Nicholas Kristof in his NY Times op-ed today urges Obama to appoint a Secretary of Food:
A Department of Agriculture made sense 100 years ago when 35 percent of Americans engaged in farming. But today, fewer than 2 percent are farmers. In contrast, 100 percent of Americans eat.
The interests of big agriculture – the “factory farmers” – are really opposed to the interests of people. The “food” they raise wastes energy, causes huge environment damage, makes us unhealthy, and even leads to antibiotic resistant diseases.
On the other hand, real family farmers, who grow non-factory food on relatively small farms, are good for us, good for the environment, and good for our health.
If you feel this is a good cause, check out the online petition at www.fooddemocracynow.org, which calls for a reformist pick for agriculture secretary — and names six terrific candidates, including Chuck Hassebrook, a reformer in Nebraska and Fred Kirschenmann, an organic farmer and researcher in Pocantico Hills, NY.
For more on food policy and its relation to health, environment, and policy, check out Michael Pollan’s “Open Letter To The Next Farmer In Chief” in the October 12 New York Times Magazine. Eye-opening and inspiring, like all of his work.
Olive stones can be turned into bioethanol, a renewable fuel that can be produced from plant matter and used as an alternative to petrol or diesel. This gives the olive processing industry an opportunity to make valuable use of 4 million tonnes of waste in olive stones it generates every year and sets a precedent for the recycling of waste products as fuels.
The difference between fuel from corn and fuel from olive pits? The pits otherwise are waste, while corn grown for fuel displaces crops grown for food.
I think Michael Pollan would approve. What do you think? swanksalot
Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food) gave some advice to the next president (Obama, as it turns out) in the NY Times October 12 Sunday Magazine. If he didn’t know already, Pollan warned him that food policy is going to be a big issue, and provides some advice on what to do about it.
It may surprise you to learn that among the issues that will occupy much of your time in the coming years is one you barely mentioned during the campaign: food.
Modern U.S. agriculture (especially as embodied in “The Farm Bill”) is not only a giant user of fossil fuels, but also arguably the major contributor to health crises like obesity and diabetes.
Agriculture in the U.S. uses a surprisingly large amount of fossil fuels (about 14% of the total), and actually generates proportionally more potent greenhouse gases than other uses of the same feedstock. The green revolution was all about fossil fuel-based fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, and monoculture. Furthermore, the incentives are perverse, especially in the U.S., anti-health and anti-family farm.
Summarizing Pollan’s article, the key recommendation is the “resolarization” of American agriculture:
Right now, the government actively discourages the farmers it subsidizes from growing healthful, fresh food: farmers receiving crop subsidies are prohibited from growing “specialty crops” — farm-bill speak for fruits and vegetables. … Commodity farmers should instead be encouraged to grow as many different crops — including animals — as possible. Why? Because the greater the diversity of crops on a farm, the less the need for both fertilizers and pesticides.
Pollan was also on Fresh Air on October 20, a fantastic interview following up on this article, which you can hear at http://freshair.npr.org. I have the mp3 of the show if you want to listen to it on your pod-player (let me know – I’ll make it available for download).