Monday, October 1, 2007

I'm a Fool to Do Your Dirty Work...

Apropos many of the issues discussed on this blog recently, Barbara Kingsolver wrote a piece in this Sunday's Washington Post about the myth that industrial farming somehow frees humans from having to produce their food with their own hands. One particularly interesting observation is that while there may be fewer people who literally work with the soil to produce food, 50-60% of a population still has to be directly involved in food production and consumption in some way (waiters, long-haul truckers, food marketers/advertisers, etc.). Much like the false belief that something like a dishwasher would free up housewives' time in favor of leisure activities (in reality new chores just seemed to spontaneously appear to fill in the time void), the idea that we're somehow free to pursue new avenues thanks to our independence from farm work is a myth. Sure there may not be as many people working in the fields, but instead they're working in restaurants or food processing plants or the Xerox center at General Mill's--not necessarily the most gratifying work. And at the same time, these modern farming methods are of course damaging the soil, introducing genetically modified crops, breeding dependence on antibiotics and pesticides, and narrowing the variety of produce available. It's hard to make a case that somehow this is a more sensible way to feed the world.

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