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In The Heartland

The Fork is the Most Powerful Tool in Agriculture
Speach to Drury Communications Class
Rick Hopkins

There are many things we take for granted and I’m going to introduce you to a relationship tonight that you have may have not recognized. Like many things in life, eating, one of the simple and basic needs of humans, is full of choices, and.... eating..... is a moral issue!

People have been eating since the beginning of time as eating is a basic requirement to support human life. Hunter-gatherer peoples began to develop systems of agriculture as their requirements for food overwhelmed the capacity of their environment to provide enough food for them. These agricultural systems were created by observing and accepting natural processes and learning how to work with the quintessence to ensure adequate food for survival.

This simple tool, a common dinner fork, has become the most powerful implement in agriculture. What we choose to put on the end of it determines the destiny of the human race.

The food we place on our fork can create jobs for Americans or exploit child labor in underdeveloped countries. With our choices in food we can restore rural communities and regional agriculture or enslave nations. By purchasing our food from locally raised sources, we secure the future of a safe and healthful food supply. The economic failure of family farms is due to the decisions we have made with our forks.

Our food purchase decisions affect the water quality of our rivers and oceans and can either destroy or safeguard habitat for wild animals. Industrial agricultural practices farm fence row to fence row using every square foot of available land with no regard to protecting the soil fertility. Sustainable agricultural practices include riparian areas to protect streams, wildlife habitat, and fertility conservation techniques to increase the productivity of the soil without the use of chemicals.

We may choose to procure our food from a local market supporting regional food production or we may choose to buy our food from a super store that exploits human and natural resources. We are the ones guilty of exploiting child labor in Asian countries. We are the ones responsible for destroying the forests of South America. We are the ones who are destroying the oceans.

One U.S. dollar spent on locally produced food can change hands as many as nine times before it leaves a community. One U.S. dollar spent on industrially produced or imported food assures that we will remain in a trade deficit with our foreign competitors. The food we put on our fork tonight can make the difference in our neighbor working full time at a local business or taking a part time job with no benefits at a super store.

Industrially produced food has created catastrophic health issues. Medical services and pharmaceutical needs are increasing at an alarming rate. Dr. Weston A. Price, a dentist who spent his life studying the dental health of many cultures, found that dental health is directly related to nutrition. Too late in his life he recognized that not only was the health of the tooth determined by nutrition, but the entire makeup of the human body was affected.

The decisions that determine the direction of the corporate food giants are not made in a board room. They are not made by a handful of food magnates who control the world’s food supply. They are not controlled by government legislation or international trade agreements. We, the consumer, determine the destiny of agricultural policy.

Industrial food policy is causing millions of people to starve. Corporate profits for shareholders and investors have become the prime directive for food companies. There is no profit in supplying food to poor nations. Providing healthful and nutritious food is left to the family farmers of the world.

When a person places a bit of food on their fork, they help to determine the future of humanity. The popularity and use of genetically modified (GMO) soy products for food and fuel in the U.S. have helped to guarantee the success of the transgenic crop and livestock industries even though many nations have passed laws restricting or eliminating GMO’s. Contamination of non-transgenic crops by GMO crops have occurred in all of North American and parts of Central and South America. Most consumers are unaware of their daily consumption of transgenic food. The U.S. has no labeling and does not require GMO food to be segregated from conventional foods.

Our nation is continuously challenged with energy issues. Industrial agriculture in the U.S. consumed 3,000,000,000 gallons of diesel fuel in the year 2000. Another 38,000,000,000 of diesel was used in the same year for transportation. We are responsible for much of this energy consumption when we choose food products we know have been produced thousands of miles away. I will concede that not all produce items can be grown in every region of the country, but we must recognize that we do have a choice and can make choices that help to support sustainable agriculture and at the same time reduce our dependence on fossil energy.

To paraphrase Thomas Paine and alter his exclamation slightly, “The period of debate is closed. Forks, as a last resort, must decide the contest...everything that is right or reasonable pleads for sustainable agriculture.” It is up to each and every one of us to recognize that we receive no benefits from industrial agriculture which has been so intent on exploiting our lands and our health for corporate profitability.

With every bite of food we place on our forks, we make a choice either for a failing industrial agricultural system supported by a depleted energy program or for a sustainable family farm. Each person has the power to change the current course of humanity by a simple choice in food.

I would argue that eating is a moral issue.



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