One reason is federal subsidies for food production. Take a look at these numbers:
- Meat/Dairy -- 73.8 percent
- Grains -- 13.2 percent
- Sugar/Oil/Starch/Alcohol -- 10.7 percent
- Nuts/Legumes -- 1.9 percent
- Vegetables/Fruits -- 0.4 percent
That’s right – just 1.9 percent for nuts and legumes and 0.4 percent for fruits and vegetables. As a result, a salad often costs you more than a Big Mac.
This Treehugger article contains several interesting charts and graphs that are well worth taking a closer look at. But it should come as no surprise that federal subsidies for certain kinds of food will directly influence the production and subsequent consumption of that food.
As you can see in the list above, the US food subsidies are grossly skewed, creating a diet excessively high in factory-farmed meats, grains and sugars, with very little fresh fruits and vegetables or healthy fats from nuts and seeds.
The Root of the Problem
I believe many of our society’s chronic health problems could be resolved if attention was paid, at the highest levels of government, to the root problem – our agricultural subsidies.
If growers of subsidized fresh vegetables were in a clear majority, you might start to see some fine advertising campaigns promoting the consumption of those veggies…
Unfortunately, the Department of Agriculture is deeply entrenched with the agri-business, and current legislations protect the profits of these large industries at the expense of public health.
In fact, the agriculture lobby is more powerful than even the pharmaceutical industry! You don’t hear about it as often, but the ramifications of their political influence are just as hazardous to your health as that of Big Pharma.
Sadly, you also see this influence in nutrition science. It is actually not designed to help you make sound dietary choices but rather to allow food companies to make health claims to increase profits, and this is a primary reason why you cannot get sound dietary advice from your government.
Take the Food Pyramid, for example. Back in 2005, when the updated food pyramid was unveiled, nutritionist Luise Light, a former USDA insider and contributing architect of the original version of the Food Guide Pyramid, exposed how the US government bows to industry interests and plays a key role in the obesity epidemic.
As this recent New York Times article states, “Thanks to lobbying, Congress chooses to subsidize foods that we’re supposed to eat less of.”
US Government Subsidizes Fast Food
The food crops currently subsidized are corn, soy, wheat and rice. What do you end up with?
A fast food diet!
And what many fail to remember (or don’t realize) is that the farm bill has a direct impact on what your child gets fed in school, for example, and what food assistance programs will distribute to poorer households.
It’s quite clear that the farm bill creates a negative feedback loop that maintains the status quo of the standard American diet. Because by subsidizing the farming of corn and soy, the US government is also actively supporting a diet that consists of these grains in their processed form, namely high fructose corn syrup, soybean oil, and grain-fed cattle – all of which are known contributors to obesity and chronic diseases.
(In addition, let’s not forget that the vast majority of these two crops are also genetically modified, which in and of itself is a major health hazard!)
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is perhaps the most obvious example of how the farm bill destroys health, as opposed to promoting the production of food that is actually worthy of being called “food.”
HFCS is in TENS of THOUSANDS of food products. If it’s processed, it probably contains HFCS; oftentimes it’s one of the top three ingredients. With everything we now know about how HFCS and other sugars create obesity and chronic disease, it’s no wonder we have a health care crisis on our hands!
Our federal food policy reaches to the very core of our everyday lives; the core of our health. Unless the food policy is addressed and corrected, little progress will be made to improve the current health care crisis.
The links are clear: These food policies directly impact what and how we produce our food, which impacts disease rates, which in turn drive health care costs into the stratosphere.
The average American is now 10 pounds overweight, which translates into $250 billion in added yearly health care costs, not to mention a shorter lifespan.
Farm Bill Also Promotes Excessive Fossil Fuel Consumption
In addition to producing little else but fast food, this type of monoculture is also very dependent on fossil fuels. Because when you grow one type of crop almost exclusively, you deplete the soil, which means you have to use more fertilizer, which is made from fossil fuel.
Monocultures also invite more pests, which need to be treated with ever increasing amounts of pesticides – also made from fossil fuel.
Cheap food is actually incredibly expensive once everything is added up, including stratospheric health care costs, continued dependence on fossil fuels, and the destruction of the earth as a whole.
Opt Not to Play Along – Choose Health!
If you want to optimize your health, you simply must return to the basics of healthy food choices. And try as they may, industry lobbyists still cannot force you to buy these types of junk foods. The choice is entirely yours, and consumer demand will always win eventually, so the more people demand healthy, unadulterated foods, the more they must produce, one way or another.
I encourage you to support the small family farms in your area. You’ll receive nutritious food from a source that you can trust, and you’ll not only be supporting the health of your own family but the health of your entire community.
However, there is still much confusion about what is healthy – and in some cases, whether or not something is actually food. The easiest way to get confused and be led astray by misleading advertising is by focusing on individual ingredients or nutrients rather than the food as a whole.
In a nutshell, the easiest way back toward health is to focus on WHOLE, unadulterated foods; foods that have not been processed or altered from their original state. Food that has been grown or raised as nature intended, without the use of chemical additives, pesticides and fertilizers.
Whole, especially organic, foods contain so many nutrients that work together synergistically, making them superior to anything that contains only the active ingredient (and frequently as a synthetic version at that).
Now, if you don’t’ know what’s implied by “as nature intended,” then that should be a sign that you have gotten too disconnected from the natural world, and a refresher course in natural farming practices may be called for. (For example, corn is not, and has never been, a natural part of any cow’s diet. You will never see a cow nibbling on a corn stalk when out to pasture, no matter how much corn is growing nearby.)
Eating a diet of processed foods while popping vitamins and supplements, thinking you’re getting everything you need for health, is a reckless miscalculation that will extract its true cost in the form of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Remember, any amount of time and money you save today by stopping at a fast food restaurant, you’re bound to repay later when you’re too ill to lead an active life.