Monday, May 21, 2007

Food and justice...

The strengthening connection between food and politics should be of interest to producers, I believe. While the livestock sector will feel it first and most powerfully, it could redound* to change the methodology of grain productions as well.
The Rabbinical Assembly, which represents Conservative rabbis, has endorsed the idea of a hechsher tzedek ("certificate of justice"), a Jewish seal of approval that would go beyond the usual dietary rules to include the compensation and working conditions of people who produce kosher food. It's the brainchild of Minnesota rabbi Morris Allen, who was upset by reports that immigrant workers at a kosher slaughterhouse in Iowa are poorly paid, receive meager health benefits, and get inadequate safety training. Not surprisingly, Orthodox rabbis, who have long dominated the business of certifying food as kosher, are not pleased with Morris' idea. [More]

Aside the obvious connection to food processing, most interesting to me are the litmus tests for "fairness". Note the prominent mention of "health benefits". As more Americans join the ranks of the uninsured, the outcry of inequality will increase.

Of course, few are willing to discuss how to pay for all the medical services we can now provide - they want to talk health insurance. This is mindless. Insurance is way of spreading the costs of random occurrences across all potential victims - not an bottomless pit of assets available for every medical miracle. Nor should we be surprised when non-random health problems such as lifestyle choices wrench such schemes into unworkability.

Nonetheless, the debate will increasingly be framed in the form of "affordable medical insurance" - not the harder debate about how much care can we give to every person, especially at the end of life.

Simply put, this is an insufficient answer.

* Don't ask me, it just seemed like the right word.

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