Agriculture Workshop Comment Number: AGW-01251

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Comment Number: AGW-01251

From: greggace@berkeley.edu
Sent: Tuesday, December 15, 2009 8:39 PM
To:
Subject: What does my food do to the world? What did my money pay for?


Hello,
When I'm in a grocery store I see the item and it's price. I would
normally think to myself if the price is good (relevant to the market) for
the quality of the good (most likely taste / nutrition). This is has
become rather difficult for one person to do. I don't know if Guar Gum,
corn syrup, or sodium such and such is healthy. Supposedly there's someone
out there looking out for me, making sure that something poisonous isn't
on the shelves, because, simply put, it's beyond any one shopper to really
figure it all out given the situation. This is what the government is for
to my understanding, bridging this gap.

But here's the problem... capital involved in politics seems to effect the
standards chosen in situations where profits are pinned against health. So
instead some information is needed to be given to the consumer so they can
decide what they want. In researching as much as I could I decided to buy
only things that are organic. But I then found out that 'how organic'
something is is also effected by lobbying power at times, which is
unfortunate.

Currently I find that every good is made by the same producer. So, for
example, when I decided to stop buying coke products because they has less
than stellar human rights issues concerning the use of water and water
toxins, I couldn't drink anything! Honestly, I worked in a dining commons
at my college campus and I could drink only water! No tea, minutemade
juice, and every soda was owned by coke!

If all your food is made by a handful of companies you have no choice but
to eat and drink it... Imagine it, every time I wanted to choose a better
company I was virtually going on a hunger strike!

Beyond issues of monopolies I find no transparency for the kind of
information I'm concerned with. Now, I'm not expecting you to fit all of
this on the label (that would be hilarious though) but I do want it
available and with a good deal of accuracy. Simply put: every time I buy
something it has a effects on many many things, I want a way to evaluate
those things so I can make basic principles of a capitalist market (i.e.
knowing the value of goods purchased) present and have things run without
contributing to something I disagree with.

Where's the info? It's hard to figure these things out (e.g. does the
company use child labor in near slavery like conditions?), but it is
entirely necessary in this day and age.

Here's the Plan:
We cannot let the means of production outrun the means of information
collection / reporting. SO, you must either

1. Make a company disclose these facts (for a list see bottom of page)
before allowing them to sell a product in the US market AND the
measurements used must be affirmed as cost effectively as possible (much
like current organic standard where the company seeking the organic
standard pays for the verification). But, given that this is very costly
small companies will be squeezed out so a sliding scale must be in place
for the larger companies seeking certification pay more to cover smaller
ones seeking certification. If this last caveat is not in place then the
food market will become purely an oligopoly and the absence of competition
will diminish the point of standards ('good' -by all understandings of the
word- food at a reasonable price).

2. Give huge incentives to produce this information levied from charging
those who do not, and charge for the certification as mentioned above.
In either case this information must then be centralized in some way for
accessibility: either in the grocery store via product (although unlikely
to be manageable) in store via terminal (also somewhat unlikely and
expensive), or, most likely, online or cataloged in a library (for
non-computer users).

I do not expect all of this to be done overnight, but I haven't seen
anything in the way of it even beginning. I imagine that this is because
it is an intimidating task and it would provide information where silence
was, exposing forms of profiteering on externalities etc. Regardless, this
is your duty- let your fear of perfectionism be damned or we will all
suffer for it.

-Gregg Sparkman

~Relevant information~
(aka things of value that are currently invisible to consumers)

Worker conditions / Business:
Wage relative to cost of living?
Circumstances of labor (eg breaks, violence, etc)?
Do they use (and what are the) methods to diminish labor unions?
What policies are used in competition with companies who would compete for
consumers (e.g. does the company try to monopolize a resource and drive up
cost afterwards?

Politics:
Who does this company give money to in campaigns in the US and Abroad?
What policies do they lobby on in the US and abroad?
How does the company interact with government forces and population in the
country of production (does is diminish democratic forces, violate civil
rights of citizens, does it produce fraudulent information in communities
to persuade them)?
How much advertising does this company do and what is the nature of it?
(How much of it is factual vrs aesthetic?)

Environment:
What is the carbon footprint of the good?
How much water (in production) is needed per ounce?
How much calories of food was required per ounce (for meat / fish)?
What is the energy mix (ie. crude oil? coal? solar?) of production /
cultivation?
What chemicals (herbicides, pesticides, hormones, fertilizer, etc.) are used?
What was the energy expenditure to get it from dirt to plate?
What damages to natural resources (fresh water and oceanic health, air
quality, soil health etc.) was created because of the good?

Health / Nutrition:
Current info +
chronic use will lead to?
if part of a regular meal life expectancy will .. ?

Even if I was the only one who wondered, no one could wash there hands
from it.

Updated April 7, 2016

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