Jan 18

“Farmer in Chief” was an interesting, thought provoking read. I’ll be honest, before reading it I didn’t really think twice about where my food came from. Being a student on a budget, all I cared about was the cost of my delicious food. The cheaper the food was, the more likely I was to buy it. After all, I didn’t know that there was a negative correlation between cost of food affecting environmental problems.

This text went in depth describing what needs to be done to mitigate the environmental problems. One of the biggest cases it makes is the need to decentralize the food industry.

Let’s face it, businesses all around the world are doing whatever they can to keep costs low during this time of economic uncertainty. Even the airlines are charging for items that should be included in the fare, such as checked baggage and soft drinks. They are forced into taking these measures in order to stay profitable, or at least break even. The same goes for the food industry. Centralizing works very well from an economic standpoint, they can focus solely on one product (such as bananas) cheaper than if they processed the product in local distribution centers.

Reading about how inefficient and how environmentally harmful these practices are actually made me think about the positives of globalization. We should be lucky that we live in the age of being only 20 hours (give or take) from anywhere on the globe. While it may seem inefficient shipping products from NorCal to SoCal via Alaska, it is important to realize that centralization allows for faster distribution with the resources given to us (i.e. not local farms). It is amazing to think how produce can be literally moved to the other side of the world overnight.

The text also gives an interesting resolution of bringing farming to the White House, with the Executive Chef preparing food from locally grown farms. I found it interesting how the author recommends for the chef to post where he got the daily ingredients. One of my original thoughts were, “Who would actually read this?”  Then I realized it would be interesting for incentives for the farms such as “White House Featured Farm” to boost the moral of farmers and the consumers who buy from those farms. It is also an interesting proposal to have the first family do gardening to try to encourage more Americans that “farming isn’t dead”.

Along the lines of listing sources, another resolution is putting an auxiliary barcode on food to track it’s origins, even showing pictures of where the animal is slaughtered. At this point, who would even considering buying the food, when they see the gruesome steps it took to get to the supermarket.

After reading this, I can’t look at cheap food (such as Fast Food, “snack food”, etc.) the same as I did before. I don’t want to admit it but by purchasing the food and supporting these companies I am contributing to the problem, reminding me of the phrase “if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem”.

This all seems to come down to economics, this could only happen if everyone, both producers and consumers, has money in order to “invest” in this. Economics will trump environmental concerns as more people are concerned about their personal finances than the future of the planet and everyone as a whole.

Lastly, I find an ethical dilemma regarding having the government pass regulations on food to consume as well as changing the definition of “food”. Ethically, can the government regulate what people put in their body? Giving incentives to purchase locally grown, nutritious solar food makes sense, but redefining what “food” is going to far.  They have good intentions, but ultimately it is limiting freedoms.

I wish I could have attended the Socratic Seminar on “Farmer in Chief” as I had a lot of observations and connections to make and wanted classmates insight, however, I was out of the class due to an interview with British Broadcasting Corporation. If I were to attend the Socratic Seminar, I would have used these prompts in order to spark discussions:

1. Whose decision is it to what citizens of a certain country put in their body? Is it ethical for congress to pass laws banning certain types of food?

2. Would changing the definition of “food” be beneficial to the decentralization of the food industry? Can we really change the definition of something millions of people are accustomed to?

3. Apart from educating the youth (as the text says through nutrition classes, lunch programs, etc.), how will the public be made aware of this campaign to decentralize the food industry?

4. In the interim, what can global agriculture leaders (such as Dole and Chiquita) do to mitigate their carbon footprint?

5. Will economics trump environmental concerns in implementing a plan to decentralize the food industry?

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