OKLAHOMA State University Professor Jayson Lusk is thankful this day for a few morsels that turned up at the ballot box on Nov. 6. Many Oklahomans will no doubt share Lusk's sentiment.
He points to losses suffered by the food police in California. Statewide, voters rejected Proposition 37, an initiative requiring the labeling of genetically modified foods. In the cities of El Monte and Richmond, Calif., voters said no to the idea of adding a tax of 1 cent per ounce to the price of sugared soft drinks.
The attack on soft drinks isn't new. In New York City, many establishments can no longer sell sodas larger than 20 ounces, thanks to a recently enacted ordinance that was pushed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. This is par for the main course in the Big Apple, which previously banned artificial trans fats in restaurant food.
Writing this week in The Wall Street Journal, Lusk, a professor of agricultural economics, said Prop 37's defeat “marks the death throes of a self-proclaimed ‘food movement' that urges ever-greater government intrusion into the nation's grocery stores and kitchens.”
A different sort of food movement continues — one in which consumers, through their spending, have prodded producers and retailers to grow and sell better-tasting, healthier food. It has spawned farmers markets, niche producers, Whole Foods stores, etc.
The movement that failed in California, Lusk argues, “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 ... simply because they cannot make a living selling the stuff that the food elite think we should all eat. It is a movement that uses scare tactics and misrepresents the consensus scientific opinion about food technologies in an effort to demonize agribusiness.”
Alas, it also isn't likely to stop trying. Lusk notes that after Prop 37 went down, at least one activist group said it planned to back a similar initiative taking shape in Washington state. But he adroitly exposes these groups' hypocrisy: “They readily celebrate bottom-up developments, like the proliferation of farmers markets. But they want to orchestrate, from the top down, whatever they find lacking.”
Lusk concludes with this: “We all can celebrate a good heirloom tomato, but something is rotten about the one forced upon us.”
To which, on this day of giving thanks, we will add a resounding “Amen!”