Michael Pollan needs no introduction. Since The Omnivore’s Dilemma (The Penguin Press, 2006) established him as a prominent food-system American luminary, the New-York-Times-journalist-turned-best-selling-author has been speaking at sold-out events around the country—and abroad. These days, his fans can rejoice in having plenty of opportunities to hear him live, in the mainstream media or in the blogosphere, as he discusses his latest book, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation.
“It was never my plan to write about cooking,” he recently told packed pews in the beautiful church of San Francisco First Unitarian Universalist Society. A couple of epiphanies changed all that. While working on Food Rules, he was told by a transplant cardiologist that the post-surgery prescription to his patients is a recipe for roast chicken and suggestions for how to turn left-overs into a meal on day 2 and a soup on day 3. The good doctor had clearly been honoring his Hippocratic Oath with zeal. “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” Greek doctor Hippocrates famously preached in the 5th century B.C.–he’d most likely be aghast at the contempt given nutrition in medical schools by the way.
Proposition 37 march in San Francisco, October 6, 2012.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or outside of the USA, you can’t ignore by now that the hottest campaign leading up to the November ballot is actually taking place in California. Yep, forget about the swing states. It’s safe to say that no presidential election will have as much impact on this country’s food system than the referendum that’s currently brewing in California.
If Proposition 37 (The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act) passes on November 6, all raw or processed food sold through retail in California, that is genetically engineered or contains at least 0.5 percent of GMO (genetically modified organisms), will have to be labeled as such starting July 1, 2014. Exemptions include food sold for immediate consumption, alcohol, and meat or milk from GMO-fed animals.
You’ve all heard it by now: organic foods, including meat (read “antibiotic- and hormone-free”), offer no substantial health benefits over conventional foods. These dubious findings were served to us first by the New York Times, with the compliments of a research team at Stanford University.
Naturally, the Gray Lady was flooded by letters to the editor to refute the absurd statement. What of the hundreds of research papers showing just the opposite? The countless personal accounts of healing through organic foods? What about the narrow focus on the consumer’s individual health, anyway, when the demonstrated benefits of organics obviously include farmers, soil, water, wildlife?
Few legislative texts are as essential as the Farm Bill. Reshaped every five years, this piece of legislation plays a major role in defining the American food system. It frames the priorities of the US agricultural policy (say, increase commodity crops for exports and biofuels). Historically, it has also provided the biggest source of funding for food, nutrition and conservation programs. So when the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry issued its draft of the new farm bill, last week, a lot of people got upset: the budget for the aforementioned programs gets the axe, while subsidies benefitting plush corporate farms are maintained under a new name. Meanwhile, organic agriculture in general, and small producers of health-promoting foods like fruits and vegetables in particular, are set to receive no more than the usual crumbs.
Read Grist’s article, and click on its links, to get a good picture of the situation.