Wendell Berry once said “the Earth is what we all have in common.” It is one of my favorite quotes to return to when I’m getting down and out about the unrest in the world, and particularly, as of late, the extreme socio-political divisions here in the U.S. that have put many of us at odds with our neighbors. I often think about the many ways in which we all depend on the pale blue dot. During this time of year, the harvest, I am especially reminded of just how much the earth sustains us, and think that Berry’s idea could be applied to a connected concept – food is what we all have in common. Today, on World Food Day, I can think of a million ways we could celebrate that commonality, empower each other, and support food security and sustainability for everyone. Here are a few that top the list:
1. Challenge politicians to address food issues:
So much is at stake this November for the future of our movement. There is one presidential debate left and we can still offer input on which food policy questions we want the candidates to address. Will we enact policies to stop the routine use of antibiotics in meat and poultry to protect their effectiveness in treating human illnesses? Will we allow a massive Monsanto merger and unprecedented corporate agricultural consolidation? Will we act to reverse the decimation of our critical pollinators? Will we give Americans the right to know about the food we buy and fee our families? Let’s challenge the candidates to tell us how they’re going to improve our food system. This election, debate moderators are reviewing the top questions on Open Debates, a platform where voters can submit and vote on the questions they’d most like to hear the candidates answer. Vote for your favorite food and agriculture question!
2. Speak out against seed company mergers:
Food availability and accessibility begin with equitable and fair access to land and vital natural resources, including seeds. However, over the last few decades, a handful of agrichemical giants have acquired much of the world’s seed supply. Just five companies – Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Dow and Bayer – account for 62% of world seed sales. The continuing consolidation of seed and pesticide companies will only increase incentives to make agriculture more pesticide-intensive and pesticide-dependent – through development of more pesticide-promoting GMO crops and through application of pesticidal coatings on seeds of all crops. This wreaks havoc on public health, small and family farmers, and the environment, and threatens our ability to adapt our food supply in a changing climate. Recently, over 700,000 people urged the government to block the mergers of seed companies. Add your voice!
3. Encourage food producers to take responsibility:
One in three bites of food depends on bees for pollination. But since the mid-2000's, bees have been dying at alarming rates and beekeepers continue to struggle to keep their hives healthy enough to pollinate many of our food crops. One of the biggest threats to bees right now is pesticide-coated seeds. Scientific studies have continued to point to a group of insecticides called neonicotinoids (“neonics”) as a leading culprit in bee population losses and poor colony health. While corn dominates the neonic seed coating market, popcorn also has a big stake in the game, as a large percentage of popcorn seeds are coated with neonics. That’s why we’re asking popcorn producers to phase out the use of neonics in their supply chains. You can help by signing the petition to tell Orville Redenbacher to stop killing bees!
4. Keep it clean:
There is no reason that wastewater from oil drilling should be used to irrigate crops. Yet in California, where over half of the fruits, nuts and vegetables that feed our country are grown, that is the reality. Oil companies use toxic, cancer-causing chemicals in their operations and then supply their wastewater to irrigate crops at a discounted price. But using oil wastewater to irrigate our food has not been proven safe—neither for the health of the public nor for the health of farm workers, who are exposed firsthand to these chemicals. Californians have reached out to their state government, presenting a petition with over 350,000 signatures urging the governor to stop the practice of oil wastewater irrigation. But this issue doesn’t just impact Californians – it impacts Americans all across the country who eat food grown in the state. Add your name to the petition to keep oil wastewater off of crops!
5. Start a chain reaction:
There is growing awareness among the public about the overuse of antibiotics in animals raised for food. This awareness is leading many to seek meat and poultry raised in more sustainable systems that do not rely on routine use of antibiotics. Most meat served by America's chain restaurants comes from animals raised in factory farms. These animals are often fed antibiotics daily in order to prevent diseases that occur in crowded, unsanitary living conditions, and to promote faster growth. Regularly dosing animals with antibiotics for purposes other than treating illnesses has contributed to rising cases of antibiotic-resistant infections in humans that are resistant to important medicines. The spread of resistant pathogens means that infections are harder to treat, require longer hospitalizations, and pose greater risk of death. Choosing meats raised without routine antibiotics is a way for consumers to help curb the spread of resistant pathogens and protect the efficacy of critical human medicines. CFS and our partners recently released the 2016 report ranking America’s top 25 restaurant chains on their antibiotic use. Many improved from last year, but several others still have a ways to go. Keep the chain reaction going by putting pressure on those restaurants that scored an ‘F’!
As you can see, there are a lot of challenges in our current food system that we need to overcome. But working together, we have the power to shape a food future that is healthy and sustainable for people, animals, and the earth – this special place that we all have in common. Happy World Food Day!