Despite the fact that fruits and vegetables are the only foods that experts encourage us to eat with abandon, all fruits, vegetables, and nuts are considered “specialty crops” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Less than five percent of land planted with food goes to growing fruits and vegetables. More than 50 percent goes to growing soybeans and corn, to feed animals and refine into sugar.
“If you go into a supermarket, you see that most of what’s lined up there is to sell sugar,” Gordon Shepherd, a distinguished professor of neurobiology at Yale, noted on an event on Thursday night on the campus of NYU’s Steinhardt School. Some of that we pay for directly, and some of it we pay for in taxes that subsidize its production.
“Very few of us ever taste real, flavorful food,” Shepherd said, disconcerted. He speaks with the empiricism of a neurobiologist rather than the elitism of a foodie, so it’s not off-putting. “Unless you go to a market in the summer and find produce that was grown locally and not flown in from Chile, you have never tasted things at their full flavor.” And he means it as a potentially consequential public-health issue. If people had easy access to that kind of flavor, how many people might choose to eat healthier foods and then, you know, become healthy.