Watch "The Future of Food"

If you have not yet heard of a documentary called “The Future of Food” (2004), or haven’t yet watched it, please take the time to do so. It is vital that you know what’s going into the food that you eat, and it’s vital that you know it now, before it’s too late.

What’s been happening over the past 20 years here in the States is that our food supply has been slowly taken over by biotech companies who are interested only in their bottom line. They have used tactics akin to racketeering practices in order to get farmers to use their seeds and only their seeds. They have placed their executives in key government positions, in order to ensure that their policies go through. They have done and are doing everything in their power to get us to eat their genetically modified foods, without regard for safety, common sense, decency or ethics. I’m not saying this by myself. The documentary itself will prove it to you.

All that is bad enough, but what’s really appalling is that they are patenting genes. They have patented plant genes, and now they want to patent animal genes and even human genes. They are trying to get the market in their tight snare, so they can squeeze profits out of everywhere and ensure they control our food supply completely. They have even patented one of the genes involved in breast cancer, then sued researchers who had been doing working on it, to force them to pay exorbitant licensing fees. Needless to say, research on that gene has been significantly curtailed, directly due to their malefic influence. That’s the sort of “work” they engage in.

When I call them racketeers, I have a great frame of reference in mind. It’s a short crime drama made in 1936, entitled “The Public Pays“, which won an Oscar. It depicted a protection racket that preyed on the local milk distribution in one American city, and the people’s successful fight against them. The biotech goons may not beat up people and physically destroy their milk trucks and containers, but they have legal “procedures” which wield the same sort of power and yield the same horrible results. This time, they’re working hand in hand with specially-placed government officials who make sure the biotech rules get enforced and the little guys get screwed royally — not to mention that the consumers, and the marketplace in general, are manipulated to no end as well.

Don’t believe me? Watch the documentary. And if you can find “The Public Pays”, watch that as well and compare the two to see the striking similarities. What’s more, if someone can assure me that “The Public Pays” is now in the public domain, I’ll gladly post it online, either at Google Video or somewhere else.

As you get to the end of the “Future of Food” documentary, you’ll get heartened by the organic farming efforts, which are great, but keep in mind that Whole Foods now sells mostly non-organic fruits and vegetables, and also imports supposedly organic foods from China, whose food supply is so laden with pesticides it’s not even funny. Yet Whole Foods still dares to hold the same high prices on their stuff, which means they’ve cut costs and are pocketing the difference. Lesson learned: don’t shop at Whole Foods. Go to Trader Joe’s or MOM’s, if you have them in your neighborhoods.

Seek REAL organic foods, and make sure to vote with your wallets. Where you buy your food, and what sort of food you buy, determines our food supply’s future. Write to your congressmen and demand that the proposed law (introduced by Dennis Kucinich) to label genetic foods as such be finally approved.

My wife just chimed in with some great advice. It turns that while we wait for foods to be properly labeled as GM or not, there’s an easy way to tell already. Fruits and vegetables all have little stickers on them, with numeric codes (4 or 5-digit numbers). It seems that if those numbers start with 4, they’re conventionally-grown, but not genetically modified. If they start with 8, they’re GM — stay away from them! And if they start with 9, they’re organically grown and are safe to eat. Not sure if this is officially true, but she says that’s usually been the case, at least for the organic foods that she buys.

Here’s how you can watch the documentary:

  • Google Video (free, but quality isn’t that great)
  • YouTube (free, but in multiple parts): start here
  • Netflix (instant streaming, DVD quality, but requires subscription)
  • Amazon (you can purchase the DVD)


Open source software and its use by for-profit companies

Everyone is happy to use free, open source software these days, and for-profit companies are only too happy to join that bandwagon. After all, they’re supporting the open source movement — or are they?

If you’re not sure, there’s an easy litmus test: see how much they contribute to the open source movement.

  • Look at how much they donate to open source. Many companies will make token donations to open source organizations, but let’s face it, that money isn’t going to the developers themselves, it’s going to public relations and ads and the CEOs of those organizations. (Lest we forget, the CEO of Mozilla made $500K/year while the developers made nothing.)
  • Look at how much of their own code (written in-house) they give back to the open source community. If they don’t do much of either, there’s a pretty good chance they’re in it simply to profit off the backs of the many unpaid open source contributors.

After all, companies are more than happy to use free, open source software, since it means they have to do less development themselves, and they don’t have to pay anything at all for that software. But then they charge an arm and a leg for products developed using open-source software. They win, the original developers get screwed, and the customer pays through the nose for something that was free.

I find that sort of a business practice completely hypocritical. Building your business on the backs of malnourished, borderline-healthy geeks, coding their nights away, unpaid is unethical and exploitative. It harks right back to medieval times, when lords would get filthy rich at the expense of poor, overworked serfs. We were supposed to have evolved beyond that, but as it turns out, those sorts of practices haven’t been phased out, they’ve just been sublimated and adapted.

It gets even worse than that. Some companies aren’t content with just using free, open source software to fatten their pockets. They turn around and try to lock the products they’ve built on the free software, and to make it illegal for users of those products to change them. This is quasi-legal and reproachable, because it goes against the original GPL license of that software. You can’t modify open source software by lines of code here and there, and then call that software yours. It’s intellectual theft. This is why I support GPLv3, in spite of the fact that Stallman gives me the willies.

Some developers would argue that they’re writing free software because they want to, and they don’t care if and when they get credit or if they get paid, or even if some ethically questionable company will use their code to make money. They say they’re only interested in writing free code. I say they’re devaluing their work, and when they’ll find themselves without a job, they’ll wish others placed more value on their code.

I don’t need to name specific companies. You just apply this simple litmus test to the big name (or small name) companies out there, and you’ll find them out soon enough.

In the end, a company’s real commitment to the open-source software philosophy can be measured by how much new, internally written code, it contributes back to the open source community.