Posted by: beyonddinner | November 22, 2008

Thoughts on Grub: ideas for an urban organic kitchen

Recently I finished reading the book Grub: ideas for an urban organic kitchen, by Anna Lappe and Bryant Terry. I live in an urban area – Brookline, Massachusetts, and am looking for ways to make my food world more sustainable.

I particularly liked Chapter One: The Six Illusions.

In the Illusion of Safe and Clean Anna Lappe talks about pesticides and quotes Dr. Urvashi Rangan of the Consumers Union, “We’re proof of harm, not proof of safety, in this country.” It’s a good reminder and helps me understand why we get into messes like with melamine for instance.

In the Illusion of Fairness, she outlines how just a few companies control a vast percentage of the following markets: meat (4 producers control 84% beef), food processing (4 companies control 63% of flour production), commercial seeds (4 companies control 80% of the market), GMO seeds (one company controls 90%), pesticides (6 companies control about 75%), and in retail food sales (5 companies control about 1/2 of the market – Walmart controls 1/3 by itself) She also reminds us that real competition dies once four companies control 40% or more of a market, according to most economists. Where’s antitrust activity on this?

In the Illusion of Progress, she talks about how we implement technology for technology’s sake and don’t really work out if the technology should be implemented – where’s our ethics of innovation? Do we ask ourselves “Is there a better alternative?” or “What are the possible consequences” or “Who may benefit and who may suffer?”. The example she gives is genetically modified foods – where genes within the plant are changed out for genes from another organism to yield better performance in a particular trait. The problem is that human beings don’t fully understand what all genes do, and they all do more than one thing – so if we trade out a gene, we are sacrificing some other aspects of the plant’s makeup that we don’t understand. It’s a massive experiment and we have no idea what the outcome will be.

Later in the book they suggest doing a Community Food Audit. I plan to do that at some point and will post the results in the blog.

Overall I enjoyed the book. There’s some good food for thought and lots of recipes too.

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