Here’s the transcript:
Nikki Benoit: “Thank you, Senator, very much for your strong environmental position.
The United Nations actually has reiterated that factory farming is contributing more to global greenhouse gas emissions than all of transportation. I think that as a global community we really need to be the leader and moving more towards non-factory farming animal agriculture. It’s very egregious. There’s 10 billion land animals that we are funneling our precious water and grain through when 70 per cent of all of our grain could help feed the world’s hungry. So, as the next leader of the most amazing nation in the world, how can we set the example on the more nutritional, plant-based diet that’s more eco-friendly and sustainable, that can maintain our water resources and all of our grain. Thank you very much.”
Senator Barack Obama: “Okay. Well, it’s a great question.
Now, I have to say in the interests of full disclosure, that I do like a steak once in a while. I’m just being honest. I like barbecue. I’m not going to lie. But the young lady makes a very important point and that is this: right now, our food system world-wide is under enormous pressure. It’s under enormous pressure because as a consequence of climate change, you’ve had severe changes in weather patterns. We don’t fully understand what these effects are. But, for example, Australia’s had huge drought which has taken a lot of crops. Grain production has been much lower. And supplies are tight. You’re starting to see riots around food in places like Haiti and other poor countries around the world. And what is also true is that as countries like China and India become wealthier, they start changing their food habits; they start eating more meat, more animals. And what happens then is because it takes more grain to produce a pound of beef than if they were just eating the grain, what ends up happening is that it puts huge pressure on food supplies.
Americans would actually benefit from a change in diet. I don’t think that that’s something that we should legislate but I think that it is something that, as part of our overall health care system, we should encourage because, for example if we reduced obesity down to the rates that existed in 1980, we would save the medicare system a trillion dollars. We would reduce diabetes rates. We would reduce heart disease. So, the fact that we subsidize some of these big agribusiness operations that are not necessarily producing healthy food and we discourage, or we don’t subsidize, farmers who are producing fruits and vegetables and small scale farming that gets produce immediately to consumers as opposed to having it processed. The fact that we are not doing more to make sure that healthy food is in the schools. All those things don’t make sense. It is important for us to re-examine our overall food policy so that we’re encouraging good habits and not bad habits. For example, just making sure there are more fruits and vegetables in school lunch programs. That would make an enormous difference in how our children’s diets develop. That would make us healthier over the long term. It would cut our health care costs and maybe it would help people elsewhere in the world, who are in less wealthy countries, feed themselves as well. So, it’s a great question. It’s important.”
Emphasis has been added.
Video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rt56ER4TSqc