Friday, September 11, 2009

Cross Pollanation

Let's say that you were on a strict allowance. Instead of getting a certain amount per week, however, you get a daily allowance.

Let's say you are allowed $100 a day, every day. Now if you spend less than that, you will have saved money, but you will go into debt if you spend more. This means that you owe someone money. You must now underspend by that amount over a certain period of time to pay that debt.

This is how the relationship we have with calories works. Food and drink is the delivery method for those calories. In that scenario, imagine that you start overspending by a lot... what do you do? Do you ban quarters because they account for 25% of every dollar? Do you ban pennies because they are so ubiquitous that they must be to blame for the debt you face? No. Those solutions would be ridiculous.

Why then, do we do this with food? If someone consistently over-consumes by 500 calories a day, is a ban or tax on pop the solution? Isn't the problem, too many calories? This issue ties in with what the conservatives call, personal responsibility. Food Hysterics like journalist, Michael Pollan seem concerned with what is being done to the American people. People like him think that old white men in suits are conspiring to get us to eat more. He recently wrote an Op-Ed for the New York Times linking health care reform with the food industry. I linked the title of this blog to that article and will be referencing it throughout this post.

"That’s why our success in bringing health care costs under control ultimately depends on whether Washington can summon the political will to take on and reform a second, even more powerful industry: the food industry."

Exercise and eating the proper number of calories will bring health costs down, not stopping the food industry from making food. How can the food industry stop people from overeating? Has anyone thought about how insane this sounds? Here is some more conspiracy talk...

"There’s lots of money to be made selling fast food and then treating the diseases that fast food causes. One of the leading products of the American food industry has become patients for the American health care industry."

Fast food causes disease? I can only assume he can be referring to type 2 diabetes and heart disease linked, in part, to high cholesterol. Fat. However, he doesn't qualify that statement by associating any amount to the fast food. The way he makes the statement, it's as if any fast food will lead to disease. He is a professor of journalism, so perhaps it isn't a mistake that he wrote it this way. Perhaps he wants people to stop eating anything he calls fast food and has twisted the science on this until it becomes a lie. Fast food does not cause disease, too many calories and calories from fat, and cholesterol can lead to some diseases. He does more calculus with the english language here...

"Not all of these diseases are linked to diet — there’s smoking, for instance — but many, if not most, of them are."

He places in your mind the notion that all diseases not linked to smoking are linked to diet. Of course, he only lists smoking as a 'for instance', but the way he structures his sentence starts off by conceding a little, then placing only one non-diet related disease, then going from many to most. All the reader is left with is disease = diet, except for smoking. I don't think I'm being hard on Michael Pollan, and I don't think he wrote in this way as an accident. Keep in mind that he teaches writing for a living.

"To put it more bluntly, the government is putting itself in the uncomfortable position of subsidizing both the costs of treating Type 2 diabetes and the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup."

This is the old HFCS myth, a favorite of foodies, Whole Foods Liberals, Food Hysterics, etc, etc, etc. Whatever you want to call them. They blame HFCS for obesity as well as diabetes. One study in 2007 hypothesized that pop with HFCS contained more potentially reactive carbonyls than simple sugar did. This study has been challenged, however, and you never close the case on an issue with one study.

"AGRIBUSINESS dominates the agriculture committees of Congress, and has swatted away most efforts at reform."

Of course agribusiness is going to be active in the Agriculture committees. This was, quite possibly, the dumbest sentence I have ever read. The ag talk continues...

"But what happens when the health insurance industry realizes that our system of farm subsidies makes junk food cheap, and fresh produce dear, and thus contributes to obesity and Type 2 diabetes?"

What a huge leap in logic...right off the intellectual cliff. Farm subsidies prop up the prices of things like corn and soybeans, which make them more expensive to the food industry. Does Pollan think that the food industry is included in the farm bill?

"...and in time the industry would come to see that the development of regional food systems, which make fresh produce more available and reduce dependence on heavily processed food..."

Perhaps the most important sentence, because it reveals where all of these food hysteric mantras are coming from. Ready?

Misinformation, panic, and ignorance breed more of the same. Good people are misled into thinking we have this huge problem and start investing much time and resources into solving it. The problem is that their solutions are based on myth and non-problems and non-science. They can't turn off what they've started, because what they've started has become it's own institution. Now there are people getting paid based on these assumptions.

I'll list some ideas and how they all come together.
Local food.
Minimally processed.

The only thing I listed that has any sense to it is the idea of sourcing foodstuffs locally. This will cut pollution associated with transporting food across the country. Aside from that, the Hysterics claim that locally grown is healthier, the same claim made for organic. Both of these things generally involve small scale operations. Hmm, watch a pattern emerge, here. Minimally processed or food that hasn't been processed at some factory because it has to be bad, right? Vegetarian, because cows have feelings too, and meat has to be bad because the big corporate giant processes the meat and owns the farms... right? Just say no to GMO's, because the big businesses develop those so they can make big money and we'll probably grow an extra eyeball.....right? Hello? Don't you get it?

It all starts to revolve around this idea of a huge evil corporations. If a report came out tomorrow about how organic food contains high traces of fecal material and e. coli, would these Food Hysterics be up in arms? I guess it depends on the size of the company growing the organic food.

Michael Pollan and those like him are all victims of a vicious cycle that starts with misinformation and a hatred of corporations, and ends with a need to justify their existence. In that justification, they mislead others and their numbers grow. The public sees this as a consensus of public opinion and starts to ignore facts. Facts are important. Facts, as it turns out, are not democratic. I don't care if 5.5 billion people feel the way Michael Pollan does, if the facts are not on his side, he is still wrong. In the meantime, the web grows and the Food Hysterics Cross Pollanate with one another.

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