On Oct 9, 2008, The New York Times published an open letter written by Michael Pollan to “Dear Mr. President Elect” making a strong case for a much-needed overhaul of our food system. It’s a pleasure to read and will ring true to those of us actually working for the sustainability of food and farming, but I haven’t much hope that Mr. President Elect will give it serious consideration. The reason? For most US citizens food is simply not a crisis. And it’s almost impossible for most people to even imagine food being a crisis. Even with the current economic meltdown, we are still able to quickly and cheaply obtain any food we want at any time we desire. I see no shortages, I see only modest up-ticks in prices, and the debit cards still work. If the new President were to announce a major new initiative to address our energy, health and foreign policy issues with agriculture, 90% of the electorate would be scratching their heads. Food? On the surface, that’s one area that seems to be working. Why mess with it?
As cynical as it sounds, I’m afraid we’ll have to wait for a real crisis before anyone is willing to do something about the food system. In the mean time, slow and steady progress is being made to advance logical, healthy food from the grassroots. Of course, federal support could be helpful, but a mandate for large-scale change won’t come without some pain and suffering on a scale that most of us have no way to imagine.