Michael Pollan had a fantastic article in the NYTimes magazine earlier this month entitled Farmer in Chief. If you haven’t heard of Michael Pollan before, go pick up a copy of the Omnivore’s Dilemma immediately. It has been garnering a lot of buzz for a few years now and in that book Pollan does an amazing job of making the politics of industrial agriculture interesting. A large portion of that book focuses on how corn is at the center of almost everything we eat and how the government influenced this change in the national diet.
In Farmer in Chief, Pollan outlines an impressive food policy for the new administration. He explains how everything from farmers markets, to an official definition of the word “food” to who is chosen as the White House chef could make an impact on the global culture of food and the future of climate change. Check out the full piece here. It’s long, but worth the read.
It is one of the larger paradoxes of our time that the very same food policies that have contributed to overnutrition in the first world are now contributing to undernutrition in the third.
The good news is that the twinned crises in food and energy are creating a political environment in which real reform of the food system may actually be possible for the first time in a generation. The American people are paying more attention to food today than they have in decades, worrying not only about its price but about its safety, its provenance and its healthfulness. There is a gathering sense among the public that the industrial-food system is broken.
If any part of the modern economy can be freed from its dependence on oil and successfully resolarized, surely it is food.
More recently, cheap energy has underwritten a globalized food economy in which it makes (or rather, made) economic sense to catch salmon in Alaska, ship it to China to be filleted and then ship the fillets back to California to be eaten; or one in which California and Mexico can profitably swap tomatoes back and forth across the border; or Denmark and the United States can trade sugar cookies across the Atlantic.
Update: Obama actually did reference Pollan’s letter, check out his comments here.
Thanks to Mike T for the link