A Food Policy for the Next President of the United States

It seems like presidential campaigns get started earlier and earlier. Here we are, over 15 months out from the next election, and between the two major political parties, there are something like close to 20 candidates running. We've already had the most watched Republican primary candidates' debate in history about a week ago. And in my local community, we've had three of the candidates come speak at Magnolia Hall, just one mile from my house. And Mike Huckabee is on his way here.

But I don't write a political blog, so why am I bringing this up? I'm bringing it up because I don't believe that any of the candidates are addressing the single biggest problem that this country has. I know many will say its ISIS or its Iran or its North Korea. And while those are issues that we need to deal with, they don't in my mind represent as big a threat to our country as do issues like our growing rates of obesity and the fact that children are now getting adult-onset diabetes. They don't represent the threat that soaring health care costs and pharmaceutical costs are placing on our economy and on the national debt. They don't represent the threat that climate change threatens to bring to everyone on a global scale. They don't represent the fact that too many people are dying in their seventies when we know that it's no longer extraordinary to also find people passing the 100 year mark. Why do we let cancer and heart disease take us before we would otherwise die of old age?

So, while ISIS and Iran and North Korea are problems, I don't believe they are our biggest problems. We can deal with them. After all, we dealt with the USSR and the ever-maddening arms race that entailed there. Now, there was a real possibility that we could get blown up in a nuclear attack. It wasn't years out. It was imminent. I remember as school children, having to practice getting under our desks, never questioning the fact that our desks were not going to protect us from a nuclear explosion. But we dealt with the USSR. We dealt with Hitler and the Nazi regime. We dealt with Stalin. We can deal with other military threats as well.

Our real issue today, in my mind, is the fact that we are a nation of meat lovers. And because we love meat, I believe that we are seeing increased rates of cancer (Dr. T. Colin Campbell found that animal protein feeds cancer), increased cardiovascular disease (Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Ornish have found that animal fat destroys the endothelium, leading to cardiovascualr disease), increased obesity, more incidents of diabetes and so on. But it's not just our personal health. It's also the health of the planet and the health of our economy.

So, what can a President of the United States do? Well, here's what I would do if I were President. On day one -- I say that because they all like to bluster about what they'll do on Day 1. It's like that day is going to make everything right again and we'll be one big happy rose garden. Well, I beg your pardon, I never promised....Oh never mind.

But the first thing I would seek to do would be to get rid of the farm subsidies that help make meat and dairy products so cheap. And yes, they are cheap. If you're going to eat animal foods, then you should have to pay what it actually costs to produce, store and sell those foods. So, that is one action that a President can take.

It's also the Executive Branch, that is the President's staff, that develops the Dietary Guidelines. I would appoint people on those committees who are not affiliated with the meat or food industries. And I would appoint people who understood the benefits of not eating meat. That's important because those Dietary Guidelines affect food in so many places. They affect what gets served to our school children, to prisoners in our nation's prisons, to people in hospitals and nursing homes and so on. By the way, there's an interesting study that was done in a California prison where prisoners were fed vegan diets and the rates of violence and behavioral issues dropped dramatically. That's a side note. but I wonder if the same could happen in our school systems too?

I would also appoint a Surgeon General who would issue a report saying that eating meat is bad for your health, just as the Surgeon General did back in the Sixties against smoking. We could do that again. And as President, I would use the bully pulpit to press that point home as much as I could.

But I'm not running for President. But if there were a candidate who spelled out a position like that, that's where my vote would go. Now I'm not so naive as to believe that one person can actually do all that. It would be a fight all the way. The food industries and the pharmaceutical industries and the medical industries would all likely fight it. Billionaires with heavy investments to protect would fight it. That's just a fact of life.

But having a President with that mindset would sure go a long ways toward getting something started. So, where is the candidate who will make it happen? Are you out there?