Dear Mr. President

‘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,’ begins Michael Pollan’s letter to Mr President-Elect published in the New York Times this weekend.

While food policy has not been an important political issue since the high food prices of the Nixon administration, well-known author Pollan believes that the next president will be forced to dedicate much time to food, and to developing policy to favor a ‘sun-food’ (low oil) agriculture system which builds on America’s agrarian past, and turns it towards a more sustainable, sophisticated future.

Pollan argues that the future leader must honor American farmers’ efforts whilst encouraging them to play an active role in what he calls ‘this 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. In fact, he argues the solution is to be found by involving everybody, advocating for consumers to become part-time producers – or co-producers as Slow Food calls them – reconnecting the American people with the land.

Pollan recommends the president concentrates on three key areas:

Resolarizing the American Farm
: in weaning the American food system off its heavy reliance on fossil fuel, the transition to a solar-food economy will require policies to change how things work in all links of the food chain. For example, changing subsidies to encourage farmers to grow mixed crops and animals which greatly reduce the need for fertilizers and pesticides.

Reregionalizing the Food System: resolarization will build the infrastructure for regional food economies that can support diversified farming and reduce the amount of fossil fuel used in food transport dramatically. Decentralized food systems will also provide food which is fresher and require less processing, and increase local resilience.

Rebuilding America’s Food Culture: moving the American diet from a reliance on imported fossil fuel will require getting rid of the deeply embedded culture of fast, cheap and easy food. Making more sustainable food available does not guarantee it will be sought after or eaten and all available means must be used to promote a new culture of food that can support a sun-food agenda.

Michael Pollan 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’.

New York Times Magazine

Bess Mucke
[email protected]

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