My first piece of food-related art… I made this sculpture called “LEFTOVERS” for Berlin Food Art Week 2017. The theme of the week was “VS MEAT”. The sculpture is made from clay, resin and perspex, and comments on the dumping of American chicken in South Africa.
Leftovers is now on its way to Bologna Food Art Week.
The story behind it is this…
The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is a piece of legislation that was approved by the USA Congress in 2000. Its purpose is to assist the economies of sub-Saharan Africa and improve economic relations between the United States and Africa. The United States created the impression that this partnership with Africa is to “help pull the continent out of poverty”.
But in 2015, the country was threatened with the suspension of the AGOA agricultural concessions, which allow South Africa to export goods to the US without paying full export duties. The suspension would have resulted in a huge financial loss for the South African agricultural industry. So, South Africa was essentially bullied into accepting 65 metric tonnes of America’s unwanted chicken a year.
South Africa exports its best agricultural produce while America is dumping some of their worst in South Africa. The dumped chicken consists of the thigh quarter, which is seen as less desirable than wing and breast meat by US consumers so it is sold very cheaply.
Another interesting fact is that South Africa exports R69.8 billion worth of goods to the USA while the USA exports R71 billion worth of goods to SA so they are benefitting from AGOA more than South Africa are.
In 2015, the FDA admitted that 70 percent of chicken purchased in the USA contains arsenic, a cancer causing toxic chemical, which is found in a drug called roxarsone. It is intentionally added to chicken feed to give chicken its color and the illusion that is it healthy. Long-term exposure to arsenic has been linked to a host of health problems, including type 2 diabetes, cognitive defects in fetuses, and negative neurological effects on young children. The chickens are also up to six weeks older than local chickens by the time they reach the market. They are pumped full of brine (salt water to look bigger) and may carry Avian flu.
The US chicken is on South African supermarket shelves alongside locally produced chicken (without a “country of origin” label) and sold cheaper. Because there is no label to state where the chicken comes from, consumers have no idea whether the chicken products are locally produced or American. The bulk of the US chickens have been making their way into supermarkets that target low-income South Africans.
America ensured that its chicken was exported to South Africa, despite South Africa’s concerns about the impact on increasing unemployment and the health of its citizens. This reflects the way that the global trading system benefits powerful wealthy countries and their corporations, while taking advantage of a developing country, poisoning its poor and taking their jobs. For every 10 000 tons of chicken imports, 1 000 job opportunities are lost in South Africa.
(Information gathered from Pregs Govender, former Humans Rights Commissioner in South Africa)