Food policy isn't on everyone's hot list this election season, but should it be? Acclaimed food writer Michael Pollan thinks so. Earlier this month, Pollan published a thought-provoking letter to the next president in the New York Times, titled "Farmer in Chief." His message? Food systems, farming methods, and crop subsidies play into some of the big issues of this election: national security, energy independence, and health care. "If you're ever going to deal with trimming health care costs, you're going to have to deal with this catastrophe that is American diet," says Pollan in this followup interview on WNYC.
Where do the candidates stand?
MCCAIN: (from the campaign's website)
"The continuing success of American agriculture and the health of America's rural heartland require leadership that understands that productivity and innovation are created by the effort, ingenuity and investment of individual Americans. Our nation's security depends on the health of American agriculture. As President, John McCain will address the key issues facing agriculture and rural America: Establishing a comprehensive energy strategy; Controlling taxation and regulation; Judicial restraint and preserving property rights; Providing a sustainable, market-driven risk management system for farmers; Promoting agricultural markets and reducing trade barriers; Improving incentives to invest in technology and rural infrastructure; Encouraging common-sense conservation and food safety measures; Securing America's borders and implementing a fair and practical immigration policy; Recognizing the role of agriculture in national security; Strengthen America's economic competitiveness by eliminating wasteful government spending."
OBAMA (from his response to Pollan's article in this interview with Joe Klein of Time):
"I was just reading an article in the New York Times by Michael Pollen 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."