George Will channels Michael Pollan

March 8, 2009 at 9:36 am Leave a comment

Did you feel a tremor this morning? What’s left of the eroded land under America’s agribusiness-based farms just shifted. It’s one thing when Berkeley slow-foodie Alice Waters (Chez Panisse) calls for shifting federal subsidies from unhealthy agri-business fare to more sustainable school lunch menus. (We can dream, can’t we?)  But when even conservative columnist George Will begins harranguing new Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack to keep his eye on human and environmental health, instead of the bottom line of  Monsanto and Archer Daniels Midland, well maybe the times really are a changin’. In today’s column, Will finally discovers the wisdom of sustainable food writer Michael Pollan (Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food):

“Four of the top 10 causes of American deaths — coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer — have, Pollan says, ‘well-established links’ to diet, particularly through ‘the superabundance of cheap calories of sugar and fat.’ What he calls America’s ‘national eating disorder’ is not just the fact that Americans reportedly eat one in five meals in cars and that one in three children eats fast food every day. He also means the industrialization of agriculture….

“Corn, which covers 125,000 square miles of America, about the size of New Mexico, fattens 100 million beef cattle, and at least that many bipeds. Much of the river of cheap corn becomes an ocean of high-fructose corn syrup, which by 1984 was sweetening Coke and Pepsi. Disposing of the corn also requires passing it through animals’ stomachs. Corn, together with pharmaceuticals and other chemicals …. has made it profitable to fatten cattle on feedlots rather than grass, cutting by up to 75 percent the time from birth to slaughter. Eating corn nourished by petroleum-based fertilizers, a beef cow consumes almost a barrel of oil in its lifetime.

“Vilsack’s department is entwined with the food industry that produces a food supply unhealthily simplified by the dominance of a few staples such as corn. This diet, Pollan says, has made many Americans both overfed and undernourished.”

No duh, Mr. Will. But thanks for noticing and spreading the word. 

 To read the rest of the story, click here.

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