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Thank you. Hello. My name is Birke Baehr and I'm 11 years old. I came here today to talk about what's wrong with our food system.

First of all, I would like to say that I'm really amazed how easily kids are led to believe all the marketing and advertising on TV, at public schools, and pretty much everywhere else you look. It seems to me like corporations are always trying to get kids, like me, to get their parents to buy stuff that really isn't really good for us or the planet.

Little kids, especially, are attracted by colorful packaging and plastic toys. I must admit, I used to be one of them. I also used to think that all of our food came from these happy little farms where pigs rolled in mud and cows grazed on grass all day.

What I discovered was this is not true. I began to look into the stuff on the Internet, in books, and in documentary films in my travels with my family. I discovered the dark side of the industrialized food system. First, there's genetically engineered seeds and organisms. That is when a seed is manipulated in a laboratory to do something not intended by nature. Like taking the DNA of a fish and putting it into the DNA of a tomato.

Yuck! Don't get me wrong, I like fish and tomatoes, but this is just creepy. 

The seeds are then planted, then grown. The food they produced has been proven to cause cancer and other problems in lab animals. And people have been eating food produced this way since the 1990's. Most folks don't even know they exist. Did you know that rats fed genetically engineered corn have developed signs of liver and kidney toxicity? These include kidney inflammations, and lesions and increased kidney weight. Yet almost all the corn we eat has been altered genetically in some way. And let me tell you, corn is in everything. And don't even get me started on the confined animal feeding operations called CAFO's. Conventional farmers use chemical fertilizers made from fossil fuels that they mix with the dirt to make plants grow. They do this because they've stripped the soil of all nutrients from growing the same crop over and over again. Next more harmful chemicals are sprayed on fruits and vegetables like pesticides and herbicides to kill weeds and bugs. When it rains, these chemicals seep into the ground or run off into our waterways poisoning our water too. Then they irradiate our food trying to make it last longer, so it can travel thousands of miles from where it's grown to the supermarkets.

So I ask myself, "How can I change? How can I change these things?" This is what I found out. I discovered that there's a movement for a better way. Now a while back, I wanted to be an NFL football player. I decided that I'd rather be an organic farmer instead. Thank you. And that way I could have a greater impact on the world. I learned from this guy named Joel Salatin. They call him a lunatic farmer because he grows against the system. Since I'm home schooled, I want to go hear him speak one day. This man, this lunatic farmer, doesn't use any pesticides, herbicides, or genetically modified seeds. And so for that he's called crazy by the system. I want you to know that we can all make a difference. By making different choices. By buying our food directly from local farmers or neighbors we know in real life. Some people say organic or local food is more expensive. But is it really? With all these things I've been learning about the food system it seems to me that we can either pay the farmer or we can pay the hospital. I know definitely which one I would choose. I want you to know that there are farmers out there like Bill Keener in Sequatchie Cove Farm in Tennessee whose cows do eat grass, and whose pigs do roll in the mud just like I thought. Sometimes I go to Bill's farm and volunteer, so I can see up close and personal where the meat I eat comes from. I want you to know that I believe kids will eat fresh vegetables and good food if they knew more about it and where it really comes from. I want you to know that there are farmer's markets in every community popping up. I want you to know that me, my brother and sister actually like eating baked kale chips. I try to share this everywhere I go. Not too long ago my uncle said he offered my six-year old cousin cereal. He asked if he wanted organic toasted oats or the sugar coated flakes. You know the one with the big striped cartoon character on the front? My little cousin told his dad that he would rather have the organic toasted O's cereal, because Birke said he shouldn't eat sparkly cereal. And that my friends is how we can make a difference. One kid at a time. So next time you're at the grocery store, think local, choose organic, know your farmer and know your food. Thank you.


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