On this episode of The Business of Life, hosted by VICE News contributor Michael Moynihan, Frederick Kaufman, food journalist and author; Danielle Nierenberg, president of Food Tank; and Katherine Mangu-Ward, editor of Reason magazine, discussed “The Way Americans Eat.” The panel explored highly debated topics such as GMOs, the obesity epidemic, agricultural abandonment, spiking food prices, the Arab Spring, fair trade, food policy, subsidies, and whether organic is really better for you.
“We’re thinking about food in different ways, but are we thinking about it in the right way?” started Moynihan, who presented facts, numbers, and statistics for the panelists to debate. He explained, “currently 50 states have an obesity rate of over 20 percent, in 1995 zero states had an obesity rate of over 20 percent.” So is the term fat Americans offensive, questions Moynihan.
“Fat is a subjective term, what we’re really talking about is a public health crisis,” responded Nierenberg.
While Mangu-Ward followed up by saying, “Being fat is an esthetic problem. And then there is this class angle, and that’s something people don’t like to talk about, skinny people are rich people in America, fat people are poor people.”
Kaufman disagreed, saying, “If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on food, it actually might be a pretty smart choice to spend your $US5 a day to get as many calories as possible into your body.”
The panelists also discussed the 23.5 million Americans that currently live in food deserts. Moynihan asked, “Danielle, is this the reason we have an obesity epidemic in the United States?”
“It’s definitely one reason. It goes deeper than that, we have an education system where kids don’t know what healthy food looks like,” said Nierenberg.
An audience member asked, “Do any of the panelists have recommendations for someone on a tight budget on how to eat healthy?”
Nierenberg suggested, “More whole foods, more unprocessed foods.” While, Mangu-Ward responded, “GMO foods are not unhealthy, don’t worry about eating those, they’re cheaper, go ahead and eat them.”
Then Moynihan presented another statistic, “57 percent of young adults think it is unsafe to eat GMOs, while 56 percent of young adults approve of genetically modifying babies.” Kaufman responded, “Here, the thing with GMOs, and it’s not really the most popular statement I’ll make today, but the fact of the matter is there is no widespread evidence that GMO foods are killing us dead. The problem with GMO food is who owns the food. The food is copyrighted, licensed, and made to be the intellectual property of very large corporations.”
He went on to explain, “Food has always been open-sourced, I don’t have to pay a licensing fee to the Earl of Sandwich every time I make a PB and J.”
The panelists also discussed access to healthy food, fast food, corner stores, and farmers’ markets. Watch rest of the debate and topics tackled by panelists HERE.