Americans have shown very little appetite for government control of our food choices.
Despite the best efforts of Michael Bloomberg, Yale activists, and a host of nanny-state advocates, governments haven’t been able to really restrict Americans’ diet choices. When put to the vote, Americans have consistently rejected dietary social engineering.
Having largely failed to convince the American people to go on the I.R.S. diet or control butter like beer, these radical left-wing activists are going to the United Nations and other multinational organizations to enact their agendas with minimal democratic input.
The activists call themselves “public health,” but modern public health has very little to do with traditional public health—the determined doctors and researchers who tackled infectious diseases with germ theory and vaccination. Instead of protecting us against invisible enemies lurking in the water supply, today’s activists are trying to protect us from ourselves. Modern public health activists demand everybody follow their view of a health-optimized lifestyle, regardless of whether we want to or not.
Modern public health activists want to protect the public from themselves and limit food choices. (AP/Paul Sakuma, File)
But the activists find democracy and freedom problematic, since most people want the right to balance pleasure and health in their own way. For that reason, international groups, from the editors of the British medical journal "The Lancet" to the United Nations’ “Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food,” are creating a multinational movement against free enterprise, especially in lifestyle choices. They’re taking direct aim for your food dollar and dinner plate.
"The Lancet"—one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals—recently proposed a “Manifesto for Planetary Health.”
The content sounds more like a Bill de Blasio campaign speech than something most family doctors would sign off on. Among the juicier quotes: “We have created an unjust global economic system that favors a small, wealthy elite over the many who have so little.”
The document breathes leftist and environmentalist boilerplate at every juncture, with little in the way of specifics.
By itself, it’s a statement of typical international “progressive” activism, but what might a “Planetary Health” agenda look like? Scarily, the United Nations has already given us an idea under the Orwellian name “Right to Food.”
A UN proposal would tax foods high in sugar, fat and salt. (AP Photo/Dinesh Ramde)
Olivier de Schutter, the Belgian responsible for the UN’s “Right to Food” office, recently presented his final proposals to member states. The document endorses seizures—under the euphemism “occupation”—of private land, and taxes on foods deemed high in sugars, fats, or salt—basically anything that tastes good.
Meat is attacked, and De Schutter has told governments to “discourage” meat consumption. Private companies are ordered to form “international framework agreements with global [labor] unions.”
This is yet another case of “new public health” proving to be little more than social engineering in a labcoat. Taxing food products, part of the “Right to Food” in the UN’s thinking, was such a political and policy failure in Denmark that the country junked its saturated fat tax after only one year.
But there’s a worrying trend here. Whether it’s couched as a “Manifesto for Planetary Health” or a “Right to Food,” international would-be regulators are taking an interest in our personal, private choices to advance a decidedly, anti-corporate and anti-choice agenda.
And it’s not just U.N. bureaucrats pushing radical ideas. Mark Bittman, the New York Times food writer, and New York University professor (and onetime Socialist Scholars Conference speaker) Marion Nestle have hailed a book called "Lethal But Legal," which calls for all-out warfare against the food, beverage, and other industries that progressive liberals believe harm health.
Their mission is global in scale. But it starts with what’s on your plate.
Will Coggin is a senior research analyst at the Center for Consumer Freedom.
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