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Frankenfood or Real Food?

by guest blogger Alberto Gonzalez, founder and CEO of GustOrganics, www.gustorganics.com.

America is an overfed and undernourished country.

About 80 percent of the population is considered overweight, and almost one-third is obese. According to the National Cancer Institute, serious diseases that are linked to what we eat kill an estimated three out of four Americans each year. These diseases include heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, some types of cancer, and diabetes.

So food is killing more people than anything else in America.

What is going on? Who is responsible for this gruesome situation?

For years, we have inadvertently been in a collaborative mission along with food and agrochemical companies to get cheaper and bigger foods, and we all did a simply terrific job. By making “Cheap” the main virtue in our food system, we dedicated our dollars to feeding ourselves in a totally wrong way that has deteriorated our collective health but also created a monster food system. Our behavior as consumers was, in my opinion, a key success factor in creating a Frankenstein that took over the health and destiny of most Americans.

What we eat has been the problem, and I think we now have a great opportunity to transform it into the solution. The best starting point to properly solve a problem is to clearly define it; therefore we should take a look to some definitions.

Real Food: I define it as food that is free of synthetic hormones, antibiotics, chemicals, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Food produced with integrity, using clean and fair farming practices, developed and harvested by socially and ecologically responsible farmers. Today, these transparent food systems represent less than 2 percent of total U.S. agriculture.

Frankenfood: It is an obvious metaphor in reference to Frankenstein, which means food that is engineered and processed to be more appealing and profitable. I consider Frankenfood to be any food that is not Real Food. Today, Frankenfood represents about 98 percent of the food produced and consumed in America.

Mercenaries: For the purpose of this article, I call all marketing people using their talents to create distribute and promote Frankenfoods in any way mercenaries. Many of them are highly educated, from world’s best universities; therefore, they are extremely smart about achieving their goals while disguising their real intentions. As consumers, to be engaged in the food system, we must be very aware of them.

Food: Any substance or material eaten or drunk to provide support for the body or for pleasure. Usually of plant or animal origin, it contains essential nutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, or minerals, and is ingested and assimilated by an organism to produce energy, stimulate growth, and maintain life.

It might be a good idea to ask ourselves, what is left from the previous definition in most food available today?

The problem we face as consumers is that Frankenfood is everywhere. No matter where we go, for the most part, that is all we find. When it’s about food, America seems to be a country of huge contradictions. We use our tax dollars to subsidize food that is poisoning us and our children, also mortgaging the future of the next generations.

We go even further, taking our own money—yes, what’s in our pockets—and giving it to food companies full of mercenaries that are producing Frankenfood just to maximize their profits. They also use the cash we give them to block any kind of change in agricultural policies, perpetuating the system to simply keep making money.

In case you did not notice it, fast-food companies are the great masters of Frankenfood, engineering and processing their products to taste and look great.

These companies are mainly powered by agrochemical corporations with big pockets, and their army of effective lobbyists in Washington is devising strategies to keep our subsidies and continue promoting more of the same products that have been contaminating our health for the last 50 years.

It is good to remark that the amount of food that we buy daily in the U.S. is so significant that at the same time that our collective health keeps deteriorating, we are also polluting the air as never before, contaminating our water streams in an outrageous way, and generating a tremendous impact in the environment overall.

Frankenfood companies have always had lots of marketing resources, so they have led us to believe almost everything they wanted.

I know it is awkward to discover that as food consumers, we have not been smart at all: We have been manipulated by the food corporations and agribusiness during the last 50 years, and in fact, our food-purchasing decisions resulted in very poor choices. However, we must now face this reality if we want a different future.

The good news is that what we eat matters big-time. Americans spend around $1.6 trillion annually in food; this is about 11 percent of the GDP.

Food is who we are. Real Food cleans. Real food creates positive jobs, helps local communities, uses sustainable resources, and most importantly, Real Food incentivizes life and well-being. The most effective and peaceful way to change the industrialized agriculture system that is killing our people is to simply stop buying Frankenfood and start supporting Real food.

Consumers’ consumption is one of the greatest ways to evolve capitalism. Profits can make miracles in the corporate world. This is true change coming from within, and it is very handy, we just need to use it. If we demand food that is free of chemicals, the chemical companies devoted to agribusiness will starve and disappear in the same way rats abandon a building that is empty of all sources of food. At least they will be forced to reinvent themselves in a sector away from our food and bodies.

The revenue that we provide through our purchases is to Frankenfood corporations or to Real food farmers what blood is to the human body. Those who make it or break it depend exclusively on our food choices.

I believe that as consumers we must nurture a new generation of food producers that will eventually take care of us, in the same way a mother gives birth to a baby that at some point in life, when grown, will take care of her. Conscious food consumption is not only a great way to change our health and preserve our planet, but also a chance to generate new meaningful jobs in a very powerful industry. This is a precious opportunity to activate our economy through true, sustainable development.

Many people go to Washington to petition for change in food policies. I think that helps, however, I am inclined to believe that the current administration has some other urgent matters to deal with. Politics is the art of the possible, and in the current economic situation, what is possible for this administration seems to be very limited, so I will not have high hopes for significant food policy changes at the speed we need.

On a separate note, I know many people will argue these organic and sustainable ideas with phrases like: “How are we going to feed the world with organic agriculture?” so I say, a) organic agriculture seems to be more productive than conventional agriculture if we take into consideration all the real costs involved. And b) aside from this, shouldn’t we start focusing on doing a better job of feeding ourselves before we try to feed the world? By the way, it looks like we have not been doing a good job so far, have we?

I feel that as consumers, we have somehow co-created this Frankenstein that is living among us. We should stop Frankenfood because we all deserve Real food. It looks like we now have the responsibility to pass the baton that we once gave to Frankenfood companies to the Real Food farmers.

Thinking about this food problem, I thought of this appropriate quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes: “I find that the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.” I would love to set our goal as a nation to transform together America’s food system from Frankenfood to Real Food at pace of 2 percent per year. We should all be active part of this productive change, and we will surely live healthier and happier and be able to leave a better world for the future generations.

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7 Responses to Frankenfood or Real Food?

  1. robin May 3, 2011 at 8:03 am #

    Great~thought provoking and very practical

  2. Paula May 3, 2011 at 8:35 am #

    Yes! Let’s ask the management at the stores we shop at to stock real food and help them by suggesting where to look and whom to contact. Let’s find out where real food comes from.

    And then, let’s respond to the argument that real food is too expensive. Who is responsible for this belief? I think it’s partly the “Frankenfood companies [that] have always had lots of marketing resources, so they have led us to believe almost everything they wanted.”

    If the FF (Frankenfood) companies want us to keep buying their products, of course they’re going to tell us that they’re the only affordable game in town and that cheap food is necessary. Somewhere I read a statistic about the percentage of income people spent on food in the 70s as compared to now – it was substantially higher. We now spend the difference on other stuff. Are gadgets and services also sold by the FF companies really that much more important than good quality food? So important that we want cheap, unhealthy food so that we can spend our money on something else (more electronics, bigger houses…)?

    Cheap food is NOT necessary and it is NOT cheap. But how do we get people to value quality enough to pay more or ro buy less (and waste less) food overall? For example, our family is eating less now, but better, if that makes any sense.

    Right on, Maria!

  3. Paula May 3, 2011 at 8:35 am #

    Oops! That should be, Right on, Maria and Alberto!

  4. Ginger May 3, 2011 at 10:21 am #

    Great post! I would love to promote this post on my blog for women’s holistic health, Breathing In This Life, and my column for women’s holistic health for a TCM magazine.

  5. Concerned About You and Me May 3, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

    Yes, “eating less, but better” makes perfect sense! When at the grocery store, I always ask myself: “Will this food item promote health or will it help to hurt my health?”

    Thus, all processed foods (chips, sodas, crackers, popular cereals, cookies, candy, etc.) are left at the store. I will spend extra on organic, non-gmo, real food. I look at food as nutrition and medicine rolled into one. What one puts in their body has great ramifications on one’s health!

    BTW any thing with canola or soy oil, high fructose corn surup, soy protein, corn anything, beet sugar, and now inorganic wheat are all genetically modified and, thus, also stay at the store along with anything with artificial sugars, chemicals, and non-organic milk products.

    Anything in plastic and cans should also stay. Because we are not being told the truth about the radiation situation, even organically grown foods might be suspect now. It is all very frustrating for those of use who are trying so hard to be careful of our health.

    Transparency and truth from big corporations and government representatives and organizations would be very helpful, but this is not part of their agenda. Note that many of the government agencies “looking out for our health and safety” are lead and manned by people from big corporations such as Monsanto (The king of GMO,toxic chemicals such as Round Up, and evil business practices!)

    Can you say conflict of interests? Corruption runs deep. Why do you think GMO wheat and sugar beets were approved?! Nearly all soy and corn grown commercially is GMO.

    Why the concern over GMO? Please take time to research. A good resource is Seeds of Deception by Jeffery M. Smith. Within the pages of this book you will find many more resources, along with information that will open your eyes to what is going on with food industry!! Scary stuff. If you don’t want to read, the DVD set, “The GMO Trilogy” provides much information, as well. One of the disks, Hidden Dangers in Kid’s Meals” will be of special interest and importance to parents.

  6. Johnny A. Sauter May 3, 2011 at 8:51 pm #

    What an excellent article, Also the replies to this article give me a new found hope that people are listening. Monsanto and Syngenta the Kings of GMO seeds should be brought to justice. Please become informed and take the time to research as stated by Concernred About You and Me. Currently I am reading Seeds of Deception by Jeffery M. Smith and to state that this is scary stuff is putting it mildly. Please stay healthy, Peace to all.

  7. James Early May 4, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    Maria, Thank you for letting Alberto preach from your pulpit. I am sharing this with my friends.

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