2006-10-06

Michael Pollan Interview

[Updated 23:35 EDT: Added title and link to Smithsonian article. Minor edits.]

No, unfortunately, I am not the interviewer. Michael Pollan is the author of two books which have been nominated for the Garden Bloggers Virtual Book Club: The Botany of Desire, and The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, published in April of this year. While on vacation this week, I read his article, "What's Eating America," in the July issue of The Smithsonian Magazine on the issue of America's dependence on corn: it's not a good thing.

He also raises these issues, and others, in the interview in The Independent:
... [industrial agriculture] depends on cheap energy to such an extent that when energy prices go up and stay up, it will make it easier for organic to compete because organic fertilizer will be cheaper--and also make it easier for local food to compete. At Whole Foods in New York City, they were selling grass-fed beef from New Zealand at a lower price than the local upstate New York grass-fed being sold across the street without a middleman. What allows that to happen is cheap energy; cheap energy allows us to fly meat round the world. So in a sense there was something positive for the food industry in high prices (or for the reform of the food industry). But [oil prices] are not down to stay ... but I think sooner or later cheap energy will be over. And I hope that will be a boon to local agriculture.
It just makes me want to read Omnivore's Dilemma even more. Living in New York City, very little of the food available to us is locally grown. You have to go out of your way - say, a Greenmarket - to support local growers. Even then, they're likely to be coming from more than 50 miles away. There's just not enough commercially viable farmland left closer to New York City, and it gets worse every year.

This increasingly becomes a national problem: as the percentage of the population living in urban areas continues to increase, we become more dependent on transporting our food longer distances. Fuel prices continue to increase, which means the cost of transporting food increases. If there was a fuel or other transportation crisis, we would see higher food prices, food shortages ... famine? How much of this could be reduced, or averted, by gardeners growing food at home. As fuel prices increase, the need for 21st Century Victory Gardens increases as well.

Thanks to Coturnix for bringing this to my attention.

1 comment:

Carol said...

Very interesting... I read another article (can't recall where) that one of the causes of the recent spinach E.coli problem might be related to shipping. It is critical to keep the spinach below a certain temperature to keep it safe for eating... certainly a challenge as food travels from coast to coast and even around the world to get to the consumer.