Seeds & Why We Should Care

In the headlines recently, I am reading more and more about the threat against the trade of seeds. This is incredibly troubling for several reasons – mainly because seeds are life, and for many areas of the world, the acts of saving and trading seeds are a matter of being well-nourished or not. Or a matter of financial security or not. And while most of us are rather disconnected with seeds because we aren’t growing our own food, it is an issue that affects all of us.

So, seeds – why care? Well, seeds equal food. Seeds are important to our survival. Seeds carry genetic history of crops that have been cultivated for hundreds of years. The ability to save seeds – seeds that have proven to be resilient to a particular climate; seeds that grow to be the tastiest watermelon; seeds that have been passed down from your great grandmother’s garden – this is something that should not be infringed upon.

In today’s global food system, we have come to worship the monoculture system – meaning, we grow one variety of the big crops, such as corn, soy, and wheat versus a multitude of the varieties in each crop. This is problematic because it leaves our food system vulnerable to things like disease. Growing monocultures became popular 50-60 years ago because farmers could grow high yields under the “Green Revolution,” which was anything but ‘green.’ It basically encouraged farmers to “get big or get out” – at the expense of the environment and the economic well-being of farming families and communities.

Governments cracking down on the trading of seeds enrages me. The first story
that had me muttering curse words was out of Malawi where seed saving and trading are critical to the survival of the small farmer. The new seed policy could ban farmers from such actions and force them to purchase seeds from the international seed companies (seeds that need to be bought new year after year as they created to not be saved). The ridiculous reasoning for such a policy is that it is actually protecting the farmers by reducing their risk of getting “counterfeit seeds” from other farmers and local stores. What a load of shite. And guess who one of the lead authors of the policy is? An ex-Monsanto employee. I can’t make this crap up. Monsanto is one of the companies that will certainly benefit from these anti-seed saving policies.   

The other article that caught my attention pertained to what is going on in our own backyards. Nearly 30 states have passed “seed-preemption laws designed to block counties and cities from adopting their own rules on the use of seeds, including bans on GMOs.” Now, I don’t want to get into the whole GMO thang in this blog, but when these laws use language from a draft created by ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), whose members include the Koch brothers, Monsanto, and DuPont, it should raise a red flag.

So, what should we do? It’s a complex problem with no simple answer. What I do know is we should do what we can to protect food rights. Here in Cleveland, we have the Cleveland Seed Bank, which provides access to seeds at seven local libraries. Get some seeds. Grow some food. Support small farmers doing the right thing. Protect the pollinators. Spread the word.    

Eating Like Americans = More Factory Farms

This week, Guardian ran the article, “Rise of mega farms: how the US model of intensive farming is invading the world,” which the title alone was enough to make my blood boil without reading the actual story. As an ethical vegan, dietitian, and a sustainability advocate, the thought of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) increasing in number across the globe is highly problematic for the animals, our health, and the overall well-being of the environment. According to the article, in the last 17 years, 9 BILLION more animals are being raised as livestock – 15 billion versus 24 billion – with the vast majority on large intensive farms. 

How did we get here? Our food system is a multi-faceted one with farm consolidation, poor agricultural policy, absurd nutrition policy advocating for ‘leaner’ meats (especially chicken), globalisation, and the need for ‘cheap’ food to feed the masses all serving as reasons why we are where we are. I plan on addressing many of these reasons in future blogs. 

Why should you care? For simplicity’s sake, let’s just look at the numbers as outlined in the Guardian article. As defined in the US, CAFOs house 125,000 broiler (meat) chickens, 82,000 egg-laying hens, 2,500 pigs, or 700 dairy or 1,00 beef cattle. There are over 50,000 CAFOs in this country alone. Bottom line - that is a lot of shit. Feces is a big environmental problem with animal ag because it is a pollutant and can also carry harmful pathogens. Additionally, we cannot ignore that roughly 75% of antibiotics used globally are given to farm animals. Resistance to antibiotics is something we should be trying to avoid, ya’ know. Further, I am tired of the absurd justifications for large-scale farming of animals, which includes the argument that housing animals in such large numbers allows for better care because the elements are easier to control and they are protected from predators. Just stop. We ARE the predators in this disturbing mass production of living beings.

And more animals being raised for food means that American dietary patterns are spreading, and the last thing we need is the world imitating our meat consumption patterns. The USDA recommends 5-6 ounces of protein per day for adults. While this can totally be from vegan options like beans, nut butters, and nuts/seeds, the vast majority of Americans consume animal foods as their main protein source. Today while driving to work, a radio ad came on encouraging folks to ditch the standard ¼ lbs. burger and go for the 8 ounce roast beef sandwich. And we all know people will – and they will consumer excessive animal protein again and again, day after day. Reassuring folks that they can go a meal without animal protein, and instead enjoy fantastic plant-based options, is an ongoing struggle I face as a dietitian.

Meat is so incredibly entrenched in our culture, and the fact that other countries are follow suit is frightening. There is no way to produce BILLIONS of animals in a sustainable manner. We have eaten our way into sheer and utter disaster, and we must act now in order to slow down the mess we have created.   

Holy Crap, I'm Blogging Again.

Fair to say my blogging became severely neglected since 2014 when I began graduate school. Working full-time, putting in 20+ hrs a week for course work, and running an animal rescue left me rather spent, y'all. That said, I would like to get back into the swing of writing again. In case you didn't know, I finished my graduate degree in Sustainable Food Systems from Green Mountain College this past February. My Capstone project was titled, "Digging in the Dirt: A Pilot Study Addressing Sweat Equity and Its Influence on Registered Dietitians' Views About the Local Sustainable Food System." Basically, I took a group of RDs to a local urban farm operated by The Refugee Response and taught them about sustainable food systems (SFS) concepts and we all participated in a farm chore. It was an amazing experience, and I hope to submit my manuscript for journal publication soon.

Given my recent degree, I plan on blogging about SFS issues, along with veganism and everything in between. Addressing intersectionality is incredibly important for anyone who identifies as an activist. So, here's to some snarky, informative blogging in the coming days...