The Year of Food

Was 2006 the year food went political?

“This is the year everyone discovered that food is about politics and people can do something about it,” [said Marion Nestle]. “In a world in which people feel more and more distant from global forces that control their lives, they can do something by, as the British put it, ‘voting with your trolley,’ their word for shopping cart.”

This year saw food safety issues come to public prominence with more contamination instances than I can even recall.

Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma hit best-seller lists, and Fast Food Nation was made into a film. New York City banned trans-fats. Chicago banned foie gras, and Whole Foods Market stopped selling live lobsters (both citing animal welfare concerns).

Heated debates continued over the standards behind the “organic” label, and most recently over FDA’s decision that meat and milk from cloned animals is safe for human consumption.

In Iowa (the heart of America’s Bread Basket), sustainable agriculture and local food advocate Denise O’Brien raised a record amount of money in her bid to become Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. She lost very narrowly, and only after big agribusiness dropped tens of thousands into the race in the waning days.

Look for the rise of food politics to continue in 2007. There is a new farm bill on the horizon, and Democrats are in control of the House and Senate. Expect much debate, and even more money to fuel that debate.

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