Everyone knows the old saying “you are what you eat.” Food builds our bodies and supplies us with daily fuel. But what happens when “what you eat” is no longer your choice?
by James Rollins
In 1791, the Bill of Rights defined a set of personal liberties unique to our country: the right to bear arms, freedom of religion, along with many other inalienable rights of the individual. But one personal liberty was overlooked: the freedom to control what we eat.
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Over the last few decades, this fundamental right has been slowly eroded away and placed into the hands of corporations and government committees, with frightening results. Seed production is now under control of petrochemical companies like Monsanto. Last year for example, 90 percent of soybeans grown in U.S. soil and 80 percent of corn was genetically modified. These basic foods (along with rice and wheat) are no longer natural plants, but products of genetic laboratories. At the same time, cows, pigs, and chickens are being pumped with more and more antibiotics and hormones, creating antibiotic-resistant super-bugs and deadly E.coli outbreaks.
This is the modern American diet.
And do not be fooled. Control of the American diet isn’t just about profit. In this new millennium, food production is more about power and control than nutrition and health. For example, a sign at a local animal feed store recently read: “Due to the Bioterrorism Act, we must have your name, address and phone number to sell you feed.” This is literally a sign of the times. If the government can control it, they will control it.
When we hand over the freedom of “what we eat,” we give over control of our bodies and the health of our children. One only has to look at the childhood obesity epidemic to know that something is dreadfully wrong. For the first time in U.S. history, the life expectancies of our children are growing shorter. Something is horribly awry, and now is the time for serious and fundamental changes.
So what do we do? How do we preserve this freedom of choice? The answer is simple. It’s one word: self-sufficiency. We only have to remember the thousands of “victory gardens” grown during World War II. Half the homes in America grew such gardens, enough to feed their entire families.
It’s high time we did the same, to take back control of “what we eat,” to teach our children how to grow and tend gardens for the new millennium, what people are now calling Freedom Gardens. What better way to spend a summer day with your kids than to teach them where food truly comes from, to have them learn how the Earth sustains us, and to let them experience firsthand how much better a homegrown cucumber or vine-ripened tomato tastes compared to something bought from a store?
So start small. Work with your children in the garden. Take it step by step. If you’ve got a backyard, cordon off a small space for a dedicated garden. If you’re living in an apartment or condominium, there are books on how to grow an edible garden out of hanging pots. While you might not be able to sustain yourself right away, every little bit helps. And for what you can’t grow, seek out local farmers. What better way to spend quality time with your children than to pile them into the car for a Sunday drive through the country, stopping by roadside fruit and vegetable stands or going apple or berry picking?
Also that bounty doesn’t have to end with summer. Almost anything you grow can be preserved via canning, dehydrating, freezing, or fermenting. It’s a way to make the summer’s bounty last deep into winter. Again many resources are available for those unfamiliar with canning. Oregon State University has a whole series of publications that can be ordered online that teaches about preserving everything from fruits to seafood. Another good resource is the National Center for Home Food Preservation (see side bar for website).
Our bodies are indeed what we eat. But such lessons of independence and sustainability will yield an even greater harvest—it will grow children who are stronger and more self-reliant. Who could ask for a greater bounty during the summer?