Saturday, November 28, 2015

Eco Watch and Carrageenan

I'm extremely disappointed with Eco Watch for publishing this article touting the benefits of carrageenan, a seaweed extract that causes inflammation and some studies say it is carcinogenic. The article is wrong on many levels. It argues that this ingredient is necessary to:

  • feed a hungry world
  • feed the world period
  • preserve food
  • support the global food system
  • keep food costs down

The authors are wrong on all accounts. 

First, there is plenty of food on this planet. Between 30-40% of food is wasted. Also, many of the crops grown do not feed people; they are used to make fuel and to feed animals. 

The idea that there isn't enough food in the world is silly when you consider you can travel to anywhere in the world and get food - IF you have money. That is where the shortage exists - money. 

The assumption that "we" need to feed the world is wrong. What we need to do is to help those who cannot feed themselves to learn to grow food - actually to relearn to grow food because at one time, they were able to do that. We need to help them grow healthy food that doesn't require expensive inputs like synthetic fertilizer, chemical herbicide and pesticides, and GMO seed. When people say that those inputs are necessary to grow on the scale necessary to feed the world's population, that isn't true. An estimated 70-80% of the world's food is grown sustainably and on small farms. 

The global food system is what has caused many nations to stop growing food for domestic consumption. One immediate effect of NAFTA was a dramatic increase in cheap corn imports into Mexico - the birthplace of corn. The corn, subsidized by American taxpayers, was so cheap that Mexican farmers could not compete. They either had to raise another type crop - for export - or leave the countryside for a precarious existence in the city, a place where they are at the mercy of employers and grocery stores. 

Once a country becomes dependent on cheap, imported food, a rise in transportation costs leads to a rise in prices - prices that many in the developing world can no longer afford. Unfortunately, with a large population having left the farms to move to urban areas - with the promise of modern prosperity - the possibility and knowledge for growing their own food has vanished. 

When food is local and grown sustainably, there is no need to "preserve" the food with additives. These additives are only necessary for highly processed foods that that are shipped around the world. Fruits, vegetables, and grain from local sources are the ingredients for delicious nutritious food. Should food need to be preserved, canning, dehydrating, and fermenting works well.

I am most disappointed with Eco Watch for encouraging a global system that wastes precious fuel and contributes to global pollution. The "about" section on the website reads in part:
EcoWatch is a leading news website reporting on environmental news, green living, sustainable business, science and politics. We also feature content from renowned environmental and business leaders via our Insights blog.
EcoWatch is at the forefront of uniting all shades of green to ensure the health and longevity of our planet. We are leading the charge in using online news to drive fundamental change. 
EcoWatch is a dedicated platform for environmental news that helps transform the ability of individuals to learn about environmental issues and take action. 
EcoWatch provides timely access to relevant information that educates and motivates individuals to become engaged in their community, adopt sustainable practices and support strong environmental policy. [Emphasis added]
I recently read that it takes 87 calories worth of fuel to move one calorie from California to New York. This is not sustainable.

We need a reset on our global food system, making the system local on a global scale.


marie s. Butler said...

Brilliant. Thank you for this correct interpretation of Eco Watch's false report.

Laura said...

" What we need to do is to help those who cannot feed themselves to learn to grow food" - Thank you! This is what I've been saying! Imagine if our food shelters had gardens where they taught the homeless how to grow their own food and where they could go home, not just with cans of food, but with soil and seeds! Thanks for this post - I'm sharing it on Twitter :)

Cherie said...

Laura, I worked in the nonprofit world for a while and finally realized that none of it was sustainable. The need would just continue to increase with no game plan on how to turn it around. Glad you've come to the same conclusion.