Bookmark and Share December 24, 2010 - Dave Mulder

War of the food words

David Augenstein publishes the Journal of Living Food and Healing. His periodical offers a view of the food and the food manufacturing industry from the stance of a small farmer (though Augenstein himself is not a small farmer). Living Food is a great read, and I highly recommend you bookmark and subscribe to it.

Augie often talks about the war of the words: An idea that the words we use to describe our food are being warped by big industry’s political agenda. Today, Augie expounded on this war, delivering a well-written Christmas Eve gift for his readers.

The first casualty of the war of words is organic. Organic food is a $60 billion USD worldwide industry and its definition is constantly being tugged.

The word has caused so much confusion and frustration– I don’t like to use it. USDA stole the term from the grassroots and twisted it to where can mean a battery of concentration camps of 250,000 chickens or even a million–voila, most of your organic chickens and eggs at the supermarket. Funny, pesticides and herbicides are organic too.

Rather than using organic, I chose to use organic-like for a while until graduating to use natural and naturally grown. But I also like BTO crops: better-than-organic (sounds like a GMO). It works much better to communicate– that is what words are for. But then I heard from the naturally grown certified people, that USDA is after them to make sure they meet the USDA/FDA definition of natural. To food manufacturers, natural can mean nerve toxins derived from naturally occurring species as in natural flavorings, 100% natural etc. Let us pause to remember the Splenda Made from Sugar campaign.

Over the last 18 months, people have invariably asked me to describe my food philosophy. I hate using the word organic, and I hate using the word healthy, because those labels have been twisted by food marketers and legislation. So I tell people I eat natural food, and if they are interested in the topic I will elaborate further. Even now, as Augie points out, natural is under attack. I don’t know where to go from here. Sustainable food?

Advocating for small farm freedom, Augie thoroughly discusses the definition of sustainable.

When we come to the word sustainable it cuts both ways. Sustainable is a term coined by the United Nations and its leaders of nation-states. Sustainability is an Agenda 21 buzz word (like diversity, tolerance,  ad infinum) Your product or activity is not sustainable unless it meets their definition. What has happened is the farmers growing it naturally have unwarily adopted this term without knowing it is a code word. Well, this is another age-old trick too. When grassroots farm folk say sustainable they usually mean natural. When politicians and multinational corporations say sustainable, they are really saying controlled. When they say green, it usually means red. So sustainable can be unsustainable, but it depends on whose definition the speaker is using.

As eaters, there’s not a whole lot we can do to fight the War on Words. A first step is awareness; we need to pay attention to how terms like organic, natural, sustainable, and local are framed in advertising, legislation, and on the products we consume. Understanding what the words mean will, at least, allow us to make better food decisions.

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