American supermarkets today – vast caverns of colorful canned, boxed, frozen, fresh “goods” – dazzle the eyes and project an image of aplenty in the Land of the Free. And the prices are low. Americans spend on average less than 7% of their income on food, far less than in other countries. But cheap food is not necessarily quality food, nor is it the most cost-efficient.
Actually, organic food is the cheapest food in the U.S., because you only pay for it once, whereas, for chemical-laden, denatured and genetically-modified food, you pay at least six times:
- The first payment you make is at the supermarket; I call that the down payment.
- The second payment is at tax time. You pay for “cheap food” with your contribution to agricultural subsidies. Eighty percent of our food is processed food. Processed food is mostly corn, canola, soy, rice, wheat, and sugar. These products (along with cotton) account for 98 percent of government subsidies.
- The third time you pay for it is when you go to the doctor. In the last 20 years, an average of 60 million people have gotten food-borne illness in the U.S. where E. coli and salmonella cause 5,200 deaths each year. About 200,000 over the last 20 years had to be hospitalized, leading to higher costs for all.
- The fourth payment is the chronic illnesses that you get from it. Heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, obesity – all of those are food-borne illnesses that just take a little longer to manifest. It’s what you eat that is making you sick.
- The fifth thing is: who’s going to clean up that farmland – the toxic waste, impoverished soil, carbon overload, polluted air, overcut forests, etc.? When the big factory farmers are asked to clean up their land, they file for bankruptsy, sticking the rest of us with the tab.
- The Sixth time is when you pay your fuel bill. Processed and imported foods are extremely energy intensive. One fifth of U.S. fossil fuel consumption goes to the growing, packaging and transporting of food, placing an increasing premium on energy resources.
How can we affect positive environmental change? Ronnie Cummins, founder and Director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), believes that, as helpless as we may feel, we all can make a difference:
“People ask me, ‘What should I do about the climate? I feel helpless. I can’t as an individual stop the coal industry from operating. I can’t stop that XL pipeline by myself’, and so on. The number one thing people should do is boycott all factory-farmed meat and animal products; boycott all genetically-engineered processed foods, and eat organic every chance you get.”