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Race in the study of food Essay

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“Local food advocacy is a political and moral discourse that is meant to provide the foundation for understanding local food networks as sites of resistance against the norms and power of globalized industrial foodways” (Daston, 2017). Daston is correct “in her philosophy because, in various and dispersed traditions, nature has been upheld as the pattern of all values, the good, the true, and the beautiful.” (Daston, 2017) “There is nothing new about the link between nature and necessity, nor with the exculpatory inferences drawn from such links.

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” (Daston, 2017).

In the first section of the paper, she describes local food advocacy as having a political and moral discourse that is meant to provide the foundation for understanding local food networks as sites of resistance against the norms and power of globalized industrial foodways. She explores the use of the concept of “nature” and the “natural” in local food discourses with a number of examples of local food advocacy in an attempt to decipher the meaning of the “natural” in the discourse. Portman (2014) discovers that a cluster of implicit concepts which are uncritically assumed to be earth-based, family-based, and feminine-based; these bases are also assumed to be unproblematic.” (Portman, 2014

Daston asserts that “the moral dimension of local food discourse, in general, is encompassed in the conviction that there are ethical and unethical ways by which our food can be produced, distributed and consumed.” (Daston, 2017). “It is only within this modern framework that we can make sense of the naturalistic fallacy, both its confusions and its tenacity. The naturalistic fallacy and its barnacle-like accretions assume what Frankena called a “bifurcation ontology” that prohibits commerce between the two immiscible realms. Repeated efforts on the part of monists of both materialist and idealist persuasion to dissolve the dichotomy in favor of one or another realm have only reinforced its binary logic” (Daston, 2017, p.581).

Portman’s (2017) decision to delve into the ethics of local food advocacy is a timely decision as words such as organic, healthy, and farm-fresh have become a part of the mainstream vernacular. While it may seem random to popular culture.” (Portman, 2017, p. 4). His ideology supports a long-held belief that humans make their food choices based on financial ability. However, it is reckless to say that a single mother of four will make “everyone’s agreed upon” morally sound decision when trying to determine how to feed her children with her last $20. While politics and economics dictate the type of food presented to various populations and demographics, morality is a luxury that only those who have the time to debate it can afford.

“In this context, the concept of the “natural” is frequently and uncritically invoked to argue for the ethical significance of participating in and advocating for local food networks. This is problematic in that the dualistic framework serves to obscure many actual complexities within the “natural” and the “local” themselves, and in their relationships with their counterparts, the “cultural” and the “global.” Thus, by leaving unquestioned certain assumptions about the meaning of the “natural” and how that meaning was constructed, local food advocacy is not as resistant as it might otherwise be.” (Portman, 2014)

Datson (2014), on the other hand, supposes that the idea of morality having a direct influence on decisions regarding nature is a modern phenomenon. This notion supports the theory that these philosophical examinations are only able to be discussed because humans now have the knowledge and time, thanks to modern technology, to make these assumptions.

Datson (2014) defined nature as, “everything in the universe (sometimes including and sometimes excluding human beings), to what is inborn rather than cultivated, to the wild rather than the civilized, to raw materials as opposed to refined products, to the spontaneous as opposed to the sophisticated, to what is native rather than foreign, to the material world without divinity, to a fruitful goddess, and to a great deal else, depending on epoch and context” (Portman, 2014) (p. 582). The lack of a universally accepted definition of the term they are trying to define speaks to the logical flaw that we cannot discount anything that we do not yet understand.
It argues that just because something is natural it must be good. We act against nature all the time with money, vaccination, electricity, even medicine. In the same sense, many things that are natural are good, but not all unnatural things are unethical which is what the naturalistic fallacy argues.

Both articles show a bias for people who have a choice. A choice to choose what they eat, a choice to carefully examine what they are able to consume, both physically and mentally, and a choice to act on their desires. According to the “Center for Disease Control (CDC), Non-Hispanic blacks have the highest age-adjusted rates of obesity (48.1%) followed by Hispanics (42.5%), non-Hispanic whites (34.5%), and non-Hispanic Asians (11.7%)” (2017).”

The CDC also reported that “obesity decreased by the level of education. Adults without a high school degree or equivalent had the highest self-reported obesity (35.5%), followed by high school graduates (32.3%), adults with some college (31.0%) and college graduates (22.2%)” (2016). The populations represented in these reports are often plagued by a lack of choice due to political agendas and systemic oppression. Without using these statistics to inform their theories, the authors have left out a demographic who would benefit the most from these findings.

Portman (2017) and Daston (2014) have continued a discussion that has been argued for centuries. Portman (2017) provides an action-based solution to the posed questions and the stance it takes, while Daston (2014) attempts to break down a concept that has not been generally agreed upon. Both articles, when referenced wisely, can begin the movement of a positive change in the relationship between our decision-making and our food.

Daston, L. (2017). The naturalistic fallacy is modern. The History of Science Journal, The University of Chicago Press, 105(3), 579-587. doi:10.1086/678173.
Overweight and Obesity. (2017). Adult Obesity Facts. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html
Overweight and Obesity. (2017). Adult Obesity Prevalence Maps. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/prevalence-maps.html
Portman, A. (2014). Mother nature has it right: Local food advocacy and the appeal to the “natural.” Ethics and the Environment, 19(1), 1-30. Doi: 10.2979.

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