Our food system is broken, Hauter writes. Agriculture is big business and there is a disturbing corporate control of food, from the field to the market shelves. The corporations exert great economic and political power.
She tells of arsenic feed additives. A 2006 study of arsenic levels in the chicken meat sold at grocery stores and fast-food outlets found measurable arsenic in over half the retail packages (¾ of the non-premium brands) and in all of the fast-food chicken tested. (147) Today, it is estimated that nine out of ten chickens consumed had been fed arsenic.
She recounts of the pressure to deregulate meat inspection. “Consumers would no doubt be shocked to know that, as a result, today they are eating chicken with external blemishes, tumors, cancers, and gaping wounds oozing pus.” (127)
She writes about the meat and dairy industry, the mega factory farms, sharing similarly disturbing information.
And then there is the genetically engineered food. “The FDA allows companies to self-regulate when it comes to the safety of genetically engineered foods.” (255) I was shocked. Hauter writes, “Creating genes that don't exist in nature is a dangerous business and there is no way to predict how they will behave in living systems.” (267)
“Breaking the foodopoly and fixing the dysfunctional food system require far reaching legislative and regulatory changes...” (287) In the past the government has not stood up to the huge companies with their tremendous resources and political power.
What can we do? Hauter ends her book with a few chapters on what some have done and possibilities for further action, especially on a local level. Personally, avoid processed foods, she recommends. Get to know your local farms and shop locally.
This is a disturbing book. You need to read it to find out how that package of food you are reaching for got to that grocery shelf. I am sure you will find altering your shopping list and your eating habits are good ideas.
Find out more and watch an introductory video at http://www.foodopoly.org/.
Wenonah Hauter is the executive director of Food & Water Watch, a D.C. based watchdog organization focused on corporate and government accountability relating to food, water, energy, and environmental issues at the national, state, and local levels. She owns a working farm in The Plains, Virginia.
The New Press, 356 pages.