The Food Movement that Failed

The Wall Street Journal will publish an op-ed I wrote in tomorrow's paper (it is already up online).  

Here are some snippets:

Before the election, author Michael Pollan wrote in the New York Times Magazine that “One of the more interesting things we will learn on Nov. 6 is whether or not there is a ‘food movement’ in America worthy of the name—that is, an organized force in our politics capable of demanding change in the food system.” By Mr. Pollan’s own standard, we must conclude that there is no viable food movement worth its sea salt. Right?
That depends on which food movement we are talking about. There is the food movement that has caught fire over the past decade—encouraging consumers to use the power of their wallets to prompt farmers and retailers to grow and sell better-tasting, more-nutritious produce. It is the movement that has led to a surge in farmers markets, an explosion of niche producers of jams and salsas in exotic flavors, the rise of craft brewers in strip malls and backyard garages all across the U.S. Wal-Mart is now the country’s largest seller of organic produce. That food movement is alive and well.
So, what was the food movement that failed earlier this month? The one that wants the coercive power of the state to strong-arm Americans into eating fashionably. It is the movement that refuses to acknowledge the hard work of the vast majority of American farmers—Urvashi Rangan of the Consumers Union says that farmers’ fertilizers “rape the soil”—simply because they cannot make a living selling the stuff that the food elite think we all should eat. It is a movement that uses scare tactics and misrepresents the ­consensus scientific opinion about food technologies in an effort to demonize agribusiness. It is the movement that distrusts consumers to pick the right soda size.


The failing movement is one that, in pursuit of higher-quality, better-tasting food, forgot that most Americans can’t afford to shop at Whole Foods. We all can celebrate a good heirloom tomato, but something is rotten about the one forced upon us.