Quantcast

Michael Pollan: Consumer Boycotts Are 'Achilles Heel of American Capitalism'

Food

Trump has dumped family farmers.

That's right, President Trump, who once claimed he's "fighting for our farmers," is passing policies that mostly benefit the big agribusiness corporations—not small farmers, and certainly not rural communities.


Robert Reich, professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, recently sat down with [see video above] Michael Pollan to discuss food and agriculture policy and inequality under the Trump administration. He also talked about how far food corporations will go to protect their brands' images.

Pollan, a food policy expert and author of several books including The Omnivore's Dilemma, didn't mince words when it comes to Trump's impact on food and ag policy, or where the president's loyalties lie. Pollan explained how Trump is rolling back anything initiated under the Obama administration, including Michelle Obama's standards for school lunch. So instead of nutritionists deciding what kids should eat, we're back to allowing the food companies to decide.

So basically, we're back to anything industry wants, Pollan said.

Pollan pointed out the irony in Trump's agricultural initiatives, noting that the rural vote helped get him elected, but now he's taking steps that will be a disaster for American farmers. He talked at length about NAFTA and how if Trump pulls out of this trade agreement it will greatly impact the industrial farming industry.

Pollan didn't discuss the impact NAFTA has on small, independent and/or organic farmers or workers, but dairy farmer Jim Goodman from Wonewoc, Wisconsin, sure did in this recent blog post. He sums it up this way:

"Anyone who supports the continuation of NAFTA without questioning who actually benefits really has no concern for the best interests of farmers or workers in the U.S., Canada or Mexico."

After talking a lot about what's gone wrong with our food system, Reich shifted the conversation in a more positive direction, asking Pollan what gives him hope. Pollan said he's "taking a lot of encouragement from some new developments in the labor movement around food." He spoke about the work of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and their Fair Food Program that has helped Florida tomato growers obtain humane wages and safe working conditions.

In explaining how the program got started, Pollan said:

"They tried negotiating with the growers, they got nowhere. They marched across Florida, they got nowhere. They had a hunger strike, they got nowhere."

Finally, Lucas Benitez, a farmworker who helped start the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, said, as Pollan related:

"Then we found the door in the castle wall. That door was the brand of the big companies, the consumer-facing big companies, that bought the tomatoes from the growers, everybody from Whole Foods to McDonalds and Burger King, and they went after the brands with boycotts and threats of boycotts. What they did was they created a pledge, called the Fair Food Pledge and they basically said you will sign this or we will shame you. One by one all the big brands in food signed it. And it's working."

Reich and Pollan agreed that big companies are spending a fortune on brand image and, now more than ever, if you organize or threaten a consumer boycott you can have a real impact. Pollan said:

"It's the Achilles heel of American capitalism. They are not afraid of the government anymore, but they are afraid of their consumers attacking their brand."

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Bill Pugliano / Getty Images

By Wenonah Hauter

Five years ago this week, an emergency manager appointed by then-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder made the devastating decision to save money by switching Flint's water supply over from Detroit's water system to the Flint River. Seen as a temporary fix, the new water supply was not properly treated. High levels of lead leached from the old pipes, poisoning a generation of Flint's children, and bacteria responsible for an outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease killed more than a dozen residents.

Read More Show Less
Los Angeles-Long Beach, California is listed as the nation's smoggiest city. Pixabay

Seven million more Americans lived in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution between 2015 and 2017 than between 2014 and 2016, and climate change is partly to blame, Time reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Kissing bug. Pavel Kirillov / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that the kissing bug, which can transmit a potentially deadly parasite, has spread to Delaware, ABC News reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
"Take the pledge today." Screenshot / StopFoodWasteDay.com

Did you know that more than a third of food is wasted or thrown away every year? And that only 25 percent of it would be enough to feed the 795 million undernourished people in the world? That's why today is Stop Food Waste Day, a chance to reflect on what you can do to waste less of the food you buy.

Stop Food Waste Day is an initiative of food service company Compass Group. It was launched first in the U.S, in 2017 and went global the year after, making today it's second worldwide celebration.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE

Berries are among the healthiest foods you can eat.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral on April 15 in Paris, France. Veronique de Viguerie / Getty Images

When Paris's Notre Dame caught fire on April 15, the flames threatened more than eight centuries of culture and history. The fire evoked shock, horror and grief worldwide. While the cathedral burned, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed determination to rebuild what the French regard as a sacred site.

Read More Show Less
An artist's impression of NASA's InSight lander on Mars. NASA / JPL-CALTECH

Scientists have likely detected a so-called marsquake — an earthquake on Mars — for the first time, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced on Tuesday.

Read More Show Less
Hero Images / Getty Images

Across the political aisle, a majority of American parents support teaching climate change in schools even though most teachers currently do not.

Read More Show Less