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Marita Prandoni

Marita Prandoni photo courtesy of Marita PrandoniMarita Prandoni has a passion for exploring different cultures and worldviews. She draws inspiration from her family, tutoring extraordinary youth, meeting unexpected heroes and from the stunning natural beauty of her home turf in and around Santa Fe, NM.

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Food Independence or Interdependence?
Monday, 01 July 2013 00:00  |  Written by Marita Prandoni | Blog Entry

Garden Tomatoes photo by Mark RobinsonMore and more, people are experimenting with local eating, many inspired by bestselling books like Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and The 100-Mile Diet by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon. My primary motivation, though, comes from examining a food system that has been hijacked by multinational agribusiness. For me, eating locally is not just trendy or health conscious. It’s political.

What’s Political about Food?
Food prices have been spiraling upward of late. Not only is food inflation hurting American pocketbooks, it’s behind much of the current geopolitical upheaval in Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean. Hunger is on the rise and it’s the corporate concentration in the global food trade that is breaking the system.

The world’s poorest people spend up to 80% of their income on food. The rate of growth in agricultural yields is half of what it was in 1990 and is expected to be less than 1% over the next decade. Multiple reasons are to blame, primarily:

  • an increase in water-, pesticide- and fertilizer-intensive cultivation of genetically engineered crops
  • climate change
  • land and water grabs by foreigners
  • the rush to turn food into biofuels
  • population growth and
  • more people turning to protein-heavy diets.

The World Bank estimates that rising food prices have swept 44-million more people into poverty—within the last year alone. Meanwhile, the world’s largest grain traders in corn, soy and wheat—ADM, Bunge, Cargill and Dreyfus, also known as “the ABCD four”—are making off like bandits. Argentina is currently suing them for tax evasion and inflating costs to claim tax credits there.

If we want a more equitable distribution of food resources, we should avoid buying grains that are grown and traded by corporate giants—especially those that are genetically engineered. One way to do that is to grow what you can on your own and rely on small-scale, local farms when you cannot. If your local farmers do not grow grain, buy GMO-free and organic grains.

What Kind of Diet Promotes Health?
What a majority of Americans perceive as food and choose to consume is not just shocking and embarrassing, it is a major reason for our healthcare crisis. By moving down the food chain—eating more vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes and less meat, dairy and processed fare—people can improve their health.

According to the Earth Policy Institute, Italians live longer than Americans despite lower healthcare expenditures due to a Mediterranean diet that is lighter in protein. If Americans matched the protein consumption of Italians, the world grain harvest could feed twice as many people. If a significant percentage of Americans went vegetarian, we could feed billions more.

Which Foods Use Less Energy?
Since climate chaos is overwhelmingly in the international daily news, we should be aware of it and thus factor the food-energy equation into our dietary choices. Studies show that a plant-based diet requires roughly one-fourth as much energy as a diet rich in meat. And, of course, produce and value-added products that do not travel far between the source and your dinner plate generate less carbon and are more delicious. Hence a locally sourced vegan or vegetarian diet is by far the less energy intensive. The fact that it’s also better for your health is a wonderful bonus.

What Are Some Other Benefits of Food Independence?
People who live on biodiverse and rich, arable land are at an advantage for attaining food independence—the ability to nourish themselves without depending on outside purveyors. Whether in deserts, on islands or at high altitude, cultures throughout history have thrived by adapting their diets in harmony with the geographic region they occupy.

Humanity has been exchanging grain, seeds, spices and recipes over large expanses of land and sea for millennia, so we have evolved within a broadened dietary experience. It would seem extreme to be completely deprived of foreign flavors and ethnic delights. In this age of climate instability and widespread social unrest, however, we should break free from agribusiness bondage and eat mostly what grows close to home. Fortunately, where I live in the mountainous Southwest, a smorgasbord of heritage fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains are making a comeback.

It is not competition and independence that enrich the web of life, but cooperation and sharing. A more sustainable model is one of interdependence. Buying and trading fair, local edibles within bioregional boundaries can contribute to personal and global health—and equally important, a resilient circle of friends.

Additional resources:
GMOs Cause Increase in Chronic Diseases, Infertility and Birth Defects
Why Mother Nature Loves a Vegan
How to Plant a Vegetable Garden

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