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Excerpt: "Our food is under threat. It is felt by every family farmer who has lost their land and livelihood, every parent who can't find affordable or healthy ingredients in their neighborhood, every person worried about foodborne illnesses thanks to lobbyist-weakened food safety laws, every farmworker who faces toxic pesticides in the fields as part of a day's work."

Willie Nelson performs in North Carolina, 06/16/11. (photo: Getty Images)
Willie Nelson performs in North Carolina, 06/16/11. (photo: Getty Images)

Why We Must Occupy Our Food Supply

By Willie Nelson and Anna Lappe, Reader Supported News

24 February 12


ur food is under threat. It is felt by every family farmer who has lost their land and livelihood, every parent who can't find affordable or healthy ingredients in their neighborhood, every person worried about foodborne illnesses thanks to lobbyist-weakened food safety laws, every farmworker who faces toxic pesticides in the fields as part of a day's work.

When our food is at risk we are all at risk.

Over the last thirty years, we have witnessed a massive consolidation of our food system. Never have so few corporations been responsible for more of our food chain. Of the 40,000 food items in a typical U.S. grocery store, more than half are now brought to us by just 10 corporations. Today, three companies process more than 70 percent of all U.S. beef, Tyson, Cargill and JBS. More than 90 percent of soybean seeds and 80 percent of corn seeds used in the United States are sold by just one company: Monsanto. Four companies are responsible for up to 90 percent of the global trade in grain. And one in four food dollars is spent at Walmart.

What does this matter for those of us who eat? Corporate control of our food system has led to the loss of millions of family farmers, the destruction of soil fertility, the pollution of our water, and health epidemics including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even certain forms of cancer. More and more, the choices that determine the food on our shelves are made by corporations concerned less with protecting our health, our environment, or our jobs than with profit margins and executive bonuses.

This consolidation also fuels the influence of concentrated economic power in politics: Last year alone, the biggest food companies spent tens of millions lobbying on Capitol Hill with more than $37 million used in the fight against junk food marketing guidelines for kids.

On a global scale, the consolidation of our food system has meant devastation for farmers, forests and the climate. Take the controversial food additive palm oil. In the past decade, palm oil has become the most widely traded vegetable oil in the world and is now found in half of all packaged goods on U.S. grocery store shelves. But the large-scale production of palm oil - driven by agribusiness demand for the relatively cheap ingredient - has come at a cost: palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia are razing rainforests, releasing massive quantities of greenhouse gases and displacing Indigenous communities.

From the global to the local, nothing is more personal than this threat to our food. And nothing more inspiring than the movement that is fighting back. On Monday February 27, tens of thousands of people - including farmers and food workers, parents and students, urban gardeners and chefs - will participate in a Global Day of Action to Occupy our Food Supply.

Occupy our Food Supply is a day to both resist Big Food and highlight sustainable solutions that work for all of us. On February 27, more than 60Occupy groups as well as environmental and corporate accountability organizations are joining together. From Brazil, Hungary, Ireland, Argentina, the United States and beyond, people will be reclaiming unused bank-owned lots to create community gardens; hosting seed exchanges in front of stock exchanges; labeling products on grocery store shelves that contain genetically engineered ingredients; building community alliances to support locally owned grocery stores and resist Walmart megastores; and fighting back against industrial giants Monsanto and Cargill.

The call to Occupy our Food Supply, facilitated by Rainforest Action Network, is being echoed by prominent thought leaders, authors, farmers and activists including the Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva, Food Inc.'s Robert Kenner, and authors Michael Pollan, Raj Patel, Gary Paul Nabhan, and Marion Nestle, among others.

As Michael Ableman, farmer, author, and founder of the Center for Urban Agriculture puts it: "We need to focus on what we are for as much as what we are against; occupying our land, our soils with life and fertility, our communities with good food. We need to work to rebuild the real economy, the one based on seeds and sunlight and individuals and communities growing together."

If you eat food, grow food, love food, join us to Occupy our Food Supply.

Anna Lappé is author of Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork (Bloomsbury USA) and a board member of Rainforest Action Network. Willie Nelson is founder and president of Farm Aid. your social media marketing partner


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+75 # wminot 2012-02-24 12:34
Anna Lappé and Willie Nelson are formidable pair. This article is full of things I didn't know, and I'm off to Farm Aid to learn some more.

It is so refreshing to learn about something positive and life giving that I can do, after these dark days of watching suicidal
snake oil salesmen walk belligerently into the valley of death.

Off with the TV and on with the hoe.

And thank you all.
+40 # judijay 2012-02-24 12:58
Thank you for this very important undertaking...
+45 # Richard Raznikov 2012-02-24 13:16
The more we learn about some of these corporations, the more outraged we become; the more we learn, the better our chance to recover our country.
+18 # cordleycoit 2012-02-24 13:25
First thing we as responsible people ought to do is make the public aware they are digging their graves with a fork and spoon.Next we have to bring producers (farmers) together to form a workable system to distribute natural and near natural produce.
We ought to avoid the boutique food market and have fresh produce at affordable prices. I am aware of the commercial aspect and feel that there are now some marketeers trying to do that.
Knowing you Willie there is a whole expertise in trucking and you've met them.
We are about to hit a food and money crunch that's to those who make war for fuel. More rail might be an answer.
Convince people that it's better to pay a bit more for real food now than paying the doctor later. Mean time listen to the road and be well.
+22 # tswhiskers 2012-02-24 13:28
Thank you for this article. I have just learned of the harm that the food additive BHA can cause. It has been linked to obesity and diabetes. Also all need to join together if we want to rescue our food suppy from Monsanto GMO crops. At this time I don't know how we can stop Monsanto and reclaim the FDA as a nonpolitical organization, but it must be done if we and succeeding generations are to be allowed to eat healthy, non-contaminate d food.
+15 # tswhiskers 2012-02-24 13:46
Sorry, I made a mistake in my last post. The additive linked to obesity and diabetes is BPA, or bisphenol A. It is used in making plastic containers such as water bottles and even in minute amounts can trick fat cells into taking in more fat and cause the pancreas to secrete as much as double the insulin needed to break down food. I say again, we need to band together to stop Monsanto and reclaim the FDA as a nonpolitical organization if the world is to have a healthy, noncontaminated food supply.
+18 # dick 2012-02-24 13:58
The serious need to "Occupy" A-Z tells us it's way past time to stand up to corporate aristocracy Across the Board. Ironically,
to "occupy", to resist, will commonly mean to "boycott"...toxic
banks, the worst oil corps, food suppliers, plastic packagers, phony Democrats, etc. That can amount to a lot of drip, drip...
Don't waste energy on corporate media's Debate Du Jour, ex.,"Is Ricky SanCtorum a theologian?" Duh. Commit, organize, boycott.
+15 # Eliza D 2012-02-24 14:03
*Love it-wminot-"Off with the TV and on with the hoe". I'm so glad Willie Nelson is using his star power to get others on board the organic, non-GMO food wagon. I'm aware that Ann Lappe and her mother have been toiling for years to get the message out. My children are actually ridiculed when they say they've never eaten at a fast-food restaurant and eat vegetables off the bush. I've had to advise them to be careful whom they share with. What a long way we've come from the farm! This Occupy Food Day is indeed refreshing. Count us in.
+17 # janetjan 2012-02-24 15:10
Don't forget the way a few corporations are sneaking genetically altered (in other words, very strange) food into what is sold to us, with no labels and no warning. If it had good effects, the corporations would want to get credit for doing something good. So why do they hide it so carefully?
+15 # reiverpacific 2012-02-24 16:15
I'm currently writing a book entitled "Survival cooking for the Riff-Raff" or "Eat better than the rich by culling, recycling and trading locally". -Gawd knows if it'll ever get published but I've spoken to Ms Lappé personally about this when she was in Oregon and she was very supportive and encouraging about getting past the obstacles to publishers.
Another thing; this country is appallingly wasteful and throws out so much.
You never see anything about this on the -in my opinion mostly silly- food channel -just food porn, much of it from people who are on for other reasons than their often dubious cooking abilities.
My daughter was brought up with a deep love of food and it's preparation and has traveled enough with me to see that in many countries, the rich consume food for status and the struggling get by with seemingly little but better-quality, even when they have limited if any access to decent water supplies.
I think the growing Farmer's Market phenomenon all over the country (it's always been part of life in France, Spain Italy Scotland, Ireland and other European nations) is an encouraging sign and I hope it continues.
But again, how many people can drag them selves away fro their soaps, sitcoms and yes- cooking shows- to actually cook? Corporations are putting out the food channel as a promotional infotainment vehicle for many of the products and companies who are mentioned in this article.
But there is hope for those of us who resist.
+2 # propsguy 2012-02-25 22:15
i want your book!
+2 # Healthy Author 2012-02-27 17:32
Hi reiverpacific - Just a word of encouragement for you: I recently wrote a book entitled "Just Because You're An American Doesn't Mean You Have To Eat Like One!" ( One of the things I did early on was volunteer at NOFA (the Northeast Organic Farming Association). I am now a certified clinical nutritionist, and I lecture on food and traditional diets of the world at their conferences. Put yourself in that environment, surround yourself with like-minded people (if you live in Oregon you probably already are!) and you can achieve your goals! Good luck with your book! (Love your comments about the food networks).

Re: Farmers' Markets - this is a trend that has already crossed the tipping point in this country. In 2010 there was a 17% increase, and in 2011 there was a 38% increase...and that included winter farmers' markets in cold weather states! There were more winter farmers' markets in the state of NY than in California! The numbers are an indication of what the American people WANT when it fresh, locally grown food.
+15 # bugbuster 2012-02-24 17:58
I don't know why I keep not hearing about corn subsidies. McDonalds and the like are nothing but processors of subsidized corn, aren't they?

If every corn subsidy dollar were replaced by a dollar of truck farm subsidy, fresh produce would be cheaper than junk food.

Corn subsidies should be replaced by subsidies of healthful food for oh so many reasons including reducing the cost of health care.
+5 # Rick Levy 2012-02-24 19:35
Here's a related perspective on the threat to food safety in America:

"Caution: Belief in Creationism May Be Hazardous to Your Health and Mine)"
+12 # Windy126 2012-02-24 20:08
I've said it before and I will repeat it now. I grew up eating corn and I love it. About ten years ago I started developing severe pains in the joints in my hands, arms and shoulders. No OTC pain killers would touch it. Finally a women who worked with my daughter told her to have me stop eating corn, it is for animals not humans. As long I am very careful to stay away from corn, and any and all corn products the pain is gone. I can tell when I get careless in reading labels and am in pain again.
I try to grow all my veggies for the winter and only buy locally grown beef,pork and chicken. But now the seed companies are raising the prices on their seed to ridiculous levels. Perdue has done work on honeybees and found that it is a chemicals put on corn that is causing hive collapse. It kills the honeybees. Honey, nature most perfect food that never goes bad is at risk for profits. Thank goodness for bumblebees without them we would have no pollination. There used to lots of honeybees here as previous owners raised them. Only saw a few last year.
+2 # propsguy 2012-02-25 22:21
i'd like to refine your comment- corn, in small quantities in season, is fine. but we are getting massive amounts of GM corn that has been processed into looking like "food." those blueberries in your blueberry muffin are really processed corn and soy with artificial flavor and color.
if you make your own blueberry muffins, you'll get real blueberries and no corn.
by giving up processed foods, you will drastically cut down the amount of corn you eat to just the few ears you get at summer BBQs. and that won't hurt you.
an added benefit- when i gave up processed foods, my cellulite went away
+12 # Bev 2012-02-24 22:04
Anyone who wants to contribute to the downfall of the big food corporations can begin by joining a CSA farm, shopping at a Farmers' Market.and by not shopping at WalMart. Buy local, fresh food and organic when you can afford it. Cast your vote by avoiding as much as possible anything in in a container, can or package. They do listen to money.
Check out for resources.Bev
+5 # Patriot 2012-02-25 01:14
Read the labels on the food you buy! We're being poisoned with sodium (salt) and sugars. Yes, I know, carbohydrates (starches) break down into sugars, and we do need carbohydrates -- but we don't need all the *added* sugars and sugar alcohols. If manufacturers would cut salt slowy but steadily, say by 10% a year, in 5 years hypertension (high blood pressure) would cease to be the major killer that it is. And palm oils are killers!

Read the labels: Buy lower-sodium content and lower-sugar-con tent fooods. Money talks.

+1 # Coconut Dave 2012-02-25 17:11
Psalms 104
13 He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works.
14 He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth;
15 And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.
+4 # futhark 2012-02-25 18:41
In 2008 I attended a series of Meet Up meeting with local Ron Paul supporters, among them members of the John Birch Society. I was surprised to learn how much they hated the neocons and how concerned they were about the reduction of food crop cultivars and the monopolization of viable seeds by large corporations. These are issues that can transcend the divisions of the "political spectrum", itself an outmoded metaphor derived from the seating arrangements of the various factions in the Estates General in the French Revolution.

All people need to fight for the right to maintain viable seeds for a wide variety of crops.
+3 # Capn Canard 2012-02-26 11:25
Willie is doing the work we all should be doing... at the very least we may be required to get up off our rear ends and pitch in. Thanks Willie!

As per agricultural issues: how about we start some movement with regard to permaculture/ec ologically balanced farming to improve soil conditions and reduce the carcinogenic pesticides and herbicides? The techniques are outh there, they would work and they aren't petroleum intense. In fact they are quite the opposite.Of course if everyone grew 5% to 10% of their own food the corporations would freak out. They would likely try to pass a law against growing your own food.

fuhark: SEED SAVING! ABSOLUTELY! We need those tried and true practices and not the sleezy corporate agribusiness telling ordering our farmers what to plant.
-1 # John Steinsvold 2012-02-26 22:04
An Alternative to Capitalism (if the people knew about it, they would demand it)

Several decades ago, Margaret Thatcher claimed: "There is no alternative". She was referring to capitalism. Today, this negative attitude still persists.

I would like to offer an alternative to capitalism for the American people to consider. Please click on the following link. It will take you to an essay titled: "Home of the Brave?" which was published by the Athenaeum Library of Philosophy:

John Steinsvold

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."
~ Albert Einstein

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