Thursday, December 24, 2009

How Corporate Control Affects Your Food

There are two million farmers and 300 million eaters in the United States.

Standing between them are a handful of corporations who control how food gets from one side to the other.

Let’s change the equation.

For the first time ever, the Justice Department is on a fact-finding mission looking at how big business controls food and farming -- and they want to hear from YOU. Most of what matters to you about food -- and most of what probably makes you mad about why food isn't healthier, safer, tastier, etc. -- is affected by that narrow bottleneck of power between producers and consumers. Now's your chance: the Justice Department is specifically seeking comments and stories about how corporate control of the food system affects average citizens. Your voice matters.

Here are some themes to inspire your own thoughts. Take a look and then head here for some sample letters and an easy template to write your own! To learn more about the issue, check out our resources here.

• It's harder and harder to find healthy, locally produced foods in your community -- especially if you live in a low-income area, there might not be a supermarket for miles.

• Prices are rising at the supermarket, but you've heard that farmers are struggling -- and big food companies have made record profits this year.

• You feel like you don't have much choice about the food you eat -- maybe the produce selection is bad, or you don't like that everything seems to be made with corn products.

• It's hard for small food producers and processors to find markets for their products -- and it's hard for consumers to find products made by small producers.

Food seems less safe. You've read that the outbreak and spread of bacteria like E. coli happens much faster when meat and vegetables are processed in big centralized locations.

Local farms are going out of business, because small farmers can't compete with prices set by industrial farms and consolidated buyers.

There aren't many decent jobs in food and farming anymore -- there's a real lack of opportunities for both urban and rural youth who are interested in growing and preparing food.

What's in your food, anyway? And why aren't there decent labels telling you where it grew, what chemicals are on it, and if it's genetically modified?

• There is a "revolving door" of personnel between corporate lobbyists and government regulators. No wonder corporations aren't held to strict standards.

• Many rural communities have become ghost towns. The farmers that have survived often find themselves entirely at the mercy of corporations who own all parts of the supply chain (called "vertical integration") and can set prices in such a way to drive competitors out of business.

Just one company controls the majority of seeds in the US, and regularly threatens farmers who don't buy its seeds.

• Cows, chickens, and pigs are being raised in squalid conditions on huge industrial feedlots and pumped full of unnecessary antibiotics, which is unhealthy for them and potentially unsafe for the people eating them.

The food you can afford is bad for you; healthy food is expensive.

• Food is grown and raised in ways that are terrible for the environment, with methods that pollute the water, poison the soil, and threaten our long-term food security.

• A lot of food from the store just doesn't taste very good, which raises questions about where it’s come from and how it’s been treated.

Mad yet? Head here for an easy template for you to tell the Justice Department about your own experience. The Justice Department is specifically seeking comments and stories about how corporate control of the food system affects average citizens. Your comments will help to inform a series of hearings on the issue next year.

Your voice really matters.

To learn more about corporate consolidation in the food system, check out the resources here.