What are the biggest food policy debates?

Friday, May 6, 2016

 

This week, Grist offered its opinion about the biggest debates in food policy. But many of the biggest kitchen-table issues weren’t on the list, including climate change, farm pollution, food safety, animal welfare, and the fate of food and farm workers.

Here’s our take on what the biggest debates should be:

  1. How do we reduce hunger? The biggest food issue in America is that too many Americans, especially children, still worry about where their next meal is coming from. So why are some members of Congress proposing to cut, rather than expand, anti-hunger programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program? Why are some legislators fighting efforts to expand school breakfast and summer meals? How do we ensure that food and farm policies don’t increase food prices?
  1. How do we dramatically cut farm pollution? Farming is the biggest source of water pollution in America and farm pesticides have been linked to serious health problems. But, farmers are largely exempt from federal environmental laws. Pesticide rules are too weak to protect farmers and farm workers – and the rest of us. How can we both use rules and rewards to cut farm pollution? How can we encourage more farmers to switch to organic?
  1. How do we promote healthy diets? Our diets are driving up health care costs and reducing our quality of life. How do we provide incentives to promote healthier diets? How do we align our farm subsidies to promote healthy eating? How do we make healthy food accessible to everyone?
  1. How does food production address climate change? Agriculture is also a major source of the pollution causing climate change. Farmers have the most to lose from extreme weather, but many are fighting climate science and climate rules – even though they are largely exempt.  Why are farm groups among the most vocal opponents of climate action?
  1. Why are food chemicals unregulated? The vast majority of the chemicals added to our food have never been reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration and some have been linked to serious health problems.  Why are food companies allowed to vouch for the safety of food chemicals? Why are they allowed to keep their studies secret?
  1. How do we support family farmers? Farm household income is expected to grow. But some family farmers will face new challenges as prices for some crops fall to historic levels. Why do the lion’s share of subsidies flow to the largest and most successful farm businesses? Why are farm groups fighting to keep their subsidies secret?
  1. How do we protect farm and food workers? Food and farm workers have some of the nation’s most dangerous jobs and don’t get paid a living wage. How do we make sure these workers receive the same protections and rewards as the rest of us? How do we make sure farmers can earn a fair price for their products?
  1. How do we raise farm animals humanely? How do we raise, transport and slaughter farm animals in ways that are consistent with our values and that protect public health and environment? Why do we rely on private companies to “regulate” livestock operators? Why are livestock operators exempt from most environmental and animal welfare laws?
  1. How do we ensure that food labels serve consumers? More consumers are using their food dollars to reflect their values. Labels on genetically modified foods are a good start, but how do we provide consumers more basic information about their food and block misleading and confusing food claims? How do we increase transparency throughout food and farming?
  1.  How do we reduce the risk of food-borne illness? Too many Americans die from food-borne illness. New food safety standards, especially for produce, will help. But how else can we ensure that our food stays safe at a time when more and more food will be produced overseas?

 

 

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