Thursday, 20 August 2009

Time Magazine on "America's Food Crisis"

Time Magazine today gives a polished and highly readable summary of contemporary issues in U.S. food policy, titled "America's Food Crisis."

The report by Bryan Walsh is strongly worded, and the choice of sources for commentary seems daring.
The U.S. agricultural industry can now produce unlimited quantities of meat and grains at remarkably cheap prices. But it does so at a high cost to the environment, animals and humans. Those hidden prices are the creeping erosion of our fertile farmland, cages for egg-laying chickens so packed that the birds can't even raise their wings and the scary rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria among farm animals. Add to the price tag the acceleration of global warming — our energy-intensive food system uses 19% of U.S. fossil fuels, more than any other sector of the economy.

And perhaps worst of all, our food is increasingly bad for us, even dangerous. A series of recalls involving contaminated foods this year — including an outbreak of salmonella from tainted peanuts that killed at least eight people and sickened 600 — has consumers rightly worried about the safety of their meals. A food system — from seed to 7‑Eleven — that generates cheap, filling food at the literal expense of healthier produce is also a principal cause of America's obesity epidemic. At a time when the nation is close to a civil war over health-care reform, obesity adds $147 billion a year to our doctor bills. "The way we farm now is destructive of the soil, the environment and us," says Doug Gurian-Sherman, a senior scientist with the food and environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
Many readers will have seen most of the article's themes elsewhere already, but the major news magazine's writing style gives these themes some mainstream appeal without watering them down very much. The article addresses both personal choices (local buying decisions) and policy issues (nontherapeutic antibiotics). It includes both non-commercial responses (home gardening) and commercial responses (Niman Farms, Chipotle, Bon Appetit) to environmental and sustainability concerns. The accompanying multimedia is slick, including a nice photo essay about two farmers and the video below about organic vegetable gardening (you'll have to excuse the advertisement and the quirky references to "generation x" as a description for young people).

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