Friday, May 25, 2007

The politics of food

Are the same the world over. Take what you can get, use who you can exploit, ignore safety and health hazards, get the money:

Today, China does not only produce clothes, electronics and toys, but exports a variety of food items. I challenge a garlic consumer, just to take this one example, to go to the market in Dubai, Muscat, Beirut, London or Los Angeles to test this theory. We all buy the same garlic made in China, packaged in 3, 5 or 6 counts in purple mesh bags, that bear the "Super" tag, followed by the number 3 or 5 or 6.

These innocuous labels carry the "Product of Global Farms" label in Arabic or English (or any in other language), along with a price bar code, although they are all from the same origin.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this "garlic" phenomenon since it is a function of supply and demand. Yet, something is amiss when exporters flood markets on the backs of cheap labourers [workers who suffer "gulaosi," in Chinese "to be literally worked to death,"] and importers, who fling safety records out the window for immediate financial gains.

Working conditions in many countries - and not just in Asia - are poor and labour laws are either non-existent, or inadequately drafted.

In truth, manual and increasingly technical labourers everywhere, are expendable although periodic calls to address dire conditions are made after every confrontation. Often modest modifications are introduced after illegal industrial actions result in work stoppages.

Still, for all the promises made by managers to eliminate sweatshop work conditions, few trade unions are created to protect workers from outright exploitation.

Know where your products come from. Buy locally and seasonally if you can. Be aware.


Sandy-LA 90034 said...

This is the major problem with the globalizing of food trade. I agree with you about local eating. Used to be that the farmers' markets were cheaper than the supermarkets. However, I don't find that holds true anymore. I' single and live on Social Security Disability and it's difficult to stretch my budget. I often go with other single friends to Costco and we try to split what we buy there, to take advantage of savings.

ellroon said...

I'm sorry, Sandy-la. That is rough. (It's hard to divide those megapacks you get at Costco, too!)Just recently joined up with Costco. Some savings, but other stuff are just the same as the grocery store.

Who knows where Costco gets their stuff, but then who knows about the purity of anything? Once the system is compromised everything is in doubt.