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August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Jay H § Matching cuts / 2014-10-02 02:41:13

The Politics of Food

We all know I’m a giant fan of Michael Pollan, and his recent NYT Magazine piece is no exception, containing a bevy of ideas for how the next President can transform U.S. food policy. But it seems to me his locavore-cheerleading and attacks on factory-farm monoculture are in direct conflict with the claims Paul Collier makes in this month’s Foreign Affairs.

Two parts of Collier’s thesis – that we should promote factory farms in developing countries and work to overcome Third-World opposition to GM foods – seem to run counter to Pollan’s ideas. (They agree on a third argument – that US farm subsidies are wack.) Re-reading Pollan’s article after reading Collier’s, I’m struck by how quickly Pollan glosses over the effects of his policy recommendations in the developing world. (A characteristic line: “To grow sufficient amounts of food using sunlight will require more people growing food

November 3, 2008 / Uncategorized

One comment

Well, here’s the rub: in industrialized countries like the US, we’re actually farming like we’re trying to cram every calorie we can at a minimal cost (which in many cases is what developing countries need). But that’s the wrong move for us. And if we subsidize it further by dumping our cheap calories on developing countries rather than helping them to develop any kind of stable agriculture at all, then we’re combining two wrongs to make a enviropolitical disaster.

Pollan at times seems to be advocating for something like agricultural nationalism, where each country (or each region) grows as much healthy food as possible for their own consumption instead of importing and exporting food across great distances. (This is where “nationalism” breaks down, as it’s clearly a function of absolute distance rather than arbitrary borders.)

It seems clear to me that turning the Southern part of the globe into the world’s breadbasket ultimately doesn’t do anyone in either hemisphere any good. It seems like we need some Jeffrey Sachs sense of a differential diagnosis here.

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