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Thursday, December 20, 2012
Diet for a New America: How the Food Movement is Gaining Strength by Ocean Robbins
 
Our food chain is in crisis. Big agribusiness has made profits more important than your health, more important than the environment, more important than your right to know how your food is produced.

The United States now spends nearly 20 percent of its GDP on health care, and levels of obesity, diabetes, and chronic illness are higher than ever.

But even as so many people are suffering, beneath the surface a revolution has been building.

From rural farms to urban dinner plates, from grocery store shelves to state ballot boxes, people are rising up and taking action. We’re beginning to reclaim our food systems and our menus, and we’re taking responsibility for our health.

In the seven years after my dad and colleague, John Robbins, released the first edition of his landmark bestseller Diet for a New America in 1987, beef consumption in the United States dropped by 19 percent. The National Cattlemen’s Association, not pleased, pointedly blamed Diet for a New America. Since then, beef consumption has continued to slowly drop, while organic food sales have increased over twenty-six-fold, to now exceed 4 percent of the market share.
 
This year marks the release of the 25th Anniversary Edition of Diet for a New America, and it couldn’t come at a more opportune time. People are taking an increasing interest in the way that the animals raised for food are treated. In fact, a poll conducted by Lake Research Partners found that 94 percent of Americans agree that animals raised for food on farms deserve to be free from cruelty. Nine US states have now joined the entire European Union in banning gestational crates for pigs, and Australia’s two largest supermarket chains now sell only cage-free eggs in their house brands.

The demand is growing for food that is organic, sustainable, fair trade, GMO-free, humane, and healthy. In cities around the world, we’re seeing more and more farmer’s markets (a nearly threefold increase in the past decade) and more young people getting back into farming. Grocery stores (even big national chains) are displaying local, natural, and organic foods with pride. The movements for healthy food are growing fast and starting to become a political force.

Earlier this year, California voters put an initiative on the ballot that would have mandated the labeling of food containing GMOs (genetically modified organisms). The Biotech giant Monsanto and their buddies in the pesticide and junk food business were forced to spend $46 million burying California’s voters under an avalanche of deception in order to narrowly defeat California’s Proposition 37 in the November election. Although they won the battle, more than 5.5 million California voters had come out in favor of the “right to know.” It is clear that the natural foods movement has become not just a lifestyle choice for a few hippies, but a political force to be reckoned with.

Now organizers in 30 other states have begun building GMO-labeling campaigns. Meanwhile, efforts to improve the treatment of animals, to make factory farms pay for the pollution they produce, and to reform the food offered in school lunches are all gaining strength.

What You Can Do
Go to the movies. Eric Schlosser’s Food, Inc., Drs. Caldwell Esslestyn and T. Colin Campbell’s Forks Over Knives, and Jeffrey Smith’s Genetic Roulette are some of the most popular and insightful food-related films currently available on DVD or online.

Boycott the bad guys and support the good guys.
Many people are choosing to boycott companies that oppose the labeling of GMOs, that treat farm animals cruelly, or that profit from the sale of junk food, and opting to buy from the good guys instead. To help consumers make informed choices, the nonprofit Non-GMO Project offers a third-party certification program. It has verified 764 products as GMO-free and had a record-shattering 189 new enrollment inquiries in October. You can also check out the farmer’s market nearest you.

Sign petitions for GMO labeling.
Want to work for policy change? A team of organizations, led by Care2 and the Food Revolution Network, have launched a petition demanding that Congress label GMOs, which has already generated more than 57,000 signatures. And last year’s JustLabelIt petition to the FDA, which generated more than 1.3 million signatures, is being revived in hopes that the FDA might eventually dig itself out of Monsanto’s back pocket.

Get politically active. For the passionate activist, there’s always more you can do, like lobbying your member of Congress, your mayor, your governor, your local media outlets, or your relatives. You can also join the Humane Society’s campaign for farm animal protection, or Farm Sanctuary’s work for animal welfare legislation.

Get engaged and informed. For a directory of organizations working for healthy, sustainable, and humane food, as well as free access to dozens of cutting-edge articles and tools to help you make a difference, you can join the Food Revolution Network. Or check out the newly released 25th Anniversary Edition of Diet for a New America, the book that helped launch the modern food movement.

Big agribusiness would probably like us all to sit alone in the dark, munching on highly processed, genetically engineered, chemical-laden, pesticide-contaminated pseudo-foods. But the tide of history is turning, and regardless of how much they spend attempting to maintain their hold on our food systems, we will prevail.

Ocean Robbins is founder and cohost (with bestselling author John Robbins) of the 75,000-member Food Revolution Network, an initiative to help you heal your body and your world . . . with food. Find out more and sign up here.


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