Lusk (Agricultural Economics/Oklahoma State Univ.) argues against the zeitgeist of buying organic and local and avoiding processed foods.
The author positions “farmers who want to work, and consumers who want to eat, as they please” against “self-proclaimed saviors of the food system, who want to make decisions for us.” Who are these food elites? Chief among them, writes Lusk, are Michael Pollan and New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman, who advocates for organic, locally grown food. In general, the “food police” are a shadowy group who want more government control over our food decisions. The author argues that so-called “fat taxes” are designed to bring in revenues to grow the size of government, and pesticides and genetically modified foods are not as harmful to our health or the environment as the food police would have us believe. Lusk, who has published papers on food economics and consulted with agribusinesses and the government, makes his most salient points on the economic consequences of growing organically, buying locally and increasing food regulations. While he agrees that “using fewer pesticides, eating more veggies, or supporting a local farmer can all be good things in their own right,” he cites “tough trade-offs”—e.g., foods are more expensive and less accessible to a large portion of the population. Buying local limits diversity in our diets while modern transportation methods bring a wide range of fruits and vegetables from other areas to market at a low cost, and the high yields of large-scale farming benefit a hungry world.
Whether or not readers agree with Lusk’s views on agriculture and the politics of food production, he will make you think about your food choices.