Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, discusses a long-term view of food, food systems, and deep agriculture.
If you want to get an in-depth overview of the many problems facing the American food system, simply watch the above video in its entirety. Michael Pollan has a knack for taking the complex, big-picture problems facing the entire food system and explaining them in simple, relatable bite-sized pieces.A Food System That Cannot be Sustained
This is likely why Pollan’s books In Defense of Food and The Omnivore's Dilemma are quickly becoming true classics of the food world.
It all boils down to this: It is very challenging to have a healthy population without a healthy diet, and you cannot have a healthy diet without a healthy agriculture system.
Unfortunately, as it stands the U.S. food system, including its agriculture and food processing, is chronically ill, using more fossil fuel and contributing more greenhouse gasses to the environment than any other industry -- and leaving the people it feeds struggling with health problems of epidemic proportions.
Many years ago before industry took over agriculture, it took 1 calorie of fossil fuel energy to produce 2 calories of food energy.You Can Make a Difference!
One of the many astounding facts that Pollan revealed in the video is that it now takes 10 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce 1 calorie of food. And for certain foods, like the feedlot beef used at most fast food restaurants, it can take 55 fossil fuel calories to produce 1 calorie of food!
This clearly is unsustainable.
So all of the “advances” that modern agriculture has given us have essentially created a food system that is dependent on fossil fuels, and fossil fuels are not sustainable. So as Pollan says, we’re actually eating oil without even realizing it. The solution he suggests is to wean the system off of fossil fuels and put it back onto a diet of sunshine; an element that is always available and entirely sustainable.
There are other problems, too, such as genetic modification and monoculture, or growing very large fields of the same crop. The U.S. government has encouraged this system by subsidizing only certain crops like corn, wheat, rice and soy, while making it much less desirable for farmers to grow vegetables like broccoli or Swiss chard.
While monoculture is incredibly efficient and excellent for increasing production, it also depletes the soil and is extremely vulnerable to pests. The only way that monoculture can be successful, in fact, is with the application of large amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
The end result is cheap calories, and lots of them, but largely in the form of corn and soy, and loaded with chemical residues. This, in turn, is fueling a growing number of health epidemics, from obesity and type 2 diabetes to cancer and heart disease.
Quite simply, producing food on a massive scale at the lowest price possible has taken precedence over obeying natural laws.
As Pollan also explains, our food policy reaches VERY deep into our everyday lives -- from the rise of diabetes all the way to our national security. Unless the food policy is addressed and corrected, little progress will be made to improve the current health care crisis, increase our energy independence, and reduce the negative impact on our environment and climate.
It is ALL connected and at the root of the problem lies the broken U.S. food system.
Hearing Pollan speak, you may feel there is little you can do to influence major policy changes in the food world. In reality, you are the ONLY ones who can!
Industrial agriculture lobbyists do wield incredible power in Congress; however they cannot dictate which food you choose to buy for your family. So please do your health a favor and support the small family farms in your area. You’ll receive nutritious food from a source you can trust, and you’ll be supporting the honest work of a real family farm.
You’ll also be voting with your pocketbook and saying you prefer pure, locally grown food from a farm that respects the laws of nature and grows a diverse array of crops.
Now that summer is almost here in the United States, fresh produce and other foods are available in abundance. Not only is the food so much tastier and healthier, but there is something about shopping for fresh foods in an open-air, social environment that just feels right. An artificially lit, dreary supermarket just can’t compete.
So please make a point to visit your local farmer’s markets and take part in community-supported agriculture programs. Here are some great resources to do just that -- to obtain wholesome food that supports not only you but also the environment:
1. Alternative Farming Systems Information Center, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
2. Farmers' Markets -- A national listing of farmers' markets.
3. Local Harvest -- This Web site will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
4. Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals -- The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
5. Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) -- CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
6. FoodRoutes -- The FoodRoutes “Find Good Food” map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSA's, and markets near you.