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From Fast Company: "If you were to believe newspapers and dietary advice leaflets, you’d probably think that doctors and nutritionists are the people guiding us through the thicket of what to believe when it comes to food. But food trends are far more political - and economically motivated - than it seems."

Really? Tell us more.

"Many of today’s food debates can … be usefully reinterpreted when seen as part of a wider economic picture. For example, recent years have seen the co-option of the vegetarian movement in a political program that can have the effect of perversely disadvantaging small-scale, traditional farming in favor of large-scale industrial farming.

"This is part of a wider trend away from small and mid-size producers towards industrial-scale farming and a global food market in which food is manufactured from cheap ingredients bought in a global bulk commodities market that is subject to fierce competition. Consider the launch of a whole new range of laboratory created 'fake meats' (fake dairy, fake eggs) in the U.S. and Europe, oft celebrated for aiding the rise of the vegan movement. Such trends entrench the shift of political power away from traditional farms and local markets towards biotech companies and multinationals."

Now that multinational corporations and economic behemoths have realized that not only is there a buck to be made in these new-world foods, but their production may allow them to be in greater control of costs and margins, which will in turn allow them to be more profitable.

In fact, Fast Company says, there is a school of thought suggesting that "by 2030, the entire U.S. dairy and cattle industry will have collapsed, as 'precision fermentation' - producing animal proteins more efficiently via microbes - disrupts food production as we know it."

In other words, when someone eats fake meat or fake eggs, they may think they are making a nutritional decision, but in fact they are part of a much broader political and economic fabric that is being ripped apart.

"Westerners might think that this is a price worth paying," Fast Company writes. But not so fast…

"While there is much to be said for rebalancing western diets away from meat and towards fresh fruits and vegetables, in India and much of Africa, animal sourced foods are an indispensable part of maintaining health and obtaining food security, particularly for women and children and the 800 million poor that subsist on starchy foods … livestock also plays a critical role in reducing poverty, increasing gender equity, and improving livelihoods. Animal husbandry cannot be taken out of the equation in many parts of the world where plant agriculture involves manure, traction, and waste recycling—that is, if the land allows sustainable crop growth in the first place. Traditional livestock gets people through difficult seasons, prevents malnutrition in impoverished communities, and provides economic security."

Here's the bottom line that Fast Company posits:

"Private interest and political prejudices often hide behind the grandest talk of 'ethical' diets and planetary sustainability even as the consequences may be nutritional deficiencies, biodiversity-destroying monocultures, and the erosion of food sovereignty.

"For all the warm talk, global food policy is really an alliance of industry and capital intent on both controlling and distorting food production."
KC's View:

To be honest, I really hadn't thought about the issue this way. And I think it is a pretty good bet that someone out there will come back with a rejoinder, explaining to me how the Fast Company piece has it all wrong. I look forward to it.

I was amused that the story did remind me of something that I think I first read back in my semi-radical college days, that Karl Marx once wrote that political structures are built and destroyed based on institutions' ability or inability to feed their people. To put it another way - people vote with their gut. Which means that institutions either have to figure out ways to feed their people (in both the micro and macro sense of the term), or figure out how to deny them the vote.

I wonder which way the world will go.

(Cheerful way to end 2019, I know.)