Obama Gives Thoughts on Michael Pollan's Times Magazine Letter | Civil Eats

Obama Gives Thoughts on Michael Pollan’s Times Magazine Letter

In an interview with Joe Klein of Time Magazine today, Sen. Barack Obama acknowledged the brilliant letter to the next president by Michael Pollan and said that agriculture is a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, is a national security risk, and is built on cheap oil:

“I was just reading an article in the New York Times by Michael
Pollan about food and the fact that our entire agricultural system is
built on cheap oil. As a consequence, our agriculture sector actually is
contributing more greenhouse gases than our transportation sector. And
in the mean time, it’s creating monocultures that are vulnerable to
national security threats, are now vulnerable to sky-high food prices
or crashes in food prices, huge swings in commodity prices, and are
partly responsible for the explosion in our healthcare costs because
they’re contributing to type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease,
obesity, all the things that are driving our huge explosion in
healthcare costs. That’s just one sector of the economy. You think
about the same thing is true on transportation. The same thing is true
on how we construct our buildings. The same is true across the board.
For us to say we are just going to completely revamp how we use energy
in a way that deals with climate change, deals with national security
and drives our economy, that’s going to be my number one priority when
I get into office, assuming, obviously, that we have done enough to
just stabilize the immediate economic situation.”

Photo: megpi

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Chef Kurt Michael Friese is editor-in-chief and co-owner of the local food magazine Edible Iowa River Valley. A graduate and former Chef-Instructor at the New England Culinary Institute, he has been owner, with his wife Kim McWane Friese, of the Iowa City restaurant Devotay for 16 years. Named for his children Devon and Taylor, Devotay is a community leader in sustainable cuisine and supporting local farmers and food artisans. Friese is a freelance food writer and photographer as well, with regular columns in 6 local, regional and national newspapers and magazines. His first book, A Cook’s Journey: Slow Food in the Heartland was published by in August, 2008 by Ice Cube Press, and his lates book, Chasing Chiles, was released by Chelsea Green Publishing in March, 2011. Read more >

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  1. Good to see this on the candidate's radar... would be nice to see Obama's reaction to the clever Eat the View initiative which has been making the case for bringing back The First Lawn's Victory Garden since early this year.
  2. He's not exactly saying what he would specifically do, but Obama at least read Pollan's piece (or his staff provided him with a nice summary) and has made the effort to acknowledge food policy as a central issue and one intricately linked to healthcare and energy. I don't know if my nerves will hold until next week!
  3. I would like to see Obama comment on the outrageous farm subsides provided to commodity crop growers, as they are the true root of the problem. Given his ties to the agriculture industry, I'm doubtful (but hopeful) he will tackle this side of the issue.
  4. That he is talking about food at all is the breakthrough here. The subsidies issue could use a strong voice from the White House, but ultimately that decision rests in the hands of the Ag Committee members. To get the kind of change that's needed there will require a revolution in membership of the committees - populating them with a majority of urban legislators.

    When modern American ag policy was first developed in the 1930s, 50% of the population lived and worked on farms. Now that number is 2%. It is illogical and unfair to have 2% of the population make the decisions about the food supply for the other 98%.
  5. I agree with what Obama has said, as it is supported by science. Historically, governments have had agricultural policies designed to lower the costs of food for their supporters. Feed your supporters and you shall lead - kind of captures the policy. We then tried to make food less and less expensive - which led to the subsidy (yes - taxes given to the farmers that would produce the most) - which lowered the price of food on the supermarket shelf (but which we pay out of our taxes anyway). One of the problems is that we subsidize things with our taxes that are not necessarily good for our health - like corn (the stuff we feed our beef cattle), sugar, and wheat (rich in carbs). That ends up being the less expensive food - so we eat too much of it - so we get unhealthy (not a balanced diet at all). The other major problem is that the science behind increasing farm production is based on adding fertilizers and pesticides that are made with petrochemicals (natural gas, oil). We use so much non-solar energy, that our food system is now a huge consumer of energy. So, if we want energy independence, we should reduce our need of petrochemical based supplies and return to the Sun as our source. We can do it..it has been proven that we can produce more nutrients (as measured not by pound, but by nutrients per food unit (nutrients in an orange, loaf of bread, glass of milk) if we use a sun based system (read organic food) rather than a petrochemical based system. When you remove the Ag Policy part (the tax subsidy to our food producers) and let the economics work, organic has a better return on investment as measured by cost of producing nutrients we need to stay healthy.
  6. Amazing to hear Obama comment so extensively on Pollan's piece - whether he read it or his advisors furnished the summary - at least it's on his radar. I'm watching here from the UK with great interest ... P.Price - agree that the Eat the View campaign / the White House Organic Farm Project are clever ... our new mayor in London, Boris Johnson, is endorsing a project called Capital Growth - 2,012 new food growing spaces to be created and turning out produce for London by 2012 - I hope between your side of the pond and ours there is a renewed commitment to local growing - http://www.capitalgrowth.org/.

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