Food Policy

Foodie Elite Push Obama to Create National Food Policy

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Kendo26/Flickr

A group of prominent foodie intellectuals are calling for President Obama to cement "his legacy" by implementing a national food policy. In a recent Washington Post op-ed, author and Berkeley professor Michael Pollan, New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman, Union of Concerned Scientists researcher Ricardo Salvador, and Catholic University human rights professor Olivier De Schutter laid out their plan for driving American agriculture, food production, and eating habits in the right direction via increased federal micromanagement of the food economy.

The national food policy Pollan et al. dream of wouldn't simply guide federal nutrition recommendations, public health campaigns, or farm subsidies. It would include everything from environmental policy to rules on food marketing to raising fast-food workers' wages.

"When hundreds of thousands of annual deaths are preventable—as the deaths from the chronic diseases linked to the modern American way of eating surely are—preventing those needless deaths is a national priority," they write.

A national food policy would do that, by investing resources to guarantee that: All Americans have access to healthful food; Farm policies are designed to support our public health and environmental objectives; Our food supply is free of toxic bacteria, chemicals and drugs; Production and marketing of our food are done transparently; The food industry pays a fair wage to those it employs; Food marketing sets children up for healthful lives by instilling in them a habit of eating real food; Animals are treated with compassion and attention to their well-being; The food system's carbon footprint is reduced, and the amount of carbon sequestered on farmland is increased; The food system is sufficiently resilient to withstand the effects of climate change.

Only those with a vested interest in the status quo would argue against creating public policies with these goals.

That last little flourish is fun, because it positions anyone opposed to massive federal intervention in the "food system as a whole" as at worst cartoonishly evil—you're either with us or you want Americans to live on Cheetos and three-eyed fish!—and at best suspiciously interested in perpetuating the status quo. There is no rhetorical room here to care about advancing nutrition science, fixing federal farm policy, expanding access to healthy foods, promoting humane treatment of livestock, or anything related to agriculture and eating without endorsing intense government action as the best way to accomplish these goals. 

The good news, they tell us, is that "solutions are within reach"—and it's here that this piece really start to get amazing. The authors acknowledge that many of the problems with America's food economy are not market failures at all but "largely a result of government policies." So the solution surely must be to get goverment meddling out of food and farm policy as much as possible, no?

Ha!

"We know that the government has the power to reshape the food system because it has already done so at least once—when President Richard Nixon rejiggered farm policy to boost production of corn and soy to drive down food prices," they write. And because government can, it should, apparently. The authors are somehow able to see the corrosive effect of previous government overreach on our food system, but they feel confident that this time! they'll get it right. "As Obama begins the last two years of his administration facing an obstructionist Republican Congress, this is an area where he can act on his own—and his legacy may depend on him doing so," they suggest, urging Obama to "announce an executive order establishing a national policy for food, health and well-being." 

The idea that cooking, eating, and enjoying nutritious foods is elitist is a silly and destructive one, and I've never been one to mock folks like Bittman and Pollan for their kale chips or food philosophies. But it doesn't get much more elitist than thinking the U.S. food system as a whole would be better off by circumventing not just markets but also any Congressional debate. Just relax and let the top men take care of it…

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  1. #FirstWorldProblems

    1. The only first world problem here is that no one is going to tar and feather these wretched bastards.

      Where can I get feathers from cruelty free poultry?

      1. Tar and feather? They should be put against the wall and shot. Fuck them. Who do they think are?

        1. Shooting is to good for them. They’d die happily, thinking that they are martyrs to a higher cause. Cover them with with feathers and mock them. Rinse (with turpentine) and repeat, as necessary

    2. Actually, US farm subsidies are a big problem for the entire Third World too.

  2. Ye gods, no. Hasn’t the government fucked things up enough? Besides, I choose what I eat, not some Food Czar.

    1. Come on, we all know that without the FDA, no one would know what to eat!

      1. I’m unclear on what, precisely,the FDA does. It’s all mostly self-policing, anyway.

        1. All you have to know is that without them you and everyone else in this country would starve to death. Why do you want everyone to starve?

    2. Keep government out of my bedroom kitchen.

  3. Only those with a vested interest in the status quo would argue against creating public policies with these goals.

    Indeed.

    1. Simple logic, really. Common sense. Responsible.

  4. You have to love the timing. The electorate just demonstrated they are sour on national federal policies, so let’s push a national federal food policy.

    Broccoli Mandate!

    1. There are two things you can do as a lame duck president.
      1. Preserve your legacy.
      2. Go for broke. You’ve got nothing to lose.

      1. Considering Obama’s legacy, option 2 is the only choice.

      2. This action would definitely cement Obama’s legacy. After which we could take it and throw it in the harbor.

  5. When hundreds of thousands of annual deaths consequences of voluntary choices are preventable?as the deaths from the chronic diseases consequences of voluntary choices linked to the modern American way of eating surely are?preventing those needless deaths consequences of voluntary choices is a national priority,” they write.

  6. I just had a bunch of bacon and eggs. Was that correct national food policy, because I’m not sure.

    1. It depends. How were the eggs prepared? I assume by “bacon,” you meant a healthy soy-based facsimile.

      1. The bacon has nothing to do with national food policy it’s like you don’t even read my newsletters anymore.

      2. No, I mean bacon. Trader Joe’s Black Forest Bacon, actually. You hear that Jesse?

        The eggs were fried in the bacon fat, obviously. I don’t let animal fat go to waste.

        1. Uncured bacon…very sad!

        2. I infuse the grease with my orange juice I find it makes a wonderful alternative to fiber products.

        3. Wait, you used fat? From animals? Is that legal? Surely that’s not legal.

      3. Make sure the soy is enriched with plenty of GMO and Roundup to get your minimum daily value of glyphosate

    2. were the eggs poached?

      1. No, I think he bought them.

    3. Free-range eggs? Organically raised, artisinal bacon? If not, you are Hitler.

      1. you know who else was like Hitler?

        1. Old MacDonald?

        2. Your mom?

          Or was that my mom?

        3. Charlie Chaplin in The Little Dictator?

        4. Deep Dish Pizza?

      2. “Organically raised, artisinal bacon?”

        No Pell grants for the hogs? You monster.

      3. Actual free range eggs (not the ones you buy at the grocery store), actually are a vastly superior product. Chickens aren’t supposed to be vegetarian.

        1. Correct.

        2. There will be no justice until chickens are re-educated to be proper vegans. End the cycle of violence.

      4. Well, Hitler was a vegetarian.

        1. there’s a joke in there somewhere.

        2. IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW.

        3. KOSHER VEGETARIAN

        4. That’s poll why he was so gassy.

      5. Worse than Hitler.

        Hitler was vegetarian. He, too, was disturbed about Big Grocery’s indifference to animal welfare.

    4. It depends, does a state with a key Senate seat or piece of the electoral puzzle have big pork or egg interests? Because that’s the usual criteria that often ends up determining federal policy. More of that please!

      1. I feel like big pork has a stranglehold on the legislative process.

    5. The eggs were only OK to eat if they were actually fertilized first. That is because it would be like a chicken abortion and that is always OK.

      Balut is super OK because it is like a late term duck abortion.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balut_(food)

  7. All Americans have access to healthful food (they do now)

    Farm policies are designed to support our public health and environmental objectives; Our food supply is free of toxic bacteria, chemicals and drugs; Production and marketing of our food are done transparently; The food industry pays a fair wage to those it employs; (forget that access thing, let’s do these things that raise prices and lower production!)

    Food marketing sets children up for healthful lives by instilling in them a habit of eating real food; (forget parents, it takes a federal village)

    Animals are treated with compassion and attention to their well-being; (I actually agree with this, but people can foster this with their free choices in markets)

    The food system’s carbon footprint is reduced, and the amount of carbon sequestered on farmland is increased; The food system is sufficiently resilient to withstand the effects of climate change (of Good Grief)

    1. So kids don’t eat “real food” right now? What, we’re serving them plastic toys and broken glass?

      Good God.

      And my wife wonders why I cringe every time we go to Whole Foods.

      1. Sometime parody is too close to reality:

        For the last time: Almond milk is labeled “A.” Rice milk is labeled “R.” Soy milk is labeled “S.” Animal milk will get your child expelled.

        1. I really enjoyed that twitter feed. Thanks

      2. “Real” is not quite the right word, but there is a distinction to be made between cheap, highly processed junk food and whatever you want to call higher quality food or basic ingredients. Of course it gets mixed up with all of the organic and anti-GMO nonsense which just confuses things. And of course none of this means that a national food policy is not a terrible idea for lots of reasons.

        1. Oh I know what they meant. They are still lying.

        2. What happened to the local trend? Now it’s national? What will it be next week?

          1. Well, see, we need a national policy of eating local food. Duh.

          2. These dumbshits probably think that they can have a “national” food policy that will result in more “locally sourced” food becoming available. In their version of utopia everyone’s an urban gardening hipster trading artisinal mayonaisse for locally sourced, cruelty free honey produced in local rooftop beehives from God know’s what kind of pollen.

            1. Locally produced and artisanal stuff is a wonderful thing, but it is a luxury. The notion that we can all eat fresh, local food produced by happy hippies all the time is such a total fantasy.

              1. It’s the same mindset that gives us the anti-Wal-Martians, of which the Pollans of the world are a particular stripe. Wealthy progressives always mistake economic reality for immorality.

                People who have spent their entire lives surrounded by boutiques, wine shops, and corner markets can’t understand why relatively poor rural folk lacking those options would happily buy their groceries from massive corporations on the other side of the world provided that it cost less. When you lack the disposable income to buy locally sourced chocolate-covered cranberries for $25 a pound, your kids make do with Twix bars.

                Passing legislation and begging the executive for a whole new layer of food technocracy won’t change that.

          3. Oh, the progs are pushing this from both directions.

            http://www.mndaily.com/opinion…..editorials

            1. Buster lostoncampus ? 16 minutes ago
              The Lund’s on University and Central is within walking distance to the UofM.
              But this isn’t about food availability at all. It’s about control. Tent, camel’s nose, power.

              I like and am encouraged by Buster’s comment in the comment section. The libertarian moment has arrived!

  8. You’re either with us or you want Americans to live on Cheetos and three-eyed fish.

    I feel like your mocking my diet. I didn’t come here to have my world view challenged ENB, I come here for the sarcasmic daily mail photos and the warty fanfic and stay here for the mental masturbation. Know your place.

  9. Only those with a vested interest in the status quo would argue against creating public policies with these goals

    Wow.

    1. Ladies and gentlemen, your would-be overlords!

    2. If you’re not with us, you’re against us.

      The lag-time between history-as-tragedy and history-as-farce is becoming uncomfortably short.

    3. Technocrats don’t understand that not everyone is a technocrat. It’s incomprehensible to them.

      One solution he might understand would be to strap Pollan to a chair Clockwork Orange and force him to listen to lectures on emergent order for a couple of weeks. You’ll know the reeducation has taken when he vomits each time he hears the phrase “public policy.”

    4. It’s time to stop trying to be polite and acknowledge the problem for what it is: counterrevolutionary kulak wreckers are making the motherland’s children obese.

  10. to boost production of corn and soy to drive down food prices

    Which is probably contributing to the obesity epidemic.

  11. Despite all the discourse regarding the great libertarian movement, we are literally at a point in history where basic choices, such as what we eat, are regulated.

    Winter is coming…

    1. You know nothing, Jon Snow.

  12. The great leap forward.

  13. Don’t we basically already have a national food policy with the FDA, the USDA, and the CDC working over time to tell use not to eat trans fats and so forth?

    1. Not only that, but the recent discovery that the “lo-fat” diet is essentially based on research that turns out to be complete garbage. The Food Pyramid the USDA pushed for years is probably responsible for the wide increase in obesity and maybe even the increase in gluten sensitivity.

      1. I assume the food pyramid or whatever form that has taken over the years was entirely driven by lobbyists working for Big Ag. Can anyone enlighten me on this? Or was it really just congresscritters from ag states?

        1. It was a compromise between Big Ag, Big Dairy, and Big Meat.And the vegetarians.
          Benefitting from an alliance between the vegetarians and Big Ag, the Wheat Council won, and the Meat and Dairy lobbies were left fighting over the scraps.

  14. Fuck off, all you wannabe Lysenkos. Tell Obama to pass an Executive Order ordering his wife to drop some weight off her big fat ass.

  15. We’re going to starve, aren’t we?

    1. Not all of us are going to starve; many of us will be shoved into the ovens.

      1. First one, then the other.

        1. Soylent green is people!

      2. many of us will be shoved into the ovens.

        Only after we’ve been loaded onto cattle cars and sent to the labor camps. Growing organic crops is highly labor intensive, afterall. They’ll need lots of slave labor to feed our intellectual betters. Once we’ve outlived our usefulness as slave labor, then we’ll be shoved into the ovens.

        So look on the bright side: depending on your age and health that fiery death could be many many years away.

        1. I was watching How I Live Now with my wife last night. There was a scene in the movie where the protagonists were split apart during a forced evacuation. My wife mutters, “Here come the ovens. It always ends with ovens.” I was so pleased with her. I love that woman.

    2. That is the traditional outcome of large government top-down food policies.

    3. This right here, when this happens, all those urban progtards and cosmotarians will be singing a different tune about those hicks in flyover country.

  16. Mark Bittman is a fucking asshole. That is all.

    1. Which is really unfortunate because I love his recipe app on the iPad. I had no idea his secret ingredient was “government coercion.”

      1. I used to like him too. Before I found out what a giant prick he was about imposing his preferences on everyone.

        1. Is he Bobby Bittman’s little brother ?

          1. ::slapping leg::
            Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.

          2. How are ya?

    2. I have a good number of cookbooks. His ‘How to Cook Everything’ is a great resource, my most used cookbook, and I’ve given it as a gift numerous times. You are, however, correct.

      This comment on Mark B ittman sticks with me to this day and cemented me as a committed lurker to H&R.

  17. Berkeley professor Michael Pollan, New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman, Union of Concerned Scientists researcher Ricardo Salvador, and Catholic University human rights professor Olivier De Schutter

    They left out Vandana Shiva.

    1. when President Richard Nixon rejiggered farm policy to boost production of corn and soy to drive down food prices,” they write

      When leftists appeal to Nixon, could it be said they have jumped the shark?

      1. They are just getting revenge for the evil Nixonian farm policies.
        Payback, bitches. You made us eat corn and soybeans, so we’re going to make you eat organic kale chips!

      2. If Nixon had a (D) behind his name, he would be treated like LBJ by the left. As it is, they just admire his sleazy authoritarianism in silence.

  18. Worked for the USSR and China.

  19. It was a beautiful Sunday morning, the coffee was brewed, and I was sitting back to read the paper. Then I came along to this article, and I thought to myself–“Self–WTF is this person talking about.” It was so divorced from reality that at first I thought it was a farce–but apparently not. Who knew.

    1. Americans need a strong authority figure to tell them what they should eat and help guide them toward healthful food choices.

      In the future they will also be helping us change our diapers.

  20. Will this be anything like Papa Stalin’s food policy?

    *eyes (the) Ukraine*

    1. So THAT’S how they created that race of Supermodels coming out of Ukraine!

      I’m in.

  21. Elizabeth’s alt-text is very disappointing. I’m disappointed.

    1. I didn’t complain about the alt text, because I thought having some alt text was better than none…

      Now I see the error of my ways.

    2. I think your missing the brilliance of her critique on regulation. At first glance I said “yes, it seems lame” but then I looked at picture and saw a farm that in no way would be approved for an occupation permit, and then I said “this is a perfect allegory for the regulatory burden in this country.”

    3. All those picturesque barn ruins dotting the landscape are actually the EPA’s fault. I asked my farmer neighbor about his (with the big shiny new modern barn right next to the old one), and he told me that the old one had about fifty coats of lead red paint on it. To tear it down would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in lead abatement specialists and expose him to intense EPA compliance scrutiny. Easier just to let it fall apart.

  22. I have a great idea for a national food policy. How about: I eat whatever the fuck I want on my own dime and you mind your own goddamned business?

    1. My body my choice only applies to abortions and buttsex.

      1. I don’t think they want to give you the option on butt sex either. It’s manditory.

        1. I think he meant *but sex.

          1. I thought it was all about Mexican butt secks.

      2. Maybe you could pick two?

        Abortions and food choice!
        or…
        Food choice and buttsex!

      3. In fairness food choice, sodomy and abortion are inextricably linked: eating right makes you more attractive and better able to get sodomy from your lady friend, thus heading off any chance of needing an abortion.

        1. I think you’re onto something.

        2. That’s brilliant.

  23. Why would anyone in their right mind listen to Pollan concerning nutrition? The man looks like he’s cosplaying Steve Jobs in his last stages of terminal cancer days.

  24. Just remember, 1 out of 4 children are obese and go to bed hungry.

    1. That just fried my brain. But not in bacon fat.

    2. http://townhall.com/columnists…../page/full

      Good times. The hunger panic was before the left glommed onto climate change and income inequality as their base-ralliers.

      They can’t really sustain more than two or three calls for major crackdowns at a time, so they gave up the hunger meme in the early 90s when warming became the panic du jour.

  25. Some people just don’t want to be free…

    Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state? It’s the unspoken truth of humanity, that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity. You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel.

    1. It’s true–some people don’t know how to choose for themselves.

      I use an app to track all of my food/exercise, and it has a rudimentary social network built into it. You would be surprised at how many newbies sign up and create a new forum post asking about what’s “OK” to eat.

      Bitch, it’s all just food.

  26. Have they gotten to the part where all the investment bankers are rounded up and sent to the farms to weed the arugula patch on their hands and knees?

    1. I cannot hear/read the word “arugula” without seeing this .

      1. I always repeat Steve Martin in My Blue Heaven. “Arugula? It’s a veg-e-ta-ble.”

    2. One of my favorite parts of Pollan’s book is his digression into the rebranding of the common farm/ranch weed rocket into arugula to appeal to consumer tastes.

      Pollan characteristically views this as BigAg manipulating consumers by deceive them, completely missing the points that 1) appealing to linguistic aesthetics is pretty important, as anyone who tries to sell shit on a shingle to tourists might discover and 2) the people most likely to purchase arugula while ignoring rocket are the sorts of yuppies who fancy themselves educated because they read well-meaning, eloquent goons like Pollan.

  27. 1 out of 4 children are obese and go to bed hungry.

    Nice.

  28. The authors are somehow able to see the corrosive effect of previous government overreach on our food system, but they feel confident that this time! they’ll get it right

    Well of course! This time the right TOP MAN is in charge: Chocolate Nixon as opposed to that EVUL Rethuglikkkan Dick Nixon!

    Although I find it interesting that the “food policy” they support would just happen to cement their personal food preferences into national policy. Funny how it always seems to work out like that.

  29. Let’s call it Nutrition Neutrality.

  30. If you like your dinner, you can keep your dinner.

    1. Franken-fries

  31. Only those with a vested interest in the status quo would argue against creating public policies with these goals.

    The only people who would disagree with my brilliant plan are either stupid, crazy or evil. The stupid people we ship off to re-education camps, the crazies get sent to psychiatric prisons, the evil there’s nothing to do but liquidate them.

    It sounds like Hillary Clinton had a hand in drafting their manifesto.

  32. Why can’t these assholes just be into good food? I hate how they ruin lots of great things by making them into political issues.
    Fresh, local food, free range eggs and meat and artisanal mayonnaise are all wonderful things. But silly hipsters and authoritarian dickheads like Bittman have to ruin it for people who just want to appreciate good food.

    1. Proggies always want to use the government to have their personal choices forced onto everyone else (for their own good, natch). Yet we’re the “evil” bastards who want to enforce freedom on everyone else.

    2. If it’s so good, then what’s the harm in making it mandatory?

    3. If they didn’t politicize food, they’d have no way of reminding themselves and signaling to others that they’re good and smart people.

      The food nags are today’s version of last century’s temperance leaguers. Everything they do is for your own good, people.

  33. “Only those with a vested interest in the status quo would argue against creating public policies with these goals.”

    I believe this is called “poisoning the well”. More proof that progs have little except logical fallacies.

    wiki sez:

    A poisoned-well “argument” has the following form:

    1. Unfavorable information (be it true or false, relevant or irrelevant) about person A (the target) is presented by another. (e.g., “Before you listen to my opponent, may I remind you that he has been in jail.”)
    2. Implicit conclusion: “Therefore, any claims made by person A cannot be relied upon”.

    A subcategory of this form is the application of an unfavorable attribute to any future opponents, in an attempt to discourage debate. (For example, “That’s my stance on funding the public education system, and anyone who disagrees with me hates children.”) Any person who steps forward to dispute the claim will then risk applying the tag to him or herself in the process.

    1. All “for the children” of course.

      How much you want to bet that genetically modified crops will be a keystone of this new ‘policy’?

  34. I have a vested interest in not being starved to death as the result of government engineered famine.

    1. Are you pondering what I’m pondering?

      1. Uh, I think so, Brain, but where will we find a duck and a hose at this hour?

    2. That’s unpossible!

  35. “”Only those with a vested interest in the status quo would argue against creating public policies with these goals.””

    ‘No one could possibly disagree that a massive government intervention into every aspect of Agriculture, Food Production and Marketing, Retail Operations and programs intended to ‘nudge’/’strongarm’ human behaviors are EVER a Bad Thing!’

  36. Reasonable article from The Federalist, which highlights the anti-Big Ag context.

    http://thefederalist.com/2014/…..od-intake/

  37. Can we have a National Exercise Policy too?

    1. Showing my age here, but didn’t JFK do something like that for school kids?

  38. Life expectancy has been going up monotonically. More preservatives and GMOs, please.

    1. The anti-preservative, anti-irradiation folk are amusing. Presumably they’re unaware that salt was one of the most important commodities in the world until the invention of refrigeration (to the point that it was used as money many times in history), or maybe they just favor eating rotten food at artificially high prices.

      1. Well if you think salt is the same as cobalt 60 may I suggest some remedial science education might be in order

  39. For the love of god!! If a “progressive” could point to just one, single, solitary success story involving government taking increased control of something, maybe I could get past the first paragraph of these types of screed. JUST ONE!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Who needs success when you have Good Intentions??

    2. Maybe Billy Boy Gates can add food policy to his vaccine policy to acheive his stated goals of population reduction

  40. Wasn’t a terrible food policy among one of the ‘sure that will never happen’ over the top paranoid scenarios in Atlas Shrugged?

  41. Look on the bright side, the obesity problem will be a thing of the past. What they really need is a War on Food. That ought to take care of any supply problems in the future, look how well the Wars on Poverty, Drugs and Terror worked.

    But then I’ll bet if we scratch the surface we will see an agenda to to push more GMO’s

  42. Here is a major lie

    “Production and marketing of our food are done transparently”

    Then why is the GMO content of the food a deep dark secret, and why does the industry invest millions of dollars to keep it a secret?

  43. ‘If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand.’
    — Milton Friedman

  44. If they are going to establish a national policy about what you can put into your mouth, will it include a policy statement on gay sex?

  45. “We know that the government has the power to reshape the food system because it has already done so at least once?when President Richard Nixon rejiggered farm policy to boost production of corn and soy to drive down food prices,”

    Of course, Nixon’s “jiggering” is why we have so much junk food in the first place: the massive overproduction of corn and soy meant that people developed industrial process to turn stuff few people wanted into stuff for which there was a big market.

    So, instead of more “jiggering”, why not “rejigger farm policy” to eliminate the crap Nixon did. Come on, Democrats, if you can’t undo Nixon’s stupid farm policy because it would help people, perhaps you can find it in yourself to do it because you hate Nixon.

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