Monday, November 19, 2007

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle Review

As I wrote in a couple of my Wellness Wednesday posts on my Stitches of Grace blog, I have been reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver and her husband Steven L. Hopp and daughter Camille Kingsolver. As the cover flap describes it, it is part memoir and part journalistic investigation. Interspersed are recipes and seasonal menus that the reader might find helpful in their own efforts. If you would like to read more from their perspective, I recommend visiting their website Animal, Vegetable, Miracle which contains the recipes from the book along with other resources in local eating and sustainable food. Some of the resources from the book I have provided in my links sections at the left. This is still a work in progress, so if you find anything inappropriate or not working correctly, please let me know.

First, I must say that the information really is NOT new in her book. Much of what she wrote, my Grandmother shared with me in the 1970s. There is up to date information on genetically modified food and seeds as well as how commodity crops have damaged our food supply, our health and even potentially the economies of poorer nations that buy our excess. If you are already aware of the food and seed situation, organic gardening and sustainable living, this book will probably be redundant. Personally, I think I would have enjoyed it more if she had shared more memoir than food culture evangelism. However, I can understand her passion about this topic after working hard at it for a year and certainly lending her "celebrity" status as an author to this cause couldn't hurt. Her ideas are quite liberal and she has a Masters Degree in evolutionary biology, but that is only mentioned briefly in reference mainly to animal and plant health selection. It really does not interfere with the whole concept of the book.

With that introduction, or warning, I would like to proceed with some gleanings from the book.

* This generation of American children is the first generation to have a shorter life span than their parents.

* The Government promotes increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, but continues to subsidize commodity crops and not fruit and vegetable farmers. In fact, the Farm Bill, really "kills" the small farmers.

* After WWII, there was an excess of ammonium nitrate from explosives. This was made into fertilizers after discovering how it made the crops grow.

* Because of this, commodity crops increased after WWII. A commodity farmer, generally growing corn and soybean, needs large acreage to run at full force in order to make their efforts profitable because they make a miniscule amount per acre, compared to small farmers.

* Commodity farming produced excess. This excess had to be put to use somehow, since the government was paying for it. (I do not think this was an evil plan as some do. I think it was the consequences off poor planning and foresight as well as incomplete knowledge of how altering Creation would effect us.) A secondary industry developed, producing items such as High Fructose Corn Syrup, Soy oil used in "everything" and feeding corn to cattle to fatten them (this is unnatural for them and they would not do this on their own). It fattens cows and it is fattening us too!

* $10 Billion is spent on advertising foods to kids every year!

* Food travels an average of 1500 miles to reach us. This uses a lot of petroleum fuel.

* Vegetables lose flavor and nutrition because of transport.

* If every US citizen ate one meal (any meal) each week composed only of locally and organically grown meats and produce, it would reduce our country's oil consumption by 1.1 barrels a week! I found this astonishing!

* The main barrier between ourselves and local food culture is attitude, not price.

* While we are not the only country to each processed foods and foods from all over the world, primarily other countries eat what is local to them. The French eat French food, the Italians eat Italian etc.

* When we eat food only when it is in season, we eat it at its best taste and nutritional value.

* Most of us no longer know when certain items are in season because most thing are available in the supermarket year round. But if compared a food in its season to one grown out of season in a hot house, you will likely taste a huge difference. Just think how great your home grown tomatoes taste!

* Fruits and Vegetables are now bred to be indestructibe in transport, not to have the best taste. Heirloom varieties of produce are ones that Grandma and Grandpa grew in their garden and that neighbors used to share seeds with neighbors. (Soon I will have some heirloom links up as I want to explore this further!)

* Humans have historically eaten some 80,000 plant species but now 75% of all human food comes from 8 species and this is quickly narrowing down to three genetically modified species: Corn, Soy and Canola.

* Plants are now viewed as patentable properties, not God given gifts.

* 6 companies - Monsanto, Syngenta, Du Pon, Mitsui, Avanti and Dow, now control 98% of the world's (not just US) seed supply. (Is anyone else concerned about many of these being HUGE chemical companies?!)

* Plants are genetically modified to resist Roundup so that they can spray the crop and it will survive but the weeds will die. (Have you read the warnings on a bottle of Roundup lately? Did you know that you are eating it with your food? I didn't!)

* Monsanto owns the patent on this genetically modified seed. Surprise! It also owns the patent on Roundup.

* The Government does not require genetically modified food to be labeled as such, so unless you are purchasing food that is from a known source or marketed as being non-modified, you are eating genetically modified foods every day.

* Traditional farmers raised many crops of both animals and plants because crop failure was inevitable. Modern farming places all its eggs in one basket, thus there is an increased need to control the outcome, preventing tragedies like the Irish Potato Famine.

This is the end of part one. I will continue in part two. I am sorry to break this up, however, it is important to spend some time off the computer each day! lol In addition to giving further insights from the book, I would like to discuss practical ways of applying this information to our own lives without going overboard.

1 comment:

Holly said...

I am reading this book, too. When I read that Monsanto has a $10 million budget to investigate and prosecute seed savers-and that they are selling their GM seed to the companies I have done business first step is to toss those catalogs if they come to my house this winter and to find out more about the Seed Saver's Exchange!