Re: Irradiation/changing habits

Steve Hall wrote:

>How does irradiation then differ from freezing (frozen orange juice which
>becomes a "commodity"), canning (similar argument) or other preservation
>techniques?  At least at one level, they all allow a product to be stored
>for longer (extend storage life), which has good (you can have a wider
>variety of food in the winter, for example), as well as not so good {the
>above arguments about distance between source and consumer suggest
>difficulties with various justice issues (being unaware, one can hardly
>influence social justice), movement of nutrients (from land to the sewer,
>which may eutrophy lakes, for example), toxics (organic pesticides), plus
>the excess cost required for transport...} results.
>        It seems we should be asking questions not just about new
>technologies, but about existing ones as well.  It appears that it is
>possible to prevent new technologies or at least hold them at bay for a bit.
>What about moving toward more sustainable use of the ones we have?  Any

1]The existing global food production, processing and distribution network
has come into existence over hundreds, maybe even thousands of centuries to
form a complex ecosystem with billions of interdependent parts.  Analyzing
the relationships between the various components and subsystems of this
planetary process has and will continue to occupy the attention of countless
academics, researchers, farmers, economists, weatherpeople and commodity
traders.  I do not presume to be able to predict the consequences of
changing any or several inputs into this immensely complicated global
system.  However.........

2]One common denominator, or choke point, in the whole system is the act of
choosing what our next meal will consist of.  At some point we all must
decide what to eat and what to shun.  Our cultural biases and individual
values will then prevail.  I believe that is where lasting change will
occur, through the accumulating results of billions and trillions of
individual decisions made by food consumers.  Changing national dietary
preferences and habits is a very slow process and requires a long-term
committment, which is after all, one of the basic tenets of sustainability:
taking the long view.

3]Given enough good data, lots of time and the right software, it should be
possible to establish an ecological cost for any food item available at the
retail level.  This worthy endeavor would then give the individual food
consumer some of the information needed to make an informed decision.  This
information would still not overcome cultural and historical buying habits,
but could over time influence people to purchase the ecologically positive
(i.e. cheaper) alternative.  This type of data could also be used to
persuade legislatures to include the environmental costs of food production,
processing and distribution in the cost of food, using tax incentives,
penalties, grants or other means.  Given the increasing globalization of
agribusiness on the planet, this lobbying effort would also have to include
GATT, NAFTA and other such international arrangements.

4]Meanwhile, back at the ranch, working to educate farmers, agricultural
agencies and institutions about the benefits and necessity for sustainable
practices has to continue, perhaps with evangelical fervor, in order to
break through the complacency and habitual thinking of the established
order.  And we can all still vote for sustainabilty when it comes time to
make a purchase, any purchase.