A few weeks ago I attended Anna Lappés talk, Ethics at the End of a Fork, in Corwin Pavilion. It was such a rewarding and moving experience that I thought I should share it here. Anna’s main message was that advocating for organic food and a lower-input knowledge based food system isn’t an elitist cause to benefit “Starbucks latté-sipping, Tesla driving, Whole Foods shopping…” individuals, but that it’s a broad systematic change to new ways of farming that can benefit all of society. She has travelled throughout the world researching and exploring this cause.
She talked about how this change can bring drastic reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions, healthier working conditions for farmers, and healthier soil and crops for consumers. One of the most memorable anecdotes she delivered was about a now passed away farmer John Kinsman, who late in life made the radical switch from traditional dairy farming to strictly organic artificial hormone-free farming. What struck me the most was his response to her question asking why he switched so late in life–“My mind changed when I was sick in that hospital bed and realized the reason I was there was the chemicals I had been exposing myself to my entire life.” She followed that example with countless other studies and experiences from the field about the harmful nature of the current food system to society. She ended with a refutation of the main agrochemical company argument, that this systematic change couldn’t supply the world with enough food. She explained that immediate positive effects of GMO’s are masked by overwhelming downsides worsening our ability to feed future generations–biodiversity loss, less healthy soil, and increased chemical dependence. She utilized the example of the European Union’s high crop yield and low GMO usage as proof.
I was extremely glad I was able to attend this talk. I left wanting to pay better attention to the choices I make about what food I buy. If it weren’t for an email I received from another professor about this seminar I wouldn’t have known about it, yet it was a 2-minute walk from my dorm room. This experience reinforced to me to always be on the lookout for seminars and events like this. If you’d like to learn more about Anna Lappé’s work, check out her website at http://smallplanet.org/about/anna/www.annalappe.com. I highly recommend checking out some of her featured speeches (especially the TED Talk on Marketing Food to Children), she is a brilliant speaker.