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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 10/20/18

Vegans, Ranchers and Regenerators Unite: Why Fake Meat and Eliminating Livestock Are Really Bad Ideas

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Industrial agriculture is one of the most unsustainable practices of modern civilization. The "bigger is better" food system has reached a point where its real costs have become readily apparent. Like water running down an open drain, the earth's natural resources are disappearing quickly, as industrialized farming drives air pollution, water pollution, deforestation, rising carbon emissions and the depletion, erosion and poisoning of soils. The long-term answer, however, lies in the transition to sustainable, regenerative, chemical-free farming practices, not in the creation of food manufacturing techniques that replace farms with chemistry labs, which is the "environmentally friendly" alternative envisioned by biotech startups and its chemists., July 18, 2018

As a campaigner for organic and regenerative food, and a critic of fast food, GMOs and factory farms for 40-plus years, I am alarmed and disgusted by the degenerate state of food and farming in the United States. The collective actions of some misguided farmers, together with ignorant and corrupt public officials, greedy investors and food corporations, and mindless consumers are destroying personal and public health, and the health of the environment, including climate stability. What amounts to our "Fast Food Nation," through everyday food production practices and food choices, is rapidly degrading our planet's life-support systems.

Whether we're talking about our food-related public health emergency or the fact that our chemical- and fossil fuel-intensive industrial agriculture system is belching out 43 percent - 57 percent of the greenhouse gas pollution that has dangerously destabilized our climate, corporate America's trillion-dollar, taxpayer-subsidized system of industrial food and farming, represented most graphically by factory farms and feedlots, is killing us. Big Food Inc. has built its empire of chemical farmers, food processors and marketers by adopting a financial strategy predicated on the theory that maximizing short-term profits trumps all other considerations (health, economic justice, animal welfare, environment and climate stability), and by promoting the idea that convenient, cheap, artificially flavored fast food and commodities represent the pinnacle of modern agricultural production and consumption.

It's time to disrupt and take down our suicide economy and our degenerate agricultural and food system. A good starting point is to join the growing consumer movement to boycott all meat, dairy and poultry products produced by the industrial factory farm system--not just at the grocery store, but also in restaurants. And not just occasionally, but every day.

Factory farms inhumanely confine, feed and drug 50 billion of the 70 billion farm animals on the planet. These animals are turned into meat which is supplied to fast-food chains like McDonald's, KFC and Burger King, and to national and regional supermarket chains. The methods used to produce this cheap, artery-clogging meat and dairy are destroying our environment, climate and health. Combined, CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) and the GMO soybean and corn farms that supply them are the No. 1 source of water pollution in the U.S., as well as a major source of air pollution. Monsanto/Bayer's GMO crops grown for CAFO animal feed are the No. 1 destroyer of grasslands and forest in the Amazon basin and other areas.

U.S. and international factory farm meat and dairy operations are also major drivers of global warming and climate change. They spew out massive amounts of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide emissions into the atmosphere from giant feedlots, hog and chicken complexes, manure lagoons and the chemical-intensive, GMO grain farms, heavily subsidized with taxpayer dollars, that supply "CAFO Nation" with millions of tons of animal feed every year.

Besides degenerating the environment and destabilizing the climate, CAFOs are also primary drivers of our deteriorating public health. Filthy, inhumane, polluting, greenhouse gas-belching factory farms mass produce approximately 90 percent - 95 percent of the meat and animal products consumed in America today. The average U.S. carnivore now supersizes and toxifies himself with approximately 200 pounds of CAFO meat a year, loaded with bad fats (low in omega 3 and other key nutrients) and laced with antibiotic, pesticide and hormone residues that substantially increase a person's chances of getting cancer, suffering from obesity, dying from an antibiotic-resistant infection, developing Alzheimer's or having a heart attack.

Approximately 75 percent of all the antibiotics in the U.S. today are dumped into factory farm animal feed and water to keep the animals alive under the hellish conditions of intensive confinement, and to force the animals to gain more weight. This massive, reckless and often illegal use of antibiotics on factory farms (along with routine over-prescribing of antibiotics by doctors) has begun to spread deadly antibiotic-resistant pathogens into our food. About 23,000 Americans (and 700,000 people worldwide) die each year from antibiotic-resistant infections. Based on a study commissioned by the UK government, by 2050, multiple drug-resistant infections are projected kill 10 million people a year--more than currently die from cancer--unless significant action is taken.

False solution No. 1: fake meat

Although I share the same disgust and hatred of factory farms and CAFO meat as my vegan and vegetarian brothers and sisters, I am nonetheless disturbed to see a growing number of vegan activists, Silicon Valley tycoons, genetic engineering cheerleaders and even some well-meaning climate activists coming together to promote fake meat products, such as the "Impossible Burger," as a healthy and climate-friendly alternative to beef. Even worse are the growing number of vegans, climate activists and high-tech/GMO enthusiasts who claim that abolishing livestock and animal husbandry altogether will solve our health, environmental and climate crises.

The "Impossible Burger," made from a highly-processed mix of soy, wheat, coconut oil, potatoes and genetically engineered yeast, is Wall Street's latest darling and a heavily-hyped menu item in many vegan restaurants. As the Mercola newsletter points out:

The Impossible Burger resembles meat "right down to the taste and beeflike 'blood,' The New York Times notes, and has become a hit in some circles. So far, the company has raised $257 million from investors, which include Bill Gates, Khosla Ventures, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz's Open Philanthropy Project, Li Ka-shing (a Hong Kong billionaire) and Singapore's sovereign wealth fund, Temasek Holdings."

Unfortunately, it appears that the "Impossible Burger" and other fake meat are neither healthy nor, in the case of the "Impossible Burger," even proven safe.

According to Dr. Mercola, fake meat like the "Impossible Burger" is nutritionally inferior to real, non-CAFO meat such as 100% grass-fed beef, which "contains a complex mix of nutrients and cofactors that you cannot recreate by an assembly of individual components."

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Ronnie Cummins is founder and director of the  Organic Consumers Association . Cummins is author of numerous articles and books, including "Genetically Engineered Food: A Self-Defense Guide for Consumers" (Second (more...)
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