Michael Pollan: "Don't Buy Any Food You've Ever Seen Advertised"
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The interesting thing is, why don’t we have really powerful public interest ad campaigns to inform people about this? I mean, the way the government could save the most money the most easily would be having a public advertising campaign about the dangers of soda. There are a great many children that, simply by getting off soda, avert this whole course.
Goodman: What do you think of taxing soft drinks, that they’re talking about now?
Pollan: You know, I’m not sure, frankly. I haven’t really thought that through. It’s probably not a bad idea. I think that the cheapness of high-fructose corn syrup and sugars in our economy is part of the problem and that when we started subsidizing—I guess I would attack it on the other side. We should not be making these corn-based products so cheap with our tax dollars. I think we have to change the subsidies. The reason that soda is so cheap is that we subsidize corn in huge amounts, and I think we have to change the incentives down on the farm. I think that’s really where I would put my emphasis.
Goodman: What about large corporations buying up the farmland of poorer countries?
Pollan: Well, this is going on. There is a growing recognition that the great unrenewable resource is arable soil in this world and that countries like China realize that they will not be able to feed their population on their soil base, because of their numbers, but also because they poison so much of their soil. Their soil is polluted, and they have a serious problem with that. So they are buying up huge swaths of land in Africa.
This is a political disaster, you know, waiting to happen. I mean, Africans are going to stand by while their best farmland is being used to feed Chinese? I mean, I don’t see this as a sustainable solution for anybody. But this is what’s happening.
And we should take note and realize that our farmland is so precious, and we should be very careful about developing it, and we should certainly be careful about letting it run off into the Mississippi River because we’re failing to put in cover crops and things like that.
Goodman: [Y]ou wrote a long letter to President Obama, to the “Farmer-in-Chief,” as you put it. What’s the most salient point in it?
Pollan: The most salient point is simply, you are not going to be able to tackle either the healthcare crisis or climate change unless you look at our food system. In the case of climate change, food is responsible for about a third of greenhouse gases, the way we’re growing food, the way we’re processing it and the way we’re eating. And the healthcare crisis, as I’ve talked about. So we need to address it. It’s really the shadow issue over these other two issues.
Amy Goodman is the host of the nationally syndicated radio news program, Democracy Now!