Regulatory Bipartisanship

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My primary takeaway from the course material this week was a greater understanding of the special interests and their interrelationships which have profoundly affected the American diet. The term “revolving door” comes to mind, interestingly so, as this term generally evokes images of the way industries such as finance and energy profoundly influence policymaking. In this case, however, the part is played by food producers and scientists who seek to influence state regulation and perception of their various industries. This form of lobbying and influence peddling is quite common but it is said lobbying’s objectives that make it insidious. As Pollan’s book asserts, since the 1980’s this mechanism of influence has been used to hobble consumer protection and unleash a wave of ‘nutrients’ replacing the food on supermarket shelves. This form of influence used to increase profits at the expense of public health can be easily seen on both sides of the political isle. Even extremely liberal politicians who generally take consumer protection seriously have been complicit in this. “In January 1977, the committee issued a fairly straightforward set of dietary guidelines, calling on Americans to cut down on their consumption of red meat and dairy products. Within weeks a firestorm of criticism, emanating chiefly from the red meat and dairy industries, engulfed the committee, and Senator McGovern (who had a great many cattle ranchers among his South Dakota constituents) was forced to beat a retreat” (Poller 23). As George McGovern is widely viewed as one of the most liberal presidential nominees to come from a major American political party, this example makes clear that even common sense dietary guidelines would prove a legislative nonstarter for both sides of the isle. Conclusively, as an American citizen I find all of this fairly disturbing. My questions for the coming weeks include: 1) what are the current legislative and regulatory trends, as far consumer protection goes, within the food production industry? 2) what are the primary groups that currently lobby for and against this sort of regulation? 3) and what are some of the primary common sense regulatory policy proposals that could positively affect public health in the near future?

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