On the day after Barack Obama’s inauguration, we remarked that the President has done a service to American consumers by hesitating to base his food policies on the personal preferences of a few foodie ideologues. While food writer Michael Pollan, “locavore” chef Alice Waters, and others should be free to promote their gourmet lifestyle choices, President Obama is right to stop short of handing them the White House as a platform. Today, on the opinion page of The Chicago Tribune, we explain why:
Since a few loosely organized connoisseurs have shifted their focus from the point of sale to the presidency, the boundary between personal food choices and government policymaking is gradually disappearing. In the process, once-serious debates about the future of American food and farm policy have been replaced by a bizarre mix of misguided activism, food snobbery and celebrity gossip.
The rumor mill that emerged over the Obamas' pick for White House executive chef is a perfect example. Over the holidays, activist chef Alice Waters published an open letter asking him to choose someone who would "set the tone for how our nation should feed itself." …
According to Waters and her sprouting acolytes, growing heirloom radishes on the White House lawn will help address issues as diverse as obesity, teen diabetes and global warming. But experience and common sense suggest that solving these problems will require far more than a presidential seal on a Berkeley, Calif., ideology. ..
President Obama's hesitation to appease foodie activists suggests that he realizes something many Americans still don't: Organic is a wishful agricultural philosophy, not a health issue. (You'll even find organic snack bars on the current peanut-recall list.)
As Obama's own agriculture adviser Marshall Matz and former Sen. George McGovern wrote recently in the Chicago Tribune, "We need to get beyond ideology and depend more on science" in our food policy.