With more than 2 billion Christians worldwide, food sovereignty defined in a biblical context will shed some light on the lost connection between our beliefs and our day-to-day choices. Let’s begin by breaking down the term Food Sovereignty:
From Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language
1. In a general sense, whatever is eaten by animals for nourishment, and whatever supplies nutriment to plants.
2. Meat; aliment; flesh or vegetables eaten for sustaining human life; victuals; provisions; whatever is or may be eaten for nourishment.
Feed me with food convenient for me. Proverbs 30:8.
3. Whatever supplies nourishment and growth to plants, as water, carbonic acid gas, etc. Manuring substances furnish plants with food
4. Something that sustains, nourishes and augments. Flattery is the food of vanity.
Based on this definition, much of what we choose to eat today cannot be truly considered food because it does not nourish.
1. Supreme in power; possessing supreme dominion; as a sovereign ruler of the universe.
2. Supreme; superior to all others; chief. God is the sovereign good of all who love and obey him.
1. A supreme lord or ruler; one who possesses the highest authority without control.
Some earthly princes, kings and emperors are sovereigns in their dominions.
2. A supreme magistrate; a king.
How Do We Support the Concept of Food Sovereignty Defined in a Biblical Context?
The knee jerk reaction for many Christians reading this is that God is sovereign over all, God provides, and He is to be implicitly trusted in His provision. All of that is biblically sound, but it is incomplete. By this simplistic version of doctrine, we neglect the fact that He gave us dominion in Genesis, then after the fall, restored that dominion in Christ. That dominion is over all things. He is King of kings. He is King with a capital K, but indeed, we are lower case k kings. This is the basis for the concept of our sovereignty over our food supply in this world. As kings, we are not only in charge, we carry responsibility for it as far as how God’s provision is stewarded and distributed among mankind. Let’s first take a look at some scriptures that establish our food sovereignty.
In Genesis 1:26, God created man and gave him dominion “over all the earth”.
Then, in Genesis 2:15, God put man in the garden of Eden to cultivate it.
After Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit in Genesis 3:17, God says “Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.” This indicates that although the gardening work will be harder, we are still free to cultivate and eat of it as much as we need. Verse 18 says Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you (but nonetheless He restates) “And you shall eat the herb of the field”. The right to cultivate and eat from the land as we needed to was still ours.
Fast forward to Genesis 6 & 7, as God is giving Noah instructions on what to bring onto the ark, He instructs Noah to stock the ark with food for the humans and animals on board. It was under God’s instruction, but the actual decisions of what and how much to bring were in Noah’s hands.
Generations later, in Genesis 41, we see Joseph in Egypt laying out a plan to manage the food supply to provide for the seven years of famine predicted in Pharoah’s dream.
Certainly there are more examples like this throughout the bible, but this is enough right in the first book to lay the foundation for a biblical case for man’s sovereignty over food. While there were appointed leaders at different moments in the biblical story who made decisions that affected the rest of mankind, their decisions were always based on making sure that EVERYONE could still partake in God’s bounty even in a huge disaster scenario. None of the food decisions had anything to do with financial gain for anyone involved.
Why Is it Important to Examine Food Sovereignty Defined in a Biblical Context?
Now that you understand the position God gave you in His Kingdom, you must see your individual daily choices as a function of that role. Every food purchase you make counts. Every time you sit down to dinner, you make a statement about where you stand on this issue. Even if you have not been conscious about it, you have been participating in it on one side or the other. Either you have been unaware that you are contributing to the transfer of food sovereignty to the enemy or you have become a change agent. There is no middle ground.
Your choices at the supermarket count more than your votes at the ballot box do.
Here are the facts:
- By 2011, 10 companies controlled 75% of the world’s commercial seed supply. (source: Genetic Literacy Project GMO FAQs) This list includes Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow (see definitions below). They also operate in the pharmaceutical industry, own “food” packaging companies and market GMO technology.
- Since the 1900s, some 75 percent of plant genetic diversity has been lost as farmers worldwide have left their multiple local varieties and landraces for genetically uniform, high-yielding varieties. (a)
- Today, 75 percent of the world’s food is generated from only 12 plants and five animal species. (a)
- Of the 4 percent of the 250 000 to 300 000 known edible plant species, only 150 to 200 are used by humans. Only three – rice, maize and wheat – contribute nearly 60 percent of calories and proteins obtained by humans from plants. (a)(a) Source: FAO. 1999b
As you can see, in the last 100 years, we have shifted from “every tree and plant that is beautiful to look at and good for food” (Genesis 2:9) to a very limited number of nutrient sources that Big Ag can easily control, manipulate, import, export and monetize. This has been the pattern of mankind’s loss of sovereignty over our own food.
Big Ag (Agriculture), Big Food, Big Pharma (Pharmaceuticals) – Those of us born before 1980 will likely have some memories of Big Tobacco. This was the moniker given to the tobacco industry in reference to the power and influence it wielded. It was a group of large, wealthy corporations that marketed cigarettes and other tobacco products. They used their wealth in every attempt to protect their product’s image, although numerous studies were showing undeniable links between tobacco use and lung cancer, throat cancer, emphysema and other diseases of the respiratory system. They marketed to children, in medical journals and at doctor’s offices. Their political lobby was extremely powerful. Eventually they lost their battle, but for years they were able to retain the right to market to children and make fallacious claims about benefits attached to tobacco use.
Today, we have a similar phenomenon. The three interlinked industries – agriculture, food production and pharmaceuticals – are using vast wealth to protect their image, although their products and their corporate practices are implicated in a multitude of problems in today’s world. The largest corporations in this group are Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow and BASF. They are the R.J. Reynolds Co. and Marlboros of today. These problems include but are not limited to
- Loss of biodiversity (refer to the facts above)
- Climate change due to emissions from the livestock industry and other unsustainable, fossil fuel-dependent practices in agriculture
- The health epidemics of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other lifestyle diseases (see definition below)
- Deaths from properly prescribed and administered pharmaceutical drugs (these deaths surpass those from heart disease)
- Soil depletion due to heavy use of chemical pesticides and herbicides, largely exacerbated by the unbridled release of GMO seed into the market
- Increased malnutrition worldwide
Notice that today, smoking is widely and correctly perceived as a bad practice. Children are cautioned against it and it is banned from most public spaces around the world. Because we stood up against it, our lawmakers could no longer uphold Big Tobacco’s rights over ours, and the victory in that war is sealed. We face a new war against a new “Big” enemy. It is important that we recognize it and take the whole armor of God in it.
Lifestyle Diseases, aka Metabolic Diseases. These are sometimes referred to as Diseases of Affluence. – This is the category of diseases that are directly linked to eating patterns. The “Big” industries finance scientists and universities to produce studies that link these diseases to factors other than diet, such as genetics and specific chemicals. Nonetheless, an overwhelming amount of research in the field of diet and health that is not financed by the Bigs shows undeniable links between what individuals and populations customarily eat (their lifestyle) and their likelihood to develop these diseases. The concept of diet and health appears often throughout scripture.
The reason these diseases are also referred to as Diseases of Affluence is that in these studies, correlations between diet and wealth also became clear. The fact is that one of the strongest correlations discovered was a link between consumption of animal protein and incidence of diseases in this category. Just as in biblical times, only the very wealthy and royalty could partake in animal flesh often, today it is wealthier societies and the wealthiest of the poorer nations who can afford to consume animal-based foods every day. So we see more of these diseases in the more affluent members of the human family. Here are some of the diseases in this category:
- Diabetes Types 1 & 2
- Heart Disease
- Kidney and Liver Diseases
These diseases are largely attributed to what we in the western world consider to be a normal level of consumption of animal protein, free sugars (added to packaged foods and beverages and extracted from fruits as juice) sodium and animal fat. To put this into perspective, in biblical times, the average person only ate animal flesh a few times a year when an animal was slaughtered during festivals. Today, we eat animal protein three times a day and don’t consider it gluttony – that is deception.
Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (or Centers, aka CAFOs or CAFCs) This is what livestock farming has become in modern times. Gone are the days when a shepherd tended sheep in green pastures and cattle languished all day in grassy fields chewing their cud. To support ravenous global demand for animal flesh, dairy and cheese and eggs, CAFOs have redesigned livestock agriculture to produce more animal products faster and cheaper.
The conditions of these operations is horrendous for both the animals and, to a lesser degree, the people who work in them. Animals are crammed (concentrated) together in tight spaces, fed medicated, usually GMO grain feed. There are too many abusive details about the living conditions and the practices employed to maintain the animals until slaughter to list here, but it is horrific. The slaughter is a painful process that is usually frightening for the animals and dangerously unsanitary as well as perhaps mentally disturbing for the people who do it. Also, the large concentration of toxic waste from these centers is a major contributor to greenhouse gasses and global warming, and land and water pollution.
This is all hidden from public view, because if you really saw what was happening, you would think very differently about your choice to eat animal-based foods at every meal daily. In Earthlings, a documentary by Joaquin Phoenix, these and other sad realities are exposed. You have a right to know. Have a look.
Now That We Have Examined Food Sovereignty Defined in a Biblical Context, What Can We Do?
OK, this is not going to be complicated, my friend. Like most of God’s solutions to our problems, it is simple. Also like many of His solutions, it is difficult. The truth is that your individual daily choices make a much bigger impact on the world than you thought they did. Every single day, every dollar you spend on what you choose to eat is a vote for or against the food sovereignty of mankind. Let me explain:
This morning, you gave your kids a bowl of Big Brand cereal with dairy milk for breakfast before they went off happily to school. Here’s how that impacted food sovereignty
- Your Big Food Brand cereal was produced by a company who is a subsidiary of Monsanto. You didn’t know when you bought it, but basically your purchase supported GMO technology, which is a major part of their business.
- That cereal was made from Big Ag corn that came from a monoculture farm in the mid west planted with GMO seed (they don’t legally have to tell you that on the box) and was grown using Monsanto’s Round Up weed killer. That weed killer is made from glyphosate, a known carcinogen (a chemical that is known to contribute to cancer in human beings), is also known to destroy soil quality, and is implicated in the loss of bee populations worldwide. Indeed there had been an outcry against the continued use of glyphosate, so Monsanto is now marketing a newer, not necessarily safer version containing a chemical called dicamba. But I digress.
- The cereal contains about 15 grams of sugar per 2 oz serving. You gave your child about 4 oz of it, so you have now given them more than the World Health Organization recommended daily limit of sugar in one meal. They will definitely have more free sugar during the remainder of the day – lunch, snacks, dinner – and in time, they will be likely be overweight or develop obesity or type 2 diabetes. Soon they will become a lifelong customer of Big Pharma.
- The dairy milk comes from cows raised in a Big Ag Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs, see above), where cows are crammed into tight, unsanitary living spaces, fed GMO corn and soy-based feed that is probably laced with antibiotics and robbed of their young as soon as they are born so that farmers can hook them up to “rape racks” and pump their milk out for profit.
- The dairy industry, operating in these CAFOs (or CAFCs), is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in part because of the large pools of toxic cow feces they generate that release the gasses into the air.
Had enough? Want to talk about your egg and cheese sandwich? Your stewed chicken lunch? Your meat and potatoes dinner? Your snack options throughout the day?
Also, consider this: Is it any wonder why these companies are all interconnected? Imagine Bayer – the makers of that aspirin – is one of the largest seed companies in the world. They get money going in and going out! You overeat what they produce, they get paid. You get sick from what your ate, they get paid.
Every dollar you spend votes one way or another.
They count so much because, while we only vote once or twice a year (and because of the electoral college system), we
must eat daily. Notice that the impact of the milk and cereal breakfast option made an impact on both the individual eating it and the global system in which it was produced. That small vote was another way to support those industries and their practices, and in voting for them you continue to allow them to have your food and health under their control.
How Could You Have Voted in the Other Direction?
- Instead of Big Brand cereal, opt for an organic food. Start your child off with a piece of organic fruit, preferably locally grown by you or a nearby farmer. This instills the value of whole food (Genesis 1, Daniel 1) in your child. Also, the closer you sourced it, the less fuel it took to get it into your child’s hands. It is nutrient rich and the sugar is in God’s perfect packaging.
- If you do give cereal also, again, go organic. Organic foods are legally not allowed to be made from GMO seed crops. Also, the more people buy organics, the more farming will shift away from destructive chemical use, and the more prices will continue to decline.
- Opt for a plant based “milk” so as not to support the dairy industry. Unfortunately, while organic dairy milk is still better than the CAFO stuff, it still has these problems
- Dairy protein aka casein, bad for human health
- Unnecessary overuse of resources, including land and water
- Organic plant-based “milk” that is unsweetened is an optimal choice. Many almond and soy “milks” come in unsweetened versions.
- Pray. This is our most powerful tool in any war. We go to God, we give Him His praise, and we make our requests. We speak our victory. This is always the first step. We have a prayer sequence. Here’s the first of those.
- Learn. This is the fun part! Educate yourself about your food – what is available around you, what symbols on labels mean, what terms are regulated by laws and rules and which ones are not. Also, start learning what fruits and vegetables are from around your region and their seasons of availability. Try new things often.
- Change. This is the most difficult part. Your personal changes food choices and buying patterns will make an impact. Holy Spirit can change you if you submit to His changes, and then changes in your thoughts and habits will follow. This will take deeper bible study and a sustainable plan that is tailored to your life. Here’s the 8 Day Really Nourish Devotional designed to get you through that narrow gate on the road to life.
- Minister. This is the vital part that helps the movement grow. We are all called to minister the gospel of peace. Once we learn about Christ, we are mandated to tell others. Christ came that we may have life and have it more abundantly. Health is the most important form of abundance, and while the abundance is a free gift, we have our part to play in making our faith complete (James 2).
The war for #FoodSovereignty is on. You are in it, Whether you knew it or not, and now you are armed with Food Sovereignty Defined in a Biblical Context. You have the facts. You know your options. Now you can mobilize.