Dr. Jeff Langholz, a professor at MIIS (Monterey Institute of International Studies) revealed some of the horrors of large-scale farming at the most recent Center for Ocean Solutions (Twitter @oceansolutions) policy meeting.
Did you know that huge corporations like McDonalds, Wal•Mart, Wendy’s, Costco and many others, demand, in what Langholz calls a “food safety arms race,” that farmers, including small organic farmers, destroy wildlife? These gargantuan purveyors of lettuce (and other crops) have demanded – against environmental law, as a matter of fact – that, for the sake of “food health,” farmers must comply with certain horrific practices like wiping out all the wildlife on and around their farms? They also must provide “buffer zones” – once natural areas, that have been reduced to raw dirt – to make killing the animals easier. The dead zones make it easier for E. coli to wash in from farms where cattle are raised. Farmers are often required by these corporations – not the government – to fill in adjacent wetlands, and even poison the water.
Also, PVC pipes filled with “rodenticides,” are required by some buyers like Wal•Mart to be placed every 50 to 100 feet around the perimeter of the farm. In other words, there is a “scorched earth policy” in place to ensure “food safety.”
So, next time you eat a double cheeseburger with (Salinas) lettuce from McDonalds (a polymorphously unhealthy act), or buy lettuce at Costco or Wal•Mart, you are supporting a tragically unhealthy farming system, which perversely decimates Nature and poisons the soil in the name of ensuring our health.
The moral? Buy locally grown, organic produce. “How can you be sure your farmers market produce is free of chemicals?” I asked Dr. Langholz at dinner. “You can’t.” But, you know what? I’ll take my chances. Oh, and lettuce in bags is a great way to grow E. coli bacteria.
By the way, the dinner after the talk was a wonderful, catered melange of (I hope free-range) chicken, rice, veggie stir-fry, Chinese dumplings, beer and wine. The place-settings for the dinners, held once a month in the Heritage Harbor complex, are a “mess kit” of reusable cup, plate, stainless flatware – even a serrated Ikea knife with a woven cover!
Dr. Langholz’s research focuses on biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.” (from MIIS site) Dr. Langholz’ talk – and study – are titled, “Safe & Sustainable.” You can download his thorough report at producesafetyproject.org/discussion_series.