William Strannix, the character Tommy Lee Jones played in 1992’s “Under Seige” was a rogue CIA agent who took over a retiring battleship for its cruise missiles. Tom Breaker was his handler back at Langley, setting up this exchange:
Breaker: “Look, Bill, if this is about reliving the 60s, you can forget it, buddy. The movement is dead.”
Strannix: “Yes, of course! Hence the name: movement. It moves a certain distance, and then stops. You see a revolution gets its name by always coming back around in your FACE! You tried to kill me, you son-of-a-bitch — so welcome to the revolution.”
Most agree it was the movie’s best line, but it did not stop Navy Seal Casey Rybach, played by Steven Seagal, from putting a knife through Stannix’s heart and snapping his neck.
Movements can have their bad days in the movies and real life. I am reminded of that in this aftermath of the most recent election, in which writers as varied as the New York Times food writer Mark Bittman and Oklahoma State University agriculture professor Jayson Lusk agree that the “food movement” had its proverbial lunch handed to it on Nov. 6.
Its principal defeat was California’s Proposition 37, which lost by 4.2 percent or almost one half million votes in an election with more than 11.7 million votes cast. By contrast President Obama margin of victory over Governor Romney in the national popular vote was 3.3 percent.
The vote means the Golden State won’t be requiring food companies to label genetically modified foods anytime soon, and according to both Mr. Bittman and Professor Lusk, a setback for something they call the “food movement.”
Bittman, who helped promote Prop 37 as indicative of an emerging food movement before the election afterwards said its defeat “left the nascent food movement scratching its collective head.”
Lusk, about to see Crown Forum publish his book “Food Police: A Well Fed Manifesto About the Politics of Your Plate,” says the demise of Prop 37 “marks the death throes of a self-proclaimed ‘food movement’ that urges ever-greater government intrusion into the nation’s grocery stores and kitchens.”
Popular author Michael Pollan, also writing in the NYT last Oct. 10, is the one who set up the importance of this election, writing, “One of the more interesting things we will learn on Nov. 6 is whether or not there is a ‘food movement’ in America worthy of the name — that is, an organized force in our politics capable of demanding change in the food system.”
“People like me throw the term around loosely, partly because we sense the gathering of such a force, and partly (to be honest) to help wish it into being by sheer dint of repetition,” Pollan continued. “Clearly there is growing sentiment in favor of reforming American agriculture and interest in questions about where our food comes from and how it was produced.”
Lusk said the standard set up by Pollan means there “is no viable food movement worth its sea salt. Right?” Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Lusk actually went on to say the food movement of farmers markets, craft beers, and buying organic fruits at Wal-Mart is alive and well, but the one trying to dictate to American agriculture, not so much.
When I wrote about Prop 37 at the time it qualified for the ballot, some of my comments were misunderstood. I was merely looking under the hood of Prop 37 and finding it to be the typical “puffed up” yes campaign that believes in September it cannot lose. There is a long, long string of these in California and other initiative states. Thus, my lesson for initiatives — “Yes campaigns drop like rocks.”
Personally, I believe there should be no secrets involving food ingredients and I’d favor some technical means of disclosing them. I think food labeling and immigration are fitting examples of federal responsibilities and were it not killed quickly by California voters, it probably would have died a slow death in federal courts.
So, personally, I also have to be more than a little suspect about this food movement business. From my view here on the pathogen desk, I don’t look out and see one growing food movement, but rather an increasing number of interests around food.
For the many interests, food safety can be everything from Job 1 to an unsettled concern. California’s organic industry is more concerned about duking it out with GM crops than doing something about fresh produce inspection or its rising numbers of recalls and outbreaks.
That’s the sort of stuff that concerns me, and makes me conclude that I probably don’t want to be part of a movement that seems too often to be to be messed up in its priorities. So, if there’s do be a food movement, I don’t think I’m enlisting and I will resist the draft.© Food Safety News