Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Food, Farms and the Next President

"Dear Mr. President-Elect," is the way Michael Pollan starts his long discussion in the Sunday Times Magazine about how we should change the way we produce and eat our food. It's comprehensive and radical -- in that it gets to the root of the problem -- and indispensible (as is, by the way, the New York Times, in case we've forgotten).

Pollan says the U.S. government should stop subsidizing the growing of crops -- corn, e.g. -- that have caused high rates of obesity and diabetes. He says we should go back to farming a diversity of crops and abandon the monocultures that now dominate our agricultural lands. He points to Wendell Berry's description of the problems created when animals were moved off farms and onto feedlots:

But if taking the animals off farms made a certain kind of economic sense, it made no ecological sense whatever: their waste, formerly regarded as a precious source of fertility on the farm, became a pollutant — factory farms are now one of America’s biggest sources of pollution. As Wendell Berry has tartly observed, to take animals off farms and put them on feedlots is to take an elegant solution — animals replenishing the fertility that crops deplete — and neatly divide it into two problems: a fertility problem on the farm and a pollution problem on the feedlot. The former problem is remedied with fossil-fuel fertilizer; the latter is remedied not at all.

He suggests -- and I loved this one -- that a portion of the White House lawn be turned into a vegetable garden.

You can read it here.



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