When making an informed decision about which candidate to vote for, we look at a variety of issues, but when it comes to food we seem to fail to make a few important connections. Food is one of the basic necessities of life. Without food, our bodies would cease to function. In the United States, we have an abundance of food and, therefore, don’t think about it enough. We pop pills for every problem we have and seem to forget about the existence of root causes entirely. I have even heard doctors admit that they learned more about drugs in medical school than they did nutrition. This doesn’t sound like a political issue—does it? Even as someone who actively thinks about this topic, I didn’t put the pieces together in my head until I watched a great food documentary called PlantPure Nation that discussed how food lobbyists have negatively influenced dietary guidelines in the US.
First, let's talk about how much food actually does impact your health. How many times have you heard the phrase, “You are what you eat?" Have you ever really thought about what the food you put into your body will do to your overall health? A proper diet will prevent most of the chronic diseases that are prevalent in this country and, in some cases, can reverse them. We aren’t taught how to feed ourselves properly in school and what we are taught is not based purely in science. Lobbying and politics have heavily skewed the dietary guidelines provided by the USDA, even during the most recent 2015 revision. We need lawmakers that believe in preventative medicine, see the problem with food lobbyists having such a strong influence, and who will vote for or write laws that are conducive to humane, sustainable farming practices. If you disagree with me, really think about how important food is to human health and really ask yourself if you’re ok with food lobbyists having more influence than scientists. TedTalks: Chew on This is a great resource to learn about food and is available on YouTube and Netflix.
The primary concern everyone seems to have is GMOs, but that's not the only issue that's important to the production and promotion of healthy, wholesome food. The primary reason we should be worried about the candidates' stances on GMOs is because, regardless of whether GMOs are good or bad, the public deserves complete transparency on what they're consuming. The weekly presidential series, Food Directions LLC, has highlighted the stances of each candidate on nutrition, food, and agriculture policy. Instead of thinking about those topics from a corporate perspective, consider them the same way you do healthcare policies. Food is what prevents you from getting sick in the first place and lawmakers have a lot of sway in how we as a country are fed, so do your research.
The FD Dish series is very well done and is unbiased, but for those who do not have the time or interest to watch it, I will quickly summarize each candidate here. Both Democratic candidates support GMO labeling. Hillary Clinton, however, has been highly criticized for her involvement with Monsanto, which should be taken into consideration when evaluating her as a candidate. She does, however, have a clear plan of action when it comes to food policies. Bernie Sanders has regularly expressed a belief that Americans have the right to know what's in their food and consistently supports both sustainable farming and important nutritional programs. All of the Republican candidates oppose GMO labeling.
I will cover the three Republican candidates that are currently in the lead: Donald Trump supports family farming, but seems to prefer state-based action to federal. Over the course of the last 16 years, Trump has flip-flopped from liberal to anti-socialist views when it comes to healthcare policies. This begs the question, what else has he changed his mind about? According to FD Dish, Marco Rubio believes the 'environment can be "fixed" with a free market and less government', and has spoken about the importance of food security, but these topics have not been among his major concerns in the past. Jeb Bush is on a paleo diet and actually wrote to the USDA about the importance of rabbit consumption. He believes in something called "catastrophic healthcare" and also supports renewable energy sources such as ethanol, corn, and soybeans. He created an extensive policy to reform the Floridian education system, which suggests that, as president, he would be in support of improving school nutrition programs.
"You are what you eat," and what's available for you to eat is the responsibility of our lawmakers and entities such as the USDA and the FDA. Unfortunately, food lobbyists have had a bigger impact on lawmakers than scientists have, which has, in turn, had a negative impact on the health of Americans nationwide. To make America great again, to make us a healthy nation, we need a president who truly understands food policy and values public health over capital interest.