Sunday, December 23, 2007

Our Decrepit Food Factories

Michael Pollan writes an excellent article in the New York Times on two disturbing breakdowns in the industrial food system.

He writes:

"Confucius advised that if we hoped to repair what was wrong in the world, we had best start with the “rectification of the names.” The corruption of society begins with the failure to call things by their proper names, he maintained, and its renovation begins with the reattachment of words to real things and precise concepts. So what about this much-abused pair of names, sustainable and unsustainable?"

While critics have been speaking of modern industrial agriculture as unsustainable for decades, it's often hard for people to connect the dots on what precisely this means. Pollan points to two current crises - the honey bee die off & drug resistant staph infections - and their very specific connections industrial agriculture. These are not surprising mysteries, but direct responses to the an unsustainable food system. He quotes from Singeli's article about almond pollination in the San Francisco Chronicle:

“We’re placing so many demands on bees we’re forgetting that they’re a living organism and that they have a seasonal life cycle,” Marla Spivak, a honeybee entomologist at the University of Minnesota, told The Chronicle. “We’re wanting them to function as a machine. . . . We’re expecting them to get off the truck and be fine.”

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