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On Monday beach babe in fl wrote a diary which pretty much summed up our collective sorrow concerning the end of the 13 year run of Mark Bittman's wonderful food column "The Minimalist".  But what seemed a loss of great recipes for fine meals has transformed into the addition of another sorely needed voice for sanity not only in promoting a healthy diet, but also for social justice through what and how we eat.

In his entry in today's NYT online commentary "The Opinionator", Bittman lays out his "Food Manifesto for the Future".  It's an amazing summation of how better food policy can not only improve public health but also address some of the greater problems we face today such as global warming.

Bittman starts out with the observation that our diet is unhealthful and unsafe-

Many food production workers labor in difficult, even deplorable, conditions, and animals are produced as if they were widgets. It would be hard to devise a more wasteful, damaging, unsustainable system.

He goes onto suggest real changes in govermental policy to correct this-

End government subsidies to processed food. We grow more corn for livestock and cars than for humans, and it’s subsidized by more than $3 billion annually; most of it is processed beyond recognition.

He notes that total agricultural subsidies in 2009 were over 16 billion dollars.  He notes that we could use those funds, and additional monies from taxing the marketing and sale of unhealthful foods to-

Begin subsidies to those who produce and sell actual food for direct consumption. Small farmers and their employees need to make living wages. Markets — from super- to farmers’ — should be supported when they open in so-called food deserts and when they focus on real food rather than junk food. And, of course, we should immediately increase subsidies for school lunches so we can feed our youth more real food.

Bittman encourages the dissolution of the USDA, which he sees as an agency that is torn between the contradictory missions of promoting agribusiness and providing nutrition information.  He advocates empowering the FDA to enforce food safety.  Bittman further expands on the notion of truth in labeling with the pointed example of 'Vitamin Water' as more properly labeled 'Sugar Water with Vitamins'.

Here's another Bittman gem-

Outlaw concentrated animal feeding operations and encourage the development of sustainable animal husbandry. The concentrated system degrades the environment, directly and indirectly, while torturing animals and producing tainted meat, poultry, eggs, and, more recently, fish.

This speaks to the essential notion of food sustainability.  And he addresses public health in recognizing that chronic diseases, like diabetes and cancer, which often arise from our diets and kill more of us than communicable ones, can be prevented with largely plant-based diets.

Bittman acknowledges that his manifesto may strike some as 'nanny-state paternalism' but counters with this notion-

If you support seat-belt, tobacco and alcohol laws, sewer systems and traffic lights, you should support legislation curbing the relentless marketing of soda and other foods that are hazardous to our health — including the sacred cheeseburger and fries.

Because if anything is a sacred cow in our culture, it's a cheeseburger and fries.

Update: Here's that link-

Originally posted to martinjedlicka on Wed Feb 02, 2011 at 10:38 PM PST.

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