It is thus not surprising that AP reports that people have become significantly less confident in their food. According tho the report people have changed their buying habits (when they are able to; those poorer people living in places where it's difficult to do so are even less confident in their food, and for good reason). One woman cited in the article has said that she has switched from supermarket produce almost entirely over the Farmer's Markets. Which is great for her, but what about those people who aren't able to do so?
But it's the end of the article that grinds me. As if it were somehow an answer to the problem, the authors quote Senator Richard Durbin.
"We live in an age of technology where you can bar-code a banana," said Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill. "We've got to work this through with the industry and come up with something that's reasonable. The more confidence consumers have, the more goods they will purchase."
It then follows with the idea that federal tracking might be the answer:
While the produce industry agrees that federal standards for preventing contamination are necessary, there is no consensus on a mandatory tracing system. Cost is a concern, especially for smaller companies.
The poll also found that 56 percent of consumers do not believe the government has enough inspectors to scrutinize food imports. If more are needed for imports and domestic produce, 70 percent said the cost should be covered through fees on industry. That echoes a proposal by Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
The problem is that while that might limit the way the problem has been spreading in a particular case, it completely avoids addressing the real problem, which is how farming is done in our country. The government subsidizes big agro business -even though actually small farms are more efficient! - and in particular allows companies like Monsanto to corrupt our farming practices in all kinds of ways: whether we're speaking about the practice of hiring laborers who are illegally imported and underpaid - sometimes kept in conditions akin to slavery- who have no sanitary facilities (an we wonder how the produce develops problems?) and often are heavily exposed to pesticides, or whether we're talking about the ways that our government is colluding with big business over the consumer - that would be citizens, to you and me- in allowing those businesses to make decisions about what is and isn't safe for us whether that's genetically modified foods altered through viral insertion of unrelated genetic material (which can then spread -and is spreading, like wildfire- outside of the fields in which it's planted, to neighboring fields, weeds and unrelated other plants - and a whole host of other problems with GMOs as well) or cloning of dairy animals, or using hormones to procue more milk per cow, or simply getting with dangerous unsanitray practices (like pig farmers whose slurry ponds leak out into the ground water... the list goes on and on. The problem isn't tracking food; the problem is that we need to get serious about trying to alter the way we rpoduce food.
I'm not saying to get rid of grocery stores. I like my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program and our farmer, but if I had to depend on our weekly box, we'd all be rife with scurvy. Even if I supplemented it with other local farmers from the market (and none of the ones that actually have a decent possibility to supplement are all that close - I can't bike to any, I have to drive) that still wouldn't help me much in the winter.
But it does mean that we need to think seriously as a nation about how to reorganize so that our food comes mostly from local areas in the summer when it can, and depends on longer shipping in the winter when it can't. It means that we need to really consider our labor practices in the fields and what we're doing when we ship (regular food, let alone luxuries) from overseas, and how it affects the wider environment.