8 Steps Obama Could Take to Save Our Food System

The landscape of health has changed. No longer are our families
guaranteed a healthy livelihood, not in the face of the current rates
of cancer, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer's and allergies. In the words of Elizabeth Warren,
Harvard University law professor who is head of the Congressional
Oversight Panel, "We need a new model," and we need a new food system.
It's our health on the line.

8 Steps Obama Could Take to Save Food:

1. Evenly distribute government moneys to all farmers. The current system allocates the lion share of our tax dollars (approximately $60 billion)
to farmers growing crops whose seeds have been engineered to produce
their own insecticides and tolerate increasing doses of weed killing
herbicides. As a result, these crops, with a large chemical footprint,
are cheaper to produce, while farmers growing organic produce are
charged fees to prove that their crops are safe and then charged
additional fees to label these crops as free of synthetic chemicals and
"organic". If organic farmers received an equal distribution of
taxpayer funded handouts from the government,
the cost of producing crops free from synthetic chemicals would be
cheaper, making these crops more affordable to more people, in turn
increasing demand for these products which would further drive down
costs. If we were to reallocate our national budget and evenly
distribute our tax dollars to all farmers, clean food would be
affordable to everyone and not just those in certain zip codes.

2. Reinstitute the USDA pesticide reporting standard that was waived under the Bush administration.
In 2008, the USDA waived pesticide reporting requirements (a procedure
that has been in place since the early 1990s) so that farmers and
consumers would know the level of chemicals being applied to food
crops. Given a report just released that
reveals a 383 million pound increase in the use of weed killing
herbicides since the introduction of herbicide tolerant crops in 1996
and the potential impact that this glyphosate containing compound is
having on both the environment and on our health, perhaps the "don't
ask, don't tell" policy assumed under the previous administration
should be reversed.

3. Reinstate the pre-Bush administration dollar value that the EPA places on the life of every American. in May 2008, the Bush administration lowered the value placed on the life of every American by
almost $1 million, benefiting corporations who use this figure in their
cost benefit analyses, marking down our lives from $7.8 million to $6.9
million the same way a car dealer might markdown a "96 Camaro with bad
brakes. The EPA figure is used to assess corporate liability when a
company's actions put a life at risk. While this figure benefits the
corporations conducting the cost benefit analysis when assessing the
health impact of their chemicals, the costs of these chemicals are
being externalized onto the public in the form of health care costs.

4. Allow public debate over the nomination of pesticide
lobbyist, Islam Siddiqui for Chief Agriculture Negotiator at the office
of the United States Trade Representative
. As addressed in a letter
sent to Chairman Max Baucus and Ranking Member Charles Grassley of the
Senate Finance Committee, Islam Siddiqui, nominated for Chief
Agriculture Negotiator at the office of the United States Trade
Representative, was formerly employed by CropLife America, whose firm
challenged Michelle Obama's organic garden, has consistently lobbied
the U.S government to weaken international treaties governing the use
and export of toxic chemicals such as PCBs, DDT and dioxins, and
blocked international attempts to help regulate pesticides that
increasingly linked to chronic skin and respiratory problems, birth
defects and cancer in our community. Given that a growing body of
scientific evidence supports the theory that chemicals in our food are
contributing to the rise in health problems, particularly in children,
the appointment of an industry lobbyist to export our challenged food
system to the rest of the world may be in the best interest of
agrichemical corporations but consideration should also be given to the
health implications that these novel chemicals, proteins and allergens
may have.

5. Encourage climate change advocates like Al Gore to discuss Pesticide Use by Big Ag and its Chemical Footprint.
While speaking openly about the petroleum industry's impact on global
warming, leading environmental advocates like Al Gore have been quiet
about the chemical contribution that the recent introduction of crops
genetically engineered with pesticidal toxins play on global warming
despite scientific evidence from the Royal Society of Chemistry
highlighting their impact. Since the Clinton Administration's
introduction of biotech crops designed and engineered to both withstand
increasing doses of weed killing chemicals and produce their own
insecticides, new reports
based on USDA data, show a 383 million pound increase in the chemicals
being applied to these crops since their introduction in 1996.
According to the Royal Society of Chemistry, "growing biofuels is
probably of no benefit and in fact is actually making the climate issue
worse" given that glyphosate, being applied in increasing doses to
these crops, breaks down into nitrogen.

6. Update the Consumer Protection and Food Allergen Labeling Act to inform consumers of these newly engineered corn allergens.
The recent engineering of novel food proteins and toxins into the US
food supply has enhanced profitability for the food industry by
allowing commodities like corn to produce their own insecticides. As a
result, corn is now considered an insecticide and regulated by the EPA
. For this same reason, this corn has been either banned or labeled in
products in other developed countries because the new toxins and novel
allergens that it contains have not yet been proven safe. Despite the
lack of evidence, this corn is in the American food supply. The
increase in the rate of food allergies as demonstrated in the December
issue of Pediatrics and the growing number of people with this
condition- whose bodies recognize food as "foreign" and launch
inflammatory reaction in an effort to drive out these "foreign" food
invaders, speaks to the need to update and amend the food allergen labeling act to label these newly engineered genetically enhanced proteins and allergens as governments around the world do.

7. Ask the SEC to join the Department of Justice in its investigation into trade practices in agrichemical industry.
As the Department of Justice begins its investigation into the impact
that Monsanto's monopoly is having on farmers, their financial
situation and the food supply, research out of the USDA highlights that
the biotech industry is not delivering on what some are calling their
"hype-to-reality ratio". As farmers are charged premiums for seeds that
have been engineered to produce greater yields, research out of the
USDA, Kansas State University shows that these products are not
delivering as promised, directly impacting the cost structures of
farmers in a razor to razorblade scenario. As farmers purchase
genetically modified seeds in the hopes that they will increase yields
and drive down cost structure and their dependency on weed killers,
studies now suggest that since the introduction of the "razor", these
biotech crops introduced 13 years ago, farmers are actually spending
more on the "razorblade", the herbicides and weed killers required to
manage them, driving farmers debt to asset ratios to record levels.
Given that Monsanto's CFO, Treasurer, Controller are all leaving the company
by year end, the Securities and Exchange Commission could interview
these three exiting executives and learn more about the financial
predicaments of Big Ag's customers, the farmers, and the greater
ramifications that this monopoly will have on food prices.

8. Appoint a Children's Health Advisor to serve on the USDA's National School Lunch Program.
The landscape of children's health has changed. No longer are the
American children guaranteed a healthy childhood, not in the face of
the current rates of obesity, diabetes and allergies. Perhaps it is
time that we follow the lead of governments in other developed
countries and create a Chief Advisor for Child and Youth Health whose
responsibilities might include, but not be limited to, serving in an
advisory capacity to the USDA on the National School Lunch Program.
Under the USDA's current budget for the National School Lunch Program
of approximately $8.5 billion (in comparison the Pentagon's 2009
budget $600 billion), less than a dollar is available per meal for the
purchase of healthy food once overhead costs are taken out. Given that
1 in 3 American children now has allergies, ADHD, autism of asthma and
according to an October 2008 study
from the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 3 Fourth graders is expected
to be insulin dependent by the time they reach adulthood. As a result,
dietary concerns are becoming increasingly prevalent for the estimated
30.9 million children and approximately 102,000 schools and child care
institutions that participate in the National School Lunch Program.
Given that increasing scientific evidence points to the roles that
environmental insults like synthetic growth hormones in milk and trans
fats in processed foods are having on our health, investing in a
children's health advisor may provide long term benefits to the future
of our health care system .

It's our food system on the line. And if our children are any
indicator, our health and the economic burden that it presents are on
the line, too.

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