“The Future of Food,” a four-part series (Dec. 17-20), was informative and well-researched by Kristen Leigh Painter, helping to promote meaningful discussions among farmers, consumers, environmentalists and animal-rights activists, among others. Humane, health, ecological and financial considerations with world hunger implications transpired from the series. Perhaps a few additional reminders are worth noting:
In regard to ecological farming systems and farmers hesitant to switch, five- to seven-year crop rotation was common in the mixed livestock-crop farms of the northern Midwest during the first half of the 20th century. The Union of Concerned Scientists (ucsusa.org), mentioned in the series, strongly advocates a three-to-four-year, no-till rotation. Biblically minded farmers may want to check out the Good Book’s references to seven-year crop rotation (Exodus 23:10-11, Leviticus 25:2-7 and Deuteronomy 7:12-13), with the land lying fallow during the sabbatical year.
The main objective, of course, would be to establish healthy soil and crops without depending upon the deleterious effects of Monsanto’s dicamba and Roundup for fighting weeds and insects and their increasing tolerance levels. (See beyondpesticides.org)
Breeding operations and eating habits, including the use of GMOs, need to be thoroughly examined. We gradually have been finding ourselves further and further removed from the sources of what we consume. The mechanized meat industry has profited from covering up atrocious living and slaughtering conditions for animals (series exceptions notwithstanding) as well as inhumane conditions for workers (“Slaughterhouse” by Gail Eisnitz, who risked her health and life to investigate such conditions, is a must-read). To alleviate the suffering of animals in the meat industry and provide a natural environment for some of them, sanctuaries, including several in Minnesota, have been established throughout the country.
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (pcrm.org) is one of several respected resources informing the public of healthy, humane, plant-based diets. In addition, the implications for reducing world hunger with such a diet, also discussed in the series, are increasingly evident. Among numerous examples, not only would much less water be used and the destruction of rain forests be considerably minimized, but much if not all of the grain and soy now fed livestock could be used directly for people in developing countries.
It’s incumbent upon the developed world to establish a more respectful coexistence with sources of consumption. Those using potentially hazardous materials or inhumane procedures must demonstrate unequivocally that they are not jeopardizing the well-being of humans, nonhumans or the environment, both short- and long-term.
Kai Laybourn, Bloomington
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In reference to the part four article on GMOs, apparently there is a lot of misinformation among the public. All DNA is made from the same bases: adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine. So the insertion of a DNA strand is simply adding more of what is already there. Truth be known, the first GMO was wheat, a cross between three grass species in about 10,000 B.C. All bananas were hard and either red or green until about 1837, when soft yellow ones were found. All grapes had seeds until about 1887, when seedless grapes appeared. Even in the last 20 years, cattle, hogs and poultry have been crossbred to form new characteristics, a change in the DNA. So functionally all of our food is a GMO — don’t get a hissy fit just because of geography, moving the process from the field to the lab.
Ralph Hollander, Eden Prairie
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Everything in our world is interconnected. Repeatedly we have made changes to our environment, only to learn later of the effects of these changes. DNA has been established from billions of years of evolution. Just because we currently are unaware of the effects of modifying genes in a plant does not mean there are no consequences for doing so. It may take many generations for us to recognize these consequences. Keep in mind that not all scientists agree with the safety of GMO foods. To be anti-GMO in food is not being anti-science.
Roxann Snyder, Burnsville
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Part three indirectly endorsed factory hog farms as long as their “best practices” meet consumer demand for humane treatment of livestock. In truth, these farms have impacts on communities and natural resources far beyond their responsible treatment of animals. Factory farms pose a serious threat to the health and well-being of rural communities. Large-scale industrial operations push family farmers off the land and put independent producers out of business. Local economies suffer as more and more land is consolidated into fewer and fewer hands. Factory farms also pose numerous environmental hazards — such as water pollution, strong odors and toxic air emissions — that greatly affect the health of nearby residents. Consumers need to wake up to the full spectrum of food production issues if we are to preserve the land — the resource we all depend on.
Kristen Lund, St. Paul
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As a lifelong dairy farmer, I was glad to see the Dec. 19 front-page article about ethical animal care. On our family farm, we take good care of our 58 cows, and we’re glad to see consumers siding with good farming practices. Readers should know that industrial factory farms don’t just bring unethical animal treatment; they also bring pollution, push local family farms out of business and hurt Main Streets in small towns. My family knows this issue well, because a 4,700-hog factory farm is proposed next door to our family dairy farm. On Monday, my neighbors and I delivered nearly 700 postcards collected from people across Minnesota urging that this dangerous proposal be dropped, and we’re showing, loud and clear, that rural Minnesotans choose family farms over factory farms.
Frederick Fredrickson, Zumbrota, Minn.
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Thank you so much for delving into how food production and social responsibility are changing how consumers shop. Shoppers like Elke Richards, who drives two hours to Maple Grove each month to shop at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s and was featured in part one of the series (Dec. 17), know how important it is to purchase locally sourced and organic foods for their families.
Northern Minnesota is home to a number of food co-ops with missions to bring locally raised, organic and sustainable foods to their respective communities. From Alexandria to Maple Grove, shoppers like Elke could stop at local food co-ops, a bit closer than Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Minnesota Street Market in St. Joseph might be on her route. A new co-op will be opening in Wadena. The Sprout Marketplace in Little Falls is another option. Or swing over to the Brainerd Lakes Area and visit the Ideal Green Market near Pequot Lakes.
All these have relationships with the growers of food and appreciate your business. With savings in fuel, you’ll have more to spend and will be helping these local markets continue to be a resource of healthy food options for their communities.
Bonnie Coffey, Pequot Lakes, Minn.
The writer is board president for the Ideal Green Market.
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I commend the choice of minimally processed and locally grown food, but I feel that what you transport that food in is just as important. A photo accompanying part one shows one of the story’s subjects holding two big plastic bags with her carefully chosen groceries. Plastic pollutes the land, water and our food. It is easy to use environmentally friendly, reusable bags to carry things in.
Betty Ellis, Mendota Heights