This is not a problem we can solve by going vegetarian or vegan, or buying organic and fair trade. We cannot separate "food issues" from economics.
It is no longer news that a few powerful corporations have literally dominate what the vast majority eat and drink. Nearly all of human food production, seeds, food processing and sales, is run by a handful of for-profit firms which, like any capitalist enterprise, function to maximize profit and gain ever-greater market share and control. Industrial agribusiness corporations like Cargill, Monsanto, ADM and Dupont have gained control of our food systems
“Every stage of the food system involves some sort of destructive or exploitive practice, and we really need to change that,” said Alec Higgins with Occupy Wall Street Food Justice
This Big Food system produces an astounding 1.3 billion tons of animal waste every year. It sprays half a million tons of toxic pesticides on our food each year. We are literally eating oil, as author Rick Manning has put it: annually 400 gallons of fossil fuel per person, 100 billion gallons a year as a nation. Rivers and streams across America are polluted by this industrial agriculture. The connection between deforestation-related emissions and agricultural expansion is well documented. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), agriculture and deforestation account for roughly one third of global greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. Global demand for cheap beef has pushed the Brazilian cattle sector deeper into the Amazon where rainforest is burned to make further room for a herd that has grown to 75 million cows. Industrial cattle expansion into the Amazon is the largest driver of deforestation there. This, in turn, is the largest single source of Brazil’s massive carbon emissions, helping to make Brazil the fourth largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting country in the world. The third largest emitter of global GHG emissions is Indonesia--another country seeing tremendous forest loss and carbon emissions at the hands of agricultural expansion - in this case for palm oil. The rapid expansion of palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia is a direct result of our food decisions.
We all deserve a future where what we eat feeds community and land, instead of eroding soils, polluting water and air.
But at least these corporations feed the world, right? Wrong! Worldwide, more than 850 million people go hungry every day. In the U.S., 48 million people, including 16 million children, do not have a reliable, secure food supply. Twenty percent of families with children are food-insecure. Why all this hunger amid a global food bounty in which UN Food and Agriculture Organization data show we have far more than enough to feed everyone? Poverty. Unemployment. Underemployment.
But at least McDonald's, Walmart, Safeway, et al. offer us "cheap" food, right? Wrong! We pay more than $100 billion a year in medical costs due to diet-related diseases from Big Food's relentless production and marketing of junk "food" and highly processed foods. We pay countless more dollars for injured and maimed workers who risk life and limb daily on the fast-food assembly line; for environmental cleanups from factory farms' rivers of toxic waste; and we pay roughly $15 billion a year, sometimes more, to subsidize corporate agribusiness commodities like corn and soy.
Then there is the brutal sweatshop-style labor we eat. All our food today relies on terribly exploited workers, both in the U.S. and abroad. Our daily meals rest on underpaid, impoverished immigrants, tens of thousands of whom are injured each year. We cannot continue to ignore the abuse of people, land and animals by the corporations that claim to feed the world.
We need to understand that this isn't just a few bad corporations -- this is capitalism doing what it naturally does, exploiting people and land for profit. Capitalism's endless need for new markets, new products and new lands and people to exploit is putting our entire planet and future in peril. We must re-socialize food and other life essentials.