As the author of the Food First backgrounder, “The Great Food Blackout of 2016,” I find it important to respond to Dan Mitchell’s recent critique positioning food and agriculture issues as a less important sideshow to the debacle that is Trump’s campaign as a whole. (Cook’s backgrounder can be found here.)
First, per the headline, it’s important to note that our analysis has little if anything to do with Trump, who has said little if anything about food and agriculture issues.
Mitchell’s critique unfortunately embodies precisely the problems we raise—media and campaign fixation on a handful of hot-button issues in an election cycle driven largely by media coverage of just about anything Trump says. Of course Trump’s incendiary, dangerous remarks and ideas threaten a great many things, and deserve response and opposition. However, let’s remember that nearly 20 million Americans are regularly suffering food insecurity and hunger, at the hands of a corporate-driven food system that exploits and impoverishes workers and farmers while threatening the future of the planet.
That same system of industrial agriculture represents the single largest generator of climate-harming greenhouse gases. This is no side issue, this is a global and human crisis routinely getting short shrift from media and politicians. As our article details, neither of America’s leading political parties offer meaningful solutions to these crises. Let’s remember, we’re talking about human sustenance, the very basis of human survival.
This same system creates one farm closure every half an hour in America, while maiming tens of thousands of food and farmworkers, and polluting soil, air, and water with hundreds of millions of tons of pesticides each year. These fundamental issues of worker exploitation, farmer survival, mass hunger, and ecological destruction must be elevated to the center of our political discourse and debates. We understand there are other hugely important, urgent matters, many of which stem from precisely the same dynamics of corporate power and exploitation as the food and agriculture issues we highlight.
Let’s not let Trump, or any other dangerously ignorant and arrogant politician define and narrow the field of conversation. Instead, let’s keep pushing for these crucial issues of human survival to become a staple of debate, media attention, and campaigns.
Christopher D. Cook is an award-winning journalist and author of the acclaimed book, Diet for a Dead Planet: Big Business and the Coming Food Crisis. His writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Harper’s, The Atlantic, The Economist, Mother Jones, The Christian Science Monitor, The Nation, The Progressive, and elsewhere. Find his work at www.christopherdcook.com.