Thought Of The Day
“The ordainer controls the fate of souls in accordance with their parabdha Karma.
Whatever is destined not to happen will not happen, try as you may.
Whatever is destined to happen will happen, do what you may to prevent it.
This is certain. The best course... is to remain silent.”
Ramana Maharish
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Ethical Food

Slí na Bandé’s Ethical Food Statement

An ethic is simply a way of behaving, guided by a reason. At Sli na Bandé, we choose to shop and eat certain foods for reasons that are as consistent with each other as possible. Food is energy, and food is medicine; but even greater than that, especially during our modern era, food—how it is produced, how it is policed, and how it is marketed—is a political entity. Every bite we take is a vote for particular institutions that govern how we eat. It is of the utmost importance that we understand how we simultaneously govern and remain at the mercy of our food system.

Below is a list of our principles that are not merely theoretical; each principle has a high amount of political relevance. We at Slí na Bandé object to the business practices of large multinational corporations, the push towards a global dependence on a system that denies us food sovereignty and dignity. Organic is not just a word. The word organic represents a long list of exceptionally strict criteria for food production. These criteria work to promote the most  environmentally sustainable food. These are features that are often taken for granted, but each one of them is inextricably linked to responsible food production. Industrial food production, conversely, is a system that is toxic to the environment, to human health, to ecosystems, to the food economy, to fair trade, and to human rights.

1. Purchase and eat organic foods much as possible:

  • Organic is not just a word. The word organic represents a long list of exceptionally strict criteria for food production. These criteria work to promote the best-tasting, most nutrient-dense, and environmentally sustainable food. These are features that are often taken for granted, but each one of them is inextricably linked to responsible food production. Industrial food production, conversely, is a system that is toxic to the environment, to human health, to ecosystems, to the food economy, to fair trade, and to human rights.
  • An organic certification logo represents a return to high-quality and sustainable food production; it is also a commitment to ethical business practices, from the transparency of production (e.g., no illegal dumping of waste, cruelty to livestock, etc. need to be hidden), to consideration of workers’ rights (e.g., it scorns the exploitation of workers), to the guarantee of consumer information (e.g., all foods are labeled to inform consumers where the food was produced). Finally, Organic represents the best counter-strike against multi-national corporations, which, motivated by profit, aim to monopolize world food production (e.g., The Monsanto Corporation is the world’s most influential businesses in the food economy, providing the majority of glyphosate-herbicide, bovine growth hormone, genetically modified seeds, and seed-relevant technology in the world supply. See “All About Monsanto.”).

2. Buy Fair Trade for controversial foods (fair trade and organic would be optimal)

  • Farmers in developing countries often work at the mercy of the food economy, with no sovereignty over their crops. Violations of human rights and egregious exploitation occur on a broad scale in food production (e.g., workers in developing countries often find themselves in slave-like conditions on plantations; women frequently suffer from gender discrimination; sexual abuse, especially toward children, is not uncommon; farmers take on life-long debt in order to obtain start-up capital just so they can compete in the global market). By buying Fair Trade, it is our aim to support small farmers by promoting traditional methods of cultivation, fair wages, and fair prices for commodities.
  • In regards to the question of whether to buy local, or to buy Fair Trade items that travel much greater distances, we believe it is more important for an individual to support his own diversified local economy, and then to supplement with Fair Trade items that cannot be produced locally. A world-wide slow transition to this ethic would gradually relieve developing countries of their dependence on the demands of the Western market

3. Eat foods that are in season–

  • Nature has a very seemingly intelligent design. In the warmer summer months, humans are more active and freer to work, and food is plentiful and less calorically dense; nature yields expansive, cooling, watery fruits and vegetables. Later, nature provides harder, calorie and nutrient-dense, compact, frost-resistant foods to nourish the body during colder, leaner winter months.
  • The globalized food industry has created an aberration in this balance; consumers have become accustomed to enjoying their favourite fruits and vegetables during all times of the year. Unfortunately, the cost to the environment and to communities responsible for meeting the demands for certain foods is high. Food now travels thousands upon thousands of miles from production-regions to reach supermarkets in distant countries. Produce is cultivated under industrialized methods in order to beat nature (and produce is frequently grown at the expense of worker’s rights), is picked unripe, refrigerated, shipped, and often gassed to an appropriate ripeness before it reaches supermarket shelves. The cost in energy for this process is astronomical compared to the cost of stocking food that is in season; the strain placed on communities to meet these demands is the crux of Fair Trade issues.
  • Finally, the global desire for “any food, any time” contributes to the demand for more technology in order to beat the constraints of nature; this positively influences the push for widespread-GMO cultivation (example, cultivating GM-frost-resistant strawberries, in order to extend the strawberry season). Widespread cultivation of GMOs is a campaign headed by multi-national corporations (particularly Monsanto) with financial interests in the technology; due to patent laws, the more GMOs are cultivated, the more control corporations have over the entire non-organic food production system.

4. Eat whole foods–

  • Whole foods are foods that have not been altered or processed, contrasting against prepared foods (things that generally come wrapped in plastic) and de-natured foods (things that in no way resemble their original ingredients—e.g. cornflakes). Each food is engineered by nature to have certain nutritional components (organic food has a much higher nutritional profile compared to conventional food, due to environmental inputs). When a food starts to undergo any type of processing—from as little as cutting a vegetable to refining and bleaching flour—it starts to loose its nutritional integrity. Nutrient-poor foods are wasted foods; nutrient-rich foods are satisfying and nourishing.
  • It must be recognized that de-natured, nutrient-poor foods are the staples of many diets in the developed world. As we now stand, as many people are suffering from mal-nutrition from eating excessively as there are people starving (http://www.worldwatch.org/node/840, as of 2000, the number of overfed malnourished people numbered 1.1 billion; the number of underfed malnourished people also numbered 1.1 billion). Worse, the cost to the environment and economy from the over-fed population eclipses these costs (if any) contributed by the under-fed population.

5. Support small, local businesses, for specialty /artisan items–

  • Whether items are organic or fair trade, we still believe, at the very least, that items needed with immediacy or unavailable wholesale should be purchased from small businesses. Doing this promotes economic diversity in our communities, which detracts from the price and economy-driving powers of supermarkets. Buying items from supermarkets, even organic items, supports causes driven by short-term profit-schemes. As soon as concepts lose popularity and fall to the wayside, supermarkets abandon them for more lucrative schemes. It is important to foster understanding of controversial issues in food production comprehensively, with attention, by supporting businesses with motivations beyond profit.