Food and Public Policy
at the Table
policy impacts food quality, availability and price in a number of direct
and less direct ways. In general, subsidies for farmers can give them a
boost while keeping food prices in a comfortable range for consumers.
Depending on the details, though, the effect can be positive or negative.
bills in the US have handed huge sums to agribusiness owners, some of whom
never touched a tractor, while smaller operations still struggled.
Subsidies for chemical fertilizers and pesticides mean that organic
farmers are excluded, thus raising the market price of naturally grown
food and decreasing its competitiveness. Proposals for electronic tagging
of cattle, ostensibly a food safety measure to track and limit the spread
of disease, may prove too expensive for small farmers to carry out. The
crops selected for subsidy, for instance corn or sugar, can materially
affect their market price and contribute to unhealthy, though economical,
food choices by consumers.
and in particular corn-ethanol, are another area of contention. Though
initially seen as a promising alternative to fossil fuels, it turns out
that fossil fuels used to produce ethanol maintain a high CO2 footprint,
while land is diverted from food to fuel production. Though use of other
crops or agricultural waste as a fuel source seem a better choice, current
subsidies weigh in favor of ethanol.
trade and farm policy cross national borders, further side effects occur.
For instance, NAFTA opened borders to increased food trade without labor,
food safety and environmental protections. Cheaper, but not always safer,
fruits and vegetables entered the US from Mexico. At the same time, corn
subsidies in the US undercut Mexican corn prices, and thousands of maize
farmers in Oaxaca state were unable to make a living. Many emigrated to
the US, seeking jobs and further fueling anti-immigrant sentiment.
laws that regulate fisheries can prevent or exacerbate over-fishing of
food species. On the environmental front, fishing practices can further
threaten endangered species, such as sea turtles caught in purse sein and
long-line operations. In recent years, wildlife activists have begun
pushing for international standards of fishing practice.
the root of many food issues is one common denominator: a population that
is too big for the planetís resources and that is growing too fast
compared to the rate viable, planet-friendly technologies are emerging.
do you control over-populaton? War and starvation do it efficiently, but a
more positive step is empowering women. Giving women education and
political rights encourages them to enter the workforce and delay
childbearing, make choices about forms of birth control that fit their
culture, and insist that policies support, but are not limited to,
traditional families. Recognition of housework and subsistence farming as
a form of work from which legal and economic rights are derived also
increases womenís impact on population choices. Suffrage, education,
labor and tax law, and family welfare programs all affect population
all of these ways, and more, government policy impacts the availability of
safe, healthy, affordable food for all.
- Defenders of Wildlife
- research and promotion of sustainable farming practices.
Provenance - country
of origin labeling info, Care2