Monday, 17 October 2016

Are We Winning?

The mainstream media and others who speak for the processed food, chemical and pharmaceutical industries like to portray the "wellness revolution" as a fad or a silly little children's game, when they're not demonising us. But those of us fighting for organic and natural food, instead of having to eat chemical-laced, processed junk, are gaining often-unspoken ground.

Many people in the USA make fun of healthier diets, or those that just aim to avoid intolerances, as if it were an elitist concern. However, food companies are actually struggling to keep up with societal changes. General Mills plans to drop all artificial colours and flavours from its cereals. Kraft said they were dropping artificial dyes from its macaroni and cheese. Hershey's will begin to move away from artificial emulsifiers to "simple and easy to understand ingredients". Perdue, Tyson and Foster Farm are beginning to reduce the use of antibiotics in chicken farming. I must say that, with the exception of chicken, these are all very American foods that are rarely seen here in Australia.

Source: Jessica Reeder
Big Food companies are also beginning to acquire smaller, healthier companies and bring out new products. Newer brands like Amy's Kitchen and Sweetgreen are still taking market share from these, however. The per-person sales of soft drink (soda) and packaged orange juice have fallen by 25% and 45% since 1998, respectively. Super-sugary packaged cereals have lost 25% of sales since 2000. On the other hand, sales of freshly-prepared foods have risen by 30% since 2009, and per-person vegetable consumption is up by 10%. Even the giant corporation Nestle is trying to change its direction and image. My nasty, horrible generation is partly to blame: in one survey, 37% of "millennials", now aged 20-37, do not trust large food companies, while only 18% of others feel the same way. It may not just be a desire to get healthy, but also the culture surrounding smaller businesses, that is driving these social changes. An increasing number of people, in the USA and elsewhere, are even bypassing food companies for some of their needs, by growing their own food and reviving traditional cooking skills (or making their own modern foods such as bliss balls and smoothies).

But why is the wellness revolution, or food movement, so successful in the face of such powerful opposition? It turns out that while it shares many strengths with the environment, feminist, labour and civil rights movements, it does not have many of their weaknesses. First of all, this revolution includes the movements I just mentioned - there is something for everyone, it transcends our differences. Organic, locally-produced food cuts down on chemical and greenhouse gas pollution. It does not poison the workers paid to farm and produce the food, and supports smaller businesses. Traditional practices of many cultures are recognised instead of steamrolled by "efficiency". Better health means less unpaid caring work for women. Second, this is a self-organising, leaderless revolution. Those like Jamie Oliver, Dr Vandana Shiva and others are thought leaders, but do not dictate and earned their positions. And you don't need a TV show or PhD to contribute, you could be a poorer, rural woman or man who has only recently gained land rights. Female (and male) farmers in India are now embracing organic farming and passing the message on to others. Although it is a movement of many different factions, there is also a level of support for each other that a cynic would not have predicted. Finally, it is low-budget, which not only makes things more convenient but helps to prevent the message being bought out by wealthy predators. So, are we winning against monopolies and disease? Yes!

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