Last night, during another bout with insomnia, I read my colleague E.B. Boyd's excellent interview with Raj Patel in the March issue of Whole Life Times. Patel's book Stuffed and Starved: Markets, Power, and the Hidden Battle for the World's Food System, is now at the top of my reading list.
According to Boyd, Patel "takes a look under the hood of the global food system to explain why one billion people on the planet are overweight while another billion go hungry. What Patel found wasn't pretty: a small number of corporations, bolstered by asymmetric trade policies, controls how land is used in developing countries and places empty calories on the shelves of rich ones."
Patel is a food justice activist -- someone who examines America's predilication for food imperialism (read his blog please) -- and in the Whole Life Times interview Patel made some good points. Obvious ones like why it's important to shop at farmer's markets and others more poignant like this statement about buying fair trade:
...I also know its delusional to think you can transform the world merely by shopping. The way we shop is important, but the way the food system is set up is not the result of unenlightened consumerism. It was the result of colonialism and slavery and exploitation. So it will take political change to undo that.The takeaway -- don't let the guilt about your love for chocolate, coffee or even bananas paralyze you. Turn it into action. Sure, I'll plant some of my own vegetables, I'll continue to go to the farmer's market and I'll buy some more grass fed beef. But in these tough economic times, it's difficult not to use the Ralph's supermarket coupon that's offering me $10 off a $25 purchase. Leaving me with a quandary, what's a conscious consumer to do?