Why Aren’t We Talking About Food Policy This Election Season?

GMOs, hunger, food sustainability, and obesity have all been noticeably missing from the debate stage this presidential election
Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton touched upon climate change and the minimum wage, but not as they relate to food policy.

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Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton touched upon climate change and the minimum wage, but not as they relate to food policy.   

As the days before the landmark 2016 presidential election dwindle down into single digits, we’ve heard plenty of policy arguments and takedowns between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on foreign policy, inner-city crime, and email servers. But very little — if any — time during this election has been devoted to food policy, even though diner stops and candidates’ eating habits are scrutinized on the campaign trail.

From rampant food safety issues (foodborne illness outbreaks have tripled in recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), to the skyrocketing obesity rate, and — of course — the ever-evolving GMO debate, and whether or not we should label genetically modified foods, have all barely been mentioned as major issues throughout the election season.

“There’s been almost no discourse about food, nutrition and health in this election cycle,” John Robbins, Food Revolution Network president, told the Concord Monitor.

This is not for lack of trying. Food personalities like chef Tom Colicchio (Craft, ‘wichcraft), have been adamant about the importance of food policies in America. Colicchio wrote a strongly worded Op-Ed in The New York Times against misleading GMO regulations.

Food is one of the only election “topics” that bisects most of the hot-button issues in this election season: Climate change, immigration, labor, and health.

“Terrorism is the only problem that is unrelated to this, but somehow in Washington, D.C., food and its connection to health and the economy has pretty much escaped the attention of everyone from Congress to Senate to the candidates for president,” Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, told The New York Times.

Since CNN, Fox, and other major news networks have not devoted time to food policy issues — either on or off the debate stage — we have broken down several of Clinton and Trump’s stances on major food and nutrition-related policies.

Food Security and Hunger

Hillary Clinton: Clinton believes in upholding the food stamp assistance program SNAP, developed under the Obama administration, and would plan to expand access to fresh produce for SNAP participants. In 2013, she tweeted, “What happens to kids in families cut from unemployment insurance & food stamps? They’re #2SmallToFail, & deserve an equal chance to succeed."

Donald Trump: Trump wants to break the farm bill and SNAP program away from the United States Department of Agriculture to operate as a separate entity. He also firmly believes food stamps should be temporary and more strictly managed, according to his book Time to Get Tough.

GMOs

Hillary Clinton: Clinton’s main agricultural advisor is USDA head Tom Vilsack, an ardent supporter of GMOs, Big Agriculture, and supporter of the nationwide GMO labeling bill. The Clinton Foundation has also received major funding from Monsanto — the largest producer of GMOs in the world. Clinton herself has repeatedly spoken in favor of GMOs: “I stand in favor of using seeds and products that have a proven track record. There’s a big gap between what the facts are and what perceptions are,” she said in 2014. She also supported Vilsack’s efforts to pass a mandatory labeling law.

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Donald Trump: Trump’s stance on GMOs is a bit more muddled, though during the primaries he retweeted this quip: “Ben Carson is now leading in the polls in Iowa. Too much Monsanto in the corn creates issues in the brain,” which was soon deleted. When asked by the Iowa Farm Bureau his exact stance on GMOs, Trump said that “yes” he supports GMOs but opposes mandatory labeling, according to Food Revolution.