It seems that with my blogs on the subject of food (one of my favourite subjects, in fact), I have opened a can of worms (very good for your composting bin). Lots of comments. Thank you for those.

I’d like to add a bit of clarification to what I was saying the other day. I wasn’t suggesting that the “nanny state” (is that a British term? or international?) should dictate what we can and can’t eat. I like my naughty calories as much as the next person, and am all in favour of personal freedom to choose.

What I was really talking about was not the range of foods available, but how the ingredients in those foods are produced.

John, you say that producers are responding to what consumers want. But did consumers say they would rather have high fructose corn syrup rather than sugar in their Pepsi? Did they say they would rather have GM than non-GM foods? Did they say that they would like their McDonalds burger to come from cows that have lived up to their ankles in their own waste in a feed lot, and been fed on an unnatural diet of GM corn, ground up animal parts, growth hormone, and antibiotics? I don’t think so. Yet the big food companies can get away with all kinds of dodgy practices because consumers don’t ask questions, and food regulators don’t argue with Big Money.

In most American restaurants, the protein choices are: beef (see comments above), chicken (even worse), farmed salmon (also full of antibiotics and colourings, and disastrous effects on local marine environment), and shrimp (extremely damaging fishing practices, basically bulldozing the ocean floor of sponges, corals, and other species). So that leaves me with the veggie options, but eggs and milk products are usually contaminated by the same unnatural inputs as chickens and cows.

I am not saying that other countries are above reproach. Maybe I am just better informed about the US food industry, as there is more information available in books and films and online. But I don’t think that the food industry in other countries is quite as rich, nor as powerful to influence food regulation, as in the US.

At the same time, the nutritional value of even unprocessed food is plummeting. Broccoli had 75% less calcium in 1991 than it had in 1940. Carrots lost the same percentage of their magnesium. Potatoes lost nearly half of their copper and iron. A Canadian study comparing 1999 with 1951 showed that potatoes had lost all of their vitamin A and 57% of their vitamin C, while oranges had their vitamin A content slashed to an eighth of its former levels. Pre-industrialisation, crops used to be rotated to allow the earth’s mineral levels a chance to recover. Agricultural practices evolved over the centuries to ensure the quality of the long-term food supply; what one crop took out of the soil, the next year’s crop would put back in. But intensive farming has swept away those centuries of accumulated wisdom in order to feed our ever-growing population – and to make a few fortunate people very rich indeed.

Just like the fossil fuel industry, we are robbing from the future to feed the present.

Other Stuff:

A mixed bag of weather today. A procession of clouds with legs (squalls) meant I was forever adding and subtracting garments and waterproofs. Fortunately the forecast 20-foot waves didn’t show up (yet). Two little techno-hurrahs:

1. As my 2011 iPod finally died (battery refused to recharge) I rather nervously retrieved my precious MacBook Pro from its waterproof case in the fore cabin and synced it to my 2009 iPod, so now I have all my audiobooks again. Hurrah 1!

2. On impulse, I decided to try my Sanyo Xacti video camera, which had been languishing in a Pelican case since the on/off button stopped working last month. And it worked! Hurrah 2!

Cynthia Kruger – thank you so much for your input on organic farming. Great to hear from somebody who (unlike me!) really knows what she is talking about from the sharp end of the farming business. I do hope that the tide is turning, and that one day very soon the infrastructure will be in place to make it viable for more farmers to go organic. What else is needed? Subsidies (or at least an end to subsidies for big agri-business)? Advice for aspiring organic farmers? Some other form of centralized support?

Claire in LA – thanks for the book recommendation. I have made a note of it and will look it up when ashore.

Stephanie B – good for you and the Relay for Life. I hope it went well. Who DO you send the lighters to from the beach cleanups?

John H – the ultra-nutritious potato sounds handy, although in fact we already have enough food to feed everybody. It’s just that about half of it goes to waste.

Julian Hapel – I’ve met Mark Lynas a couple of times. He also featured in the thought-provoking film, “The Age Of Stupid”. I would generally give him credence, as I know how thorough he is in his research. As to “Stress Down Day”, what a great idea. Stress is a toxin, and will affect health just as surely as the toxins I was talking about above.

My prescription for Stress Down Day: Live simply, eat local, and always look on the bright side of life!

Quote: “There is no duty we do much underrate as the duty of being happy.” (Robert Louis Stevenson)

Photo: my pre-Jetboil days: boiling up water in my little red kettle in La Gomera in 2005.

Sponsored Miles: Today we thank the following people: Mark Reid, Sam Miller, Wayne Batzer, Catherine Thomas, Bruce Gervais, Larry Grandt. Some of these people have waited a long time for their names to come up!

12 Comments

  • Been browsing your blog on and off Roz; re: ‘Stability or Stagnation’, perhaps the Luddites were onto something after all??? As far as ‘naughty calories’ go, remember, it takes resources to produce them too, which may be put to other uses maybe? OOOPS! Beginning to sound a bit apocalyptic or something 😉 So I’ll put in my ha’penny worth of quotes, this one, which you may relate to, from Bernard Moitessier, “You do not ask a tame seagull why it needs to disappear from time to time toward the open sea. It goes, that’s all.” Go well Roz, over and out.

  • Roz, StinsonBeach here.

    Two things:

    1) the fish of day 74 is Mahi-Mahi or dolphin – the fish. Looks like a male. They are solitary & have the big bull-head. Took so long to answer because I thought you’d get a hundred answers!

    2) you said recently: “I feel almost like pure thought.” Look closer at that –  you are.

    Have fun!

             -jb

  • Mark’s quote for the day. “I keep thinkin, but nothing happens”. Curly, 3 Stooges.
    Applies to many politicians as well.

  • Roz, you wrote: “But did consumers say they would rather have high fructose corn syrup rather than sugar….”  Some companies have focus groups to determine what will sell best … for business, the #1 job is maximum profit.  That is the bottom line of capitalism.  But, aren’t we at a point in history, civilization and human development that the current economic model has outlived its purpose, like very large families needed to populate and control the world by specific interest groups a few centuries ago is now outlived its purpose?  Has not the cart gotten in front of the horse?

    A couple days ago http://bit.ly/Roz77Comment I recommended Gus Speth’s book “The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability” and his lecture “A New American Environmentalism and the New Economy” – http://bit.ly/GusNewEco 

    I’d like to peak Rozling curiosity with the following excerpt:

    “Many of the enforcement agencies  are securely captured by the industries they regulate, others are blocked from effective action by industry’s endless litigation and political counter attacks. Stronger laws are tortuously difficult to enact and invariably studded with purposeful loopholes designed to delay effective enforcement for years, even decades.”

    “The system of modern capitalism as it operates today will generate even larger consequences, outstripping  efforts to manage them. Indeed, the system will seek to undermine those efforts and constrain them within narrow limits…. Working only within the system will, in the end, not succeed when what is needed  is a transformative change in the system itself.”

    Row satiated, Roz!

  • Roz; very briefly; you are right and it is a point I have been making all along – there’s a total lack of education, particularly at the school level, about food and nutrition. Most people have no idea what is in the foods that they prefer nor how it is produced.

  • Roz, to quote Don Knotts from the movie “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken”,  “ata boy Clyde”! (rather someone in the audience quote) Couldn’t agree more with your take on the foods we eat!
    BTW, I take it that “nude rowing” is not the norm lately.
    IF you’re headed in the right direction, KEEP ROWING! If not, right yourself.

  • Hi Roz . . . not sure exactly what we need but we DO need to get rid of the subsidies paid to the large agri-business companies for sure.  They pretty much dictate the prices the farmers and ranches receive.  I’ll think more on the things we could do to encourage more farmers and ranchers to go organic and sustainable.  But I would note that as long as we’re using fossil fuels (in any way) in our operations we will never be truly sustainable. [even solar is not truly sustainable as long as fossil fuels are used in the production of the equipment or mined minerals are used – a sticky wicket for sure]

    Just today in an email from Farm Aid was this factoid that is perfect to use here:

    “Today, just four companies own 83.5% of the beef market, 66% of the hog industry and 58.5% of the broiler chicken industry. These giant meatpackers and poultry processors have enjoyed unchecked market power, allowing them to control prices, issue unfair contracts with farmers and bully, intimidate and abuse farmers who stand up against corporate power.”

    And there is similar concentration in the grain buying and milling industry to which I sell my grains.

  • Hi Roz,

    Love your comments on our self-image and internal peering versus external appearances. The differences between peer pressure, marketing lure and personal ego can be pretty tricky to navigate, and few of us have the outlook or skills to take on the job – so occasional external motivational imperatives can only ever be a temporary peek in the mirror. Nietzsche was right about our being ‘all too human’.

    The whole food debate is a tricky slope to tread. My wife recently bought me a copy of John Seymour’s “Self-Sufficient Life and how to live it” through Amazon. I went to the shed and brought out a well-thumbed copy of “The Complete Guide to Self-Sufficiency” which was the original book written by John Seymour and purchased by myself way back in the ’70’s… So all that is new is most likely quite old (at least, in my limited view example…). The book has the most wonderful introduction and in light of todays issues and problems, is incredibly prophetic. i won’t burden your blog with the content, as it is a full two pages but it is well worth a read. Like your earlier comment, John Seymour (and his band of followers now that he has passed away) also was of the mind that each do what they can as they can, according to their abilities and opportunities. 

    It’s amazing where the world can lead you over the years. I never wanted an indoor job, and an office was a slow form of death in my teenage outlook. Yet here i am as a financial planner, incredibly happy in an office role. I bore you with this aside in an effort to gain some credibility on making a financial comment…

    The large companies do get large subsidies. There is a lot of things wrong with the way food is obtained, prepared and distributed. However, we should be careful of allowing ourselves to become too narrow in our outlook on this. It is not a well-published fact that a huge chunk of the total EU subsidies are paid to maintain their traditional farming economy (ever heard of the EU ‘mountains of butter’?). Japan follows a similar pathway. There is enough food in the world, and there is enough resource but most likely not enough if we all try to adopt a Euro-centric crop rotation methodology, ignore technological advances and try to adopt supply based economies (think Soviet 5 year plans, Cambodian return-to-the-old-ways imperatives and the like). If enough of we developed world folk decide to buy our plot of land and work it, we’d realise there isn’t enough and then it’s highly likely we’ll end up bidding out developing world people from their land (as the Chinese, Saudi Arabian governments, as well as US and UK hedge fund managers are doing right now). It’s a bit like the mis-guided Western tokenism of bio-fuels causing massive food inflation for the global poor, while making all those using “green” fuel feel better about themselves.

    This may be a tad cynical and negative but that is not my intent. Rather, it’s a backing to your comment that simply starting to pay attention to where food comes from and how it is prepared, can be beneficial to the planet.  And if enough of us do it then maybe organically grown food can become more than a super-high price novelty at local supermarkets. Thinking global and acting local can be a game breaker.

    A lot of the bigger initiatives tend to be tokenism, and common-sense BS sniffing soon leads to disenchantment with that pathway – a bit like the global attempts at  greenhouse gas reductions, where carbon taxes and trading systems are based on being seen to do something rather than achieving something. 

    i am continuously amazed at your ability and discipline to get your updates posted. Incredibly well done.

    Michael

  • Hurrah Roz!….McDonalds are  the scourge of the planet (one of many)!!
     Bravo for  reiterating such reflections on the grotty state of “big” food producers.
    BTW how is Lovely Rita , data maid” and her leg?
    Safe waters and happy winds 🙂
    David

  • Roz

    Your qoute yesterday from Robert Louis Stevenson reminded me of his account of a rowing trip through the canals of Europe.  “An Inland Voyage”  An interesting read.  You have something in common with Robert Louis Stevenson.  Well two things, writing & rowing. 

    You also inspired me to embark on a rowing adventure.  I dragged my homemade rowboat from winter storage and launched it upstream of the “Minesing Swamp”.  I was swept along with the spring flood and soon found myself deep in the swamp.  Eight log-jams and six hours later I floated out the other end and called for a ride home.  Great day I won’t forget, thanks for the push-off. 

    That was in April, and you were well into your trip by then.  Now, my adventure is just a memory, but you are still out there! 

    Have lots of fun for the rest of your voyage, and call for a ride home when your finished.

    Robert

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