. An NRDC report of this problem is currently in preparation.
The failure of conditional registrations was highlighted this summer when the conditionally approved herbicide Imprelis® was linked to three deaths around the country, prompting the manufacturer, DuPont, to recall the pesticide."
Industrial Agribusinesses Destroy Family Farms and Quality Foods
In North Dakota, a 1932 state law banning nonfamily corporations from owning farmland or operating farms has been challenged by agribusiness lobbyists, calling the law discriminatory and unconstitutional.
In March 2015, the state Legislature passed a bill that would "relax the corporate farming ban," The New York Times (NYT) writes,14 adding that North Dakota residents are now voting on a referendum that would allow corporate farms to buy up and displace many of the 30,000 family farmers currently in business.
"A vote against the measure would repeal the new legislation and restore the law that had governed farm and dairy operations in the state for more than eight decades.
While the debate is very much focused on maintaining the character of North Dakota, it also taps into widespread fears about the disappearance of family farms throughout the United States and the spread of big corporations and their farming methods into rural America," The NYT writes.
Such fears are well-founded. But farmers are not the only ones who should be concerned about industrial agribusinesses taking over. This is an issue that affects every single person who likes to eat food. Monoculture and livestock CAFOs do not make food tastier and/or more nutritious. Nor do they make it safer.
On the contrary, factory farms produce inferior quality food that is far more prone to cause foodborne outbreaks and spread pandemic diseases among farm animals (and in some cases among humans too).
It's important to understand that human life is interrelated with the environment, and most epidemics, such as AIDS, Ebola, West Nile, SARS, and Lyme disease, just to name a few, are a direct result of man's failure to live in harmony with nature. By severely disrupting our environment, we create our own demise.
We now know that CAFOs create a negative feedback loop where safety hazards are compounded and spread around, affecting animals, humans and the environment in equal measure.
CAFOS and Processing Monopolies Promote and Cause Deadly Outbreaks
The congregation of thousands or tens of thousands of animals in confined spaces is a recipe for disease, and CAFOs have become notorious for spreading pandemic diseases and causing serious food outbreaks. Now the situation is being ratcheted up another notch, with the presence of bacteria equipped with the much-feared mcr-1 gene — a gene that confers resistance to antibiotics of last resort.
First discovered in China last year,15,16,17 it's now been detected in Europe, Scandinavia,18 and most recently, in the U.S. The first American report occurred in March, when the gene was found in a pork sample from a slaughterhouse in South Carolina. In May, Escherichia coli (E.coli) carrying the gene was discovered in a pork sample collected in an Illinois slaughterhouse, as well as in a Pennsylvania patient admitted with an E. coli infection.19,20,21 As noted by The Washington Post:22
"Each of the three U.S. cases involves different strains of E. coli. The latest animal case suggests the gene is already circulating through multiple routes here ... In all three cases here, the gene was carried on a plasmid, a mobile piece of DNA that easily can transfer the gene to other bacteria. That would result in a kind of super-superbug, invincible to every life-saving antibiotic available."
Foodborne Illness Kills 5,000 Americans Each Year
According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), foodborne diseases cause about 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, costing the health care system as much as $6 billion in direct medical expenses and lost productivity.23
Bacteria account for 75 percent of the outbreaks, with Salmonella being the most common culprit. However, in the past two decades, a number of "previously unrecognized" foodborne pathogens have emerged, including:
✓ Campylobacter jejuni (poultry products)
✓ Listeria monocytogenes (dairy products)
✓ Clostridium botulinum
✓ Escherichia coli 0157:H7 (ground beef)
✓ Bacillus cereus
✓ Clostridium perfringens (beef)
✓ Staphylococcus aureus (pork)
There's no telling what the death toll might amount to should many or all of these foodborne pathogens develop antibiotic resistance, but it might be a fair guess that many of the hundreds of thousands hospitalized might not recover.
Part of what's causing foodborne illness rates to rise relates to the centralization of meat processing, coupled with outdated slaughterhouse inspection rules. Since 1906, meat inspection has relied on noticing changes in the sight, smell, or feel of the meat. But foodborne microorganisms cannot be detected this way.
The Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point program (HACCP) was created to identify areas in the food processing chain where contamination might take place, and based on the findings of the HACCP, procedures such as using microbiological tests at key control points have been developed. However, the program is useless unless microbial control is mandated.
At present, slaughter line speeds are too fast to perform these tests, and few are willing to voluntarily comply with them as slowing down the pace cuts into profits. Cross-contamination is another serious problem largely relegated to factory farms, processing monopolies, and industrial food processing plants.
Most recently, Listeria-contaminated sunflower seeds led to the recall of about 100 different food products, including Brown & Haley Mountain Thins trail mix and more than 33,600 pounds of Trader Joe's' broccoli and kale chicken salad.24
That kind of scenario simply could not happen in a small-scale, local food system, and it's precisely why — if you're concerned about food safety — your most effective strategy is to support your local farmers by buying their food and cooking from scratch, rather than buying processed fare and foods imported from all over the globe.
Across the World, Farmland Ownership Is Being Gobbled up by the Few
North Dakota certainly isn't the only place industrial agribusinesses seek to infiltrate and take over. GRAIN, an international non-profit organization that supports small farmers and social movements around the world, has documented more than 490 cases of corporate land grabs over the past decade. These deals cover more than 30 million hectares (74,131,614.3 acres) in 78 countries. According to GRAIN:25
"While some of the worst land grabs have been shelved or toned down, a number of new deals are appearing, many of which are 'hard-core' initiatives to expand the frontiers of industrial agriculture. We say hard-core because these deals are large, long-term and determined to avoid the pitfalls that earlier deals ran into.
Much of the Asian-led oil palm expansion in Africa, and the advance of pension funds and trade conglomerates to secure access to new farmlands, fall into this category.
Increasingly, gaining access to farmland is part of a broader corporate strategy to profit from carbon markets, mineral resources, water resources, seeds, soil and environmental services. As land deals rise and fall, policymakers and corporate boards are hard at work trying to facilitate their success.
Instead of the wild land rush of before, we now have multiple 'frameworks' and 'guidelines' on how to conduct these deals while minimizing social and environmental costs. All of these new rules are voluntary, however, and do more to obfuscate the problem than to solve it.
Many argue that the heightened political attention around land grabbing has helped bring land and agrarian reform back into public debates in parliaments and other legislative fora. But the main objective of regulatory processes is still to formalize land markets and titles, which experience tells us will lead to further concentration of land in the hands of few."
Industrial Farms Are Proliferate Polluters of Soil, Water and Air
I cannot get over the irony of the fact that agriculture is now one of the worst polluters of all industries out there, contaminating not only soil, but air and water as well. For example, according to a report26 by Environment America, Tyson Foods, Inc. is the worst polluter of U.S. waterways, releasing 104.4 million pounds of toxic pollutants into waterways between 2010 and 2014, second only to a steel manufacturing company.
In third place, we have the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), followed by Cargill and another steel manufacturer. Of the top 15 polluters on this list, six are food companies, commingling with some of the largest chemical producers in the world, including DuPont and BASF.
Even paper and gasoline producers, two industries well-known for their environmental impacts, are cleaner! International Paper and Exxon Mobil are ranked No. 14 and 15 respectively, releasing less than 20 percent of Tyson's toxic emissions into our waterways.
And guess what? Farms are exempt from federal water-pollution regulation.27 This is despite agriculture being the primary reason why America's waterways fail to meet Clean Water Act standards.28,29 (For an interesting story about how an Indiana teen is proposing to tackle nitrogen and phosphorous pollution in Lake Erie with the use of duckweed, see this June 15 Student Science article.30)
Agriculture is also responsible for nearly one-fifth of the entire U.S. carbon footprint, and that still does not include all of the fuel, transport emissions and synthetic nitrogen fertilizer use.31 A 2009 article also pointed out the following:32
"The Pew Charitable Trust and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health conducted a study in 2008 and determined that the U.S. factory farming system is dangerously out of control and that many practices, including animal confinement, and the prophylactic-use of antibiotics and hormones must be phased out. A second study, also in April of 2008, by the Union of Concerned Scientists concluded much the same.
Both studies found that the current factory farming paradigms are simply not sustainable for the land, the drinking water, the confined animals, the rivers, and the oceans, and they are seriously damaging our public health. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) reminded us that we will be subsidizing these bad farming practices once again on April 15th when we pay our taxes. That is the second payment for 'cheap food.'"[Emphasis mine]
No one in their right mind, or at least no one who has ever experienced a factory farm first-hand or even read a book or watched a video about what's going on, supports CAFOs. That's why corporate agribusiness is working overtime to pass state "Ag Gag" laws making it a crime to take photos of CAFOs.
That's why the beef cartel and Big Food spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year to keep you in the dark not only about CAFOs, but also about whether or not your food contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and about the country-of-origin of your food.
Boycott Factory Farm Food System
The time has come to shift the American diet away from unhealthy, polluted and polluting factory farmed food. Factory farms are a disaster, not only for the animals, but also for the communities where manure and chemical fertilizers and pesticides pollute the air, the soil, streams, lakes, rivers and drinking water.
The same goes for gigantic monoculture farms growing mostly GE grains and corn with vast amounts of toxic pesticides and fertilizers. The 2015 edition of "Factory Farm Nation," a report by Food and Water Watch, reveals the many problems with and high cost of factory farming.33
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If you worry that regenerative agriculture might not be able to compete with conventional chemical agriculture in terms of yield, don't. Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that organic yields are comparable to conventional, and about 30 percent higher during drought conditions.
For more information, I recommend reading through the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) report, "From Uniformity to Diversity: A paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems."34 It's important to realize you do have options, even if they may not be quite as convenient as going to your local grocery store. Your best alternative is to grow your own, although this also requires the greatest level of time and commitment.
The idea of planting Victory Gardens goes back to World War I and II, and was advertised as a way for patriots to make a difference on the home front. Planting these gardens helped the citizens combat food shortages by supplying themselves and their neighbors with fresh produce.
Planting your own Victory Garden can go a long way toward healthier eating and in the long run, it can provide incentive for industry-wide change, and a return to a diet of real food for everyone, everywhere. A great way to get started on your own is by growing sprouts. They may be small, but sprouts are packed with nutrition and best of all, they're easy and inexpensive to grow.
Where to Find Real Food
Your next best option is to buy fresh produce, pastured eggs, raw organic dairy and grass-fed meats from a local farm or farmers market. There are positive signs that people are taking such advice to heart. According to Michael Pollan, the total number of farmers in the U.S. has begun to rise for the first time since the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) began keeping track.35
Most of these farmers are younger people who have embraced the notion of growing real, healthy food. If you live in the US, the following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh foods:
EatWild.com provides lists of certified organic farmers known to produce safe, wholesome raw dairy products as well as grass-fed beef and other organic produce. Here you can also find information about local farmers markets, as well as local stores and restaurants that sell grass-fed products.
Weston A. Price has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.
The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling organic and grass-fed meats across the U.S.
This website will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
A national listing of farmers markets.
The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs, and markets near you.
The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified organic brands of eggs, dairy products, and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO "organic" production from authentic organic practices.
If you're still unsure of where to find raw milk, check out Raw-Milk-Facts.com and RealMilk.com. They can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area. You can also find a slew of information about raw milk on their "facts about real raw milk" page.
The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund36 also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.37 California residents can also find raw milk retailers using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com.