11-year-old Birke Baehr shakes up corporations like Monsanto with his frank talk about what he calls “dark side of the industrialized food system. “
“Little kids, especially, are attracted by colorful packaging and plastic toys. I must admit, I used to be one of them. I also used to think that all of our food came from these happy little farms where pigs rolled in mud and cows grazed on grass every day. What I discovered is this is not true. I began to look into the stuff on the internet, in books, in documentary films, in my travels with my family. I discovered the dark side of the industrialized food system.”
“Conventional farmers use chemical fertilizers made from fossil fuels that they mix with the dirt to make plants grow. They do this because they’ve stripped the soil from all nutrients from growing the same crop over and over again. Next, more harmful chemicals are sprayed on fruits and vegetables, like pesticides and herbicides, to kill weeds and bugs. When it rains, these chemicals seep into the ground, or run off into our waterways, poisoning our water too. Then they irradiate our food, trying to make it last longer, so it can travel thousands of miles from where it’s grown to the supermarkets.”
He went on to ask some tough questions: “So I ask myself, how can I change? How can I change these things?” and concluded his talk with some powerful common sense solutions:
“I want you to know that we can all make a difference by making different choices, by buying our food directly from local farmers, or our neighbors who we know in real life. Some people say organic or local food is more expensive, but is it really? With all these things I’ve been learning about the food system, it seems to me that we can either pay the farmer, or we can pay the hospital. (Applause) Now I know definitely which one I would choose.”
“I want you to know that I believe kids will eat fresh vegetables and good food if they know more about it and where it really comes from. I want you to know that there are farmers’ markets in every community popping up. I want you to know that me, my brother and sister actually like eating baked kale chips. I try to share this everywhere I go.
“Not too long ago, my uncle said that he offered my six-year-old cousin cereal. He asked him if he wanted organic Toasted O’s or the sugarcoated flakes — you know, the one with the big striped cartoon character on the front. My little cousin told his dad that he would rather have the organic Toasted O’s cereal because Birke said he shouldn’t eat sparkly cereal. And that, my friends, is how we can make a difference one kid at a time.
“So next time you’re at the grocery store, think local, choose organic, know your farmer and know your food. Thank you.”
There are enormously wealthy companies such as Monsanto, Dow, and Kraft Foods who do not want us to even get a hint of what he’s talking about here. That’s the beauty of Social Media and the internet – it means we can pass these kinds of clips around and get folks to pay attention.
What we put into our bodies every day matters, and changing how we look at such things is an important part of a future society where health and sanity are as important as dollar bills.
UPDATE, 25 January 2016: Now 16-years-old, Birke continues his work as a speaker, author, and organic and sustainable food advocate.
You can watch the talk, below, from late 2010: