Living in the area of the United States known as the “salad bowl” I am used to eating foods that are grown locally and had never seen food from outside of the states offered in the grocery store. Lately all I have seen is food from other countries and I am not too comfortable about it for a few reasons.
In a nearby area I have seen the oddest decision made to save a fish and allow the old almond orchards to wither and die. Farmers in the Central Valley of California have had their irrigation shut down due to the preservation of a fish by the Federal Bureau of Reclamation. Entire towns are without work and unemployment is at 40 percent.
Almond orchards abounded here for as many years as I can remember and now the trees are dead and we are importing nuts from other countries. This makes little sense. California Federal Judge Oliver Wanger of the Federal District Court favored the fish on August 31, 2007. He severely limited water delivery to the San Joaquin Valley and as such the heavily agricultural area that we once relied upon for much of our food has a lot of happy smelt and a lot of dead almond trees.
Port of entry
Do you find yourself reading your fruit lately, curious to know where their place of origin might be? They can come from far away lands, do you ever wonder why? I do. Cheaper labor costs overseas are the primary reason coupled with the ability to supply off-season produce any time of the year. I for one am concerned about adherence to consumer safety laws and governance by the FDA and USDA.
Some of the possible dangers of imported fruits and vegetables come from pesticides, chemicals viral or bacterial contaminants and genetically modified organisms as well as non-native plant transplants. Inspection from the FDA has decreased as the import of fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and nuts has increased.
Ecosystem alteration and destruction is a very real danger, remember the kudzu? In the Southern region of the United States the kudzu plant took over thousands of acres of indigenous species. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can cross-breed with native plants changing our eco-systems and causing the loss of natural or heirloom plants.
Points of entry and border inspections are critical to monitor, we currently have less than a third of the entry points inspected allowing for a lot of produce to slip through. Exporters have become clever in the ways they get their product into the country, they know which ports have no inspection and bring their product in there. They know that only 1 percent of produce is checked by the FDA and it has been found that seafood has been shipped inland to Las Vegas, which is in the desert, thereby avoiding seafood inspection. Boxes of produce get mixed up and reshipped making problems impossible to trace.