Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Abolish the Food Industry(?)

Back in February, Raj Patel wrote an article for Atlantic Magazine titled Abolish The Food Industry. Provocative title. Provocative article. And it was based on an article in Nature called The Toxic Truth About Sugar that made the argument for legislation around sugar consumption. Again, very provocative--sepecially in this coprorate world of ours. Patel's article isn't very long, and Atlantic Magazine has seen fit to release it online. I wish the same could be said of Nature, who are asking ~$25 to view the Toxic Truth article. I'll leave Cory Doctorow to explain why this is just stupid.
Raj Patel photo via Jan Sturmann and Wikipedia

But CBC's Jian Ghomeshi interviewed Patel on his article and that interview is available online and is quite worth listening to. Patel makes it clear that he's not actually planning the abolition of industrial food--at least not yet. But he is making the point that democratic discussion is so stunted that we scarcely even recognize the possibility exists. As the judge pointed out in the San Francisco "no smokes in pharmacies" judgement; while advertising is a form of free speech, "selling cigarettes isn't."
Anyway, to get you started, an excerpt from Raj Patel's article:
The analogy of tobacco with food isn't perfect, clearly. People who eat Twinkies often want to eat Twinkies, and we all need to eat. But it's increasingly common to see the medical literature push forward an understanding of sugar addiction and it's also true that our food choices are far from free, in no small part because of the commercial and cultural power of the food industry. Weaned as most of us are on Big Food's free speech, we ought to be suspicious of our instincts when it comes to food.
This week's Nature article doesn't argue for the abolition of Big Food, but indicts the industry nonetheless: "Sugar is cheap, sugar tastes good, and sugar sells, so companies have little incentive to change." Limiting the power of these corporations to sell their products -- just as we limit alcohol and tobacco companies -- ought to be widely agreed, and the battle among health professionals in the years to come will see the transformation of this proposition into an axiom.
The food industry tastes its own blood in the water, and is responding aggressively to the nicks and cuts from public health professionals. It's unwise to underestimate the chutzpah of an industry that spread trans fats across the Western diet in the 20th century, and made a marketing pitch of their removal in the 21st. So the industry has adopted a strategy that counters a pound of sugar with an ounce of nutrition.

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