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General News    H3'ed 3/3/09

Guessing at Michael Pollan's take on NAIS and industry's "fake food safety" bills.

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Message Linn Cohen-Cole

Here is a quote from Michael Pollan.  [I've reformatted it and added emphasis.]  It is the definitive argument against NAIS, and it comes from one of the country's most respected thinkers on food and farming.
For some reason, progressives who want organic farming, have not been listening to him.  Or maybe they only heard the "vote with your fork," and didn't keep their eye on the dangerous industrial side.  Add to that everyone being overwhelmed by the economy, trusting in a new president, and easily misled by hope about irrelevant appointments and by PC organic words from Vilsack.
Here is Pollan. 
"Local food economies are our best hope for checking the drift toward the total global economy. A revolt is underway across this country - a revolt of small producers and consumers. Some of the most important 
politics today are happening at the farmer's market
. Michael Pollan 

We're told that it's very sentimental to go back to a local food economy. And surely there are reasons for buying local that might strike the unsentimental as a little softheaded. We like the idea of keeping farmers and their wisdom in our communities. We like eating food in season picked at the peak of its taste and nutritional value. You find no processed food or high fructose corn syrup at the farmer's market. We like the idea of keeping land near us in production for food rather than houses and strip malls. We like what happens socially at the farmer's market, which is quickly emerging as the new public square in this country. If you compare what happens in the aisles at the grocery store with the farmer's market, think about what a world of difference that is. At the farmer's market country meets city. Children are introduced to where their food comes from. People politic. They have petitions. They schmooze. It's an incredibly vibrant space.
I'm fully prepared to defend local food economies on those so-called sentimental grounds, but let me suggest that there's nothing more hardheaded or realistic than building and defending local food economies. Indeed, to do so is a matter not of sentiment, but of critical importance to national security and public health. Here are a few reasons: 

Energy. The total economy depends on cheap energy, not to mention peace and no threat from terrorism, in order to move goods from point of cheapest production to point of highest purchase. We will not reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy or confront the issue of climate change without dealing with the industrial food system, which consumes 17 percent of our fossil fuel. 

"Sovereignty. Do we really want to go down the path we have gone down with our energy with food? Do we want to find ourselves in a position where all our grain is coming from South America, our produce from Mexico? The projections right now are that in California at the end of this century there will be no more food production in the Central Valley. It will be houses and highways wall-to-wall, mountain to mountain. Do we want to give away our food independence?

National security. Our government knows the risk of a highly centralized food system. When Tommy Thompson left the Department of Homeland Security, he said something very interesting in his last press conference: "I, for the life of me, cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply, because it is so easy to do." When all your hamburgers are being ground in the same factory and all your salad is being washed in the same sink, it is a very precarious way to eat. 

Public Health. Our highly centralized food system is very vulnerable to contamination-both deliberate and accidental. We just had a horrifying illustration of the dangers of centralized food when two hundred Americans were seriously sickened and three Americans were killed by eating spinach contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7. That bug was the result of our industrial system for two reasons. First, E. coli 0157:H7 is a mutation of industrial feedlot agriculture; you do not have it in grass-fed cattle. Second, it was able to be spread far and wide because spinach from many farms was washed in a single sink in San Juan Bautista, California, and then sent all over the country. This is not to say you couldn't get sick from eating spinach at your farmer's market. But if you did, it would be contained in the food chain. You'd know who was responsible. 

Instead of seizing on these threats as a reason to decentralize our food supply, the government is bringing in more regulation and technology. 

Progressive senators are proposing that we begin to regulate farms the way we regulate meat plants. That will put small farms out of business. So you see what happens as industrial agriculture fails and sickens us. The solutions promote more industrialization of agriculture. And that's what we need to resist. I say we put our faith not in technology or regulation but in relationships, relationships with small farms. We have to act as consumer-citizens who are co-creators, builders of food chains. We are building a local food economy simply by getting out of the supermarket, by growing our own food, by joining the CSA and by shopping at farmers markets."  

These bills are being put in place to rig the "voting with your fork by going to farmers markets" because that "candidate" is being taken off the ballot entirely - by killing it.  So will CSAs and vegetable stands be "eliminated."  

The mystery has been why the left has not stepped seen this happening and stepped in to join with farmers to stop this loss of a local, sustainable world they believe is important and are so enthusiastically seeking.  

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Met libertarian and conservative farmers and learned an incredible amount about farming and nature and science, as well as about government violations against them and against us all. The other side of the fence is nothing like what we've been (more...)
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