the politics of food

Hot political topics include abortion, national defense and taxes, but food?  Haven’t seen many political debates on that topic! According to the USDA less than 2% of Americans make a living farming. So it would seem that the other 98% don’t need to worry about the food policies such as the Farm Bill. But food legislation impacts much more than farmers!

Food policy affects the environment, climate change, health care and, considering how much food we import from other nations, food is even a national security issue.

As Michael Pollan writes in his October 9, 2008 NY Times op-ed Famer in Chief,

“It must be recognized that the current food system — characterized by monocultures of corn and soy in the field and cheap calories of fat, sugar and feedlot meat on the table — is not simply the product of the free market. Rather, it is the product of a specific set of government policies that sponsored a shift from solar (and human) energy on the farm to fossil-fuel energy.”

The current government policies favors mono-cultures–specifically corn, soy, wheat and rice–which in turn are overproduced.  The surplus of these grains is processed to become things like high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated soybean oils and to feed cattle.  When you consider the economics, it makes sense that corn and soy based products appear in a vast array of processed foods – from chips to TV dinners to salad dressing.

But does is it worth the sacrifice of our land, health and more?

This food pyramid from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine gives the issue a good visual:

Loads more info on the Farm Bill here.

In Defense of Food

Dan and I both just finished this book – In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. It was one of those books that captured much of what I’d already been thinking about food, eating and life in general for years. But much of the research and evidence he provides go far beyond merely suggesting yet another fad diet.  Reading this book has helped solidify my new obsession:  providing an alternative to the the Western lifestyle and mindset.

I have so many thoughts swirling around about this book. One of the fascinating things Pollan says is that fine white flour was the original fast food.  And that food is more than the sum of its nutrient parts.

But first:

a) Read In Defense of Food for yourself

b) Join me in investigating more on the subject (I hope to Jonathan Safran Foer & Wendell Barry’s view on the subject pronto).

c) Ask yourself, “What is food?” and “What is eating?” They may seem like stupid questions, until you realize the revolution that’s occurred in recent times regarding these basic and fundamental aspects of daily life.