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Eat, drink and be Mary! (Ask, what is this thing called food?)

by A.V. Krebs

(Friday, Dec. 20, 2002 -- CropChoice guest commentary)-- A popular television "soap opera" in the 1970's was that which chronicled the comical fortunes and misfortunes of a young married couple living in Fernwood, Ohio.

One evening as we joined Mary, her husband Tom and sister Kathy, Mary was preparing a pineapple pie for the family dinner. As she poured the somewhat grotesque-looking contents of a can of pineapple filling into a pie pan her sister Kathy, who was watching the process, wondered aloud where the pineapple was?

Puzzled, they both proceeded to read the contents of the can as it appeared on the label. Amidst the various acids and flavorings and sugar no mention was made of pineapple, except, of course, in the advertising on the label. Mary paused thoughtfully, and looking at her sister, remarked:

"I don't see any pineapple listed here," to which Kathy replied, "they don't make food out of food anymore" provoking Mary to ponder, "what do they do with food, if they don't make food out of it?"

Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, that's a good question, that's a good question.

Eating food, next to life its self, is our greatest common denominator yet most Americans have come to care little about it as long as it is available, convenient and cheap, much less do they care about how it affects their lives and health, and even less about how it gets from the ground to their tables.

Despite such indifference , however, eating has become not only a moral, but a political act and what we eat, how we eat and where we eat speaks volumes about our sense of justice, our concern for our fellow human beings, our politics and peoples' desire to live in free and democratic societies.

If we are to believe what doctors, nutritionists and health experts tells us that over 50% of our health problems today can be traced to our diet then the corporate state has us between a rock and a hard place. Consistently, over the last two decades, the two sectors of our industrial economy that have shown the most profitability --- based on the percentage of return on stockholders' equity --- has been the health services industry and the food, tobacco and beverage processing industry.

So as we prepare to celebrate another holiday season, with not only the partaking of food and drink, but the happiness of our children being such an integral part of that celebration, we would be well to pause for a moment, if for no other reason than their healthy future and our own self-interest, and carefully consider what is this thing that we call food today. To that end this edition of THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER is dedicated.