One of the main debate in food policy in the last ten years has revolved around what we should eat. Jason Lusk, Professor of Agricultural Economics at Oklahoma State University describes the campaigners, food critics and celebrity chefs who advocate for state support for organic, locally sourced, non GMO food as the “Food Police”. At the heart of his argument in his book is that science and technology should be embraced to improve productivity in food production as it has led to great benefits for the world’s poor in more nutritional and cheaper food. He argue that if foodies want to pay more for higher cost organic food that is fine, but the poor should not be forced to pay for it through their taxes, farm subsidies or mandated school lunch programmes. Here are some excerpts:
On behavorial economics:
“Behavioral economics shows that people are…well, human…(it) suggests we are irrational and biased; that on some level, we are incapable of making coherent choices that serve our best interest. If we cannot act in our own best interest, then the food police believe they can step in and make our lives better”
On the “Food Police”:
“The paradox of the food police is that they have turned food into a status-seeking game while simultaneously asking why the poor don’t have enough nutritious food to eat. Its like the rich kids at school honestly wondering why everyone isn’t wearing the most fashionable jeans”
His chapter on “Locavores” demolishes each of the pro-local food campaigners’ arguments, namely, that local foods are good for the economy, the environment, are a more secure source of supply, they taste better, are healthier, and especially good for kids. He quotes Charles Mann from the New York Times:
“If your concern is to produce the maximum amount of food possible for the lowest cost, which is a serious concern around the world for people who aren’t middle-class foodies like me, (local food) seems like a crazy luxury. It doesn’t make sense for my asethetic preference to be elevated to a moral imperative. “
Note: here is a piece that I wrote on reducing carbon emissions in the food supply chain and why food miles policies are a bad idea. And an ITC review of the policy options around buying local.