George F. Will has a nice column in today’s Post about American agriculture policy, Michael Pollan’s warnings in The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, and the ascent of Iowa’s Tom Vilsack to the Department of Agriculture.
WASHINGTON — Tom Vilsack, Iowa’s former governor, calls his “the most important department in government,” noting that the Agriculture Department serves education through school nutrition programs and serves diplomacy by trying to wean Afghanistan from a poppy-based (meaning heroin-based) economy. But Vilsack’s department matters most because of the health costs of the American diet. If Michael Pollan is right, the problem is rooted in politics and, in a sense, Iowa.
Vilsack’s department is entwined with the food industry that produces a food supply unhealthily simplified by the dominance of a few staples such as corn. This diet, Pollan says, has made many Americans both overfed and undernourished.
Hippocrates enjoined doctors: “Do no harm.” He also said something germane to a nation that is harming itself with its knives and forks: “Let food be thy medicine.” That should be carved in stone over the entrance to Vilsack’s very important department.
Will is hardly a “crunchy” conservative or ardent localist, but his willingness to look beyond the mainstream of conservatism, to embrace policies and ideas that simply make sense, and have roots reaching deeper than Reagan, is always appreciated, and I’m quite happy to see as widely read and respected a national conservative columnist as he spreading this message.