The U.N. declares October 16 World Food Day annually, so the chattering classes are talking about how to feed a growing world population. Are they discussing employing science-based agricultural techniques that reputable authorities find safe, like biotechnology? Of course they aren’t, because when America’s elites discuss “feeding the world,” they don’t turn to the heirs of the late Nobel Prize-winning agronomist Norman Borlaug — a man who is credited with saving over one billion people from starvation — but rather unicorn-and-fairy-dust food snobs.
So it fell to Mark Bittman of The New York Times to explain how the world might be fed using the earthy and charming techniques of the Middle Ages. This time, Bittman cited an anti-corporate ax-grinding activist who basically believes that everyone should be a subsistence farmer to suggest that everybody just farm like peasants. (Really, he used the word “peasant.”) If you don’t want to be a peasant, tough beans.
His kind, the wealthy lords and landed gentry, could eat wild game and pasture-grazed animals occasionally, but the middle and working classes would be back on the all-porridge-all-the-time diet. Bittman isn’t the first food activist to demand that we go back to eating like peasants (CSPI’s Michael Jacobson has been on this kick for over two decades), but he may be the loudest.
And now Bittman has found another reason to call for America’s peasantry to eat in accordance with his perception of their “place.” A California chicken producer, Foster Farms, is currently facing a Salmonella scare that has sickened over 250 people. In response, the company met with the US Department of Agriculture and implemented emergency procedures to determine what went wrong and how a future problem might be avoided. (Nobody wants unsafe food, especially the people who put their reputations and business on the line by selling it.)
Bittman sees the situation differently, choosing instead to suggest people shouldn’t eat any chicken, and scolds the USDA. Bittman strongly insinuates that the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration (which regulates animal drugs) don’t have food safety plans. That is absolute bunk: The USDA mandates that producers develop and follow a system of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) to reduce the risk of transmitting foodborne illnesses. If an illness occurs, HACCP analyses can provide guidance on where new controls can be added—exactly what Foster Farms and the USDA have done in response to this outbreak.
His whole rant on the issue lies in his biased assumption that all corporations (except COSTCO, the darling of the left) are bad and that the USDA would rather kowtow to the ag community than keep consumers safe. Any recent food safety scares regarding organic produce have unsurprisingly not prompted the same reaction from Bittman.
Bittman would rather see a Congresswoman’s speculation that Salmonella bacteria have become more resistant to heat over a USDA administrator’s science-based rulemaking. No wonder Bittman wants to go back to the Dark Ages: Science shows he’s wrong. So the real question is, should anyone read Mark Bittman?