Tuesday, July 17, 2012

It's Not Them, It's Us: When You Shop, You Vote

After working on a show that features numerous food factories, and after watching more than 65 interviews I have learned that more than anything, companies create, modify and continue to process food with the consumer in mind. Using social media as an effective marketing tool, as well as receiving direct customer feedback, companies that produce mass quantities of food will do all they can to sell all they can. 
We first saw the eagerness of food companies to please with the boom of organic foods, then companies toting the ambiguous ‘green’ on their label and most recently, locally sourced. We are the growers of change and as Local Food Plus has repeatedly reminded us, to do this we vote by buying what we support and believe in - not what is cheapest. When companies check their stats, and see a growing consumption in  products that are fair trade, ‘green’ or local then they will ensure they have a lace in the market by creating new products, or beefing up the labeling of their current products to match trends.  In turn, these large companies will eventually be up against each other and that means prices will go down.
We’re not quite there with GMO-free products yet. There are still tons of studies to be conducted and analyzed but to me the important thing is that GMO is labelled so that the customer can make his or her own choice. In England, the GMO-free market is booming. In Canada, the FDA has said that because no studies have found averse results, there is no need to distinguish what is what. I too am unsure of the dangers of GMO but I would definately like to know! The problem with GMO, to me, is not that the food has been cross bred but that the companies who do this slap patents on everything, and design extremely unsustainable plants which don’t produce seeds so that farmers must continue to buy them from Monsanto and the like. Why do companies like Monsanto exist? Well, it’s sad to say that as evil as any believe them to be, the stemmed from our desires. They made sure every tomato is ripe when it hits shelves, they make sure they can grow field upon field of rapeseed so we can indulge in fried food, they send not one bruised apple to the grocery stores, and every cucumber is perfectly cylindrical. Somehow in North America we have grown so accustomed to uniform food that we forget that fruits and vegetables are unique as humans and no two are alike - unless of course they are genetically modified. They way to avert the support of GMO without knowing what is and isn’t, is to buy from farmers to whom you can speek. That means going to a farmer’s market, or a co-op like the new West End Food Co-Op in Parkdale.
In order to change the way food is produced, we need shoppers’ persistent dedication. One cannot flip flop; in the summer buying local, but in the winter forgetting it all and buying tomatoes and bananas. We’ve seen an increase in chefs and home cooks who preserve the summer bounty and there is a plethora of books on the subject. It does take work, but good food should! Why do we spend more time working under florescent lights than we do at home sitting around a table with friends and family sharing a good meal? We’ve becoming too entrapped in the Western way of thinking about ‘the economy’ and instead drown ourselves in coffee so that we can keep on marching. I would be so happy if we turned back the clock and lived like how I saw Italians living in Chianti. You grow your own food and at lunch everything stops and stores close so that every person can go home and enjoy food and time with their loved ones. But now I’m drifting from the point. Basically, I think food needs to be appreciated for it’s beauty, it’s vitality and it’s nourishment. Not for it’s ability to supply protein or for it’s low fat qualities. It should be appreciated as a whole and not for it’s parts. Whole foods are always better than processed for a number of reasons; Our body can absorb their nutrients easily, they are easier to digest, they can be bought locally and they have less packaging. 
That being said, most of us do buy packaged food in one form or another and so in that case the best thing to do is to buy from a company you support. That’s it. Every time you shop, you vote. 

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