Here's an article I wrote for the NYU Steinhardt Public Health Student Group Fall 2008 Newsletter:
Op-Ed: Vision of a Grassroots, Grass-Fed Revolution
by Kelly Moltzen
Growing up, we were taught by the USDA that “all foods can fit,” that everything in moderation is good for us. We were taught that we needed dairy products in our diet in order to get calcium, otherwise we would develop osteoporosis. We were taught that we needed to get our protein from meat. But what if this were not the whole picture? Would the USDA actually hide information from us?
Unfortunately, yes. It seems as though Congress is more concerned about taking food industry lobbyists’ money than about giving the public scientifically sound advice, as Marion Nestle tells us in her book Food Politics. However disturbing this may sound, we cannot allow the food industry to dominate us, not when 63% of Americans are overweight or obese and children born in the year 2000 or after may be the first generation to die before their parents; not when animals are subjected to living on claustrophobic, unsanitary Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO), force-fed corn and artificial substances that make them sick, necessitating the use of administering antibiotics before we buy and eat the omega-6 laden meat which makes us sick. Not when 25% of the foods we buy in the grocery store has some form of corn in them, and the ammonium nitrate left over from the production of explosives during World War II is used to fertilize crops – facts Michael Pollan shares with us in The Omnivore’s Dilemma.
This country needs a complete change of mindset, where we raise humanely treated omega-3 rich grass-fed animals and stop using additives and pesticides on our food. We need to craft a world that is not dominated by the need of the food industry to keep money in its wallet, but one that is driven by the need to keep real food on the table. A world where our children don’t need to learn how to read labels, but instead learn how to grow vegetables. A world where we get energy from the sun and wind, not coal and oil, and where we eat our food, not burn it as biofuel.
Fortunately there is a revolution starting, as people have banned together for such programs as the Real Food Challenge and Slow Food Nation. Californians had an initiative on their ballot this November called “Proposition 2,” which was a huge breakthrough for humane farm animal treatment. It prohibits cruel and inhumane ways of confining animals in their cages. The USDA recently passed more rigorous regulations for organic food, prohibiting the existence of organic CAFOs. The list of 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee appointees looks promising as well. Yet we need to continue supporting CSA communities, creating farm to school programs, and weakening the connection between food industry lobbyists and Washington, D.C. If we don’t do it, then who will?