Politicizing food for the election

September 29, 2011

Plenty of food issues are fair game for presidential candidates. But the nation needs fresh visions rather than trite sound bites.

Just this month a listeria outbreak in cantaloupes has killed as many as 16 people, a possible e.coli contamination prompted the USDA to recall 40,000 pounds of frozen ground beef, and the USDA instituted wider testing among large-scale meatpackers for seven strains of e.coli rather than one.

So what does Michele Bachmann (R-MN) do? She declares at an Iowa campaign stop, "We want to have safety, but we also want to have common sense." In her push for primary votes, she related food safety regulations to meatpackers' ability to stay in business. In our view at The Lempert Report, this is anything but common sense. It is reckless rhetoric, nothing more than scare talk.

The food supply is one of this nation’s greatest assets, and we must protect its integrity and our health. The Lempert Report feels the politicization of food in this upcoming election should be a race to see which candidate will do the most to guard this valuable national food pipeline, not weaken it. 

Is the current system perfect? Of course not. But comments like Bachmann’s only cloud the picture further. If candidates would take the high road instead when it comes feeding our nation and other parts of the world, we could have constructive food discussions in this election season.

With plenty of issues to address – food safety, food prices, unaffordable checkoff programs and anti-obesity movements to name a few – candidates could stake out food positions to differentiate their platforms. The more responsible their ideas, the more elevated their campaigns could be. And with real vision, perhaps the United States could restore some of its global equity through food exports, particularly in parts of Africa and the Middle East, where food scarcity has been the source of so much social unrest.