Thursday, May 9, 2013


Centralized and gigantic manufacturing industry is a classical American mindset and this is true with many industrial countries where scale of economy is perceived to be the stepping stone to achieve lower cost of production and improve profitability. Historically tremendous engineering innovations in designing and fabricating high production capacity machinery , dearth of labor and the huge cost of human involvement in production floor operations naturally led to many industrial activity being automated across the spectrum. It is only recently the world has woken up to the dangers inherent in such mindless agglomeration leading to a rethink on the relevance of the present production culture. In the food sector increasing episodes of food poisoning and difficulties in tracing the source of contamination spawned the locavore movement which advocates producing and consuming the food locally in stead of ferrying them from far away places that can cause logistical, quality and large carbon foot print problems. With America's supremacy in the global arena, WTO also seems to be influenced in evolving trade policies that imitate the system that is prevalent in that country while locavore type system is more preferable for all countries. Democracy does not mean any thing if large food conglomerates hold the elected governments in their vice like grip sabotaging every good intentioned policies favorable to the well being of the citizens. Here is a critical commentary on this trade issue that is dividing the world vertically.         

"There has been a quiet revolution going around the world, as communities and nations retake control of their food systems. In the U.S., more people are taking a look at processed foods at the supermarket and opting instead for healthier choices, grown locally with fewer pesticides. People in Cambodia have taken a hard look at what's happening to their climate, soil and seeds, and figured out a new, low-cost way to produce rice, increasing production and putting farmers in charge. Brazilians are favoring local farmers growing sustainable foods for school lunch programs, lowering hunger rates dramatically as a result. This trend is larger than individual choice: people are using their rights as citizens to make sure governments, from local to national, support these innovations. Unfortunately, U.S. trade policy seems wedded to a discredited notion of how we should get our food and who should benefit. These local shifts involve choices, and in many cases choices that favor local producers over transnational corporations, local markets over imports; it seems that the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has a problem with that. In its latest report, the agency highlights what it calls the growing problems of "localization barriers to trade," and vows renewed vigilance against these barriers to the free flow of goods and services. A free flow to where? And for whose benefit? In the U.S., local food is sometimes dismissed as an elite niche market, but in the rest of the world it has another meaning entirely. For decades, Western aid and trade officials have told poor countries to rely on international markets to feed their people; governments were forced to cut support for "inefficient" things like local food production and emergency grain reserves; domestic farming was undermined as cheap imports flooded in. When the price of internationally traded food spiked in 2007-08, and again in 2011, the poorest couldn't afford staples like wheat and rice, and global hunger soared. The developing countries that fared best were those that built domestic production and insulated themselves from volatile global markets. So while the USTR attack on all things local may be great for the U.S. food giants, it pushes an economic model that has been discredited by actual events".

Even in the US people seem to be concerned with the direction in which food industry is moving recklessly with no concern or remorse for their past sins. Every child in the US knows that the food industry in that country could not be trusted and it does not have good intentions vis-a-vis its attitude and action. Whether it is allowing unsafe chemicals in foods or not forcing the industry to label GM foods or diluting the standards for organic foods, the government invariably seems to be on the side of the industry ignoring the well being of the citizen. No wonder experts are increasingly holding the industry and the government responsible for the obesity epidemic so rampant in the United States of America!


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