by Craig Weatherby
Journalist Michael Pollan is best known as the author of bestseller The Omnivore’s Dilemma, a great book in which he roamed America to explore the ways in which Americans produce and enjoy food.
Many of his ideas were reflected in the TIME magazine article we covered last issue (See “TIME Critiques America's Unhealthy Farming System”).
Pollan has long advocated policies that would promote public health indirectly - but effectively - by gradually making healthy food cheaper, and junky food costlier.
As it stands, the U.S. Farm Bill and myriad laws serve to subsidize and facilitate production of cheap, unhealthful foods like corn syrup, white flour, seed oils, and cane sugar, while hindering production of healthy, nutrient-dense vegetables and fruits.
In an essay in today’s edition of The New York Times, titled “Big Food vs. Big Insurance” professor Pollan explains, persuasively, why adoption of key insurance reforms would incentivize insurance companies to oppose public policies that make it easy for big food producers to produce and sell junk food cheaply.
In brief, any reform bill that seriously restricts the ability of insurance companies to limit reimbursements and deny coverage of pre-existing conditions would swiftly turn them into powerful advocates of agriculture budget and policy reform… just as self-interest led them to finally become very powerful allies of attempts to reign in smoking and the irresponsible activities of tobacco companies.
As Pollan writes, “…what happens when the health insurance industry realizes that our system of farm subsidies makes junk food cheap, and fresh produce dear, and thus contributes to obesity and Type 2 diabetes? It will promptly get involved in the fight over the farm bill — which is to say, the industry will begin buying seats on those agriculture committees and demanding that the next bill be written with the interests of the public health more firmly in mind.”
We found his essay both enlightening and encouraging, and recommend it highly!