"The way we eat has changed more in the last 50 years than the previous 10,000," writes Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma. Many people are unaware that in just the past decade the food chain has changed drastically.
With pricing reaching historic levels in wheat, corn, sugar, dairy and oils, costs are going up causing food price surges which affect the poor disproportionately. But this may only be the beginning. With population growing at a startling rate, demand is soaring and supply may not be there to meet the demand. And the recent push toward biofuels takes millions of tons of cereals away from the food supply chain. There are structural shifts in the demand and supply balance of food on the planet.
Agriculture depends on groundwater, aquifers. Ancient ground water is being rapidly depleted by growing populations and expanding agricultural use. Scores of countries are overpumping huge aquifers. Unfortunately this is a finite environmental asset, consisting mostly of “fossil water” from the time of the last glaciations, tens of thousands of years ago. Once you use it, this water gone. And it's disappearing now faster than ever, and water tables are falling throughout entire regions of the planet. This is a global problem, with dire environmental consequences.
When aquifers are depleted, they can be subject to an influx of surrounding contaminants such as saltwater, near coastal areas which is made worse by rising seas as the ice caps melt. And there are climatic effects of irrigation evaporization which increases the total amount of water in the hydrosphere, increasing solar energy absorption.
The Ogallala Aquifer, also known as the High Plains Aquifer, was a vast, shallow underground water table located beneath the Great Plains in the United States. Today this aquifer is being depleted at an annual volume of 12 billion cubic meters (420 billion ft3 or 9,729,000 acre feet) per year, amounting to a total depletion of a volume equal to the annual flow of 18 Colorado Rivers. It took only about 50 years for this water to be almost depleted.
Mark Kurlansky is called The Food Sociologist and he offers a "portrait of American food before the national highway system, before chain restaurants, and before frozen food," when what we ate "was seasonal, regional, and traditional."
After the Second World War, nitrates left over from making bombs was converted to synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, and a system of farm subsidies was also created. The results of these events yielded two trends that have lasted over the years. Synthetic fertilizers greatly increased the production of farm crops and subsidies favored the larger farms. Eventually the smaller farms were bought out by large land owners, to the extent that now only about one percent of the population of the USA are farmers.
The food we eat today is far removed from what our grandparents or great-grandparents ate. In those days, all food was “organically grown.” There were no artificial fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, hormones, antibiotics, or “genetically modified” food crops. Most food was grown locally and was consumed within a few days of being picked or caught. It was not sprayed with preservatives, mold inhibitors, or waxes. The soil was rich with nutrients and essential minerals, yielding crops which were high in the same.
Healthy soil is a living environment containing nitrogen-fixing bacteria, minerals, and is alive with rich organic matter. A process known as “rotational farming” or crop rotation maintained the nutritional quality of the soil. This was accomplished by a particular crop being planted in a field one year, being plowed back into the earth, and then another crop planted the following year. Alfalfa, for example, would be planted because its root systems would absorb minerals deep from within the soil. It would then be plowed back into the soil and a new crop such as corn would be planted to reap the benefits from the newly revitalized soil.
Some years the land was not planted at all and any organic waste was returned to the soil to decompose and allow its nutrients to be returned to it. Organic fertilizers such as manure, compost, and lime (for essential magnesium and alkalinity) were used. Organic soil requires bacteria that actually “fix” nitrogen, increasing the protein content of the food, and when bound to minerals these proteins form “chelated” organically bound minerals which are more easily absorbed.
Presently, cattle, fowl, and even fish are being fed an unnatural diet of corn, antibiotics, growth hormones, pesticides, and preservatives as well as artificial coloring agents.... A steer has a normal diet of grass, containing a healthy mix of essential fatty acids, amino acids, minerals, cellulose, fiber, chlorophyll, enzymes, and other plant nutrients necessary for their proper health and development. They incorporate these essential nutrients and when we consume them we gain the benefits as well.
When we consume artificially fed animals that have been raised consuming a mineral, essential fatty acid, and phytonutrient deficient diet of commercially produced grains, we become deficient as well. A prime example is the omega III to omega VI essential fatty acid ratio. Many authors have stated that this ratio should be 1:1 (one part omega III to one part omega VI) and no more than 1:3 (one part of omega III to three parts omega VI). Our modern diet has been estimated to be 1:20! In other words, we are not receiving nearly enough omega III essential fatty acids and we are consuming far too much omega VI containing oils. This essential fatty acid imbalance contributes to systemic inflammation, which increases the likelihood of stroke, heart attacks, arthritis, other inflammatory diseases and many other diseases including cancer.
Currently, mass produced food is being grown by a number of giant food corporations who routinely use artificial fertilizers containing only three ingredients: potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen. The problem with these artificial fertilizers is that they do not contain any of the other innumerable substances that are contained in natural fertilizers such as minerals, nitrogen-fixing bacteria (essential for protein production), and numerous other vital components. Furthermore, their use further depletes the soil of whatever nutrients it may contain and destroys its ability to grow plants which yield produce containing significant amounts of phytonutrients.
Crops grown with artificial fertilizers on depleted soils are far more prone to disease, insects, and other pests, so pesticides, herbicides, and other poisonous sprays are routinely applied. This practice introduces additional toxins to these nutrient deficient foods. So not only are we consuming foods containing numerous poisonous chemicals, and which are severely lacking in nutritional value....
“Hybridized” is defined as the interbreeding between two animals or plants. Hybridization may produce a desired quality such as increased sugar content or “shelf life” but at the same time may also remove naturally occurring nutrients that are of great importance.
The rearranging of the genetic plant material between populations or species is often called hybridization. Many, present company included, consider most hybridization an outrage on nature producing an unnatural product. Genetically modified foods may look good, stay “fresh” longer, and be sweeter, but lack essential vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients such as antioxidants including; selenium, vitamin E, carotenoids, proanthocyanidans, chlorophyll, etc., as compared to unmodified organically grown natural produce. Genetic modification is the process of manipulating genes outside the organism’s natural reproductive process. Hybridization matches two strands of DNA that were not originally paired. There exists a growing consensus that this process, which rarely and in some cases would never occur in nature, may have totally unpredictable consequences which we as a species may come to regret.
As reported recently, honeybee populations have been mysteriously disappearing. Bees are dying in such dramatic numbers that the economic consequences could soon be dire. Some experts believe that the large scale use of genetically modified plants, and in particular, pollen from genetically modified corn is the culprit.... Even areas of nature that are critical to our very survival are at risk by the hands of those who would experiment with our futures in the name of higher corporate profits.
Due to these unnatural procedures employed with the focus on mass production and cost reduction, in conjunction with the elimination of varieties of foods, our modern diet is lacking in the essential healing carbohydrates and other plant nutrients, especially the long and very long chain polymannans, so important for the prevention and elimination of most of the chronic degenerative diseases that prevail and are continuing to increase....
If you ever had the pleasure and good fortune of eating a “Jersey hothouse tomato” from fifty years ago, you may recall its fantastic flavor and color. They were a huge multi-lobed fruit and had a deep, sometimes-purplish red color and a very distinctive tomato flavor. Compare that to a typical store bought tomato today which is a virtually flavorless, odorless, and lightly colored poor imitation of a tomato. Spinach that was grown in those days had fifty times the iron content compared with most spinach grown today. The same is true with virtually all commercially available foods.
Compare whole rye bread with its deep color, heavy weight, and rich distinctive flavor to “white bread” containing chlorinated or brominated bleached flour with its air pockets, a few synthetic vitamins, “partially hydrogenated oils,” other artificial ingredients, sugar, and preservatives. It has little fiber, minerals, or protein, just “empty calories” that quickly turn to sugar putting a stress on the pancreas and leading to elevated LDL, VLDL (the “bad” cholesterol), triglycerides, weight gain, digestive tract disorders, diabetes, and heart disease. The partially hydrogenated oil alone is one of the leading causes of dietary induced heart disease.
One must understand that there are an entire host of “lethal poisons” on our grocery shelves adorned with attractive wrappings. These poisons cannot be removed from the marketplace due in large to the modern day need for “shelf life.” Unfortunately, if you do not avoid these items, increased shelf life in the long run yields decreased human life.
Food processing with the addition of preservatives, sugar, salt, artificial colors, sweeteners, free flowing agents, and flavorings add to the toxic burden and nutritional destruction of our food supply. Furthermore, most people eat a less varied diet consisting of a short list of their “favorite foods.” The most commonly consumed “vegetable” today is French fries, which are full of hydrogenated oils and rancid fats. Commercially prepared fried foods are cooked in hydrogenated oils and fats that contain toxic preservatives such as BHT and BHA. Due to the high heat and length of time that these commercial oils are used, they are oxidized into toxic by-products. These toxic, rancidified oils and fats have been implicated in increasing the risk of heart disease and cancer. They are pro-inflammatory. Elevated levels of cholesterol, insulin, and triglycerides are widely considered to be cardiovascular risk factors.
The Aloe polymannans and numerous phytonutrients have been shown to lower total cholesterol and triglycerides, reduce elevated insulin, and blood glucose levels; lowering risk factors for cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes. Elevated insulin levels are a factor in obesity because the increased levels of insulin force blood sugar more rapidly into the cells which then must convert it to triglycerides for storage (in fat cells) because it cannot be utilized that rapidly for energy.
The Aloe polysaccharides and numerous phytonutrients also contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, all of which have protective effects against cardiovascular disease. Due to the fact that 80% of diabetics die from cardiovascular disease, the consumption of these healing components is of particular importance to anyone who has been diagnosed with diabetes.
So chemicals, including synthetic fertilizers have depleated the soils to the extent that nutritional value of crops is diminishing. However the response to this has been the use of even more synthetic farming methods and chemicals.
According to Joe Cross, the food we eat today is making us fat, and it's making us sick. And the vast, government-subsidized system of agribusiness and mechanized corporate food production is inefficient and unsustainable, slowly ruining our environment, our economy, and our culture.
Robert Kenner's film Food, Inc. lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that's been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. The mass industrialization of food that began mid-20th century promised abundance and cost-efficiency. By some measures, it would seem to have delivered on that promise. But Kenner's film is an appetite-killing primer on the myriad hidden costs that make the true prices much, much higher.
T. Colin Campbell, a nutritionist at Cornell University, said that "there is a lot of money tied up in the industry because it is profitable for companies to make factory foods." He added that, "Processed foods contain large amounts of fat, salt and sugar, and Americans have become addicted to them." Epidemiologic studies have shown that diets with higher levels of fat, salt and sugar lead to higher rates of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. The odds are stacking up against us: pollution, toxins, depleated soils, factory food, soaring population and stress. As many as 1/2 of Americans are expected to get cancer, and 1/3 will likely have diabetes!!! Yet most people have not developed or even seriously considered a personal plan or strategy for survival.
Many people eat more packaged and "fast" food than fresh food. It is hard to find healthy local food simply because local farmers have been run out... farmers who's families have been farming for centuries now have to turn to something else, as there is no competition for the giant that is the big industrial farms producing and shipping unripened produce to your local sypermarket.
Dr. Joel Furhman writes that most of the tens of thousands of items in a supermarket are manufactured to be convenient and look good but have little or no food value. Even the so-called "fresh food" loses more than half of its food value after a few days. Dr. Furhman writes that green vegetables, onions, mushrooms, beans, berries, are the essential foods, and that raw and unprocessed food is the critical technique for maximizing health and longevity.
The question then becomes how to make it easy to obtain healthy foods and have them readily available as needed. Even a small backyard garden is not just a good option but is becoming ever more essential.
- Dr. Joel Fuhrman on YouTube
- The Future of Food - Documentary by Debra Koons Garcia
- King Corn - the perils and problems with our industrial food system that are centered on cheap corn.
- Food Matters | Watch Free Documentary Online
- More films about food
- The Untold Story of Milk – by Ron Schmid.
- Foodborne illnesses
- Community Gardening Toolkit
- Sustainable agriculture
- Organic garden links list
- Food Safety Blog
- Eat This, Not That (Rodale Press) comprehensive guide to supermarkets is a real lifesaver, a supermarket survival guide.
- Food Reading List
- Food spiralizer - fast and easy way to eat more raw foods.
Food, Part 1