Marco Visscher introduces this month’s theme on modern agriculture and food.
When children are asked where milk comes from, the majority says: ‘From the supermarket.’ I happen to know that this isn’t quite true, as my grandparents had a dairy farm. But even so, I never had much more than a genetic tie with farm life.
Travelling through South America and Asia put me back in touch with farming. I was deeply moved by discussions with farmers, who told me about their health and their financial crises resulting from ‘modern’ agricultural practices. The gruesome effects of pesticides on farmers became all too clear to me. When I returned home, I went to the health food store more often than before.
Meanwhile, an epidemic of shocking articles about food swept Ode’s reading table, taken from hundreds of magazines. Supermarkets that fail to pay farmers a decent price, Indian warehouses full of rice while the population goes hungry, fresh subsidies for European farmers, deformed babies in areas where large quantities of agricultural chemicals are used, the fact that suicide is the primary cause of death among American farmers, the shortage of nutrients in fruit and vegetables. Surely those stories were somehow connected?
I’ll give away the answer: yes. When I was conducting research for Ode into the abuses of modern, industrial farming I discovered that food is not made for people, but for the market. This is nothing short of a dramatic revolution in the history of our relationship with food.
The following pages tell a story about modern farming that we won’t get from our supermarket receipts. Writing it changed my eating habits forever.