I've always been a voracious reader but as of late, I find myself turning more to non-fiction than usual. Most of these books are oriented around food - how we produce it, how we eat it, and why we've come to practice these particular patterns of consumption. In all of my reading and learning, I've gained a newfound appreciation for local, sustainably grown foods. The horrors of industrial agriculture are apparent on a variety of levels at nearly every step of the process. What strikes me most about this type of food system is how negatively it can impact our health. From the cancer-causing chemicals used to produce high yields to the trends toward monoculture that reduce nutritional content of our foodstuffs, industrial agriculture has proven to be one of the least healthy methods of feeding ourselves. Ironically enough, this is the food system behind a vast majority of the foods you'll find on the shelves of your supermarket and in the pantry of your fellow citizens.
The connection between what we eat and our increasingly worrisome health statistics is becoming glaringly apparent to experts, though the ties between the sources of our sustenance and our wellbeing are rarely made patent to those of us with greatest interest in such knowledge: the consumers.
That's why I love the work of San Francisco-based Breast Cancer Action (BCA) and their affiliates. These groups aren't searching for a cure to cancer, but rather are holding accountable those corporations who are contributing to the spread of the disease. By confronting producers of carcinogenic toxins that pollute our atmosphere and manufacturers of cancer-causing food additives and pesticides, BCA aims to stop cancer where it starts.
Sadly enough, BCA is the only national breast cancer organization to not accept funding from entities that profit from or contribute to cancer. Take, for instance, Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical company BCA targets through their Think Before You Pink campaign. Despite Eli Lilly's avowal to caring for communities, the company produces a variety of harmful cancer-causing substances that run counter to their stated altruistic intentions. Most notable among these is recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), an artificial growth hormone given to cows to increase milk yields. Research has shown that rBGH, which makes it's way into the milk, yogurt, cheese, and all other dairy items made from rBGH-fed cows' milk, may increase the risk of cancer in humans, particularly breast, prostate, and colon cancers. No other nation in the world except for the United States allows the use of rBGH because of the dangers inherent for both humans and animals who ingest the hormone.
The more I learn about this stuff, the more I find myself seeking out more knowledge about the dangers of what we so carelessly eat. And the more I find myself convinced that there needs to be an alternative food system put in place if we want to have any hope of leading long and healthy lives. Over time, industrial agriculture employs a rising number of methods that reduce our food supply to an ever smaller pool of nutrient components while the number of artificially formulated and questionably safe additives in our diets is ever increasing. And the sum of these parts is a profoundly misinformed population of eaters who fail to recognize what they're actually consuming - because the system is designed to keep them in the dark. Companies with an eye out only for their bottom line are feeding us low-cost, potentially life-threatening foods without ever giving mention to the inherent dangers of consuming them.
As soon as I learned about the work being done by BCA, I began to seek out other organizations who are creating similar awareness and was delighted to find such a plethora of concerned activist eaters. The injustice of our corrupt food system needs to be addressed and, though organic, local, and other alternative food systems are growing more prominent, these trends are not yet strong enough to force the corporations to change their ways.
Breast Cancer Action, along with similar-minded organizations such as Pesticide Action Network, Health Care Without Harm and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, give me hope that the big bad industrial agricultural giants can be fought and made to change their ways. Just looking at the sheer number of organizations affiliated with Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families (totaling some 11 million individuals) proves how many people are concerned about the effects of what they eat on their bodies and their long-term health.
If you're interested in learning more, becoming involved, or just staying informed, please visit Breast Cancer Action's website or those of any of their affiliates and partners. They are all chock full of great knowledge as well as opportunities to support their work or strategies for taking the cause into your own hands. And since these organizations are all utilizing different means to work toward similar goals, you're bound to find a group that is a great fit for you, whether your concerns are more about cancer-prevention or keeping your young family free from chemicals.
If nothing else, I encourage you to take a little extra time to think about what you buy when you're in the grocery store. Even some grocery conglomerates, including Walmart, have vowed to only carry rBGH-free milk in response to the growing concern over this hormone. Look for the "rBGH-Free" label on your dairy products and choose chemical- and pesticide-free options whenever possible.