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The Need for Common Sense

Story ID:7376
Written by:Suzana Margaret Megles (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:New York New York USA
Year:2011
Person:Mark Bittman
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Whenever there is a Mark Bittman post in the NY Times, I read it. Some writers
are gifted with common sense. He is one of them. If I were to ask x number of
people if they had common sense, they would of course readily say they do. This
really would be laughable except for the abundunt lack of it in so many often
serious aspects of our own personal life as well as re our country generally. When
it comes to topics on food I believe that Mr. Bittman shows a lot of common sense.

BAD FOOD? TAX IT, AND SUBSIDIZE VEGETABLES. This is a wonderful example
of his work. It makes common sense to me. But what about you? How does his title
grab you? Ready to turn away from this great article because of it? Taxes and veggies
are not usually favorite subjects for many of us, and we probably don't even want to
think about them.

Usually for me, a good title is sometimes enough, but of course, any wise person
enticed by a good title reads more of the article. For those of us who are food
conscious on many levels, Bittman does not disappoint. It seems to me that he
covers most of them very well.

The first reason he gives why we should be subsidizing healthy foods like veggies is
because it has been proven time and time again that we don't eat enough of them and
defer instead to loading up on a SAD diet. While the acronym stands for STANDARD
AMERICAN DIET, it also seems to describe so well our many often "sad" dietary
choices. Even though we may be hurting ourselves from a medical perspective, we
by and large refuse to eat a diet high in plants and low in animals products and
processed foods. Improving our health seems to be very low on our radar when it
comes to our eating choices. We basically say to ourselves -we will worry about the
consequences of our poor food choices "manjana" (tomorrow). Today let us eat,
drink, and be merry. Does this sound like you?

Of course, tomorrow comes with the same unhealthy mindset. We even dismiss works
like Professor Campbell's China Study which basically deduces that eating a plant-based
diet could reverse the spiral trend of eating foods which often cause heart, cancer, diabetes,
and stroke.

Bittman notes that the food industry doesn't much care about whether the foods they
produce for us is healthy or not. As he notes "Their mission is not public health but
profit, so they'll continue to sell the health-damaging food that's most profitable, until
the market or another force skews things otherwise." He says that the "other force"
should be the federal government, fulfilling its role as an agent of the public good.
As someone who has so little faith in the federal government, Bittman's hope rings
hollow for me.

In years past many of us have written the federal government to stop the horrible
practice of letting Cafos put millions of unwanted male chicks through a grinder. I
"foolishly" thought that's what the USDA was suppose to do - assure us that farm
animals are treated humanely. One USDA woman agent, after siting some CAFOs
for violations of the Animal Welfare Act, was told to basically ignore them. She couldn't
and wouldn't do that. Instead she resigned and called a new conference- I believe it
was in Oregon exposing the hypocrisy of the USDA's policies. Why wasn't this woman's
wonderfully brave stance newsworthy? Why didn't ALL the national news stations
carry it? So forgive me Mr. Bittman if I'm only holding my breath with your very
good concerns you hope the federal government will address.

As for the inherent cruelty of using live animals in research, the National Institute of
Health regularly dismissed our concerns when we asked them to use alternatives
instead. Another federal agency who could care less about animal suffering.
But yes Mr. Bittman, of course you are right. Despite my cynicisms re the federal
government working on our behalf, who knows but they may see merit in your ideas-
at least the taxation part.

You wrote that the average American consumes 44.7 gallons of soft drinks each year
Though you would exempt diet sodas from taxation, you suggested that other soft
drinks be taxed too. Doughnuts and fries would be on your "hit" list as well. I can hear
moans and groans from all those who eat them regularly, but if this will help to lesson
our dependence on unhealthy foods, taxing them may help us think twice about
endless indulging these unhealthy foods.

And something which I didn't even give a thought. Bittman says that the money
generated by these taxes could subsidize the purchase of staple foods like greens,
vegetables, whole grains, dried legumes and fruit which we could sell cheaply almost
everywhere. I've heard that in some areas the poor only have access to fast food and
aren't able to purchase fresh whole foods. This would make it possible because
he wrote that they should now be found everywhere -in drugstores, convenience
stores, even liquor stores and maybe even schools, libraires, and other community
centers.

I especially liked this paragraph too: "Right now its harder for many people to buy
fruit than Fruit Loops; chips and Coke are a common breakfast. And since the rate
of diabetes continues to soar - one third of all Americans either have diabetes or are
pre-diabetic, most with Type 2 diabetes, the kind associated with bad eating habits.
And because our health care bills are on the verge of becoming truly insurmountable,
this is urgent for economic sanity as well as national health."

Well said, Mark Bittman. I found out things I didn't know before and I hope others have
too. Now if only common sense will prevail and people will adopt the salient points
you made in this post. Our health and theirs may well depend on it.

I basically elaborated on points of interest to me from Bittman's post. You may want to look
it up to read it in its entirety for the parts I missed.