Repercussions are rippling through many of our living systems due to the industrialization of food. Monoculture farming is causing untold disruptions in plant and animal systems. Processes we have invented to feed the capitalist food system are rendering our soil biologically inactive, striping it of minerals and nutrients. This degradation of soil is disrupting the symbiotic relationship of organic matter in soil, which allows for the growth of nutritious foods. Soil degradation also contributes to climate change as carbon dioxide gases are released by unhealthy soil. (The video below made by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations gives a quick and easy to follow breakdown of the importance of healthy soil.)
So how did we get here and what can we do to reverse this dangerous trend? In the US, agricultural policies were rewritten in the mid-seventies “to encourage farmers to plant crops like corn, soy, and wheat.” (Pollan p. 121). And it is not just our soil that is sick. The overproduction of these crops not only degrades our soils, but it also plays into the hands of large agricultural corporations and processed/fast food retailers. This farm bill is shaping the “Western diet” and increasing our incidents of obesity and diet related diseases. (See the infographic above) Redirecting the priorities of the farm bill is the key to replenishing the health of our soil and our people. A new farm bill is being created right now in the Congress. Here is how you can do something to effect change. Contact your congressional representative (here are the representatives for Washington https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/WA – representatives ) Tell them that the health of our nation depends on the health of our food system, and right now it is broken. Donate to an organization that supports protection of human and environmental health like the Environmental Working Group. (https://www.ewg.org/support-our-work/ways-to-donate#.WlulkpM-fUI ) We need to revitalize innovation and spend more money on agricultural research and development to foster sustainable farming solutions that maintain soil health and can support us into the future. Everything is connected. We cannot thrive as a nation when our food system is damaging our soil and making us sick.
Pollan, Michael. In Defense of Food. Penguin Books. 2008
West, Eleanor. Infographic: Farm Bill Hidden Costs Revealed. Food Republic. 2012 http://www.foodrepublic.com/2012/06/13/infographic-farm-bill-hidden-costs-revealed/
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Soils: Our Ally Against Climate Change. 2015 http://www.fao.org/home/en/