Cover Art: Craig Feinberg. Art Direction: The Magazine of Yoga
Really Healthy Real Life
Guess who’s coming to dinner
BY MAGAZINE EDITOR SUSAN MAIER-MOUL
The Little Book of Shocking Food Facts by Craig Holden Feinberg and Dale Petersen, is a graphic design gem of colorful photos, eye catching layout and attention grabbing copy. In the tradition of Colors magazine, this “little book” is visually arresting to educate us, one little shocking fact at a time.
It’s not for lack of wanting to, but it’s confusing trying to assemble the big picture of the food on our plates and the future of the planet. Health related media coverage is focused on the up close and immediate picture: how what we eat creates issues for us personally.
Maybe it’s asking a lot of ourselves to get psyched up about the word “agriculture” even in a hip suburban landscape of backyard chicken raising clubs, Starbucks coffee-ground composting, and heirloom tomato gardening.
Food security and supply
My grandmother had a description for getting riled up about something without doing anything useful about it. She called it “pussyfooting around.” When it comes to our food supply, that’s exactly how our relationship to the truth is playing out.
We’re on overload before we raise our eyes from our gylcemic index charts and gluten free recipes to the increasingly urgent problems caused by consumer food habits and global agribusiness.
Food security, for example, is world-wide critical enough to merit its own definition from the United Nations. The emergency includes our current plague of food safety issues like salmonella and e coli.
“Food security,” says Petersen, “is one of the most pressing issues facing humanity,” and whether we want to face it or not, she writes, we have less and less assurance of food availability.
Sustainability: the idea that the food supplied today will still be supplied tomorrow. Security in this respect is illusory, and our decisions and actions here and now will determine whether we achieve it in the future.
Superbug building antibiotics in every bite
Citing the Union of Concerned Scientists from a 2001 report, Peterson points out,
every year in the United States, up to 25 million pounds of antimicrobial drugs (antibiotics, antivirals, antifungal and antiparasitics) are fed to livestock for non-therapeutic purposes.
Petersen supplies a figure to provide perspective. Against the 25 million pounds used by US agribusiness to increase profitability, there’s the US annual 3 million pounds of pharmaceuticals used for human medicine.
The specter of creating antibiotic resistant microbes is virtually unavoidable when animals and humans are given the same antimicrobials, particularly the ones that are of the most importance in human medicine. This risk is magnified enormously when you consider the sheer volume of the pharmaceuticals being used.
At a greater than 8 to 1 ratio in the millions of pounds, it’s hard to dismiss the risks we’re taking.
Pesticides and greenhouse gas emissions
Feinberg and Petersen don’t shy away from alerting us to those who manipulate our lack of confidence about our instincts or our time pressures in contemporary life.
We are led to believe that our inherited knowledge and concerns about food are mistaken, and that self-appointed food experts will show us a better way. Powerful lobbies work to convince us that our anxieties about pesticides, antibiotics and additives are groundless, or that the links we perceive between obesity, fast food and sugar consumption are merely coincidental.
Each “little fact” is therefore substantiated in the endnotes with the study or report from which it’s drawn. The reader is empowered to educate herself about everything from The Lancet’s 2007 finding that “food additives and colorings increase hyperactivity in children,” to the astronomical increase in pesticide use:
The agriculture industry uses 1,200 million pounds of pesticides over the course of a year in the US alone.
Pesticide use has tripled in the previous 30 years, from a level of 400 million pounds in the mid-1960s.
The US accounts for almost 1/3 of world sales, or $11 billion.
For all of us working hard to curb our use of cars, trucks, and airplanes either ourselves directly or in bring products to our homes and tables, it’s rather disheartening to encounter the 2006 findings of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
18% of global greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to livestock production — more than the transportation sector.
The power of educating ourselves
Just coping with the cost of food and the time and energy it takes to put a meal together is as much as many working people feel we can manage. This attractive book helps to keep us from drifting off during the statistics that should alarm us.
If you’re on information overload, Fiell Publishing’s The Little Book of Shocking Food Facts may be the answer to getting yourself up to speed. And if you’re already an ardent advocate of food security, the presence of this little book in your home or community library could be the conversation starter or the consciousness raising opportunity you need to help friends and relatives wake up and smell danger, too.
About Fiell Publishers
Our aim is to make content-rich books that inform, entertain and entrance. Books that inspire and help those who aspire to lead better lives, to understand other cultures, to understand themselves, to contribute more to the world.
Also see our inspiring Conversation with Charlotte Fiell!
Also in this series The Little Book of Shocking Global Facts
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.