What Are We Eating and Why? Food, History and Politics

May 20, 2015

Credit www.datamonitorconsumer.com

Have you ever been to a Whole Foods or maybe a co-op and seen labels that say things like, "gluten-free", "non-gmo," "no antibiotics," "free-roaming," "BPA-free," and wondered to yourself, "What does this all mean?" Well, you're not alone. It's a complex, cloudy world when it comes to food these days, and sometimes it's hard to know what's good, what's bad and what you can afford (both ethically and financially) .

In this episode of In Perspective, we'll try to gain a better understanding of food and the food industry, and also explore why things are so complicated when it comes to what we eat.

Tom Philpott is a Food and Agriculture Correspondent for Mother Jones. While studying food and cooking traditions around the world, Tom noticed that American food traditions were being lost to fast food and food processing companies. Tom questions how we can hold onto our food traditions when so much of our food industry is controlled by a small number of companies and their lobbyists that manipulate the federal government. Tom discusses the regulation systems in place that still allow for potentially harmful additives in our food.

Raj Patel is a research professor in the LBJ School of public affairs at UT Austin and the author of “Stuffed and Starved” and “The Value of Nothing.”  Raj talks about the history behind globalization of food traditions, emphasizing that many food traditions evolved out of the mixing of cultures.  He also focuses on issues of food and national identity, and the importance of discovering and re-discovering food together, in order to combat the development of food traditions that promote isolationism.

Marla Camp is the owner and editor of Edible Austin.  She is motivated to bring awareness about food back into the surrounding community and connect people back to where their food comes from.  Marla emphasizes education as a way to strengthen people’s relationships to their food and to the understanding about the true value of food to our body.

What is your perspective?

Food traditions shift and change to adapt to the systems in place to get it to our dinner table. How will the food systems in place today affect our food traditions of tomorrow?

With all the information out there about what to eat and what not to eat, how do you approach the food that ends up on your dinner table?