Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Food Manifesto

I was deeply disappointed to read Mark Bittman's farewell "Minimalist" column last week, but consoled that he would begin a new column focused on government food policy, agricultural subsidies, agribusiness, obesity and the politics of food -- the high cost of cheap food, if you will.

His inaugural column in today's Times hit it out of the park. In 600 or 700 words, he sums up the problems with our food system and offers common sense solutions.

Only one problem. This system has made certain companies -- ConAgra, Cargill, ADM -- fabulously wealthy and powerful. And they will fight a Stalingrad-like, scorched earth battle to defend government policies and subsidies that have made them richer than Midas.

I found it ironic that today's Times also had a story about the FDA denying approval for a anti-obesity drug, prompting some experts to warn "that the action could further discourage, or even kill, efforts by pharmaceutical companies to develop medicines for obesity, one of the nation’s largest health problems."

Let me get this straight. First, federal policies encourage agribusiness to flood America with cheap, unhealthy, fattening processed food, helping create an obesity epidemic. The solution to this crisis isn't to change the policies that created it -- heavens no. The solution is to have a second set of corporations create drugs to "treat" obesity. So pharmaceutical companies get to make a fortune "curing" the obesity crisis that the food industry created -- all at government expense (Medicare and Medicaid would be huge buyers of such drugs). Everybody wins -- except you and me.

This is capitalism? Sounds more like corporate socialism to me. When the tea partiers start to complain about stuff like this, I'll believe they are a genuine movement instead of a bunch of shills and dupes.

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