The words “consumer” and “choice” are often strung together, implying that as individual consumers, we have power.
It’s true that as consumers, we do—to some extent—have the power to choose what, how much and how often we consume.
Yet our choices are often defined and/or limited by the corporations and politicians who control the markets and the regulations governing products and entire industries.
Thankfully, as consumers shopping in a $200-billion organic and natural food sector, we also have political power. And there’s never been a better time to exercise that power than now.
On February 7, 2019, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced twin Green New Deal Resolutions in the U.S. House and Senate.
Though framed as a climate initiative, the GND is much more than that.
The GND is also a roadmap to a better food and farming system, to access (for everyone) healthy food, clean air and clean water, to economically strong rural and urban communities, to jobs and fair wages for all (including farmers and other food system employees), and to a level playing field for independent business owners, including those who grow your food.
For healthcare consumers, the GND’s Medicare-for-All plan means more money in your pocket. And if we insist that the plan is expanded to include natural and alternative health, it means more choice.
What does the GND mean for food consumers? A lot. If we make our voices heard.
The GND specifically calls for working “collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible, including—by supporting family farming; by investing in sustainable farming and land-use practices that increase soil health; and by building a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food."
The GND also calls for “ensuring a commercial environment where every businessperson is free from unfair competition and domination by domestic or international monopolies.”
That’s good news for food consumers. In the food and farming industry, a handful of companies like Monsanto-Bayer, Tyson and Unilever make it increasingly difficult for organic regenerative farmers to make a living.
The sheer size and political clout of these corporations make it possible for them to call all the shots, from the field to the retail store shelf.
As Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) (this is not a candidate endorsement) recently wrote:
Today a farmer can work hard, do everything right — even get great weather — and still not make it. It’s not because farmers today are any less resilient, enterprising or committed than their parents and grandparents were. It’s because bad decisions in Washington have consistently favored the interests of multinational corporations and big business lobbyists over the interests of family farmers.
Those “bad decisions” in Washington don’t just hurt farmers. They hurt consumers, too.
Let’s face it, “consumer choice” as power has its limits. Yes, we can boycott a company or product we don’t like. Sure, if enough consumers demand a better product, some corporation will come up with it.
But there’s a limit to our consumer power, unless we also exercise our political power. As Wyoming-based ag reporter Sarah Mock writes:
. . . it’s great that you’re thinking about your food and staying engaged. But it’s also not your responsibility to pay your way to a better food system, and it probably isn’t possible to do it anyway. Consumers didn’t make the food system.
Who does “make” the food system? Greedy corporate lobbyists and the politicians they’re able to buy with their obscene profits.
How do we change that? By electing politicians who commit to serving us, by demanding that every member of Congress support a Green New Deal.
P.S. Do you know some great organic regenerative farmers and ranchers? Please ask them to sign this Letter from Farmers & Ranchers to Congress: We Need a Green New Deal.