Thoughts for food

Suburban Food Vortex

Suburban Food Vortex

From ManifestN9′s editorial

For middle and upper classes worldwide, food has ceased to be a problem of survival. This issue migrated from worrying about whether there would be food to be consumed at all, to enjoying choosing what kinds of food will be served for diner. For an increasing minority, this trend culminated into finding ever-more sophisticated ways to limit one’s intake of food.
Sense and sensibilities
Notwithstanding this economic crisis, the current worldwide food-chain is showing its limits. Earlier this year, food prices have increased to levels that began to concern even relatively affluent people. In developing countries, the impact was much more severe.
Price however, is only one, albeit important, variable. The figures that follow the currency (say $1.99) hide equally important factors such as quality (remember “mad cow disease”) and impact on the environment. Most of all, the price most of us are familiar with is misleading. Various subsidies and inadequacies in the food chain, if taken into account, would likely increase our grocery bill several times over.
Regime changes
Whether by choice or by force, we are probably at the dawn of a major re-organisation of the food industry. In a recent article on the New York Times, Michael Pollan, author among other books of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, suggested to the next president 13 initiatives which would contribute to a more rational, equitable, sustainable and healthy food production.
The article, aptly titled “Farmer in Chief”, begins by making an association which few of us make when thinking of food: “after cars, the food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of the economy — 19 percent.”
Therefore, Pollan and many others suggest, is to “regionalise production” so that food is produced and
consumed in close proximity. Aside from curbing transportation costs, this would also benefit consumers by giving them fresher foods, requiring less processing and storage.
To do this, governments also need to promote farmer markets and bring younger people back to the land. One way among several to do it, is to “create incentives for hospitals and universities receiving federal funds to buy fresh local produce.”
Universities, should then receive grants to cultivate land and offer their students the chance to work on the land rather than heading to the cities.
Even pesticides, so far seen as a necessary evil, can be done away with. Farmers in Argentina have been using an eight-year rotation system which, to simplify, involves “grazing cattle on pasture (and producing the world’s best beef)” and after five years, “farmers can then grow three years of grain without applying any fossil-fuel fertilizer. Or, for that matter, many pesticides.”
There are many other common-sense initiatives Mr Pollan makes in his article. Inescapably, we the consumers have to change our behaviour if we want to fully benefit from them.

Michael Polland’s article can be found here.

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