Bolivia is now the first Latin American nation free of McDonald’s restaurants. After 14 years in the country and despite many attempts to bolster profits McDonald’s was forced to close in 2002, its 8 Bolivian restaurants in the major cities of La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz de la Sierra. McDonald’s served its last hamburgers in Bolivia last Saturday at midnight, after announcing a global restructuring plan in which it would close its doors in seven other countries with poor profit margins. Why did Bolivians never cross-over from their empanadas to Big Macs? In the documentary Why did McDonald’s Bolivia go Bankrupt? interviews with cooks, sociologists, nutritionists and educators all seem to agree, Bolivians are not against hamburgers, just against ‘fast food,’ a concept widely unaccepted in the Bolivian community. El Polvorin blog noted: “Fast-food represents the complete opposite of what Bolivians consider a meal should be. To be a good meal, food has to have be prepared with love, dedication, certain hygiene standards and proper cook time.” If only the rest of the world would follow in Bolivia’s foot steps!
We narrowly avoided the fiscal cliff but in doing so we also extended the ineffective current Farm Bill. Within the the 150-page “fiscal cliff” tax bill passed New Year’s Day is a farm bill extension that will give Congress more time to establish food and farm policy. Unfortunately, this extension perpetuates the widely discredited direct payment farm subsidies that will send $5 billion this year alone to large industrial farms that already reap record profits. Craig Cox, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources at the Environmental Working Group states that, “A responsible measure would have cut direct payments and insurance subsidies and fully funded important conservation programs. It is critical that Congress craft a farm bill this year that supports family farmers and protects the environment.” Instead of eliminating the wasteful direct payments program, the bill passed by Congress shortly before midnight New Year’s Day cuts funding for organic agriculture, clean water, and beginning farmer initiatives.“This latest deal underscores for the good food movement why organizations like Food Policy Action are so important to the task of expanding federal government support for innovative food and agriculture policies,” Cox said. “Without significant pressure on Congress and the White House, we can be sure that efforts to improve access to healthy food and reduce dangerous chemicals in the environment will fail.”
A recent NPR article highlights the truly frightening environmental effect of monoculture. NPR commentator and science writer Craig Childs decided to replicate a photo project by David Liittschwager, a portrait photographer who spent years traveling the world dropping one-cubic-foot metal frames into gardens, streams, parks, forests, and oceans, photographing anything and everything that entered the frame. Beetles, crickets, fish, spiders, worms, birds — anything big enough to be seen by the naked eye he tried to capture and photograph. What he found after 24 hours in Cape Town, South Africa and other locations across the globe, was a wide variety of plants, animals, birds and insects. Childs in an attempt to replicate Littschwager, placed a cube in a corn field in Grundy County, Iowa. Compared to Littschwager’s cube, the results from the corn field were shocking. Childs found nothing stirring among the genetically engineered corn stalks on the 600 acre farm in Iowa, where they spent an entire weekend crawling around on the ground. No signs of life with the exception of an isolated spider, a single red mite, and a couple grasshoppers. With millions of acres of genetically engineered corn monocultures spanning across our country, the lack of life is a saddening thought.