Sunday, May 3, 2009

Brooklyn Food Conference Examines Crisis

Brooklyn Food Conference:
Food Crisis Intertwined with Economic Crisis

by Phil E. Benjamin

Raj Patel, LaDonna Redmond and Dan Barber sounded the alarm that the protection of the food supply is major issue which everyone should be aware of and get active.

Patel brought the N1H1 virus into the reality of the economic crisis. He pointed his finger at the North America Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA] as the real culprit. Smithfield Farms, a major pig farm producer which now, thanks to the "Open Border" with Mexico, is producing its pigs in giant pig, mostly unregulated, farms in Mexico. And, you guessed it, it was at the Mexican Smithfield plant that the N1H1 virus was spauned.

Patel's book, "Stuffed & Starved: the Hidden Battle for the World Food System," is the primer for anyone wishing to learn about the corporatization of the food supply. He does not minze words. And, given his brief time at the World Bank, where he learned, first hand, the use of food as an economic weapon, Patel goes right to the root of the problem. Patel spent time in Mexico looking at the sustainable agricultural work by the Zapatistas and their Mexican world. He is strongly critical of the new Administration for not taking this issue more seriously. The appointment of agri-business leaders to key Dept of Agriculture positions, Patel said, is not good. And, the continuing use of biofuels and MGOs is very worrisome. Herewe have a world food crisis; and, our country is burning food for energy. He urged people to influence the Administation on these issues.

Similarly, LaDonna Redmond from the Chicago based, Institute for Community Organizing, called on the several hundred gathered at the First Brooklyn Food Conference, to get active and fight the corporate use of GMOs. She also said it was a false demand to "return food production" to what it used to be. Pointing to the legacy of outright slavery in the USA to the continuing enslavement of farm workers who are forced to work long hours for very little money, she called for a new way of producing the food we need.

The final speaker in the morning session was a well known master chef, Dan Barber of the Stone Barns Institute. He made a special point to be warry of the term: sustainable. He talked about a saltwater, seafood farm, that claimed to be using sustainable feed for their fish growth. It turned out they were using the refuse of the massive chick farms in the U.S.

The Food Conference had many workshops, films and other events.

There is sure to be a similar Conference next year.