Posts tagged: food

The Food Nazi–or is that Fascist?–Wants the Government to Pick Winners and Losers

By , March 2, 2011 12:34 pm

Elites. Can’t help themselves. Mark Bittman is at it again. If the government gets something wrong–defined as, something Bittman doesn’t like–well give ’em another bite at the organically grown apple:

Agricultural subsidies have helped bring us high-fructose corn syrup, factory farming, fast food, a two-soda-a-day habit and its accompanying obesity, the near-demise of family farms, monoculture and a host of other ills.

Yet — like so many government programs — what subsidies need is not the ax, but reform that moves them forward. Imagine support designed to encourage a resurgence of small- and medium-size farms producing not corn syrup and animal-feed but food we can touch, see, buy and eat — like apples and carrots — while diminishing handouts to agribusiness and its political cronies.

I really don’t have time to Fisk the entire article, so here is one more clip, and I’m off:

Thus even House Speaker Boehner calls the bill a “slush fund”; the powerful Iowa Farm Bureau suggests that direct payments end; and Glenn Beck is on the bandwagon. (This last should make you suspicious.) Not surprisingly, many Tea Partiers happily accept subsidies, including Vicky Hartzler (R-MO, $775,000), Stephen Fincher (R-TN, $2.5 million) and Michele Bachmann (R-MN $250,000). No hypocrisy there.

Left and right can perhaps agree that these are payments we don’t need to make. But suppose we use this money to steer our agriculture — and our health — in the right direction. A Gallup poll indicates that most Americans oppose cutting aid to farmers, and presumably they’re not including David Rockefeller or Michele Bachmann in that protected group; we still think of farmers as stewards of the land, and the closer that sentiment is to reality the better off we’ll be.

By making the program more sensible the money could benefit us all.

Apparently playing to his audience, Bittman takes unrelated cheap shots at the usual right-wing suspects, appears to agree that farm subsidies are subsidies we should end, but then makes one final pitch–if we just make the program more sensible.

Yeah, like that will happen. As Bittman reported about New Deal farm programs a few paragaphs above the last quote,

That wasn’t the plan, of course. In the 1930s, prices were fixed on a variety of commodities, and some farmers were paid to reduce their crop yields. The program was supported by a tax on processors of food — now there’s a precedent! — and was intended to be temporary. It worked, sort of: prices rose and more farmers survived. But land became concentrated in the hands of fewer farmers, and agribusiness was born, and along with it the sad joke that the government paid farmers for not growing crops.

And this time it will be better because a new, smarter group of elites is in charge? Of course.

Bittman should take up selling the Brooklyn Bridge.

Bountiful Baskets – St. George, Utah

By , February 20, 2011 11:08 pm

Saturday morning at 7:00 AM I drove up the street from my mother’s winter home to St. George’s Sandstone Elementary to pick up my first Bountiful Basket. My daughter had been raving about them for some time now, so I had to check them out.

Verdict? She’s right. For just $15, this is what I got:

No, I didn’t walk away with all of those baskets. They gave me two, one from the left (vegetables) and one from the right (fruit). Here’s a close up of the fruit basket.

My mother tells me that as much as I got, the baskets are often much fuller. I highly recommend taking advantage of the Bountiful Baskets in your town.

A Majority of Uniformed Americans is a Whole Lot of Nothing

By , February 16, 2011 9:58 pm

About the only thing I agree with Mark Bittman on in this column is that GMO food should be labeled. The rest is, well, an argument built on perhapses and supported by a bunch of maybes. Here’s a whiff:

In one paragraph he writes,

[That a transgenic fish could escape and breed with a wild fish] is impossible, say the creators of the G.E. salmon — a biotech company called AquaBounty — whose interest in approval makes their judgment all but useless.

So AquaBounty’s judgment is almost useless on this subject. Fair enough. Their economic interest calls their impartiality into question. They could be–probably are–biased. Let’s not rely on what they say, Bittman says.

But then he writes,

The subject [of GMO food] is unquestionably complex. Few people outside of scientists working in the field — self included — understand much of anything about gene altering. Still, an older ABC poll found that a majority of Americans believe that G.M.O.’s are unsafe . . .

So, few people understand this stuff, but he’ll cite a survey of those who don’t to support his protest against GMO food. Uninformed people think the stuff is unsafe, and I’m supposed to care? Like AquaBounty, their judgment is probably useless–unless you’re Mark Bittman and need some maybes to support your perhapses.

Update:That Bittman didn’t cite the source for his “older ABC poll” bothered me, so I Googled “abc g.m.o.” and found at least three “older” ABC polls in the first five hits. My educated guess is that Bittman is referring to this one from June 19, 2001 (also found here). That poll says that 52% of the people polled says GMO food is unsafe, 35% unsafe, while 92% want it labeled.

But in quoting this poll, Bittman ignores a trend, one that works against him. A July 13, 2003 ABC poll says, “There have been gains in the belief that genetically modified food is safe to eat – up 11 points since 2001, to 46 percent.” Moreover, whereas in 2001, 55% said they would be less likely to buy GMO food if labeled as such, 52% took that position in 2003. In other words, the trend is against him.

Don’t Mind Us. We’re Just Here to Cook for You.

By , February 2, 2011 10:28 am

New York Times food critic Mark Bittman has a post up titled A Food Manifesto for the Future–the word manifesto is particularly apt–in which he attempts to set our tables in the future. What we eat; where and how it’s grown or raised; and whether it’s processed, subsidized, or advertised are all of concern to him. More importantly–and because he really has little or no power–he thinks it ought to be the concern of government, though he is careful to caution that

This isn’t nanny-state paternalism but an accepted role of government: public health. If you support seat-belt, tobacco and alcohol laws, sewer systems and traffic lights, you should support legislation curbing the relentless marketing of soda and other foods that are hazardous to our health — including the sacred cheeseburger and fries.

No, Mr. Bittman, one doesn’t follow the other; furthermore, if I accept your premise, where does the other end? If I accept sewer systems, should I also be okay with my government controlling what I read, listen to, or watch? After all, for example, your paper has drawn a straight line from Sarah Palin, right-wing talk radio, and the Tea Party to Tuscon, and we certainly don’t want any more of that nasty business.

Anyway, Mr. Bittman’s laundry list of things he’d like to prohibit or subsidize reads like a page from the rules implementing the Communist Manifesto (parentheticals are mine):

-End government subsidies to processed food. (Hey, I’m fine with that.)
. . .
-Begin subsidies to those who produce and sell actual food for direct consumption. (Oh, I see. He’s not against subsidies; he’s against subsidies he doesn’t like. Never mind.)
. . .
-Outlaw concentrated animal feeding operations. (I’m on the bandwagon again!)
. . .
-Encourage the development of sustainable animal husbandry. (I’m beginning to detect a pattern here.)
. . .
-Encourage and subsidize home cooking. (A very distinct pattern.)

Mr. Bittman goes on and on and on, but you get the idea. I also get the idea that he reads from the same playbook Al Gore uses. Bittman writes,

It’s difficult to find a principled nutrition and health expert who doesn’t believe that a largely plant-based diet is the way to promote health and attack chronic diseases . . . (emphasis mine)

Note the word principled. It’s purpose in that sentence can best be understood through substition:

It’s difficult to find a nutrition and health expert I agree with who doesn’t believe that a largely plant-based diet is the way to promote health and attack chronic diseases . . . (emphasis mine again)

And that substitution illustrates perfectly Mr. Bittman’s approach to food in our lives. He doesn’t like who’s picking the winners right now, so he wants new ‘pickers,’ a bias he betrays in one more bullet point on his list of winners and losers:

-Break up the U.S. Department of Agriculture and empower the Food and Drug Administration.

There, he says to himself in a very self-satisfied way, that will fix it. My elites will do much better than that last batch of elites.

I agree wholeheartedly with one item on his bulleted list, though I might disagree with him on how the idea is implemented:

-Mandate truth in labeling. Nearly everything labeled “healthy” or “natural” is not. It’s probably too much to ask that “vitamin water” be called “sugar water with vitamins,” but that’s precisely what real truth in labeling would mean.

I’m all for more information, as long as we leave it at that and let the masses in the market decide what to do with that information. I’m also all for eliminating subsidies–totally. Shifting them from one set of winners to another doesn’t cut it.

I’m going to continue monitoring the Food Czar at The New York Times, if for no other reason than to make sure I get to read the rest of the story behind this little teaser:

(Someday soon, I’ll write about my idea for a new Civilian Cooking Corps.)

I can’t wait!! Visions of fair-skinned culinary school graduates dressed in lederhosen are dancing in my head as I write.

Can it be? We’ll have to wait and see. But right now I have to cook breakfast.

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