The Science of Sustainability

Michael Pollan Says Health Insurance Interests May Be Our Best Chance In Political Food Fight

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UC Berkeley professor of journalism and hero of the "food movement", Michael Pollan, says rising health care costs may be our biggest ally in getting positive change to the agriculture industry in Washington.

In his latest article titled, "How Change Is Going to Come in the Food System", published in The Nation, Pollan argues that while a cultural revolution has taken place in American’s perception of what and why we eat, little real change has taken place at the level of policy.

“The food movement has discovered that persuading the media, and even the president, that you are right on the merits does not necessarily translate into change, not when the forces arrayed against change are so strong,” says Pollan.

However, the food movement can take a page from the fight against tobacco in recruiting a powerful ally: the insurance industry. With the passing of Obama’s Patient Protection Act and Affordable Care Act, insurance and government agencies can no longer neglect individuals with preventable, diet-related chronic diseases.

“No longer allowed to cherry-pick the patients they’re willing to cover, or to toss overboard people with chronic diseases, the insurance industry will soon find itself on the hook for the cost of the American diet too,” writes Pollan.

Until now local, grassroots movements to improve food economies haven’t been able to compete with the lobbying efforts of the largest industry in America. But “as soon as the healthcare industry begins to focus on the fact that the government is subsidizing precisely the sort of meal for which the industry (and the government) will have to pick up the long-term tab, eloquent advocates of food system reform will suddenly appear in the unlikeliest places—like the agriculture committees of Congress," writes Pollan.

Wouldn’t that be a welcome change in season.

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Category: Food, Health, Sustainable Food

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Darya Pino

About the Author ()

Darya Pino is a Ph.D trained scientist, San Francisco foodie, food and health writer and advocate of local, seasonal foods. She shares her unique scientific perspective on health and enthusiasm for delicious foods at her website Summer Tomato. Follow her on Twitter @summertomato.