There are many reasons why health policies have become so distorted, based on unscientific agendas, and polarizing.
But today is not a day for political pontificating about why that is. It is enough to say that too few scientists are willing to speak out and address controversial and emotional food policy issues.
The food policy world has just lost a great light, Dr. Chris Raines, who at only 29, was already showing policy wonks and agriculture industry leaders how to take on the most complex food policy issues while staying above the fray.
Chris, or @iTweetMeat as thousands of his Twitter followers knew him, was a lot more than a professor of meat science at Penn State, a University known for top agriculture academicians. Chris saw it as his mission to spread the gospel of science to make sure that food policy was indeed based on the science, no matter how unpopular that science is, especially when matched up against sound bites, popular wisdom, fear, and plain old folklore.
On his blog, Chris addressed current issues such as the lifting of a ban on horse meat, inspection for e.coli contamination in beef, and broader agriculture issues. He wasn't afraid of tackling these issues, head on, on a daily basis. Yet he did so with charm, wisdom, and an uncanny ability to explain complex issues without sacrificing the science which was the foundation for all his work.
His knowledge about the intersection of health policy and everything-meat was immense. Chris, who as you might guess, did not keep kosher, knew more about practical issues concerning kosher (as well as halal) meat than many rabbis I know.
Chris's blog entry about his visit to my small garden in Manhattan brought me such joy (not only because he enjoyed my cooking and the conversation, but) because he used my garden tour as a launching point for a discussion about the food-farm disconnect that is prevalent especially in, but also outside of Manhattan. Yet Chris didn't use it as a diatribe against "corporate agriculture," or the need for locally grown food, he saw it simply as an opportunity for straight-forward talk about where our food comes from, at a time when so many know so little about it.
Chris believed, like I do, that educating the public about these important issues is a necessary precursor to sound-science policy.
My thoughts about Chris on a personal level couldn't capture the respect and admiration I had for him. I am not alone in this regard, as as evident from following the twitter hasthtag #iTweetMeat, which is practically a trending topic today. You don't need to use Twitter to see it, just click here.Chris will be sorely missed as a friend, colleague, and mentor.
Chris will be sorely missed as a friend, colleague, and mentor.