Little green onions redux, and the Native American food dilemma

Lethal green onions are just a small, discrete symptom of our massively dysfunctional food system. Chances are the E. Coli in those Taco Bell onions is a strain of super-drug-resistant fecal bacteria from a cow or pig or chicken factory. It could have gotten into the onions from non-composted manure spread on the fields, or from floods bearing manure washed out of factory “manure lagoons” upstream of the fields, or even from groundwater irrigation because nasty super-bugs are in the lagoon water that percolates down to aquifers. Factory or corporate or industrial agriculture, whatever you want to call it, is inevitably a slow poison to the environment and to the society that partakes of it.

But count yourself lucky if you are not among those that the food industry actively discriminates against. You think it’s hard feeding you and your family healthy foods? Try living on the rez — from Indian Country Today:

“There is a problem in Native America today: the current rates of obesity and diabetes in our community have reached unacceptable proportions. There are many culprits in this rising epidemic. One is the ”food desert,” a term that refers to a community that exists in relative isolation and exclusion, making it difficult for people to access healthy food and safe, inexpensive places to exercise. Many Indian reservations are food deserts and are largely affected by toxic food environments. These factors contribute to high rates of obesity and diabetes.

Many non-Natives who work on reservations are appalled at the conditions. One medical student working on the Tohono O’odham Reservation in Arizona observed, ”There is one poorly stocked supermarket, Bashas, in the town of Sells … I’ve been told that there are Bashas in Tucson and other places and that they are decent supermarkets, but not in Sells. Somebody on the corporate ladder apparently decided that the store for the Indians would carry only super-sized Doritos and Pepsi.”

The Tohono O’odham reservation lies hard along the Mexican border in the creosote-scented Sonoran Desert. Hot, dry and unforgiving, it can be deadly to the unprepared, as too many illegal border crossers discover to their final sorrow. The Tohono people are true desert dwellers, and are adapted to the radically low fat, low carbohydrate, high fiber diet that the desert and desert crops stingily yield. They have a thrifty gene, a gene that tells their body to store away every surplus calorie eaten today into their fat cells, and hold on to that calorie as if their life depended on it, because tomorrow the desert will likely try to starve them. A European diet, especially processed food drenched in sugars and corn syrup and fats, is slow poison to them. Obesity and diabetes stalk them down every aisle of the grocery store. And stalks the rest of us as well — the effects may just be a little less immediate.

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