From Milk to Superfoods: Supping with the Devil?

John Thakera on The Design Observer brings home the effects of the push by big business to control all aspects of global production – in its relentless pursuit of the bottom line it sweeps away the livelihoods and hopes of any who cant afford the hidden pricing of its “everyday low prices” – the economics of consumption which are the unaccented side effects. As designers we are constantly challenged by our working for clients who finance these and other similar unsustainable practices while advertising their “Green Credentials” in our buildings and urban environments. Coincidently right now I’m not drinking any milk or eating dairy products in  order to reduce nasal congestion, but this is only one of many examples of the problem.

I’d be surprised if many readers of this blog work for the fracking industry. Those charming people spend a lot on lobbying and public relations, sure — but their main aim in life is to remain obscure.

But food and drink? The branding, the packaging, the communications, the stores, the promotions, the trade shows, the hotels, the restaurants? Would I be wrong to guess that 75% of us have worked for a global food enterprise, directly or indirectly, at some point? I know I have: an industry talk here, a futures workshop there, a couple of healthcare events…

But two new publications this week have left me sick to the stomach. I just don’t think it’s defensible any more to turn a blind eye to the social and ecological crimes Big Food is committing, in other parts of the world, so that you and I can eat what we damn well feel like.

When it comes to the food business, I’ve been having my cake, and eating it, since 1995. That was when Vandana Shiva spoke at Doors of Perception 3 about the hidden but devastating ecological and social costs of global industrial agriculture. That was a wake-up call.

Food figured prominently in 2000, too, when we did Doors East in Ahmedabad We learned, then, that for eighty million women in India, who own or look after one or two cows, milk is their only livelihood.

It should not have been a surprise last week, then, to read a grim report entitled “The great milk robbery: How corporations are stealing livelihoods and a vital source of nutrition from the poor.”


Left: Colombia’s jarreadores (Photo: Aurelio Suárez Montoya). Right: mobile milk delivery in Kenya

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