Chill, political foodies! There’s too much government already

Par Lorne Gunter le 11 février 2010

One of the worst by-products -- among many -- of the rapid expansion of government in the past 50 years has been the politicization of everything, including aspects of personal daily life that government has no business in. Relationships, child rearing, garbage collection, even the replacement of light bulbs have come under government scrutiny.
Private charity has been deemed demeaning and replaced, by and large, by public welfare. Even the charity that remains has been politicized with highly biased tax bureaucrats determining which private causes are worthy of tax-deductable donations on ideological grounds.
Smoking, even in the confines of one's own home or car, is political. A woman's use of makeup is political. Perfume, pesticides and animal ownership are all political, as well.
Sex is political, too. For instance, there is a branch of feminism that argues all heterosexual intercourse is, in essence, rape. In her 1987 book on the subject, feminist icon Andrea Dworkin argued that intercourse's "penetrative nature" is a form of "occupation" that consigns women to a life of subjugation and inferiority. Silly me. Here I thought intercourse's penetrative nature was dictated by biology and the need to procreate, not to mention that it was part of the pleasure for both partners. But then again, I am a tool of the patriarchy.
Human rights commissions, too, have politicized speech by deciding which opinions may be expressed in public and, more importantly, which may not.
The problem is when you make government enormous and powerful, cede to it control of nearly everything, give it authority to confiscate vast sums of private income and make it the sole source of most funding, it has to find actions to occupy its time. So in the absence of big, public issues, it will justify its enormity by intruding more and more into the private sphere.
Still, among all the politicizations of private activities and pleasures, the one I probably resent most is the politicization of food. How much carbon is emitted in its production and transportation to the market? Has it been obtained by "fair trade?" Does it contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs)? Is its nutritional value honestly represented in its labelling? Can I tell its country of origin from its packaging?
The trendy 100-Mile Diet, for instance, is nothing more than food politics. It is fashionable among upper-middle-class urbanites, but in most of Canada, trying to live off food grown within 100 miles of one's home would be bland and repetitive at best and dangerously unhealthy at worst.
There would be few fresh fruits and vegetables from which to choose; none at all most of the year. Forget seafood. Get used to game, beef (unless you're worried about "all those chemicals they put in cattle these days"), poultry and some tuberous roots.
What would residents of Iqaluit eat? Lichen tea and blubber?
I'll admit I buy local when I can, for freshness and in support of nearby producers, not as some statement of eco-consciousness. But if I want a mango, I buy it without worrying about the carbon footprint produced by the truck that brought it to my grocer's or whether the worker who picked it is being denied a collective agreement.
Truly, if you worry about GMOs and import labels and carbon emissions and workers' rights each time you squeeze a melon in the produce department, you've got too much time on your hands and too little of real importance on your mind.
But if you are such a person, here's good news: Britain has just released a national food plan that says GMOs are in, local is out.
While the whole idea of having a national food strategy is far too central planning-intense for me, some of the recommendations are interesting.
Local food is out as an environmental goal, since only 9% of food's eco-impact comes from transportation, and half or more from production methods. Besides, eating local hampers the ability of Third World countries to lift themselves out of poverty by exporting crops.
As for GMOs, they increase the size of crops from the same piece of land and for the same emissions, which permits greater production with less eco-impact.
So chill, political foodies. Enjoy more food with less political stress.


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