What's Behind the Label?

August 4, 2011
Jessica Buhler |

What’s Behind the Label?

Food. It’s what sustains us, nurtures us, and gives us life. It gives us strength, energy, and for some, the will to live another day. But where does this food come from? We see it in the supermarket displayed with such grandeur under lights, in boxes, jars, and cans with colorful labels.

It’s easy to pick a bunch of bananas off the shelf and place them in our shopping carts. It’s easy to use those bananas in your favorite recipe. But it’s also easy to forget that those bananas had to travel thousands of miles and through many people to become part of our shopping experience. It’s reading behind the label that is the hardest part.

We live in a generation that has become accustomed to washing our fruits and vegetables, buying highly processed meat and eating out of a can. After decades of exploitation and industry, the soil has become stripped of natural nutrients, the sea depleted of sustainable fish, and the land trampled by cattle.

Because of our lack of technology in the past, we have come to rely on artificial forms to ensure our plates are full. Soils are infused with chemicals to improve yield, within months of birth, calves are dehorned, vaccinated and castrated to improve quality of beef and naval battle technology is applied to fishing boats to improve their capacity to catch fish. Such severe measures are harming our environment, our bodies and the lives of those who produce the food we eat.

Every day people around the world get sick, contract diseases and die as a result of ingesting or absorbing chemicals and pesticides that are sprayed on crops, gardens and fields. Much of our food has traveled thousands of miles to reach us. Because of the travel distance, preservatives are added and pollution is contaminating the air.

Globalization has caused farmers in rural communities all around the world to go out of business. Many have been forced to work for governments demanding specific crops and people are not being paid a fair price for their produce. The organic movement has developed over the years, saying no to pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and fungicides and instead using animal manure and crop rotation.

Its time to take a trip back to the earth, manure and all…

What Can You Do?

• Buy locally to avoid transportation costs and the pollution that is emitted
• You can find organic and fair-trade products in health food stores and in the supermarket. All organic or fair-trade products should be marked with the USDA organic and the Fair Trade Certified label.
• Don’t support large corporations that import their products from developing countries. Many large businesses buy their produce from developing countries where workers are not paid a decent wage. Large multinational corporations also put small, family run stores out of business.
• Buy your meat from local farmers or delis, which have not butchered in factories that pollute and add preservatives for transportation.
• Search your farmer’s market or food co-ops for organic and fair-trade goodies. Go to www.betterworldshopper.com for other ideas about voting with your wallet.

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