Of the many experts who have a clear vision and understanding of the problems inherent in our food system, Marion Nestle stands out. Her reporting on the latest developments in nutrition and the health of our nation always garner our attention. This month, Nestle was a guest lecturer at Columbia University’s Grand Rounds on the Future of Public Health, an initiative that hosts prominent public health researchers and visionaries to share the views on making this world a healthier place.
Nestle opened her lecture with the hopeful news that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has decided stop pursuing its Kraft Foods partnership (a union that caused much dismay last week). She then explains the unbreakable linkages between food, nutrition, agriculture, and public health:
Now I think that you can’t understand anything about how our food system works without understanding how our agricultural system works. . . Agriculture, food, nutrition and public health are associated with the most important public health problems in the world if you do it by head count. Food insecurity, obesity and its consequence and the environmental damage that food is involved with are enormous public health problems and they all have a common cause, which is dysfunctional food systems.”
Nestle weaves together this complex web that is our “dysfunctional food system.” Its elements include: hunger and the link between food insecurity and obesity; new dietary guidelines tying agricultural sustainability to nutrition (good!); the Farm Bill; greenhouse gas emissions; sugar sweetened beverages; and farm subsidies (especially corn) that promulgate the spread of other unhealthy foods.
According to Dr. Nestle, many concerns go back to a pivotal year on an epidemiological graph that shows sharp increases in obesity:
What happened around 1980 that either got people moving less, eating more, or both?”
If you are like us and still hungry for more of Nestle’s wisdom, check out her interview with the Columbia student group Food Policy and Obesity Prevention. From GMO labeling, to soda taxes, to the Trans Pacific Partnership, Nestle give some great sound bites for you to take to your next dinner party. For example:
[Q:] What about food insecurity? Can GMOs help?
[A:] If you want to help food-insecure nations, you need to empower them to do their own agriculture. That agriculture needs to be sustainable. GMO crops are not sustainable. They require seeds, fertilizer, and pesticides, every year.
Those of us who are fighting for the health of our nation keep a close eye on Marion Nestle. She’s like a sharp blade that cuts, fast and clean, to the core of every issue.
Mailman's FPOP Interviews Marion Nestle via Columbia University Mailman School of Health
Interview with Columbia University Public Health Students via Foodpolitics.com
Food Politics 2015 Stream via Livestream.com