Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Higher Food Prices
Higher food prices could make sustainable farm products more competitive. But as long as we subsidize cheap unhealthy food it will beat sustainable food every time.

Higher food costs, they say, could push pasture-raised milk and meat past its boutique status, make organic food more accessible and spark a national conversation about why inexpensive food is not really such a bargain after all.

“It’s very hard to argue for higher food prices because you are ceding popular high ground to McDonald’s when you do that,” said Mr. Pollan, a contributor to The New York Times Magazine and author of “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto” (Penguin Press). “But higher food prices level the playing field for sustainable food that doesn’t rely on fossil fuels.”

The food-should-cost-more cadre wants to change an agricultural system that spends billions of dollars in government subsidies to grow commodities like grain, sugar, corn and animal protein as cheaply as possible.

The current system, they argue, is almost completely reliant on petroleum for fertilizers and global transportation. It has led to consolidations of farms, environmentally unsound monoculture and, at the end of the line, a surplus of inexpensive food with questionable nutritional value. Organic products are not subsidized, which is one reason those products are more expensive.

As a result, the theory goes, small farmers can’t make a living, obesity and diabetes are worsening, workers are being exploited and soil and waterways are being damaged. In other words, the true cost of a hamburger or a box of macaroni and cheese may be a lot more than the price.

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