Jill Richardson's blog
White House Garden Won't Make Up for Obama's Nomination of Pesticide Lobbyist for US Chief Agriculture Negotiator
(This article orginally appeared at Alternet.org)
Barack Obama came to power by calling for a change in politics as usual, but he's not delivering on that promise. While his rhetoric is a breath of fresh air compared to the inflammatory and often dishonest statements of politicians past, his actions don't live up to his promise of change. In classic politician form, Obama has placated advocates of sustainable agriculture by planting an organic garden and appointing Kathleen Merrigan to the number two spot at the USDA while simultaneously pursuing a rather unsustainable agenda. Obama's own statements about food and agriculture trend moderate to progressive, but his nominations for top positions in his administration tell a different story.
Last month, the world lost a Nobel laureate. In the many tributes following his death, Norman Borlaug was credited with saving more lives than any man in history. Borlaug’s legacy was the Green Revolution – bringing industrial agriculture to Mexico, India, and Pakistan. Pesticides, ammonia fertilizer, irrigation, and hybrid seeds resulted in a predictable outcome: lush green fields full of high-yielding crops. At last, mankind had the tools at its fingertips to overcome hunger.
And yet, hunger has not been banished from the developing world, or even the developed world. Four decades after the Green Revolution the world produces enough food to feed everybody, and yet an estimated billion people are hungry. In his last year, Borlaug joined policy makers in calling for a “Second Green Revolution.” While a global effort to stamp out hunger is needed, a repeat of the first Green Revolution is a bad idea.
The unsustainable technologies that produced the first Green Revolution are just that – unsustainable.
(This article also appeared at Commondreams.org)
We must address our food system if we want to reduce the increasing costs of health care. The health care reform debate can be divided into two major issues: increasing access and decreasing costs. On one hand, no reform is complete until we find a way to provide all Americans with adequate insurance coverage. But even after we insure all Americans, we must deal with rising medical costs that result from preventable illnesses.
The easy way to refer to health problems related to food is by pointing a finger at the obesity epidemic. Obesity directly bears the blame for 9% of all health care costs in the U.S. and the health care costs for the obese are rising faster than the costs of non-obese patients. However, blaming obesity is oversimplifying the problem: chronic, lifestyle-related illness can strike people of all sizes, fat or thin.
It seems fitting that the same week we celebrate the independence of our Nation, the House passed historic climate change legislation. In theory, this bill should bring us closer to the goals of oil independence and freedom from the disastrous future of a warming, melting planet. If America is to prosper in the 21st century, then we must take immediate action to reduce our role in causing the climate crisis. And yet, the bill left those of us who care about our shared environment shaking our heads. Is the Waxman-Markey bill is even slightly better for the planet than the status quo, or will it pave the way to increased, legalized pollution? Perhaps the most tragic part of the bill was the compromise with agribusiness interests that was required to secure its passage through the Agriculture committee.