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The food industry in America has been characterized by numerous changes. This numerous changes have attracted the involvement of multiple individuals and parties in different way to see it that the food industry is reformed in the best way possible. The greatest changes in the meat industry were driven by Upton Sinclair in his novel The Jungle. The novel worked effectively in spurring public outrage that ended up in a legislation. The novel brought out Sinclair as a crusader of the food industry and food health scares, environmental impact of the industry, and the workplace conditions of immigrants in Chicago. Sinclair’s focus drifted away from the public and readers’ expectation of health risks created by unsanitary stockyards and meatpacking facilities, and concentrated on the meat industry dehumanization of workers and the brutal treatment of animals. The most recent of changes in the meat and industry is the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the addition of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) to meats. The FDA argument is that consumption of meat from animals consuming GMO grain will not vary from meet of animals feed non-GMO grain. This paper evaluates Muckraker connection to the present day.
Muckraker Upton Sinclair
In the late nineteenth century, there was an explosive growth in the American industry and the work force. The industries had wretched working conditions and there was a progressive reform movement that resulted to address the American worker health and welfare. Leslie (2-6) confirmed that the working conditions in the meat packing industry involved exploitation of Chicago immigrant workers, and the obsession of the American public with cleanliness and wholesomeness forgot the welfare of the immigrants and associating them with being a threat to meat supply cleanliness for being ‘filthy disease’ carriers.
Upton Sinclair a social crusader and famous novelist from California, pioneered the ‘muckraking’ journalism through the novel The Jungle that exposed the unsanitary and appalling meat-packing industry conditions. Sinclair pointed out that unskilled immigrants performed backbreaking and dangerous tasks, worked in unventilated and dark rooms that were hot in summer and very cold winter. Most of the immigrants in the meat industry stood for long hours on blood-covered floors with foul water and meat scraps, and working with dangerous tools including knives and sledgehammers. Sinclair, at 26 visited Chicago in 1904 to understand the reasons for the strike by Chicago meat-packers and experienced the conditions. The Jungle fictionalized Sinclair’s account of Packingtown in Chicago through the imaginary young man called Jurgis Rudkis and immigrant to Chicago (Sinclair).
In his writing of The Jungle Sinclair revealed he aimed at the public’s heat only to hit their stomach by accident (Kantor 1202). Through his Appeal to Reason, Sinclair managed to receive requests for The Jungle and this led to the increased public outcry to have the meatpacking industry investigated. The result was the Food and Drug Act of 1906 and the Meat Inspection Act of 1906 US that reformed the meat packaging industry.
Modern Issue (GMOS being added to meats)
Scientists are almost unanimously agreeing that GMOs consumption is safe. The US Food and Drug Administration, the American Medical Association, and the World Health Organization have approved GMOs consumption. The move has increased the divergence between the American public and the scientists with close to 60% of Americans believing that GMOS are unsafe (Radke n.d). The public’s misunderstanding and fear of GMOs justify their fear of meat consumption given that livestock are the greatest consumers of corn and corn is largely GMO produced.
Areas in need of improvement
The reality is that the public is entitled to know the constituents of the products they consume. The implication is the need to for an agency that would test crops fed to animals producing meat and eggs. Additionally, the general public, with high love for beef as a delicious and nutritional protein source, should be made aware of and be educated on what to expect from meat producers’ labels in terms of GMO component as provided by the agency (Gottlieb 47).
My ideas on what should be the outcome
The outcome is not to force meat producers to include GMO constituent of their products, but to work through an independent body to advocate for the safety of the consumption of meat regardless of consuming GMO or non-GMO crops. Consequently, consumers would gain truthful and non-misleading food information.
From the discussion, the meat industry has experienced numerous changes initiated by Upton Sinclair to the modern day GMOs in meat. Unlike Sinclair who backed his claims with evidence, today the issue of GMOs in meat is far from getting into the hearts and stomachs of most consumers with most Americans perceiving GMOs as unsafe for consumption. With scientists and numerous organizations supporting the safety of GMO consumption, there is need for a neutral agency to educate the public on the safety of the meat they consume in terms of GMO components.
- Gottlieb, Bill. Health-defense : how to stay vibrantly healthy in a toxic world. Emmaus: Rodale, 2015.
- Kantor, Arlene Finger. “Upton Sinclair and the Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906.” American Journal of Public Health 66.12 (1976): 1202-1205.
- Leslie, Levin. “One Man’s Meat Is Another Man’s Poison: Imagery of Wholesomeness in the Discourse of Meatpacking from 1900-1910.” Journal of American & Comparative Cultures 24.1 (2001): 1-14.
- Radke, Amanda. “Are beef producers prepared to defend GMOs?” Beef Daily July 13 2015.
- Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle. 1906.