URGENT KIWANIS ALERT! IF YOU ARE A MEMBER OF THE KIWANIS SERVICE ORGANIZATION, http://sites.kiwanis.org/kiwanis/en/home.aspx, YOU MUST TAKE ACTION TO STOP YOUR ORGANIZATION FROM COLLABORATING WITH UNICEF IN “PREVENTING MATERNAL AND INFANT TETANUS”. THIS VACCINE IS THE ONE PIONEERED AND USED AROUND THE WORLD BY WHO TO CREATE PERMANENT INFERTILITY IN WOMEN AND GIRLS. PLEASE CONTACT THE KIWANIS ORGANIZATION AND ALERT THEM TO THIS USE OF VACCINATION. DEMAND THAT THEY SET UP CONTROLS TO MAKE SURE THAT THESE ARE NOT DEPOPULATION VACCINATIONS IF THEY ARE DETERMINED TO AID AND ABET A DANGEROUS ACTIVITY USED TO WEAKEN THE IMMUNE SYSTEM.
Note: the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, VAERS, reports 333451 adverse events associated with vaccines. This number is generally acknowledged to represent between 1 and 10% of all adverse events. ttp://www.medalerts.org/vaersdb/findfield.php
Stanley Kops….has produced proof positive that the oral polio vaccine has always been contaminated with SV-40, a monkey virus which has been linked by the FDA and other organizations with cancers such as mesothelioma and meduloblastoma. Since 1963, we have been assured that polio vaccines have not contained this deadly contaminant. Stanley Kops shows that not only is this not the case, but that the vaccine regulators who are charged with keeping our families safe, have known all along that SV-40 was never removed from vaccines.
From the CDC: “Inevitable gaps in [Polio] vaccination coverage will give rise to cVDPVs [that is, polio cases caused by the vaccine itself – REL] as long as OPV [Oral Polio Vaccine] use continues”
Polio outbreaks continue to be associated with circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses (cVDPVs) in areas with low oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) coverage [Emphasis added-REL]. In addition, long-term excretion of neurovirulent immunodeficiency-associated vaccine-derived polioviruses (iVDPVs) can lead to poliovirus spread to contacts. Overcoming these obstacles is challenging. High rates of OPV coverage will prevent all poliovirus spread, including spread of VDPVs, but will not prevent establishment of prolonged VDPV infections in certain persons with B-cell immunodeficiencies (i.e., having defects in antibody production). Inevitable gaps in vaccination coverage will give rise to cVDPVs as long as OPV use continues.
and then consider that Elswood and Stricker, avid proponents of vaccination, presented evidence in 1994 that HIV was disseminated in polio vaccination by WHO in Africa. This evidence has never been refuted.
First, Blame the Victims!
If you read the article below, from the respected Science Daily, you will note that the vaccine establishment acknowledges that the cause of polio is, in many cases, the virus in the vaccine which was supposed to be so attenuated that it could not cause any disease. But the real reason, they assert, is that the people who get polio from the vaccines (mostly children under 5 years of age.
Polio is the classic case of “Problem, Solutions, Reaction” favored by those who drive systems, in this case, our nations and our freedom, into chaos to control and destroy them. Take an environmental toxicity which co-factors with a virus, create a vaccine which spreads the disease, vaccinate widely, cause ‘epidemics’ of small numbers of cases, scare the wits out of parents and community decision makers with false information, deny for decades that the vaccine CAUSES the disease it is supposed to prevent and then, when the market is flagging because it is clear that the vaccination program has not worked, BLAME THE VACCINE FOR SPREADING THE DISEASE IN PEOPLE WITH VULNERABLE IMMUNE SYSTEMS AND THEN CONVINCE PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY DOCTORS, WHO ARE, IN FACT, THE MOST GULLIBLE OF PEOPLE, THAT THE CURE FOR VACCINE-DISSEMINATED POLIO IS TO VACCINATE MORE PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY KIDS!
Oh, wait! While you are doing that, make sure that the vaccine that spreads polio, in this case, ALSO causes another, deferred, more serious disease, in this case ACUTE LYMPHOCYTIC LEUKEMIA! And perhaps just a bit of HIV thrown in for good measure? Sure. People with HIV, in addition to dying, also get lots and lots of cancer! THE HOUSE THAT CANCER BUILT
Cancer is the most wildly financially productive disease ever encountered by humans. The 2008 cost of cancer in the US, according to the American Cancer Society, funded by Big Pharma itself, was a walloping $228.1 Billion. How many of those dollars were expended on children with vaccine induced cancer? And what is the non-fiscal cost of a child’s life? I do not know how to do that mathematical computation. And the vaccine industry does not care to do it.
Please visit http://drrimatruthreports.com/?p=5706 to learn more about how this works. Then please come back to this article, keep reading and take action!
Polio vaccination is as great a scam as any other vaccination: there is no scientific evidence -none!- that vaccines work to prevent, mitigate or cure any disease. There is vast evidence that they work to weaken the nervous systems and that they intentionally, yes, intentionally, spread diseases which are vast profit sources and shorten lives and eliminate fertility.
We know, from the personal admission of Maurice Hilleman, PhD, or Merck Pharmaceuticals, that the polio vaccine’s leukemia virus contamination has been known for decades while the vaccine was administered to children around the world. I know of nothing to suggest that current polio AND OTHER vaccines are not contaminated with deadly viruses in addition to seriously toxic constituents like mercury and aluminum, Tween 80, human DNA, animal DNA, viruses, formaldehyde, etc. In fact, there is a great deal to document that they are. http://www.thinktwice.com/multiple.htm
And there is also a good deal to document that it is vaccination itself, not just polio vaccination, that causes diseases for which the vaccine allegedly protects the vaccination victim. [Alexa Traffic Rank for http://drrimatruthreports.com/docs/Syringe_of_death.pdf: 149579] http://drrimatruthreports.com/docs/Syringe_of_death.pdf, etc., etc.! http://drrimatruthreports.com/?p=3198.
So read the article below and then share it with everyone you know. Ask them to take the action steps here and, just in case you have not already taken these steps, once for every member of your family, please take a few moments to do so now. Riding the freedom mouse can save your life and your freedom, all in the same swift, easy action step!
Thanks for your activism. Yours in health and freedom,
Rima E. Laibow, MD
Now, your activism. First take action below for every member of your family and then forward this email to your entire contact list, asking that they do the same:
1. Call for Congressional Hearing on Autism and Other Environmental Illness: Autism and other environmentally caused diseases, including asthma, MS, at least 85% of all cancers (and much more in children), emphysema, etc., are preventable. Preventable, that is, if Congress takes the bull by the horns, carries out the studies and hearing and then passes legislation to protect the population. Click here, , to demand exactly those actions from the Congress that We, the People, elected and which works for US, the most potent special interest group in existence, 310,000 strong! http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/568/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=3688
Thanks for donating and taking the important Action Items above. You are a member of the distribution list for the free, secure and very important Health Freedom Action eAlerts, aren’t you? Quick, sign up here, http://drrimatruthreports.com/ (scroll down, sign up!)
Polio Research Gives New Insight Into Tackling Vaccine-Derived Poliovirus
ScienceDaily (June 24, 2010) — A vaccine-derived strain of poliovirus that has spread in recent years is serious but it can be tackled with an existing vaccine, according to a new study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Vaccine-derived polioviruses can emerge on rare occasions in under-immunized populations, when the attenuated virus contained in a vaccine mutates and recombines with other viruses, to create a circulating vaccine-derived strain.
The researchers behind today’s study say their findings highlight the importance of completing polio eradication. They also say that should wild-type poliovirus be eradicated, routine vaccination with oral polio vaccines will need to cease, in order to prevent further vaccine-derived strains of the virus from emerging.
The study was carried out by researchers from the Medical Research Council Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling at Imperial College London, working with the Government of Nigeria and the World Health Organization (WHO) research teams.
Poliovirus is highly infectious and primarily affects children under five years of age. Around one in 200 of the people infected with polio develop permanent paralysis, which can be fatal.
Polio was virtually wiped out by the early 2000s following a major vaccination drive by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, but since then the number of cases of paralysis reported has plateaued, remaining roughly constant at between one and two thousand each year from 2003 to 2009, dropping only recently in 2010.
The first reported polio outbreak resulting from a circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus, known as a cVDPV, occurred in Hispaniola in 2000. Prior to today’s study, there was little evidence available about the severity and potential impact of this kind of poliovirus.
Although billions of doses of oral vaccine have been distributed in the last decade, just 14 cVDPV outbreaks have been reported, affecting 15 countries. These outbreaks have usually been limited in size.
For the new study, researchers looked at the largest recorded outbreak of a cVDPV to date, which began to circulate in Nigeria in 2005. The authors examined data from 278 children paralyzed by this cVDPV, and compared them with children paralysed by wild-type poliovirus in the country. Their analysis showed that this serotype 2 cVDPV is as easily transmitted and likely to cause severe disease as wild-type poliovirus of the same serotype.
The study also shows that vaccination with trivalent OPV, one of the main types of vaccine currently used to combat polio, is highly effective in preventing paralysis by this serotype 2 cVDPV.
The research shows that it is even more effective against cVDPV than against the wild-type polioviruses that are currently circulating, which can also be targeted with a different vaccine.
The new findings mean that it is particularly vital that efforts to vaccinate children with trivalent OPV continue in Nigeria and neighbouring countries, to protect children against all strains of polio. The scientists hope their findings will help countries to devise the right vaccine strategies to eradicate polio.
Helen Jenkins, the lead author of the study from the Medical Research Council Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling at Imperial College London, said: “Our research shows that vaccine-derived polioviruses must be taken seriously and that we have the right tools to tackle them. We’ve had a lot of success against polio in the past and we’re optimistic that ultimately we should be able to eradicate it completely.
“However, our study shows that we can’t be complacent about the virus. It’s still vital for us to protect children from this dangerous and debilitating disease and we have to make sure we continue to vaccinate as many children as possible in affected countries for as long as wild-type poliovirus continues to circulate,” added Ms Jenkins.
Senior study author Dr Nicholas Grassly, also from the Medical Research Council Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modeling at Imperial College London, added: “There has been some debate about the significance of circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses for the eradication initiative. Our research shows these viruses can be as pathogenic and transmissible as wild-type polioviruses and outbreaks must be responded to with just as much vigour.”
Dr Bruce Aylward, Director of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative at WHO, added: “These new findings suggest that if cVDPVs are allowed to circulate for a long enough time, eventually they can regain a similar capacity to spread and paralyse as wild polioviruses. This means that they should be subject to the same outbreak response measures as wild polioviruses. These results also underscore the need to eventually stop all OPV use in routine immunization programmes after wild polioviruses have been eradicated, to ensure that all children are protected from all possible risks of polio in future.”
This study was funded by the Medical Research Council and the Royal Society.
News, alerts, and Other Relevant Health Freedom information
PLUS: Action Items You Need to Take Now!
Natural Solutions Foundation
The Voice of Global Health Freedom™
Health Freedom Action eAlert
August 9, 2009
Three for Liberty Campaign: We Have Three Weeks Before Congress Reconvenes!
The Natural Solutions Foundation Has Identified 3 Key Issues Impacting Our Liberty.
Here’s what you can help us accomplish:
1) Protect our right to Self-Shield – NOT be required by laws already in place to take the “swine flu” jab.
2) Reverse the FDA/FTC violation of our right to learn and share the benefits of supplements and herbs.
3) STOP the enactment of (sic) “Food Safety” bill, HR 2749, which allows the FDA to declare martial law, invade your home, degrade your food supply and forbid you to save seeds or grow clean, wholesome foods.”
Visit the Three For Liberty Campaign to Take Action on All Three Now!
* Congress is on its August Recess and you can easily visit your Congressmen and women in their home districts to explain why you want the right to self shield, rather than be forced to take a vaccine or be incarcerated
* The dangerous Swine Flu vaccine is being tested on children and pregnant women* NOT for safety, but for dosage, and has not yet been deployed on a mandatory basis
* The Senate has not yet voted on the total give-away of our food supply to the very forces that are killing us with dangerous and unsafe food, Agribiz
* Every Member of Congress can be educated about the importance of HR 3394 and 3395 in protecting both our health, our health freedom and our Constitutional right to free speech
Right now, you have an outstanding opportunity to act decisively and powerfully to speak for Liberty, and protect her – and yourself. The next three weeks, while Congress is on recess, can be the time when we, the net roots of health freedom, act in such compelling numbers that we do, indeed, protect our health and our freedom from the forces that are trying to overwhelm both of them.
* Vaccine “testing” began yesterday at St. Louis University although the FDA said on July 23, 2009 that it would approve the Swine Flu vaccine for general use BEFORE safety tests were completed – and this for a disease which is “less severe than the seasonal flu.”
Reality check: while you are being reassured that vaccination will be voluntary, two facts bear recalling:
1. As we have previously documented, in 2005 the World Health Organization gave itself the authority to dissolve sovereign governments and take control should there be a “pandemic”. That determination did not stipulate a real pandemic, any pandemic will do.
That declaration states, ” Under special pandemic plans enacted around the world including the USA, in 2005, national governments are to be dissolved in the event of a pandemic emergency and replaced by special crisis committees, which take charge of the health and security infrastructure of a country, and which are answerable to the WHO and EU in Europe and to the WHO and UN in North America.”
This suggests very strongly that the faux pandemic was orchestrated disease or no disease and therefore represents a serious threat to liberty as well as to the social order.
2. Although HHS Secretary Sibelius, Dr. Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and other government officials repeated on CSPAN today that there will be no forced flu vaccinations, the situation is a bit more complex: If Pandemic Emergency powers are invoked, you could be given the “choice” to accept a flu shot or not. If you do, whatever the consequences are, you can sue no one, and no one is liable for your damages (or death). If you “choose” not to accept the “voluntary” flu shot, you will very likely then be faced with incarceration/quarantine/detention.
Despite the legalism, I would call that mandatory vaccination, wouldn’t you?
You Are the Key.
You Decide to Mobilize All of Your Contacts on These Three Key Issues and We Are Unstoppable
1. Swine Flu Vaccination: Big Pharma wants you vaccinated. The US government wants you vaccinated. Baxter, Novartis, Glaxo-Smith Kline, and Sanofi Pasteur executives are members of the advisory group that on July 13th recommended mandatory H1N1 vaccination of everyone in all 194 countries that belong to the WHO.
The plans for the final globalization of the planet needs you to be vaccinated.*
You, of course, do not need to be vaccinated for a trivial disease which has been inflated into a Level 6 Pandemic by the agency which can then take command of the political power of the world.
But here in the US, you have already sent 1.3 MILLION emails to Congress, State Legislators, Governors, Secretary Sibelius of HHS, Secretary Napolitano of DHS and the White House demanding the right to self shield.
Think for a moment what actually happens if, in addition to submitting an email for each member of your family, you mobilize your circle of influence to do the same, and they spread this populist demand further still? What happens is that we get what we demand: the right to NOT take a vaccine for Swine Flu if we don’t want it AND the right not to be incarcerated if we reject the vaccine.
*”USNORTHCOM is the global synchronizer – the global coordinator – for pandemic influenza across the combatant commands” Brig. Gen. Robert Felderman, deputy director of USNORTHCOM’s Plans, Policy and Strategy Directorate: (See Gail Braymen, USNORTHCOM contributes pandemic flu contingency planning expertise to trilateral workshop, USNORTHCOM, April 14, 2008, Also see USNORTHCOM. Pandemic Influenza Chain Training (pdf) (Chossudovsky, 2009)
2. End FDA/FTC Gag Rule on Health and Food: Dr. Ron Paul has given us two new bills that go to the heart of the FDA/FTC violation of our right to learn, and to share, what benefits food components like supplements and herbs can give us.
These bills need to be supported by asking your members of Congress to become co-sponsors and return our Constitutional Rights to us.
3. Prevent Total Industrialization of US Food Supply: The House has passed HR 2749, which allows the corrupt and deadly FDA to declare martial law, invade your home, degrade your food supply and forbid you to save seeds or grow clean, wholesome foods.
We know these outcomes are important to you. The Natural Solutions Foundation has prepared 3 helpful Resource Documents at http://drrimatruthreports.com/?p=3241to serve as talking point papers when you visit your Congressmen and women during the recess, to share with those whom you are mobilizing, to serve as information points for letters to the editor, to share with the people who shop in your health food store, etc.
Resources for the
Three For Liberty Campaign
Liberty Needs Us Now:
Protect Against FDA / FTC, Food Fascism, First Amendment Violations and Swine Flu Vaccines
Share These Three Health Store Leaflets for Three Weeks to Save Health Freedom
As Mark Twain is alleged to have opined, “No Man’s Life Liberty or Property is Safe…While the Legislature is in Session” – and certainly no person’s health freedom and food freedom are safe either. Well, Congress is not in session at the moment, and we have about three weeks to educate our representatives while they are home. And as you may have noticed in the media, they are hearing these freedom truths from their constituents!
Please attend any “town hall meetings” held by your representatives and let them know that your personal health freedom is as important an issue the “health care” debate, which is really mostly about who will pay for conventional medical treatment, and how will it be rationed. To the contrary, we’re concerned about Natural Solutions, so we need to concentrate on protecting people from toxic drugs (including vaccines) and from toxic foods as well. Our agenda is not the same as the agenda being portrayed on the mass media. The 3 Leaflets have bullet point information for you to use in educating your representatives about our Health Freedom Agenda.
Thus, the focus of our Three for Liberty Campaign, http://drrimatruthreports.com/?p=3209, our Three Weeks Campaign, needs to be educating decision makers, but also educating the concerned public – people who “get it” and understand that Health Freedom is Our First Freedom and people who CAN “get it” if you help them in that process. Therefore, we invite you to help us, by printing the three Health Food Store Leaflets attached to this blog entry and posting them at your local health food store, food co-op or similar commercial or public venue and posting them. Please print and copy as many as you can. Please re-post them on the Internet. We need to make these posters GO VIRAL!
Introduction to This Issue
Three Actions; Three Weeks
Follow the Action on Twitter
Threats to Freedom: Pandemic Panic
Our Three For Liberty Campaign,
http://drrimatruthreports.com/?p=3209, is designed to make it easy for you to act quickly and easily on the biggest threats to your liberty and your health. Take the action steps we’ve set up for each of these issues!
And print the health food store / community center leaflets we’ve set up, copy and post them widely!
Gag Rule on Swine Flu options is a perfect example of FDA violation of our rights. I am not allowed to tell you that Nano silver, Vitamin C, MSM, and other immune boosters and enhances are good for dealing with Swine Flu and coming out the other side of it, quite literally.
You probably know that the FDA currently literally forbids telling you truthfully that anything other than vaccines and Tamiflu or Relenza can “treat” the Swine flu. That type of gag regulation is exactly what Ron Paul’s two bills are designed to eliminate. But until they do, all I can do is tell you that IF I could exercise my First Amendment rights as a free American, I would tell you about the fantastic effectiveness and safety record of nano silver and colloidal silver in dealing with all pathogens.
Meanwhile, it is clear that the forces arrayed against our health freedom will not rest until they either destroy those freedoms or we win this enormous war.
Of course you know where you can obtain the same Silver Solution we use, and help the Foundation at the same time:
I would also like to ask for your continuing generous elp: please make your tax deductible donation, http://drrimatruthreports.com/?page_id=189, now to help keep us keeping on in the battle for health and freedom. You need us and we need you. It is a marriage of support and respect. Thanks!
The Natural Solutions Foundation has been urging the US to examine its food policies in favor of clean, unadulterated, locally grown, GMO free foods for years. We have asked supporters to write letters, met with senior Congressional Aides and members of Congress, attended Codex meetings where FDA and USDA representatives foster the worst of the worst of the multinational interests with respect to adulterated food and enhanced profits.
All along, we have been educating our supporters, who number in the hundreds of thousands, and others as well, to understand that the economic, social, personal and national impact of a degraded food system is the destruction not only of the individual, but the entire society.
If people are dying or dead, or caring for the ill, they cannot go to school, work or carry out the essential functions of a society. If 16% of the GNP goes, at it does in America, for health care that does not care about health, but profits only from illness, and food, the only source of nutrition and health, is contaminated for the sake of profit, and at the same time that nation has just about the worst health of any developed nation, despite all the wildly expensive “care” something is rotten in Denmark, or, rather, the US. And what is rotten is our food.
Our chemicalized, synthesized, devitalized, devalued and destroyed food is, in fact, what is wrong. Without nutrition the immune system flags and falters. Without nutrition, the brain does not function well, Without nutrition the reproductive systems grinds to a halt.
Without nutrition, the eyes grow dim. Obvious but true: synthetic food does not provide nutitional sufficiency. Food that is transported a half a world away looses its nutritional value.
People who eat food made from GMOs ingest, incorporate and keep within them the seeds of their own destruction and that of any child they might bear.
Science is clear. But profit is, apparently, clearer.
Cheap food is not good food. Cheap food is expensive social degreedation and expensive disease. Very, very expensive disease.
And that is, perhaps a good point to remember: Back in 1952 the head of Germany’s Bayer Pharmaceutical, Fritz ter Meer, brought a letter to the UN signed by 5 pharmaceutical executives who haD, like ter Meer, all gone to prison at the end of the Second World War for crimes against humanity and who were now, once again, working for pharmaceutical firms.
Chief executives (and, in ter Meer’s case, the head) of the great civilian German war machine “I G Farben”, these pharmaceutical executives knew well that to accomplish the dream of world domination and cleansing which the Third Reich’s fall left unfinished, they would need to control – and kill – much of the world’s population.
What better way than food? So they urged the UN, in their letter, to take control of the world’s food. He who controls the world’s food, after all, controls the world. And pharmaceutical executives, whose legal responsibility to their share holders have, after all, no interest at all in healthy food. Healthy food makes healthy people and they are poor customers for the diseases which fuel the astronomical profits of the pharmaceutical industry – the preventable, non communicable diseases of under nutrition, as the World Health Organization calls them. These diseases kill an increasing portion of the world’s people as the world converts to Codex-compliant, USDA and FDA approved “food” which weakens and sickens us individually and in our body politic.
It is the drug lord’s gambit, now writ large through the participation of the biotech industry, the factory farming industry, the pesticide industry, the veterinary drug industry (Big Pharma again, because more drugs are used annually for animals than for people), the irradiation industry and the Chemical industry. Codex is part of the picture. Codex was born from that impulse.
Please read below this posting for more information on how to take back the world’s food production, put it back in the capable hands of farmers and reverse the devastating nutrition-based illness trends which will be responsible for 75 % of the world’s people by 2025, according to the joint publication of the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization’s,
The Role of Diet and Exercise in the Prevention of Chronic Disease
visit www.NaturalSolutionsFoundation.org to learn about the Natural Solutions Foundation’s International Decade of Nutrition and its Valley of the Moon(TM) Eco Demonstration Community in the highlands of Panama’s Chiriqui Highlands.
WHO/FAO’s joint report on the impact of the PREVENTABLE, non communicable chronic degenerative diseases of under nutrition “It has been projected that, by 2020, chronic diseases will account for
almost three-quarters of all deaths worldwide, and that 71% of deaths due to ischaemic heart disease (IHD), 75% of deaths due to stroke, and 70% of deaths due to diabetes will occur in developing countries (4). The number of people in the developing world with diabetes will increase by more than 2.5-fold, from 84 million in 1995 to 228 million in 2025 (5). On a global basis, 60% of the burden of chronic diseases will occur in developing countries.” reaching the proportions already attained in the developed world for these diseases of under nutrition.
Then National Solutions Foundation strongly supports taking back the production of food from the multinational corporations who are, literally, killing us and putting it back into the hands and lands of people who know, and love, the food they grow and are part of the communities they serve. That’s what the International Decade of Nutrition is all about and that is the reason that the Valley of the Moon(TM) Eco Community will house not only a BeyondOrganic(TM) Bio Dynamic Zero Emissions Farm, but a farm school as well.
And click here (http://drrimatruthreports.com/?page_id=1130) to purchase chemical free Valley of the Moon(TM) Chemical Free Coffee, A little bit of heaven in a cup(c). Every bag gives you a 1/2 lb of the world’s best chemical free coffee and gives you a tax deduction, too!
Farmer in Chief
Michael Pollan, The New York Times
Thursday 09 October 2008
(Copyright – New York Times)
[Reproduced for Educational purposes.]
Federal policies to promote maximum production of commodity crops such as wheat, from which most of our supermarket foods are derived, have succeeded in keeping prices low. But suddenly the era of cheap and abundant food appears to be drawing to a close.
Dear Mr. President-Elect,
It may surprise you to learn that among the issues that will occupy much of your time in the coming years is one you barely mentioned during the campaign: food. Food policy is not something American presidents have had to give much thought to, at least since the Nixon administration – the last time high food prices presented a serious political peril. Since then, federal policies to promote maximum production of the commodity crops (corn, soybeans, wheat and rice) from which most of our supermarket foods are derived have succeeded impressively in keeping prices low and food more or less off the national political agenda. But with a suddenness that has taken us all by surprise, the era of cheap and abundant food appears to be drawing to a close. What this means is that you, like so many other leaders through history, will find yourself confronting the fact – so easy to overlook these past few years – that the health of a nation’s food system is a critical issue of national security. Food is about to demand your attention.
Complicating matters is the fact that the price and abundance of food are not the only problems we face; if they were, you could simply follow Nixon’s example, appoint a latter-day Earl Butz as your secretary of agriculture and instruct him or her to do whatever it takes to boost production. But there are reasons to think that the old approach won’t work this time around; for one thing, it depends on cheap energy that we can no longer count on. For another, expanding production of industrial agriculture today would require you to sacrifice important values on which you did campaign. Which brings me to the deeper reason you will need not simply to address food prices but to make the reform of the entire food system one of the highest priorities of your administration: unless you do, you will not be able to make significant progress on the health care crisis, energy independence or climate change. Unlike food, these are issues you did campaign on – but as you try to address them you will quickly discover that the way we currently grow, process and eat food in America goes to the heart of all three problems and will have to change if we hope to solve them. Let me explain.
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.
In addition to the problems of climate change and America’s oil addiction, you have spoken at length on the campaign trail of the health care crisis. Spending on health care has risen from 5 percent of national income in 1960 to 16 percent today, putting a significant drag on the economy. The goal of ensuring the health of all Americans depends on getting those costs under control. There are several reasons health care has gotten so expensive, but one of the biggest, and perhaps most tractable, is the cost to the system of preventable chronic diseases. Four of the top 10 killers in America today are chronic diseases linked to diet: heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and cancer. It is no coincidence that in the years national spending on health care went from 5 percent to 16 percent of national income, spending on food has fallen by a comparable amount – from 18 percent of household income to less than 10 percent. While the surfeit of cheap calories that the U.S. food system has produced since the late 1970s may have taken food prices off the political agenda, this has come at a steep cost to public health. You cannot expect to reform the health care system, much less expand coverage, without confronting the public-health catastrophe that is the modern American diet.
The impact of the American food system on the rest of the world will have implications for your foreign and trade policies as well. In the past several months more than 30 nations have experienced food riots, and so far one government has fallen. Should high grain prices persist and shortages develop, you can expect to see the pendulum shift decisively away from free trade, at least in food. Nations that opened their markets to the global flood of cheap grain (under pressure from previous administrations as well as the World Bank and the I.M.F.) lost so many farmers that they now find their ability to feed their own populations hinges on decisions made in Washington (like your predecessor’s precipitous embrace of biofuels) and on Wall Street. They will now rush to rebuild their own agricultural sectors and then seek to protect them by erecting trade barriers. Expect to hear the phrases “food sovereignty” and “food security” on the lips of every foreign leader you meet. Not only the Doha round, but the whole cause of free trade in agriculture is probably dead, the casualty of a cheap food policy that a scant two years ago seemed like a boon for everyone. It is one of the larger paradoxes of our time that the very same food policies that have contributed to overnutrition in the first world are now contributing to undernutrition in the third. But it turns out that too much food can be nearly as big a problem as too little – a lesson we should keep in mind as we set about designing a new approach to food policy.
Rich or poor, countries struggling with soaring food prices are being forcibly reminded that food is a national-security issue. When a nation loses the ability to substantially feed itself, it is not only at the mercy of global commodity markets but of other governments as well. At issue is not only the availability of food, which may be held hostage by a hostile state, but its safety: as recent scandals in China demonstrate, we have little control over the safety of imported foods. The deliberate contamination of our food presents another national-security threat. At his valedictory press conference in 2004, Tommy Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, offered a chilling warning, saying, “I, for the life of me, cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply, because it is so easy to do.”
This, in brief, is the bad news: the food and agriculture policies you’ve inherited – designed to maximize production at all costs and relying on cheap energy to do so – are in shambles, and the need to address the problems they have caused is acute. The good news is that the twinned crises in food and energy are creating a political environment in which real reform of the food system may actually be possible for the first time in a generation. The American people are paying more attention to food today than they have in decades, worrying not only about its price but about its safety, its provenance and its healthfulness. There is a gathering sense among the public that the industrial-food system is broken. Markets for alternative kinds of food – organic, local, pasture-based, humane – are thriving as never before. All this suggests that a political constituency for change is building and not only on the left: lately, conservative voices have also been raised in support of reform. Writing of the movement back to local food economies, traditional foods (and family meals) and more sustainable farming, The American Conservative magazine editorialized last summer that “this is a conservative cause if ever there was one.”
There are many moving parts to the new food agenda I’m urging you to adopt, but the core idea could not be simpler: we need to wean the American food system off its heavy 20th-century diet of fossil fuel and put it back on a diet of contemporary sunshine. True, this is easier said than done – fossil fuel is deeply implicated in everything about the way we currently grow food and feed ourselves. To put the food system back on sunlight will require policies to change how things work at every link in the food chain: in the farm field, in the way food is processed and sold and even in the American kitchen and at the American dinner table. Yet the sun still shines down on our land every day, and photosynthesis can still work its wonders wherever it does. If any part of the modern economy can be freed from its dependence on oil and successfully resolarized, surely it is food.
How We Got Here
Before setting out an agenda for reforming the food system, it’s important to understand how that system came to be – and also to appreciate what, for all its many problems, it has accomplished. What our food system does well is precisely what it was designed to do, which is to produce cheap calories in great abundance. It is no small thing for an American to be able to go into a fast-food restaurant and to buy a double cheeseburger, fries and a large Coke for a price equal to less than an hour of labor at the minimum wage – indeed, in the long sweep of history, this represents a remarkable achievement.
It must be recognized that the current food system – characterized by monocultures of corn and soy in the field and cheap calories of fat, sugar and feedlot meat on the table – is not simply the product of the free market. Rather, it is the product of a specific set of government policies that sponsored a shift from solar (and human) energy on the farm to fossil-fuel energy.
Did you notice when you flew over Iowa during the campaign how the land was completely bare – black – from October to April? What you were seeing is the agricultural landscape created by cheap oil. In years past, except in the dead of winter, you would have seen in those fields a checkerboard of different greens: pastures and hayfields for animals, cover crops, perhaps a block of fruit trees. Before the application of oil and natural gas to agriculture, farmers relied on crop diversity (and photosynthesis) both to replenish their soil and to combat pests, as well as to feed themselves and their neighbors. Cheap energy, however, enabled the creation of monocultures, and monocultures in turn vastly increased the productivity both of the American land and the American farmer; today the typical corn-belt farmer is single-handedly feeding 140 people.
This did not occur by happenstance. After World War II, the government encouraged the conversion of the munitions industry to fertilizer – ammonium nitrate being the main ingredient of both bombs and chemical fertilizer – and the conversion of nerve-gas research to pesticides. The government also began subsidizing commodity crops, paying farmers by the bushel for all the corn, soybeans, wheat and rice they could produce. One secretary of agriculture after another implored them to plant “fence row to fence row” and to “get big or get out.”
The chief result, especially after the Earl Butz years, was a flood of cheap grain that could be sold for substantially less than it cost farmers to grow because a government check helped make up the difference. As this artificially cheap grain worked its way up the food chain, it drove down the price of all the calories derived from that grain: the high-fructose corn syrup in the Coke, the soy oil in which the potatoes were fried, the meat and cheese in the burger.
Subsidized monocultures of grain also led directly to monocultures of animals: since factory farms could buy grain for less than it cost farmers to grow it, they could now fatten animals more cheaply than farmers could. So America’s meat and dairy animals migrated from farm to feedlot, driving down the price of animal protein to the point where an American can enjoy eating, on average, 190 pounds of meat a year – a half pound every day.
But if taking the animals off farms made a certain kind of economic sense, it made no ecological sense whatever: their waste, formerly regarded as a precious source of fertility on the farm, became a pollutant – factory farms are now one of America’s biggest sources of pollution. As Wendell Berry has tartly observed, to take animals off farms and put them on feedlots is to take an elegant solution – animals replenishing the fertility that crops deplete – and neatly divide it into two problems: a fertility problem on the farm and a pollution problem on the feedlot. The former problem is remedied with fossil-fuel fertilizer; the latter is remedied not at all.
What was once a regional food economy is now national and increasingly global in scope – thanks again to fossil fuel. Cheap energy – for trucking food as well as pumping water – is the reason New York City now gets its produce from California rather than from the “Garden State” next door, as it did before the advent of Interstate highways and national trucking networks. More recently, cheap energy has underwritten a globalized food economy in which it makes (or rather, made) economic sense to catch salmon in Alaska, ship it to China to be filleted and then ship the fillets back to California to be eaten; or one in which California and Mexico can profitably swap tomatoes back and forth across the border; or Denmark and the United States can trade sugar cookies across the Atlantic. About that particular swap the economist Herman Daly once quipped, “Exchanging recipes would surely be more efficient.”
Whatever we may have liked about the era of cheap, oil-based food, it is drawing to a close. Even if we were willing to continue paying the environmental or public-health price, we’re not going to have the cheap energy (or the water) needed to keep the system going, much less expand production. But as is so often the case, a crisis provides opportunity for reform, and the current food crisis presents opportunities that must be seized.
In drafting these proposals, I’ve adhered to a few simple principles of what a 21st-century food system needs to do. First, your administration’s food policy must strive to provide a healthful diet for all our people; this means focusing on the quality and diversity (and not merely the quantity) of the calories that American agriculture produces and American eaters consume. Second, your policies should aim to improve the resilience, safety and security of our food supply. Among other things, this means promoting regional food economies both in America and around the world. And lastly, your policies need to reconceive agriculture as part of the solution to environmental problems like climate change.
These goals are admittedly ambitious, yet they will not be difficult to align or advance as long as we keep in mind this One Big Idea: most of the problems our food system faces today are because of its reliance on fossil fuels, and to the extent that our policies wring the oil out of the system and replace it with the energy of the sun, those policies will simultaneously improve the state of our health, our environment and our security.
I. Resolarizing the American Farm
What happens in the field influences every other link of the food chain on up to our meals – if we grow monocultures of corn and soy, we will find the products of processed corn and soy on our plates. Fortunately for your initiative, the federal government has enormous leverage in determining exactly what happens on the 830 million acres of American crop and pasture land.
Today most government farm and food programs are designed to prop up the old system of maximizing production from a handful of subsidized commodity crops grown in monocultures. Even food-assistance programs like WIC and school lunch focus on maximizing quantity rather than quality, typically specifying a minimum number of calories (rather than maximums) and seldom paying more than lip service to nutritional quality. This focus on quantity may have made sense in a time of food scarcity, but today it gives us a school-lunch program that feeds chicken nuggets and Tater Tots to overweight and diabetic children.
Your challenge is to take control of this vast federal machinery and use it to drive a transition to a new solar-food economy, starting on the farm. Right now, the government actively discourages the farmers it subsidizes from growing healthful, fresh food: farmers receiving crop subsidies are prohibited from growing “specialty crops” – farm-bill speak for fruits and vegetables. (This rule was the price exacted by California and Florida produce growers in exchange for going along with subsidies for commodity crops.) Commodity farmers should instead be encouraged to grow as many different crops – including animals – as possible. Why? Because the greater the diversity of crops on a farm, the less the need for both fertilizers and pesticides.
The power of cleverly designed polycultures to produce large amounts of food from little more than soil, water and sunlight has been proved, not only by small-scale “alternative” farmers in the United States but also by large rice-and-fish farmers in China and giant-scale operations (up to 15,000 acres) in places like Argentina. There, in a geography roughly comparable to that of the American farm belt, farmers have traditionally employed an ingenious eight-year rotation of perennial pasture and annual crops: after five years grazing cattle on pasture (and producing the world’s best beef), farmers can then grow three years of grain without applying any fossil-fuel fertilizer. Or, for that matter, many pesticides: the weeds that afflict pasture can’t survive the years of tillage, and the weeds of row crops don’t survive the years of grazing, making herbicides all but unnecessary. There is no reason – save current policy and custom – that American farmers couldn’t grow both high-quality grain and grass-fed beef under such a regime through much of the Midwest. (It should be noted that today’s sky-high grain prices are causing many Argentine farmers to abandon their rotation to grow grain and soybeans exclusively, an environmental disaster in the making.)
Federal policies could do much to encourage this sort of diversified sun farming. Begin with the subsidies: payment levels should reflect the number of different crops farmers grow or the number of days of the year their fields are green – that is, taking advantage of photosynthesis, whether to grow food, replenish the soil or control erosion. If Midwestern farmers simply planted a cover crop after the fall harvest, they would significantly reduce their need for fertilizer, while cutting down on soil erosion. Why don’t farmers do this routinely? Because in recent years fossil-fuel-based fertility has been so much cheaper and easier to use than sun-based fertility.
In addition to rewarding farmers for planting cover crops, we should make it easier for them to apply compost to their fields – a practice that improves not only the fertility of the soil but also its ability to hold water and therefore withstand drought. (There is mounting evidence that it also boosts the nutritional quality of the food grown in it.) The U.S.D.A. estimates that Americans throw out 14 percent of the food they buy; much more is wasted by retailers, wholesalers and institutions. A program to make municipal composting of food and yard waste mandatory and then distributing the compost free to area farmers would shrink America’s garbage heap, cut the need for irrigation and fossil-fuel fertilizers in agriculture and improve the nutritional quality of the American diet.
Right now, most of the conservation programs run by the U.S.D.A. are designed on the zero-sum principle: land is either locked up in “conservation” or it is farmed intensively. This either-or approach reflects an outdated belief that modern farming and ranching are inherently destructive, so that the best thing for the environment is to leave land untouched. But we now know how to grow crops and graze animals in systems that will support biodiversity, soil health, clean water and carbon sequestration. The Conservation Stewardship Program, championed by Senator Tom Harkin and included in the 2008 Farm Bill, takes an important step toward rewarding these kinds of practices, but we need to move this approach from the periphery of our farm policy to the very center. Longer term, the government should back ambitious research now under way (at the Land Institute in Kansas and a handful of other places) to “perennialize” commodity agriculture: to breed varieties of wheat, rice and other staple grains that can be grown like prairie grasses – without having to till the soil every year. These perennial grains hold the promise of slashing the fossil fuel now needed to fertilize and till the soil, while protecting farmland from erosion and sequestering significant amounts of carbon.
But that is probably a 50-year project. For today’s agriculture to wean itself from fossil fuel and make optimal use of sunlight, crop plants and animals must once again be married on the farm – as in Wendell Berry’s elegant “solution.” Sunlight nourishes the grasses and grains, the plants nourish the animals, the animals then nourish the soil, which in turn nourishes the next season’s grasses and grains. Animals on pasture can also harvest their own feed and dispose of their own waste – all without our help or fossil fuel.
If this system is so sensible, you might ask, why did it succumb to Confined Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs? In fact there is nothing inherently efficient or economical about raising vast cities of animals in confinement. Three struts, each put into place by federal policy, support the modern CAFO, and the most important of these – the ability to buy grain for less than it costs to grow it – has just been kicked away. The second strut is F.D.A. approval for the routine use of antibiotics in feed, without which the animals in these places could not survive their crowded, filthy and miserable existence. And the third is that the government does not require CAFOs to treat their wastes as it would require human cities of comparable size to do. The F.D.A. should ban the routine use of antibiotics in livestock feed on public-health grounds, now that we have evidence that the practice is leading to the evolution of drug-resistant bacterial diseases and to outbreaks of E. coli and salmonella poisoning. CAFOs should also be regulated like the factories they are, required to clean up their waste like any other industry or municipality.
It will be argued that moving animals off feedlots and back onto farms will raise the price of meat. It probably will – as it should. You will need to make the case that paying the real cost of meat, and therefore eating less of it, is a good thing for our health, for the environment, for our dwindling reserves of fresh water and for the welfare of the animals. Meat and milk production represent the food industry’s greatest burden on the environment; a recent U.N. study estimated that the world’s livestock alone account for 18 percent of all greenhouse gases, more than all forms of transportation combined. (According to one study, a pound of feedlot beef also takes 5,000 gallons of water to produce.) And while animals living on farms will still emit their share of greenhouse gases, grazing them on grass and returning their waste to the soil will substantially offset their carbon hoof prints, as will getting ruminant animals off grain. A bushel of grain takes approximately a half gallon of oil to produce; grass can be grown with little more than sunshine.
It will be argued that sun-food agriculture will generally yield less food than fossil-fuel agriculture. This is debatable. The key question you must be prepared to answer is simply this: Can the sort of sustainable agriculture you’re proposing feed the world?
There are a couple of ways to answer this question. The simplest and most honest answer is that we don’t know, because we haven’t tried. But in the same way we now need to learn how to run an industrial economy without cheap fossil fuel, we have no choice but to find out whether sustainable agriculture can produce enough food. The fact is, during the past century, our agricultural research has been directed toward the goal of maximizing production with the help of fossil fuel. There is no reason to think that bringing the same sort of resources to the development of more complex, sun-based agricultural systems wouldn’t produce comparable yields. Today’s organic farmers, operating for the most part without benefit of public investment in research, routinely achieve 80 to 100 percent of conventional yields in grain and, in drought years, frequently exceed conventional yields. (This is because organic soils better retain moisture.) Assuming no further improvement, could the world – with a population expected to peak at 10 billion – survive on these yields?
First, bear in mind that the average yield of world agriculture today is substantially lower than that of modern sustainable farming. According to a recent University of Michigan study, merely bringing international yields up to today’s organic levels could increase the world’s food supply by 50 percent.
The second point to bear in mind is that yield isn’t everything – and growing high-yield commodities is not quite the same thing as growing food. Much of what we’re growing today is not directly eaten as food but processed into low-quality calories of fat and sugar. As the world epidemic of diet-related chronic disease has demonstrated, the sheer quantity of calories that a food system produces improves health only up to a point, but after that, quality and diversity are probably more important. We can expect that a food system that produces somewhat less food but of a higher quality will produce healthier populations.
The final point to consider is that 40 percent of the world’s grain output today is fed to animals; 11 percent of the world’s corn and soybean crop is fed to cars and trucks, in the form of biofuels. Provided the developed world can cut its consumption of grain-based animal protein and ethanol, there should be plenty of food for everyone – however we choose to grow it.
In fact, well-designed polyculture systems, incorporating not just grains but vegetables and animals, can produce more food per acre than conventional monocultures, and food of a much higher nutritional value. But this kind of farming is complicated and needs many more hands on the land to make it work. Farming without fossil fuels – performing complex rotations of plants and animals and managing pests without petrochemicals – is labor intensive and takes more skill than merely “driving and spraying,” which is how corn-belt farmers describe what they do for a living.
To grow sufficient amounts of food using sunlight will require more people growing food – millions more. This suggests that sustainable agriculture will be easier to implement in the developing world, where large rural populations remain, than in the West, where they don’t. But what about here in America, where we have only about two million farmers left to feed a population of 300 million? And where farmland is being lost to development at the rate of 2,880 acres a day? Post-oil agriculture will need a lot more people engaged in food production – as farmers and probably also as gardeners.
The sun-food agenda must include programs to train a new generation of farmers and then help put them on the land. The average American farmer today is 55 years old; we shouldn’t expect these farmers to embrace the sort of complex ecological approach to agriculture that is called for. Our focus should be on teaching ecological farming systems to students entering land-grant colleges today. For decades now, it has been federal policy to shrink the number of farmers in America by promoting capital-intensive monoculture and consolidation. As a society, we devalued farming as an occupation and encouraged the best students to leave the farm for “better” jobs in the city. We emptied America’s rural counties in order to supply workers to urban factories. To put it bluntly, we now need to reverse course. We need more highly skilled small farmers in more places all across America – not as a matter of nostalgia for the agrarian past but as a matter of national security. For nations that lose the ability to substantially feed themselves will find themselves as gravely compromised in their international dealings as nations that depend on foreign sources of oil presently do. But while there are alternatives to oil, there are no alternatives to food.
National security also argues for preserving every acre of farmland we can and then making it available to new farmers. We simply will not be able to depend on distant sources of food, and therefore need to preserve every acre of good farmland within a day’s drive of our cities. In the same way that when we came to recognize the supreme ecological value of wetlands we erected high bars to their development, we need to recognize the value of farmland to our national security and require real-estate developers to do “food-system impact statements” before development begins. We should also create tax and zoning incentives for developers to incorporate farmland (as they now do “open space”) in their subdivision plans; all those subdivisions now ringing golf courses could someday have diversified farms at their center.
The revival of farming in America, which of course draws on the abiding cultural power of our agrarian heritage, will pay many political and economic dividends. It will lead to robust economic renewal in the countryside. And it will generate tens of millions of new “green jobs,” which is precisely how we need to begin thinking of skilled solar farming: as a vital sector of the 21st-century post-fossil-fuel economy.
II. Reregionalizing the Food System
For your sun-food agenda to succeed, it will have to do a lot more than alter what happens on the farm. The government could help seed a thousand new polyculture farmers in every county in Iowa, but they would promptly fail if the grain elevator remained the only buyer in town and corn and beans were the only crops it would take. Resolarizing the food system means building the infrastructure for a regional food economy – one that can support diversified farming and, by shortening the food chain, reduce the amount of fossil fuel in the American diet.
A decentralized food system offers a great many other benefits as well. Food eaten closer to where it is grown will be fresher and require less processing, making it more nutritious. Whatever may be lost in efficiency by localizing food production is gained in resilience: regional food systems can better withstand all kinds of shocks. When a single factory is grinding 20 million hamburger patties in a week or washing 25 million servings of salad, a single terrorist armed with a canister of toxins can, at a stroke, poison millions. Such a system is equally susceptible to accidental contamination: the bigger and more global the trade in food, the more vulnerable the system is to catastrophe. The best way to protect our food system against such threats is obvious: decentralize it.
Today in America there is soaring demand for local and regional food; farmers’ markets, of which the U.S.D.A. estimates there are now 4,700, have become one of the fastest-growing segments of the food market. Community-supported agriculture is booming as well: there are now nearly 1,500 community-supported farms, to which consumers pay an annual fee in exchange for a weekly box of produce through the season. The local-food movement will continue to grow with no help from the government, especially as high fuel prices make distant and out-of-season food, as well as feedlot meat, more expensive. Yet there are several steps the government can take to nurture this market and make local foods more affordable. Here are a few:
Four-Season Farmers’ Markets. Provide grants to towns and cities to build year-round indoor farmers’ markets, on the model of Pike Place in Seattle or the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia. To supply these markets, the U.S.D.A. should make grants to rebuild local distribution networks in order to minimize the amount of energy used to move produce within local food sheds.
Agricultural Enterprise Zones. Today the revival of local food economies is being hobbled by a tangle of regulations originally designed to check abuses by the very largest food producers. Farmers should be able to smoke a ham and sell it to their neighbors without making a huge investment in federally approved facilities. Food-safety regulations must be made sensitive to scale and marketplace, so that a small producer selling direct off the farm or at a farmers’ market is not regulated as onerously as a multinational food manufacturer. This is not because local food won’t ever have food-safety problems – it will – only that its problems will be less catastrophic and easier to manage because local food is inherently more traceable and accountable.
Local Meat-Inspection Corps. Perhaps the single greatest impediment to the return of livestock to the land and the revival of local, grass-based meat production is the disappearance of regional slaughter facilities. The big meat processors have been buying up local abattoirs only to close them down as they consolidate, and the U.S.D.A. does little to support the ones that remain. From the department’s perspective, it is a better use of shrinking resources to dispatch its inspectors to a plant slaughtering 400 head an hour than to a regional abattoir slaughtering a dozen. The U.S.D.A. should establish a Local Meat-Inspectors Corps to serve these processors. Expanding on its successful pilot program on Lopez Island in Puget Sound, the U.S.D.A. should also introduce a fleet of mobile abattoirs that would go from farm to farm, processing animals humanely and inexpensively. Nothing would do more to make regional, grass-fed meat fully competitive in the market with feedlot meat.
Establish a Strategic Grain Reserve. In the same way the shift to alternative energy depends on keeping oil prices relatively stable, the sun-food agenda – as well as the food security of billions of people around the world – will benefit from government action to prevent huge swings in commodity prices. A strategic grain reserve, modeled on the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, would help achieve this objective and at the same time provide some cushion for world food stocks, which today stand at perilously low levels. Governments should buy and store grain when it is cheap and sell when it is dear, thereby moderating price swings in both directions and discouraging speculation.
Regionalize Federal Food Procurement. In the same way that federal procurement is often used to advance important social goals (like promoting minority-owned businesses), we should require that some minimum percentage of government food purchases – whether for school-lunch programs, military bases or federal prisons – go to producers located within 100 miles of institutions buying the food. We should create incentives for hospitals and universities receiving federal funds to buy fresh local produce. To channel even a small portion of institutional food purchasing to local food would vastly expand regional agriculture and improve the diet of the millions of people these institutions feed.
Create a Federal Definition of “Food.” It makes no sense for government food-assistance dollars, intended to improve the nutritional health of at-risk Americans, to support the consumption of products we know to be unhealthful. Yes, some people will object that for the government to specify what food stamps can and cannot buy smacks of paternalism. Yet we already prohibit the purchase of tobacco and alcohol with food stamps. So why not prohibit something like soda, which is arguably less nutritious than red wine? Because it is, nominally, a food, albeit a “junk food.” We need to stop flattering nutritionally worthless foodlike substances by calling them “junk food” – and instead make clear that such products are not in fact food of any kind. Defining what constitutes real food worthy of federal support will no doubt be controversial (you’ll recall President Reagan’s ketchup imbroglio), but defining food upward may be more politically palatable than defining it down, as Reagan sought to do. One approach would be to rule that, in order to be regarded as a food by the government, an edible substance must contain a certain minimum ratio of micronutrients per calorie of energy. At a stroke, such a definition would improve the quality of school lunch and discourage sales of unhealthful products, since typically only “food” is exempt from local sales tax.
A few other ideas: Food-stamp debit cards should double in value whenever swiped at a farmers’ markets – all of which, by the way, need to be equipped with the Electronic Benefit Transfer card readers that supermarkets already have. We should expand the WIC program that gives farmers’-market vouchers to low-income women with children; such programs help attract farmers’ markets to urban neighborhoods where access to fresh produce is often nonexistent. (We should also offer tax incentives to grocery chains willing to build supermarkets in underserved neighborhoods.) Federal food assistance for the elderly should build on a successful program pioneered by the state of Maine that buys low-income seniors a membership in a community-supported farm. All these initiatives have the virtue of advancing two objectives at once: supporting the health of at-risk Americans and the revival of local food economies.
III. Rebuilding America’s Food Culture
In the end, shifting the American diet from a foundation of imported fossil fuel to local sunshine will require changes in our daily lives, which by now are deeply implicated in the economy and culture of fast, cheap and easy food. Making available more healthful and more sustainable food does not guarantee it will be eaten, much less appreciated or enjoyed. We need to use all the tools at our disposal – not just federal policy and public education but the president’s bully pulpit and the example of the first family’s own dinner table – to promote a new culture of food that can undergird your sun-food agenda.
Changing the food culture must begin with our children, and it must begin in the schools. Nearly a half-century ago, President Kennedy announced a national initiative to improve the physical fitness of American children. He did it by elevating the importance of physical education, pressing states to make it a requirement in public schools. We need to bring the same commitment to “edible education” – in Alice Waters’s phrase – by making lunch, in all its dimensions, a mandatory part of the curriculum. On the premise that eating well is a critically important life skill, we need to teach all primary-school students the basics of growing and cooking food and then enjoying it at shared meals.
To change our children’s food culture, we’ll need to plant gardens in every primary school, build fully equipped kitchens, train a new generation of lunchroom ladies (and gentlemen) who can once again cook and teach cooking to children. We should introduce a School Lunch Corps program that forgives federal student loans to culinary-school graduates in exchange for two years of service in the public-school lunch program. And we should immediately increase school-lunch spending per pupil by $1 a day – the minimum amount food-service experts believe it will take to underwrite a shift from fast food in the cafeteria to real food freshly prepared.
But it is not only our children who stand to benefit from public education about food. Today most federal messages about food, from nutrition labeling to the food pyramid, are negotiated with the food industry. The surgeon general should take over from the Department of Agriculture the job of communicating with Americans about their diet. That way we might begin to construct a less equivocal and more effective public-health message about nutrition. Indeed, there is no reason that public-health campaigns about the dangers of obesity and Type 2 diabetes shouldn’t be as tough and as effective as public-health campaigns about the dangers of smoking. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that one in three American children born in 2000 will develop Type 2 diabetes. The public needs to know and see precisely what that sentence means: blindness; amputation; early death. All of which can be avoided by a change in diet and lifestyle. A public-health crisis of this magnitude calls for a blunt public-health message, even at the expense of offending the food industry. Judging by the success of recent antismoking campaigns, the savings to the health care system could be substantial.
There are other kinds of information about food that the government can supply or demand. In general we should push for as much transparency in the food system as possible – the other sense in which “sunlight” should be the watchword of our agenda. The F.D.A. should require that every packaged-food product include a second calorie count, indicating how many calories of fossil fuel went into its production. Oil is one of the most important ingredients in our food, and people ought to know just how much of it they’re eating. The government should also throw its support behind putting a second bar code on all food products that, when scanned either in the store or at home (or with a cellphone), brings up on a screen the whole story and pictures of how that product was produced: in the case of crops, images of the farm and lists of agrochemicals used in its production; in the case of meat and dairy, descriptions of the animals’ diet and drug regimen, as well as live video feeds of the CAFO where they live and, yes, the slaughterhouse where they die. The very length and complexity of the modern food chain breeds a culture of ignorance and indifference among eaters. Shortening the food chain is one way to create more conscious consumers, but deploying technology to pierce the veil is another.
Finally, there is the power of the example you set in the White House. If what’s needed is a change of culture in America’s thinking about food, then how America’s first household organizes its eating will set the national tone, focusing the light of public attention on the issue and communicating a simple set of values that can guide Americans toward sun-based foods and away from eating oil.
The choice of White House chef is always closely watched, and you would be wise to appoint a figure who is identified with the food movement and committed to cooking simply from fresh local ingredients. Besides feeding you and your family exceptionally well, such a chef would demonstrate how it is possible even in Washington to eat locally for much of the year, and that good food needn’t be fussy or complicated but does depend on good farming. You should make a point of the fact that every night you’re in town, you join your family for dinner in the Executive Residence – at a table. (Surely you remember the Reagans’ TV trays.) And you should also let it be known that the White House observes one meatless day a week – a step that, if all Americans followed suit, would be the equivalent, in carbon saved, of taking 20 million midsize sedans off the road for a year. Let the White House chef post daily menus on the Web, listing the farmers who supplied the food, as well as recipes.
Since enhancing the prestige of farming as an occupation is critical to developing the sun-based regional agriculture we need, the White House should appoint, in addition to a White House chef, a White House farmer. This new post would be charged with implementing what could turn out to be your most symbolically resonant step in building a new American food culture. And that is this: tear out five prime south-facing acres of the White House lawn and plant in their place an organic fruit and vegetable garden.
When Eleanor Roosevelt did something similar in 1943, she helped start a Victory Garden movement that ended up making a substantial contribution to feeding the nation in wartime. (Less well known is the fact that Roosevelt planted this garden over the objections of the U.S.D.A., which feared home gardening would hurt the American food industry.) By the end of the war, more than 20 million home gardens were supplying 40 percent of the produce consumed in America. The president should throw his support behind a new Victory Garden movement, this one seeking “victory” over three critical challenges we face today: high food prices, poor diets and a sedentary population. Eating from this, the shortest food chain of all, offers anyone with a patch of land a way to reduce their fossil-fuel consumption and help fight climate change. (We should offer grants to cities to build allotment gardens for people without access to land.) Just as important, Victory Gardens offer a way to enlist
Americans, in body as well as mind, in the work of feeding themselves and changing the food system – something more ennobling, surely, than merely asking them to shop a little differently.
I don’t need to tell you that ripping out even a section of the White House lawn will be controversial: Americans love their lawns, and the South Lawn is one of the most beautiful in the country. But imagine all the energy, water and petrochemicals it takes to make it that way. (Even for the purposes of this memo, the White House would not disclose its lawn-care regimen.) Yet as deeply as Americans feel about their lawns, the agrarian ideal runs deeper still, and making this particular plot of American land productive, especially if the First Family gets out there and pulls weeds now and again, will provide an image even more stirring than that of a pretty lawn: the image of stewardship of the land, of self-reliance and of making the most of local sunlight to feed one’s family and community. The fact that surplus produce from the South Lawn Victory Garden (and there will be literally tons of it) will be offered to regional food banks will make its own eloquent statement.
You’re probably thinking that growing and eating organic food in the White House carries a certain political risk. It is true you might want to plant iceberg lettuce rather than arugula, at least to start. (Or simply call arugula by its proper American name, as generations of Midwesterners have done: “rocket.”) But it should not be difficult to deflect the charge of elitism sometimes leveled at the sustainable-food movement. Reforming the food system is not inherently a right-or-left issue: for every Whole Foods shopper with roots in the counterculture you can find a family of evangelicals intent on taking control of its family dinner and diet back from the fast-food industry – the culinary equivalent of home schooling. You should support hunting as a particularly sustainable way to eat meat – meat grown without any fossil fuels whatsoever. There is also a strong libertarian component to the sun-food agenda, which seeks to free small producers from the burden of government regulation in order to stoke rural innovation. And what is a higher “family value,” after all, than making time to sit down every night to a shared meal?
Our agenda puts the interests of America’s farmers, families and communities ahead of the fast-food industry’s. For that industry and its apologists to imply that it is somehow more “populist” or egalitarian to hand our food dollars to Burger King or General Mills than to support a struggling local farmer is absurd. Yes, sun food costs more, but the reasons why it does only undercut the charge of elitism: cheap food is only cheap because of government handouts and regulatory indulgence (both of which we will end), not to mention the exploitation of workers, animals and the environment on which its putative “economies” depend. Cheap food is food dishonestly priced – it is in fact unconscionably expensive.
Your sun-food agenda promises to win support across the aisle. It builds on America’s agrarian past, but turns it toward a more sustainable, sophisticated future. It honors the work of American farmers and enlists them in three of the 21st century’s most urgent errands: to move into the post-oil era, to improve the health of the American people and to mitigate climate change. Indeed, it enlists all of us in this great cause by turning food consumers into part-time producers, reconnecting the American people with the American land and demonstrating that we need not choose between the welfare of our families and the health of the environment – that eating less oil and more sunlight will redound to the benefit of both.
Michael Pollan, a contributing writer for the magazine, is the Knight Professor of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author, most recently, of “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.”