Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What's the Word On Agriculture and Health, Mr. President?

With so many food issues at stake affecting our health, you would think it would be somewhere near the top of the list for our President to take more seriously the dire health care conditions in which we are situated, that are all-encompassing and have ripple effects on everything and everyone.

What's happened in the first 100 days? Sure, Michelle Obama took the initiative to install an organic garden on the White House Lawn. Then there's the well-intentioned economic stimulus package, promising the following for the environmental sector -$62.2 billion in direct spending on green initiatives and $20 billion in green tax incentives, including money for renewable energy, efficiency, improved energy transmission, smart-grid technology, low-income housing retrofits, rail transit, and green jobs training.

The administration also laid out its first budget to include an additional $15 billion in investments in energy and efficiency projects, with a clause to increase funding for rail – on top of the $8 billion for Amtrak in the stimulus. The plan was to create a “world-class passenger rail system” across the nation.

One of the most notable allocations on the budget was a cap-and-trade plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. Unfortunately, this initiative was rejected by the Senate. But those of us on the green side still hoped against hope that this action would prove just how intent the Obama administration was about making climate change issues a priority.

That's a great start, but isn't there more that can, and should be done? The answer is a resounding YES!

Food activists are accustomed to having to take a number when it comes to important issues being accounted for by the general public and government - even in the face of obesity and diabetes epidemics being at an all-time high, food safety issue after issue, questionable quality of school lunches served to children, the deficit in farming and rural populations, national and world hunger issues, and our unshakeable dependence upon petroleum and its affect on our food supply - while many viable alternatives and resources exist which continue to be untapped, unrecognized, and under-utilized.

In the last few years, we've noticed how food safety problems continue to mount as recall after recall occurs to make us even more suspicious of our food sources. In February of 2008, we watched as the media blazed with news headlines detailing the horrific ordeal of the largest meat recall in history of 143 millions pounds of meat, followed by the tomato and peanut butter recalls, and rice and wheat shortages. Then America was faced with the threat of deadly pathogens originating from the food supply, in the form of MRSA (from hogs in the Midwest), and once again, the Swine Flu which has been connected to Smithfield Farms in Vera Cruz, Mexico. This may be only the beginning if our policy makers and decision makers don't step up to the plate and put the hammer down. As these crises continue to crop up, we wonder if there is an end to in sight this insatiable, sickening lust for industrial food and the devastating, long-standing effects that result.

It is more than disappointing see repeated instances of both President Obama and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack failing to recognize agriculture issues as being intimatedly connected with the massive health care issues faced in our nation, as well as energy and environmental policies. In March after more recalls of 1500 peanut-butter containing products, the President announced the formation of a Food Safety Working Group (FSWG). "In the end, food safety is something I take seriously, not just as your president, but as a parent,” Mr. Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address. Obama promised that with the inception of this new watch dog, his administration would finally begin to deal with the many problems due to lack of accountability and responsibility in food safety. Yet, ever since then, nary has a word been spoke.

Just as our article featured on the main Agriculture Society page discusses, the President has not acknowledged that to fix food safety issues which will stick, it is imperative that the current administration address underlying food system issues that are embedded in our manufacturing, production, political, and most importantly, agricultural systems, before anything else - without neglecting our heavy reliance on petroleum and petroleum by-products (which includes thousands and thousands of toxic food items on the market that people consume).

So what's next? We need to raise our voices and let our administration and President know that we won't be silent about these issues! Please become active and help make a difference. Visit Agriculture Society to read an open letter to the President and Congress about how preventative health care is absolutely essential and must include action in the agricultural, educational, and insurance sectors.

You can also sign an important petition on the Prescription for Change web site to show your support and intent. When you go to this site, there is a form letter which you can edit; make certain to mention something in this letter about preventative health care, addressing agricultural and food safety concerns, and emphasize how just how much these factors impact the effectiveness of our total health care in the United States. This correspondence will go directly to your local representatives according to the zip code you enter.

Alternatively, you can go straight to The White House and write a letter to The President.

This post is linked in Food Renegade's Fight Back Fridays Carnival. Please check out all the other informative posts on this site.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Raine,

Thanks for sharing this post (and your yummy looking recipe) in today's carnival. Very thought-provoking.

(AKA FoodRenegade)