October 2018 – Corporate Farming: Helpful or Harmful?

October 2018 Inter-Belief Conversation Café

Corporate Farming: Helpful or Harmful?

  Monday, October 15, 2018
  7 p.m. – 9 p.m.
  Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul
1671 Summit Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55105 (View Map)

A bumper sticker states, “Crime Doesn’t Pay, Neither Does Farming!”. But if that’s true why do companies like Cargill and Monsanto seem to have so much money? Is the family farm dead or gone commercial? Are practices like overuse of antibiotics and hormones, emphasis on single crops like corn or soy beans, damage to the climate from food animals who produce methane, and slaughterhouse practices barred from public disclosure by agricultural protection laws proof our food may be killing us? Should we be more organic or make food in labs? Are we in a brave new world and not in Kansas anymore?

Do agricultural giants dictate farm practices for the worse? Is the family farm just a cover for these activities? Are captive farmers told what crops to plant, what herbicides and pesticides to use, and what antibiotics to feed livestock—all at prices sinking below a sustainable level for a viable independent farm? Or are farmers capitalists who make economic decisions based on their own best interests? Is a medium farmer selling crops to China and beyond a rube who must be protected? If there are abuses, is this rural entrepreneur an aider and abettor not a victim?

Is the problem agri-business or a government which buys votes with price supports and subsidies? What of large retailers like Walmart who make profits by squeezing suppliers? Doesn’t the consumer only care about what is paid for a full shopping cart not what is done to fill it? As America moves beyond agriculture and manufacturing to a service and information-based economy, how important is farming? Dinosaurs may be cute, but aren’t they relics of a mostly forgotten past or a minor cog in a massive machine?

Should we be growing animals to slaughter and eat them? Isn’t methane from cattle as much a cause of climate change as burning coal? Can’t we grow food in petri dishes and not use up the soil? In Star Trek food comes out of machines and Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, etc. seem to like it. Why not forget organic and go to better living through chemistry? Besides in Ancient and Medieval times when people only had organic food to eat, didn’t they all die by 40?

Do we need to rethink food, farming, and eating? A Green Revolution has massively increased food production, but farmers in India without access to new seeds and technology may be driven to suicide. Free range chickens may make us feel better, but they may peck each other to death. Besides we’re going to eat them anyway so why try to make them happy? Isn’t a pig just a machine to convert corn to pork? Do we sentimentalize a process which owes more to Darwinian survival of the fittest or least tasty than to religious or moral values?

On Monday, October 15 from 7-9 PM at Interfaith Action of Greater St. Paul, 1671 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, Inter-belief Conversation Café will ask if there should be freedom to farm or protection from agriculture. Agreements of open-mindedness, acceptance, curiosity, discovery, sincerity, brevity, and confidentiality will be the root of our discussion. Treats without meat or even food content will be available to all!