michael pollan on the future of food in the united states

Continuing our conversation of a few days ago about the future of agriculture in our country, Michael Pollan has yet another brilliant piece in the current issue of the “New York Times Magazine.” It’s written as a letter to our next President. Here’s a clip:

…This, in brief, is the bad news: the food and agriculture policies you’ve inherited — designed to maximize production at all costs and relying on cheap energy to do so — are in shambles, and the need to address the problems they have caused is acute. The good news is that the twinned crises in food and energy are creating a political environment in which real reform of the food system may actually be possible for the first time in a generation. The American people are paying more attention to food today than they have in decades, worrying not only about its price but about its safety, its provenance and its healthfulness. There is a gathering sense among the public that the industrial-food system is broken. Markets for alternative kinds of food — organic, local, pasture-based, humane — are thriving as never before. All this suggests that a political constituency for change is building and not only on the left: lately, conservative voices have also been raised in support of reform. Writing of the movement back to local food economies, traditional foods (and family meals) and more sustainable farming, The American Conservative magazine editorialized last summer that “this is a conservative cause if ever there was one.”

There are many moving parts to the new food agenda I’m urging you to adopt, but the core idea could not be simpler: we need to wean the American food system off its heavy 20th-century diet of fossil fuel and put it back on a diet of contemporary sunshine. True, this is easier said than done — fossil fuel is deeply implicated in everything about the way we currently grow food and feed ourselves. To put the food system back on sunlight will require policies to change how things work at every link in the food chain: in the farm field, in the way food is processed and sold and even in the American kitchen and at the American dinner table. Yet the sun still shines down on our land every day, and photosynthesis can still work its wonders wherever it does. If any part of the modern economy can be freed from its dependence on oil and successfully resolarized, surely it is food…

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  1. Paw
    Posted October 14, 2008 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    You liberals are so funny with your concern about water and food. “We need food.” “We need water.” Pathetic.

  2. Posted October 14, 2008 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    As always, Michael Pollan gets right to the heart of the problem and proposes sensible solutions. Thanks for pointing this out!

  3. applejack
    Posted October 14, 2008 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    I’ve been a big fan of Pollan’s for years, and I would love to think that an Obama presidency might actually do some of the things he suggests. I don’t really expect them to go against the Iowa and agribusiness lobbyists, but I remain hopeful.

  4. Posted October 14, 2008 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    I was listening to the radio last weekend, perhaps the weekend before and there was a story about French cornichons being produced in Vietnam (? maybe confusing that with the catfish story)and then sent back to France for processing.

    how is it cheaper? really?? it’s cheap this quarter and next and maybe into next year, but at WHAT cost? what cost to the environment, to culture, to the food itself…

    if we worked toward michael pollan’s (and many others’) ideals real food wouldn’t be so expensive, and like mentioned in your other post, Michigan is primed for it with some minor tweaking!

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