The lead mule plowing this field for agbiz is the University of Florida, which has assembled a team of molecular biologists, food scientists, statisticians, and psychologists to handle the assignment (yes, psychologists -- perhaps to treat whoever came up with this cockamamie scheme). The professor coordinating the group says there are two goals: First, to "define what a flavorful tomato is," and then, "find the plant genes that control the process and get them back into the tomato." Hmmm -- why not just go with nature, which has already done that work?
Hey, stop making sense! Instead, the learned profs have rolled in a "gas chromatograph," which is said to be an artificial nose (nothing is real in BigAgWorld). This machine is to take a whiff of assorted heirloom tomatoes and isolate the "volatiles" that make them tasty. Then, the white-smock lab types will try to root out the particular genes that create these volatiles and splice those genes into the DNA of the old industrial tomato. The seeds of this Frankenfruit will then be turned over to corporate profiteers for mass plantings, and the marketing people will be turned loose to tell us consumers that the tortured industrial tomato is "naturally good." Your tax dollars at work!
THANKSGIVING TIDBIT. Why is the traditional fowl of the season called a turkey, even though it sprang out of Central America where it was named uexolotl? The misnomer came from the fact that the American bird was wrongfully associated with guinea fowl brought into 16th century England from the eastern Mediterranean by traders known as "Turkey merchants." No less of an etymologist than Samuel Johnson informed the English-speaking world in his 1775 dictionary that the popular edible was "a large domestic fowl brought from Turkey."
LET'S DO LUNCH. Do you eat lunch at your desk? Alone? Continuing to work as you chew?
Welcome to the new wondrous world of work in which employees feel intense pressure from bosses to labor right through lunch -- as if their jobs depend on it. A survey last year found that 62 percent of people with desk jobs grab a snack and keep working during lunch, rather than taking a pause to step outside, clear their heads, socialize with co-workers, and recharge.
By creating a nose-to-the-grindstone climate, companies are able to extract an extra hour of work -- unpaid -- from every cube captive who foregoes taking that noon-time pause. One hospital research coordinator, referring to his "theoretical lunch break," told an Alternet reporter that he eats as he works because "that's the department's culture, and I feel like I need to be at my desk." This culture is yet another product of the corporate autocracy's tightening grip over a union-free workplace, and it's not exactly a morale-builder, for it increases both stress and resentment.
So guess who's doing something about the rising anger at the corporate usurpation of lunch? Corporations! Not by empowering workers, but by exploiting their resentment, all for corporate fun and profit.
McDonald's, a notorious union buster in its own workplaces, launched a perverse, workers-of-the-world-unite advertising campaign this year under the slogan, "It's your lunch. Take it." The ad features actors posing as office workers defiantly rising from their chairs to declare: "I'm going to lunch!" and "I don't want to be a chicken, I want to eat it!" Of course, the pitch is for distressed desk jockeys to "overthrow the working lunch" by darting out for a calorie-packed Third Pounder Deluxe burger at McDonald's.
Likewise, KFC has a "Lunch is MY time" ad campaign, and the Applebee's chain takes the co-option of worker anger deeper into the corporate weeds by selling life-like blow-up dolls called the "Lunch Decoy." For $6.99 you can place one of these at your desk and, as an Applebee's ad puts it, "slip off for the lunch you deserve" -- presumably at Applebee's.
Aside from the crass commercialism and corporate cynicism in these promotions, the idea that going to lunch can be considered a revolutionary act is a measure of how far our society has plummeted from the basic ethic of workplace fairness. But the demise of the lunch hour also represents another loss: The power of food to be a social uniter. Lunch should not be furtively snarfed down at a work desk, but a pleasant repast to be shared, creating a connection among fellow humans. This lunchtime moment of socializing with co-workers and getting to know each other has been proven to boost morale, cooperation, and productivity. The corporate theft of lunch destroys that positive by establishing a work-for-and-by-yourself ethic, which ironically turns the corporation into a victim of its own greed.
WORST FOOD "INNOVATION" EVER. It all started at the State Fair of Texas with the introduction in 1942 of the "corny dog" -- but now the food-on-a-stick phenomenon has gone from merely unhealthy... to disgusting... to a heart-attack-on-a-stick. Okay, carnival food can be fun and quite popular. After all, no one goes to a fair to eat healthy.
But I ask you: Deep-fried butter on a stick?
This comes from the Iowa State Fair, which offered 57 sticks of stuff this year. The butter bomb, which went beyond excess: A half-stick of cold butter covered in funnel cake batter, quickly fried in 400-degree oil, then glazed with honey. "Dignity goes right out the window," said the inventor of this cholesterol-oozing concoction. Only four bucks a pop.
BIG AG's BIG MONEY CAMPAIGN. One of the most important and hotly contested elections of 2012 had no Democrat, Republican, Green, Libertarian, or other partisan in it -- yet it drew at least $34.4 million from corporate powers desperate to defeat this candidate.
Who was it that spooked the CEOs of national corporations right out of their Gucci's? Mr. right-to-know, appearing on the California ballot as Proposition 37.
This citizens initiative was proposed by a broad coalition, including small farmers, consumers, and environmentalists. All are alarmed by the rush of genetically manipulated organisms into America's food supply without adequate scientific testing and without the nicety of letting consumers know which products contain these risky, artificially altered organisms.