I tend to focus on my job, and when your focus is on bacteria, the focus can be a bit narrow and small – some would say, microscopic. I have said often that I pay attention to the things that can kill you quickly, not the broader issues around food, like the environment, worker safety and sustainability.
That is why when I picked up Ted Genoways’s new book: “The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food,” my small focus was both disturbed and enlightened, which is what a good – very good – book tends to do. I was struck by many things in the book, but this phrase towards the end in many ways sums up my failure to look up from my work:
“… today, it seems that we are not so much concerned with safety as promoting an illusion of safety. We feel assured that we are protected from illness, when, in fact, the real illness is the pretense we, as Americans, must collectively agree upon— in order to maintain the mirage of safe food, a safe workplace, well- treated livestock, a healthy environment, a strong economy, and a cohesive and equitable culture.”
This is a book all consumers of food – which is all of us – should read. I would send special copies to all farm state politicians – with a special audio copy to the Governor of Iowa. We all need to lift our focus on making our food safe, plentiful and affordable, but not at the expense massive environmental degradation, worker – especially migrate worker abuse, and risks of zoonotic disease.
Thank you Ted for writing this book. You honored agriculture – especially those who risk their health and lives to feed us.