The First Thanksgiving offered a great lesson in how free markets and private property can lead to agricultural abundance. In many ways we have done well in learning this. Family farmers account for 98% of all farms and produce 96% of all the food in this country. Their own pursuit of self intrerest utilizing markets and private property has led them to adopt GPS, pharmaceutical technology, and biotechnology to produce an abundant food supply, while drastically reducing our impact on the environment. These institutions, capitalism, property rights, and the family farm put the 'S' in sustenance and sustainablity.
Unlike the first Thanksgiving, this abundance is commonplace for the vast majority of Americans today. For many, little physical exertion is required to enjoy access to a fulfilling meal. This combination of abundant cheap food and a sedentary lifestyle certainly has contributed to issues related to health and obesity. Unfortunately, instead of dealing with this issue in a productive, thoughtful, and thankful way, the reaction by many has been spiteful and ingracious- biting the proverbial 'hand that feeds us.'
One way this attitide has come out is what can only be described as a biggoted and condescending attitude towards obese members of the population. PETA has intentions of creating billboards with taglines like:
"The 400-Pound Virgin: Lose Weight. Look Great. Get Laid. Go Vegan."
Lincoln University, in Pennsylvania, has cast aside grand ideals of enlightenment and tolerance through education and research and instead opted for special descrimintory education requirements for obese students.
Many activists and even the media have also started leveling attacks against family farmers using degrading terms like 'industrial agricultrue','factory farming', and 'frankenfoods' to describe the methods most family farmers use to produce our safe and sustainable food supply. By using these terms, activists are able to build resentment towards these technologies, while few people realize their proposals would have a direct negative impact on the family farms they may claim to be 'liberating' from the (ficticious) grip of big agribusiness. They are literally trying to coax us into biting the hand that feeds us.
Celebrity authors like Michael Pollan are leading the charge, linking industrial agriculture (i.e. family farms) with climate change and obestiy among other things. Retailors have engaged in misleading advertising gimmicks, labeling some foods with messages like 'contains no High Fructose Corn Syrup or Artificial Ingredients' while the ingredients list sweeteners such as cane or beat sugar that contain similar levels of fructose. ( & giving the impression that HFCS is an artificial ingredient) Lawmakers, desperate for revenue and popular appeal in times when both are scant, are proposing sugar taxes and calorie added taxes based on little evidence to prove their effectivness and false premises of a correlation with consumption of these foods and obesity.
Instead of showing thanksgiving for our way of life, and modern production techniques that have made it possible, many in society have shown ingratitutude.
For More Information:
Structure and Finances of U.S. Farms: Family Farm Report, 2007 USDA ERS
The Environmental Safety and Benefits of Growth Enhancing Pharmaceutical Technologies in Beef Production
By Alex Avery and Dennis Avery, Hudson Institute, Centre for Global Food Issues.
Capper, J. L., Cady, R. A., Bauman, D. E. The environmental impact of dairy production: 1944 compared with 2007. Journal of Animal Science, 2009; 87 (6): 2160 DOI: 10.2527/jas.2009-1781
GM crops: global socio-economic
and environmental impacts 1996-
2007 Graham Brookes & Peter Barfoot
PG Economics Ltd, UK
Dorchester, UK (link)
Nutrition July-August 2007, Volume 23, Issues 7-8, Pages 557-563
"Is sugar-sweetened beverage consumption associated with increased fatness in children?" Authors: L. Johnson, A.P. Mander, L.R. Jones, P.M. Emmett and S.A. Jebb
Am J Clin Nutr (October 28, 2009)
"Adolescent beverage habits and changes in weight over time: findings from Project EAT1,2,3" Michelle S Vanselow, Mark A Pereira, Dianne Neumark-Sztainer and Susan K Raatz