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Mae Humiston and Sara Gardner | Let’s Talk About Food

Cooking up a movement

Published: Thursday, September 27, 2012

Updated: Thursday, September 27, 2012 02:09


Food is life. We all need to eat to live, whether we survive on lettuce or dine on foie gras and fine wine. Indeed, food affects nearly every facet of human existence. People often wax poetic about the experience of preparing and enjoying food, elaborating on the pleasures of a meal well-had and on the nature and symbolism of our relationship with food. This connection to what we eat is the impetus behind the food movement — the importance of food and the complexity of our interactions with it inspire people to question and explore what they consume. It also leads them to improve the food quality and mitigate the consequences of our means of nourishment.

The language it uses, however, can easily misrepresent the admirable goals of the food movement. As this weekly column acts as a voice for the Tufts food community, much of the vocabulary that gives shape to this movement will be used in each article. To make our points clear and to avoid the detrimental effects of jargon, we are going to make this article a go-to glossary of buzz words that will reliably appear whenever and wherever you see the words “food movement.” Hopefully, having this as a source will better your understanding of food-related topics, from what exactly the food movement is to what the “organic” label actually means. Here’s a list of the words we feel are the most important, along with somewhat concise definitions, to try to better explain the complexities of our food:

Food Movement: A broad name given to the cumulative efforts of individuals, initiatives and interest groups to promote the fair production and consumption of healthy goods made with environmentally sound practices and/or by justly treated workers, including those groups addressing issues of access, resource use and labeling. These articles generally refer to the food movement taking place in the United States.

Agricultural Development: Refers to the origin and expansion of farming systems, as well as the integration of the agricultural sector into the United States economy and policy. It generally implies the industrialization of agriculture and the monopolistic growth that has taken place within the US agricultural sector.

Food Justice (Equity): Seeks to redistribute inequities of the risks and benefits as a result of how food is produced, distributed, consumed and disposed of. Food equity specifically focuses on the fair distribution and consumption of food.

GMO: Stands for “genetically modified organism.” This means that the genetic material of a plant or animal has been engineered in order to change one or more of the organism’s features. This column uses GMO in reference to plants — like the uniformly round and red tomatoes in the supermarket — as well as animals.

Organic: According to the USDA, organic foods are grown without the use of synthetic additives, such as chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and aren’t genetic engineering. The USDA “organic” label implies that for processed food, 95 percent of the ingredients used in that product are organic. 

Fair trade: Refers to the movement that favors a market-based approach to helping producers in developing countries to promote sustainability and provide workers  with occupational rights and fair pay.

Hopefully, it ultimately becomes clear that these definitions, save a couple, tend to be amorphous and specific to individual people. The ultimate goal is to create a sustainable movement that’s palatable — if you’ll pardon the pun! — to everyone, to the point where we can make a positively delicious impact on how we interact with our food.



Mae Humiston is a senior majoring in anthropology. She can be reached at Sara Gardner is a freshman whose major is undecided. She can be reached at

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