Economic discussion normally does not entail the government control over our food, yet this is exactly what is happening. The United States government has a subsidizes agriculture production in theory to provide a greater supply enabling lower costs. Granted processed food is extremely cheap, but whole foods, especially produce are very expensive in terms of dollar per calorie. Americans are unable to afford whole foods causing them to eat more processed foods, potentially leading to higher health care costs in the long term. The question that must be answered though is: how does a developing nation such as Turkey provide genetically modify free whole foods at extremely low cost?
Farmer's Markets in the United States are known to be a gathering place for hippies, tree huggers and wealthier members of society. Yet, in Turkey for $22 one can purchase:
- 6 lbs of potatoes
- 4 lbs of onions
- 4 lbs of carrots
- 4 lbs of cucumbers
- 2 lbs of oranges
- 2 lbs of tomatoes
- 1 lb of broccoli
- 4 lbs of chicken
- 15 organic eggs
All spices are $0.50 for one ounce bags, if you prefer fresh herbs they cost $0.50 for three bunches. This is unheard of in America! These markets are filled with everyday people purchasing their weekly meat, produce and other kitchen staples such as honey, rice and tea. What is going on in America that citizens are unable to purchase food directly from farmers such as in Turkey?
Economically this is feasible as local communities would grow the seasonal produce native to that region and import from other states as needed; this is economics 101 as described by Adam Smith. However, the problem in America is politics. Companies gaining a monopoly share on the sale of genetically modified seeds is destroying agriculture. For centuries farmers planted their seeds in the spring then gathered the seeds from the harvest in the fall to replant again next spring. Monsanto with its ingenious plan, decided to develop a seed that resists its own herbicide, Roundup. None of this would matter in a free market enterprise, except Monsanto has deep political ties as stated in the beginning, government control.
The U.S Secretary of Agriculture, Anne Veneman, was on the board of Directors of Monsanto's Calgene Corporation. The Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, was on the Board of Directors of Monsanto's Searle pharmaceuticals. Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas was Monsanto'sand the list continues from the Obama administration to George Bush Sr. What makes this company so dangerous are the tactics it has used against farmers. Each day $2 million are spent by Monsanto to seek out farmers who they believe are infringing on their patent. Farmers do not have the money to battle such a large company and are losing their livelihoods.
This problem runs deeper when we look at the 58% market control on corn seed by Monsanto and DuPont. Corn production is at all time high and the majority of it is not used for human consumption but for feed. Even scarier animals such as cows which cannot process corn are being fed this ingredient to fatten them up faster to sell. Moreover, if everything we eat either has been fed corn or has corn in it, what are we becoming? Over time corn has lost its original nutritional properties and is nothing more than a filler. Furthermore, contrary to popular belief high fructose corn syrup is not the same as sugar; one is a pure substance the other is made through a chemical process. How can America move towards an agriculture industry such as the one described in Turkey?
This entry does not begin to address all of the problems associated with food. How do we begin to regain control of our food supply? By economic choices, we must stop buying items containing a derivative of corn, which come from Monsanto's seeds and begin to support local farmers who are open about their practices. This will require consumer knowledge and foresight. These measures indicate to the market that the consumer demands quality whole foods at a low cost. Is the American agricultural problem more than what is mentioned above; cultural eating habits, the convenience of cheap food or the lack of time in a nation so concerned about career progression that they aren't worried about what they put into their bodies?