I read the book Food Politics by Robert L. Paarlberg of Wellesley College. Even though I didn’t understand or agree with everything, I really enjoyed the book. It gave a very direct straightforward overview of EVERYTHING having to do with food in about 200 pages. Pretty impressive if you ask me.
What I learned? Food is complicated! Well, food politics are complicated. Paarlberg seemed pretty conservative and pro-science, i.e. GMO loving, organic overrating, pro-pesticide, pro-every government food agency and the experiments they run, and pro-feed-the-hungry (possibly exaggerating…) His point, I think, being that those who are preventing high yield seeds/farming, GMOs, and pesticides in poorer countries are not helping the overall cause to FEED THE HUNGRY. While there is a ton of food being grown, who cares how it’s done, as long as people are fed.
I think I get that.
He’s not anti-organic or local, but he does seem to think it’s a bit overcautious and overrated when the world faces bigger problems like hunger and obesity. He explains that research has been done over and over to show that organic/local foods are not significantly more nutritious OR significantly more toxic (due to pesticides) than any other type of produce. But he doesn’t completely throw out the importance of local/organic/slow for social and cultural benefits:
It should not be surprising, in today’s more secular age, to find people searching for food rules to follow that express solidarity around secular values. The new rules that emerge (organic, local, or slow) are attractive and practical only for relatively small subcategories of citizens or often for only a small part of the diet of those citizens–but the exclusivity and difficulty of the rule become a part of its attraction. The goal is to find and express through the diets we adopt a solidarity with others who share our identity, our values, or our particular life circumstances. The scientific foundation for these modern food rules may be weak, but the social value can nonetheless be strong.
It was a tough book to swallow, but in the end, I think it’s important to live a more local/organic/slow lifestyle (as much as you can, and you can), but also to realize that that lifestyle (for the time being) is not ideal for everyone, especially for the poorest of the poor. And in this realization: eating good food for myself and my local community, I ought to advocate for MORE FOOD (any food!) to those with none.
I don’t really know what this looks like. The issues are big, global, and government dependent. If a national government isn’t feeding its citizens, then what do I do? What do you do?
While I currently know little about it, I think I would like to help global communities learn to farm better. And this starts with better understanding my own farming nation.
How do you navigate the seemingly pretentious food world while also giving to the global hungry?