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Agricultural Apocalypse: Eating Our Way to Oblivion

Published on March 30, 2010

The food business is far and away the most important business in the world. Everything else is a luxury. Food is what you need to sustain life every day. Food is fuel. You can’t run a tractor without fuel, and you can’t run a human being without it either. Food is the absolute beginning.”

⎯Dwayne Andreas, former chairman, Archer Daniels Midland

Aisle Five: Browsing the Global Garden

You are in the supermarket, exhausted after another wearying day at the office (or the factory). You just want to get home and eat, and now your senses are pummeled by the brightly packaged bounty all around you. You are at once awakened and overwhelmed. What will you pick from this vast corporate garden?

It’s an astounding selection, a global cornucopia that appears⎯at first glance⎯to be fairly affordable (at least for the economically comfortable). Shiny, freshly waxed fruits and vegetables, radiantly colored, beckon from overflowing bins; there’s nary a bruise or nonconforming shape in sight. Broccoli, oranges, bananas, asparagus, melons and pineapples are piled high in the middle of winter. Crops hailing from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Chile, Argentina, every productive corner of America, and elsewhere, display the terrific powers of industrial agriculture, seemingly boundless international trade, and rapid long distance transport of perishable foods.

A short stroll away, past a rainbow of fruit cocktails and juices and columns of dairy products, lie coolers stuffed with all kinds of meat, chicken and fish⎯sliced and diced, “lean” and “choice cut,” marinated and filleted. A few more swivels of the shopping cart reveal long fluorescent boulevards of packages and cans, each promising to save you time and enliven your taste buds. There are pre-cut and flavored fruits and vegetables (produce with “value added”), fully prepared kids’ lunches, multi-colored chips, soups and stews, frozen dinners, a whole kingdom of precision-flavored cereals, sauces, and powdered meals. Just add water and plug in the microwave. It’s a bachelor’s (or working mom’s) paradise.

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Director International Medical Veritas Association
Doctor of Oriental and Pastoral Medicine

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