A friend’s shared Google Reader feed alerted me to this video created for the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF). It contains some interesting statistics, and begs some interesting questions. E.g.:

Japan only produces about 40% of the food it consumes. This is the lowest among all major developed nations. This is the result of the significant change in the Japanese people’s diet

and goes on to describe, and lament, the gradual change from a diet of fish, rice and vegetables (“a nutritionally balanced diet”) to consuming more meat, fat and oil.

  1. Why has this change happened? The video makes it sound as if those stupid, unenlightened, unpatriotic and selfish Japanese consumers made this change happen by their intransigent demands and their refusal to listen to the wisdom of their elders and betters. However, consumers cannot buy what is either not for sale or what is priced beyond their budget. In addition, I recall a short podcast by Dr Andrew Weil (A Toxic World), in which he says, “how can the [U.S.] government say it is innocent… when, if you go into a supermarket in this country, the most expensive calories you can buy are fruit and vegetables, and the cheapest calories you can buy are all the low-quality carbohydrate foods, and the reason those are cheap is because the Federal Government subsidizes those crops and artificially drives down prices. The corporations take the position that, it has nothing to do with them, they are just giving people what they want.”
  2. Why is the government putting out this propaganda? The aim of the video is, what, exactly? To protect and improve the health of the Japanese people? To protect and improve the prospects of the Japanese farmers? To prepare the public to accept tariffs on and higher prices for meat, oil and fats? To prepare everyone for higher food prices all round? (And that this acceptance will be patriotic, therefore objections may be considered unpatriotic?).

Lots of soy and cereal grains are needed to make oil and feed, so they are being imported in large quantities.

  • This gives us a clue: a diet rich in meat, oil and fat is more capital intensive, less efficient, and therefore provides more profits for more people.

Although Japan imports a lot of food, it also disposes of more edible food than the entire world food aid.

  • Woah!

My overall question is why market forces, combined with an informed populace, cannot be left to work their magic on their own? Why stay on the road towards more control and more manipulation? The Japanese government, and much of the population, seems to take the following attitude unquestioningly; as an artist put it, “Millions and millions and billions of people becoming artists? Are you out of your mind? People are herd animals. They need dogs to move them around into the right places.”

In other words, does the MAFF video represent a step towards greater freedom, or towards less freedom and more of the same, centralised, “Daddy Government knows best” statism?

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