As a vegan who enjoys prowling the local farmer's market for new and delicious produce to cook up, I've long been convinced that the way most Americans interact with fruits and vegetables is fundamentally problematic, and that Big Agribiz is to blame.

We have an agri-culture that is not just unhealthy for humans (pumped full of toxins), but unhealthy for the planet (those toxins run off, and intensive monoculture planting strips topsoil of its nutrients, turning it into dust), unsustainable (highly dependent on oil) and untasty (ever eaten a decent tomato grown in a family farm?). But I always assumed that the economics of agriculture in America--with huge, super-efficient factory farming--were unbeatable. It's just cheaper that way, and in America that's the only justification you need. This week The Washington Post told me I was wrong .

If you think the above assertions are typical vegan hyperbole, read Michael Pollan's powerful essay for The New York Times, "The Vegetable-Industrial Complex," for a description of how, for example, the modern industrial farming process has destroyed the organic cycle between produce and pastured cattle, creating entirely new problems of feedlot bacteria that are to blame for the deadly strains of E. coli that have been circulating lately. While more regulation might solve some problems, as Pollan points out, it's far more urgent that we radically rethink the way we grow our food. The federal government and Big Spinach "treat E. coli 0157:H7 as an unavoidable fact of life rather than what it is: a fact of industrial agriculture."

Pollan is the author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma," one of the best extensive examinations of why an American diet is ultimately unsustainable. As Pollan mentions, factory farming no longer uses organic fertilizer (cow manure and compost) to maintain the highly complex ecology of nutrient-rich topsoil.

full story:

Fair Use Notice and Disclaimer
Send questions or comments about this web site to Ann Berlin,