New York's mayor needs to get out more

by Rose Pacatte

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And by this I mean to the movies. From Mayor Michael Bloomberg's announcement about banning large-sized sodas from New York City last week, it seems he has not seen one since Morgan Spurlock's 2004 documentary "Super Size Me." In this film, Spurlock lived for a month on McDonald's fast food and took the super-size option whenever it was offered. It took him 14 months after the experiment to return to his former weight and cholesterol levels. (McDonald's later discontinued its "super-size" program.)

Mayor Bloomberg's idea is to regulate the size of sugary drinks as a way to fight obesity. The Internet is on fire with people outraged about government intrusion into their lives! On June 1, Matt Lauer, host of "The Today Show," seemed incredulous that the mayor would ban sodas and celebrate National Doughnut Day. The mayor stands for balance in food choices, one doughnut at a time.

But these folks miss the point. If you are worried about government intrusion into your food and drink choices, you are too late. By lack of regulation, the government has chosen what you (and kids in school lunch programs) can eat anywhere in the country and called it all healthy. And sometimes, the government defines and approves what it calls food, but when citizens become aware of what "it" really is, they ask questions and work for -- demand -- change.

Here's the deal. If Mayor Bloomberg really wanted to fight the obesity epidemic, he needs to work to ban sugar, cane or high fructose corn syrup under any name from the entire food supply. This would be a good start. As my sister the nurse says, there is no research that proves or even demonstrates that sugar is essential to the human diet. (She says the same for wheat and soy.)

To regulate the size of the drink doesn't address the fundamental issue that Agribusiness -- that is, Big Business and profits -- are causing the obesity epidemic. It's all about the marketplace -- that is, profit. The nontransparent food-manufacturing business is training our bodies and brains to crave sugar and corn-fed meat. (Did you know corn is fed to salmon raised on fish farms?) And supermarkets socialize us into choosing sugar and cord-laced products through advertising and marketing.

Under the banner of Agribusiness comes biogenetic engineering and monoculture as well as industrial farm factories where cattle, chickens and pigs are raised in cramped cages or pens and fed corn rather than grass and antibiotics. These companies say they are solving food problems, but these films show they are causing immense health and environmental problems.

Add to this mass-production model the honeybee colony collapse disorder. This seems to be due to several factors, including malnutrition, monoculture -- the lack of biodiversity -- pesticides, and even cellphone radiation. The solution? Raise queen bees artificially by feeding them corn syrup rather than change the system. The result? They may live and function for two years rather than the average of five years in a natural, sustainable environment. The film "Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us?" contends that honeybees are the canaries of nature. Click here to read a previous blog post on corn, and click here to read one on the patenting of life.

Remember "pink slime," that ammonia-treated product made from beef scraps, connective tissue, sinew and fat that was in 70 percent of ground beef sold in America? Yes, at least one manufacturer-- food-processing -- company had to close, and many people lost their jobs as a result of the public outcry. But is it jobs at any cost? Or lower prices at any cost? It was an "ABC News" report that brought the story about this food-filler to light. McDonald's, Burger King and Taco Bell have all stopped using pink slime in their products. This food event begs the question: What else don't we know about our food supply? We, as consumers, do have a voice that can change things.

Canada does not permit ammonia to be used in its food production. The European Union does not permit the use of pesticides in agriculture if their effects are not known. In the United States, pesticides are permitted until a plaintiff can prove pesticides have caused harm, and this at great cost in legal and court fees.

Here are some films Mayor Bloomberg and his critics can watch to better inform themselves. By all means, question the content of these films; in so doing, you can become part of the conversation as an involved citizen and disciple. Please feel free to add to this list.

"Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us?" (2010)
"If bees die out, man will have only four years of life left on earth." (Quote attributed to Albert Einstein)
Read my review.
Visit the movie's website.

"The Price of Sugar" (2007)
This film is about the economics and geopolitics of sugar and the cost to workers.
Read my review.
Visit the movie's website.

"Food, Inc." (2008)
This film examines the industrial production of meats and grains in the United States and seeks to demonstrate how these businesses are economically and environmentally unsustainable.
Visit the movie's website.

"The Future of Food" (2007)
The film's emphasis is on the history and reality of bioengineering of food and the patenting of life, and transparent labeling of food that identifies the use of bioengineered food. "Labeling is the key way we can trace health effects of genetically modified food." The origin and lack of regulation of pesticides is also a key theme in the film.
Visit the movie's website.
Watch it here.

"Last Call at the Oasis" (2012)
The film explores the water crisis in California, the United States and the world -- not only fresh water supply, but also the lack of clean water. The film offers several solutions to manage the clean water that remains.
Visit the movie's website.

"Fat Head" (2009)
The first part of this film is a critique of "Super Size Me," which I did not find convincing because the filmmakers continue to blame urban dwellers for choosing unhealthy "food" at fast-food places even when grocery stores do not exist in these areas. The filmmakers state people who live in urban areas can choose the "healthy" options, just like we who live in the suburbs do. However, the second part of the film takes on sugar and statin drugs and is extremely revealing. This is about the food manufacturing and the pharmaceutical industry as well, namely sugar, that causes high cholesterol levels, and there is no research that proves or even demonstrates that statin drugs are beneficial to women. I questioned my own doctor about this, and he could provide no research or studies that demonstrate a link between cholesterol and heart attacks in women, or that statins benefit women. Then I checked with the pharmacist; she said they follow what the drug companies tell them. She could provide no studies or research either.
Visit the movie's website.

"Controlling Our Food: the world according to Monsanto" (2008)
Although it was released only in Europe, you can watch the entire film online at Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns.

"The Global Banquet: The Politics of Food" (2001)
This Maryknoll-produced documentary exposes the damaging effect of globalization on the food system. Many of the above films tell a similar story, but it is most interesting that Maryknoll told it early on.
Visit the movie's website.

"Banking on Life and Debt" (1995)
Although dated, this Maryknoll-produced documentary demonstrates the link between debt, food and development of nations as well as the history and role of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank at the end of the 20th century, the background to the 21st.
Visit the movie's website.
A transcription of ten minutes of the film can be found here.

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