Michael Pollan‘s key note address at the GA Organic Conference last Sat. was so inspiring. He was definitely preaching to the choir, telling lots of small farmers and their supporters why factory farming is wrong, but he did it in a way that made us now able to take that information and pass it along.
The bit that stayed with me the most was in reference to us and President Obama. Pollan said that he had recently spoken to a friend of his who had eaten with Obama last week, after news of the White House victory garden was released to the media. The friend asked President Obama what, if anything, he was going to do to change our current food policy. Obama said that the White House garden was Michelle’s project and said that if we (slow food, small farms, anti-animal cruelty, anti-industrial – these are whom I hope he meant) want to see a bigger change then we have to make Obama take notice. He said, “Show me the movement, make me do it!” He has a lot on his plate. It is up to us to highlight the importance of changing the food on that plate as well as how that food got there.
Here are some of the facts that Michael Pollan shared the other night that help connect the dots about the current big food picture:
-When we eat from the industrial food chain, we’re eating fossil fuels. He thinks it would be great if food labels included the food’s carbon footprint as well as its calorie count.
– One third of our American diet is made up of processed corn and processed soy.
– California is feeding Iowa. We export sugar cookies to Denmark and also import sugar cookies from Denmark. This led an official to say, “Wouldn’t it be easier to swap recipes?” Re-regionalizing food should be our goal.
– How did we get this way? Because the priority in the sixties used to be making enough food. It was about quantity. Plus, we started to have petroleum fertilizer possibilities post- WW II. Now the priority needs to be (for both financial and health reasons) quality. How did we get to the point where we replaced photosynthesis with fossil fuels? We have this subsidy system for farmers that keeps them from poly-cultures, keeps them stuck in mono-cultures – one kind of crop on a farm. We need to change the incentives – reward our farmers for sequestering carbon and penalize them for putting carbon into the atmosphere. We need to pay for ecosystem services. We need to lease unused land for farmers.
-2 trillion dollars are spent on health care and 1.5 trillion of this goes to preventing chronic disease. 70 % of us will die from diet-related chronic disease. We can’t have a healthy population without a healthy diet and we can’t have a healthy diet without a healthy agriculture.
– Feedlot agriculture is not efficient due to the cost of feed that is not grown on the farms and the cost of antibiotics. They need to be regulated as the factories that they are and not called farms.
-We neeed more small meat plants and more small meat plant inspectors. The small farmers are having to follow regulations that are meant for much larger facilities.
-We need enforcement of anti-trust laws. Four companies control all of the animal feed, grain milling, fertilizations, retailing, seed and beef production.
-Food packagers are making more money than the farmers.
– 25% of food in this country is wasted.
– Why a backyard garden is a great idea – $70 investment in a garden yields $600 of food. Also, gardening teaches habits of independence and interdependence (what are you going to do with all that zucchini?).