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Web Letter

It is refreshing to find Cunningham because so much of what we see dealing with the movement is about "buy local," and the problems relating to agribusiness and oil. The issues are so complex and so enmeshed with global governance and corporate behavior, also directly connected to finance and big money, that it constantly frustrates me to see the "elitist" spin. I love Pollan and Waters. They're stars to me and I'm a chef. I also am a fan of the films Food, Inc. and Fast Food Nation, Marion Nestle and Wendell Berry and have more than a smattering of knowledge of the corporate problem as best described by David Korten but treated for the masses very well in films such as The Corporation.

But here's the deal. I've spent my career in the food industry and have worked for most of the large corporations as a food developer and marketer. True, most of that was prior to my awakening as a green advocate, but once you work for organizations you get to know people. There are thousands of employees working for Tyson, Kraft, Nestlé, Kellogg's, Pepsi, McDonald's. Are they all evil people out to ruin the world? How preposterous. Are there huge changes which must happen at the "DNA" level of these organizations so that they can change from within to be responsible stewards of the planet, producers of nutritious foods, responsible employers and fair traders dealing with global partners and farmers? Absolutely! Should we overturn the apple cart in the process of this transformation? Nothing could be more irresponsible.

What I love about Cunningham is the suggestion that it is harmful to try to suggest changing all the problem instead of choosing priorities and learning to compromise as we take one small step at a time.

"The consumer is in charge and voting with forks" is a great battle cry. But buying organic is really not an option for most people, given supply and economic conditions. Can our manufacturers learn to produce foods without harmful chemicals and without endangering species and ecosystems? Well, let me see, could our grandparents do it from their farms when they preserved food for the winter? My guess is our technologically superior, rich corporations can too.

I deal with frustrations every day. EFMA (Ecological Food Manufacturers Association) is new. We are currently trying to give memberships away and we haven't been successful even at that. It means something that everyone knows we must do this, but almost every corporate person I talk to about this runs the other way when it comes to actually being a player.

Please watch our short five-minute video on www.foodinitiative.com and write to me about our consumer plan using social media to enlist support of the consumers--through our future program called Raise Your Fork for Reform.

The first priority, which is easily done, is getting our food manufacturers to understand that consumers simply will no longer tolerate the lack of healthy, safely processed foods. This isn't a partisan issue. We all have kids and our children face danger as a result of the new paradigm.

One step at a time. Our efforts at EFMA are not to solve sustainable agriculture problems The true genius working on this effort is a small group in Kansas, called The Land Institute, under the guiding vision of Wes Jackson and brave soil scientists such as Jerry Glover. Many organizations are working on this. But almost no one is focusing on the reform of our food manufacturers' corporate policies. A simple imperitave called the Triple Bottom Line will work wonders. But there is more, much more we can do as consumers who buy processed foods. We can require that manufacturers unlearn their "weird food science" and relearn simple culinary principles our grandparents used. This isn't food science, this is food common sense.

Winston Riley

Ozark, MO

Sep 5 2009 - 2:52pm