In the wave of optimism surrounding Obamarama, it is sad to discover that he’s not as smart about food as one might hope. His appointment of pro-GM, pro-biofuel former Iowa (the corn state) governor Tom Vilsack for secretary of agriculture doesn’t suggest a mandate that actually addresses food issues (in fact, as Michael Pollan observes, the word ‘food’ wasn’t mentioned at all when the appointment was announced). And what is agriculture but food production? This business seems to push us farther down the road of viewing agriculture as a commodity industry, like bricks or metals, instead of a means of producing our most basic need — and right.
The absence of “food” in the US agricultural discussion leaves unaddressed so many important things — including the use of food for fuel (and how corn-fed biofuel production contributes to world food prices, as well as the waste of fuel involved in producing this environmentally-unfriendly product), and the damage to food production of corn subsidies and genetically modified foods. Though we know how many thankless challenges he’ll be facing, may Obama live and learn and manage to impose some kind of positive action on the situation before he’s done.
Though I managed to be out of town when she visited, UK poet Jen Hadfield made a bit splash among Victoria’s poetry community. And there will be more dancing in our snowless streets now that she’s won the TS Eliot prize, whose manly tendencies were irreversably altered after its first eight years by our own Anne Carson, the first woman to win it since its inception. Others have written their way through the breech since then: Alice Oswald, Carol Ann Duffy, and now Hadfield.