|Posted by more-than-organic on December 16, 2009 at 9:25 AM|
Capitalism ephasizes quantity. In our over consuming Western Nations, quantity is seen as a core value. Accumulating material wealth as a facet of desiring quantity, drives our economies and plays a large part in our lives which are managed and run based on quantities of time. Wherever we look, it´s not difficult to find quantity as a core value. So is it really so surprising that agriculture and food systems reflect this core value of quantity?
Our societies define foods by analysing and labelling them using quantities of calories and nutrients. Big agriculture, in it´s efforts to increase quantities, uitilizes the power of bio-tech science corporations´ focus on parts of plants and eco-systems to increase nutritional quantity and yield. Always, quantity is the driver. Unfortunately, and this applies to everything, focussing on quantity alone is like judging a book by it´s cover - there is no regard for depth, substance, quality and integrity. Quantity without these other considerations is superficial and in my view not valuable at all.
Quantity driven development of our food system has resulted in a situation where we now have to have a discussion to agree on a definition for what consitutes real food. How insane is that? Along with air and water, food is right up there on the essential list for human life, but we´ve become so disconnected from our food, we´re not sure what it is anymore! Sixty years of quantity driven development at lighting speed over three or four generations and it´s little wonder we´re loosing touch with reality. In order to re-connect with real food and more - find depth, substance and quality in our lives, we first have to slow down and come back to the Earth. This involves the courageous step of going against the societal norm of seeing quantity as the core value.
Some people see this shift in perception as a class based luxury alternative, and indeed the organic food movement has not helped itself in this respect: Marketing to a niche perpetuates that niche and does little to inform and broaden awareness outside that limited segment of society. But this niche view is a short sighted view of sustainable food when we consider that un-altered food produced in co-operation with nature is as basic and ordinary as we can get! The earth and nature are our starting point, the more we move from this "ordinaryness" the less ordinary our food becomes. If we take this view, food grown with trans-species genetic modification (GM) is light years way from ordinary. Actually, reliance on chemically based nitrogen within our eco-systems has already meant our food is far from ordinary, but jumping to GM is like farming on another planet! The point is that sustainable food is ordinary because it comes from and co-operates with nature, and nature as the Earth is always our starting point.
In coming from and co-operating with nature, sustainable food is not based on the false value of quantity. True food quality can never be determined through measuring the quantity of nutrients alone, because many facets of quality are unmeasurable. The living vitality in a food is the result of the conditions in which that food is grown, particularly the living quality of the soil. This is vitality that can´t be measured and disected, but has to be felt and experienced. After all, as humans we are part of nature and there was a time when we relied on our senses to judge quality and what was good for us and not some homogenized labelling system dictated to us by governments and big corporation marketing campaigns!
When we shift to viewing food based on quality, our view itself fits into a more sustainable pattern. For example, truly high quality meat (think grass fed, organic, free range, antibiotic free) is a food of great potency and power. A food with these attributes doesn´t need to be consumed as part of our daily diet and becomes an occasion food, or we eat a little when we need strength - recovering from illness or maybe we´re involved in extended and intensive physical work. So our eating itself becomes more intuitive and connected. We rediscover food as part of many ways to maintain health and balance in our lives.
Ordinary food needs to be available to everyone who wants it and not just a middle class niche. Whats more, if we don´t re-consider the values on which we base our perception of food what will be the state of our food system in ten or twenty years time? I´m not going to wait around to find out.