It used to be standard copy to poke fun at food faddists, especially for those of us in agriculture. But the curious trend is such food belief systems are not just growing by adding adherents, but multiplying to offer diets/lifestyles to match up with your other worldviews, including politics.
While we automatically look to the left when vegans are discussed, a new approach on the right is every bit as unique: the Paleo-libertarian conjunction.
Paleo’s main proponents aren’t particularly partisan. Mark Sisson, who keeps the Paleo blog MarksDailyApple.com, says on his page that “people’s health and personal enjoyment of life matter more to me than politics and the hot air from the latest pundits.” But Libertarians have embraced the caveman set as kindred spirits, and it would appear that the caveman lifestyle and anti-state, laissez-faire tendencies often come hand in hand. Paleo-Libertarian logic maintains that the U.S. government is to blame for obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and dozens of other ills by virtue of telling us to eat the state-subsidized fruits of Big Agriculture’s labor. It says the USDA’s nutrition guidelines were created with the food lobby, not the human body, in mind.These are by no means implausible or even particularly radical claims. Some socialists and environmentalists have come to the same conclusions, at least nutritionally speaking. Still, this admittedly healthy distrust of government — not to mention the adoption of a diet that is the complete antithesis of the USDA’s recommendations — is innately libertarian. Gary Taubes, a science writer best known for his anti-sugar crusades, is widely cited in Paleo circles. When Reason magazine asked him why so many libertarians are drawn towards Paleo, Taubes responded that perhaps they simply “like the idea that government agencies and federal agencies can be just dead wrong.”Some true believers take the “natural” argument even further by asserting that the centralized state, and all of its freedom-thwarting attributes, are a consequence of a grain-based agricultural society. The low-fi libertarian website LewRockwell.com features pages upon pages of articles about the Paleo lifestyle written in a rugged, conspiratorial tone. “It came to me like a revelation on my morning commute: Bread is a tool of the state,” writes one commentator. “The ‘staff of life,’ the very symbol of food itself, has become to me a symbol of the domestication of humankind. It has also suggested one more way I can work to strengthen the individual and weaken the state.” [More]
It is the growth in food-politics crossovers that convinces me it will have more impact on our food system and the politics of agriculture than farmers currently imagine. Since it is a splintering of demand for food products and production methods, the market signals will be weak and confusing. Our large-scale approach to food will struggle, I would think, to address consumer desires - at least the wealthiest and most lucrative markets.
At first, I thought it would be largely confined to meats and ripple back to me through corn demand, but the growing grain/starch-avoidance diets, to cite one example, also present market questions. Moreover these divisions will occur within political camps, not just across them.
Of course, these market forces are still quite small, and frankly, I think production issues like climate change will overshadow their influence on markets in the near future. Still, I have some background suspiscions that market opportunities are going unexploited.