From the Department of You Can’t Make This Shit Up:
How we produce and consume food has a bigger impact on Americans’ well-being than any other human activity. The food industry is the largest sector of our economy; food touches everything from our health to the environment, climate change, economic inequality and the federal budget. Yet we have no food policy — no plan or agreed-upon principles — for managing American agriculture or the food system as a whole.
That must change.
The food system and the diet it’s created have caused incalculable damage to the health of our people and our land, water and air. If a foreign power were to do such harm, we’d regard it as a threat to national security, if not an act of war, and the government would formulate a comprehensive plan and marshal resources to combat it. (The administration even named an Ebola czar to respond to a disease that threatens few Americans.) So 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.
Our food system is largely a product of agricultural policies that made sense when the most important public health problem concerning food was the lack of it and when the United States saw “feeding the world” as its mission. These policies succeeded in boosting the productivity of American farmers, yet today they are obsolete and counterproductive, providing billions in public support to an industry that churns out a surfeit of unhealthy calories — while at the same time undermining the ability of the world’s farmers to make a living from their land.
These farm policies have nourished an agricultural-industrial complex before which the president and the first lady seem powerless. The administration’s early efforts to use antitrust laws to protect farmers and consumers from agribusiness oligopolies were quietly dropped. Promises to regulate the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture — widely acknowledged as a threat to public health — resulted in toothless voluntary guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration.
When it came to regulating methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed stringent rules for the energy industry — and another voluntary program for agriculture, the single biggest emitter of the gas. And in February the president signed yet another business-as-usual farm bill, which continues to encourage the dumping of cheap but unhealthy calories in the supermarket.
This is brilliant! Why has no one ever thought of this before? Who are these geniuses??
Mark Bittman, an opinion columnist and food writer for the New York Times, is the author of “How to Cook Everything Fast.” Michael Pollan, who teaches journalism at the University of California at Berkeley, is the author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” Ricardo Salvador is a senior scientist and director of the food and environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Olivier De Schutter, a professor of international human rights law at the Catholic University of Louvain, was the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food from 2008 to 2014.
With proper planning we can cure world hunger! We should start with a five-year plan, and we make all the farmers work collectively so we can efficiently allocate resources. With central planning we won’t have to worry about corruption or anything. We’ll put the experts in charge of making policy. Guys like Paul Krugman and Ezra Klein will work with Congress and government bureaucrats.
What could possibly go wrong?