With a message that our nation's wealthiest one percent—largely the banking industry and corporations—are inappropriately managing their wealth and adversely affecting the other 99 percent of Americans, the Occupy Wall Street movement is now entering its fourth week of protests in New York City's financial district. But eschewing corporations is virtually impossible, especially as it pertains to food, bringing a new dimension to the growing Occupy movement as it spreads across the nation.
Perhaps not surprising, Ben & Jerry's ice cream has become a supporter of the OWS protestors, a move certainly in line with the ethos of the brand's founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, but not necessarily with its now parent company, the multinational British-Dutch corporation, Unilever.
Criticisms continue over the protestors' need to crystallize their message and demands, which have largely been pointed at reforming financial institutions. But corporate food giants have as much of a role in the imbalanced financial system and many slow-food movement and small-scale farming advocates point to the deregulation of biotech and rampant corporate agriculture as pushing us further into a Malthusian catastrophe rather than preventing it.
Josh Kunau, producer of the forthcoming film on genetically modified foods directed by award-winning filmmaker Jeremy Seifert, says that "In the same fashion that corporate greed has taken over the financial system, greed has also taken over the food system; it's mostly large corporations who run our agriculture and people need to be aware of that."
Reports of Occupiers patronizing area McDonald's and accepting corporate food donations confound the anti-corporate position of the movement. But being out of work, protesting all day and park bench sleeping at night can certainly work up an appetite. Besides, food waste is one of the biggest issues facing our nation (and the subject of Seifert's first film "DIVE! Living Off America's Waste"). More than 100 billion tons of edible food ends up in landfills each year instead of being donated. So protestors eating what's given to them—even if genetically modified and not the healthiest option—one could say is an act of environmentalism if not patriotism.
While Kunau says we can no longer afford to rely on corporations who feed us toxic chemicals, genetically modified ingredients and potentially deadly foods contaminated with foodborne illnesses, protesters continue to eat free and cheap adding one more issue to the dialogue about what needs to change in America.
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Image: Jill Ettinger