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Michael Pollan’s Open Letter to the Next Farmer in Chief

with 2 comments


“The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals” (Michael Pollan)

Michael Pollan1 wrote a fascinating open letter to the upcoming new administration.

vegetables

After cars, the food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of the economy — 19 percent. And while the experts disagree about the exact amount, the way we feed ourselves contributes more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than anything else we do — as much as 37 percent, according to one study. Whenever farmers clear land for crops and till the soil, large quantities of carbon are released into the air. But the 20th-century industrialization of agriculture has increased the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the food system by an order of magnitude; chemical fertilizers (made from natural gas), pesticides (made from petroleum), farm machinery, modern food processing and packaging and transportation have together transformed a system that in 1940 produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil-fuel energy it used into one that now takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single calorie of modern supermarket food. Put another way, when we eat from the industrial-food system, we are eating oil and spewing greenhouse gases. This state of affairs appears all the more absurd when you recall that every calorie we eat is ultimately the product of photosynthesis — a process based on making food energy from sunshine. There is hope and possibility in that simple fact.

[From The Food Issue – An Open Letter to the Next Farmer in Chief – Michael Pollan – NYTimes.com]

Reading around the blogosphere2, there are already calls for Obama to hire Pollan as Secretary of Agriculture, or similar.

oops, never posted this article3, and now Obama claims to have already read the open letter:

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.

[From Swampland – TIME.com » Blog Archive The Full Obama Interview «]

So there you have it…

Omnivore's Dilemma
Pippen reading Omnivore’s Dilemma

Footnotes:
  1. who we’ve mentioned a few times before []
  2. yes! phrase coined by skippy []
  3. probably because it’s pretty half-baked, and never going to be fully baked. Regardless, read the piece []

Written by swanksalot

October 28th, 2008 at 12:18 pm

Posted in Food and Drink,government

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2 Responses to 'Michael Pollan’s Open Letter to the Next Farmer in Chief'

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  1. […] Of course, Pippen prefers the taste of rabbit to corn… […]

  2. […] Michael Pollan appeared on Bill Moyers recently, and said he most certainly did not want to be Agricultural Secretary. Can’t say that I blame him, but somebody needs to be appointed, and hopefully, not somebody who is closely aligned with the Monsantos and ADMs of the world. […]

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