From Subsidies to Junk Food

September 27, 2011 · 12 comments

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corn products, corn, corn syrup, corn sugarWhile Monsanto markets it’s GM crops as the solution to world hunger, it should come as no surprise that a new study released from the US Public Interest Research Group shows that the majority of USDA subsidized produce is used to produce junk food.

The study, aptly called “Apples to Twinkies,” showed that between 1995 and 2010, out of the $260 billion spent on subsidies, 17 billion went to four common food additives: corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch and soy oils.

In comparison, during the same time period, the USDA subsidized apples for only $261 million, and even less on other fruits and vegetables.

That’s some very expensive junk food. It is the same junk that causes the multiple epidemics of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, etc. facing the world today. And US taxpayers are funding this!

In fact, as reported by Bloomberg, The U.N. General Assembly is meeting right now in New York to develop a united response to the obesity-related increase in non-communicable, chronic diseases (cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, type 2 diabetes) now experienced by both rich and poor countries throughout the world.

This is only the second time the UN has meet solely to discuss a health problem — the first occurred over AIDS. This meeting is aimed to spur government action against use of harmful food ingredients, tobacco and alcohol.

A recent study found that these chronic diseases will cost the global economy more than $30 trillion over the next 20 years.

On one side stand the U.S. and Western Europe, home to many of the companies that make the processed foods, alcohol and cigarettes. On the other, are emerging economies such as India and Brazil that have surging rates of diabetes and heart disease attributed to the consumption of some of those companies’ products.

Jamie Maxtone-Graham, the health minister for Papua New Guinea said, “industries realize that in the long term if people start dropping dead because of unhealthy, toxic food, they will lose out because nobody will buy their products. When there is public outrage, there is political action.”

Finally someone is doing something about this growing problem. But they are up against powerful lobbyists and mega companies that won’t go down without a fight.

At stake for the makers of snacks, drinks, cigarettes and drugs is a market with combined sales of more than $2 trillion worldwide last year.

Shiriki Kumanyika, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine who will represent the International Association for the Study of Obesity at the summit said, “companies are going to have to either kill this or change what they’re doing…It’s a direct affront to the current way of doing business.”

To put it mildly. Hopefully something will change but I don’t expect miracles.

The Environmental Working Group has published a primer on farm subsidies  which outlines the top 20 recipients of farm subsidies. By far the most go to corn, with wheat and soybean following.

These products are used for additives to processed junk food and have nothing to do with solving the problem of world hunger as Monsanto likes to portray to the gullible.

What’s your take on this issue? Leave a comment and let me know!

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This post is linked to: Healthy 2Day Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, What’s Cooking Wednesday, Creative Juice Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Fresh Bites Friday, Foodie Friday, Fight Back Friday, Friday Food, Living Well Blog Hop, Monday Mania, Tuesday Tasty Tidbits, Weekend Carnival, Traditional Tuesday

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kelleigh September 28, 2011 at 5:21 am

I can only think that it comes down to economics at the end of the day. As we know, ‘high fructose syrup’ and other ’industrial strength’ sugars used in commerical food products are highly addictive and therefore lucrative $$.

Consumers drive the economy – what we need is more public education. However the facts are not always ‘politically correct’ as we real foodies can appreciate.

Thanks for the thought provoking post Jill!

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2 Jill September 28, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Hi Kelleigh,
Thanks for your comments. You are so right is saying that “industrial” sugars are addictive. It will take a real food revolution to change the workings of the food industry in this country today.

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3 Anonymous September 28, 2011 at 4:01 pm

stop subsidizing food and do something to drive gas prices down.  the food i buy typically isn’t the subsidized crap anyway.

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4 Beyondthepeel September 28, 2011 at 6:21 pm

Interesting post Jill. The whole thing just makes me sad. It sad to think that our economy is going down the tubes, we’re in of state of crisis, and the government that is  responsible for dealing with this financial crisis is also the one funding the junk food epidemic that is leading to the 30 trillion dollars in unnecessary medical bills. Subsidize healthy food and make it cheaper than junk food.

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5 Meagan September 28, 2011 at 8:17 pm

Great article – we are killing ourselves, (rather, they are trying to kill us!)

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6 momnivore's dilemma September 29, 2011 at 2:21 am

I know the PIRG in Illinois is working on this issue now.  What kills me if these foods cause the majority of health issues in Americans: it’s a vicious circle.  Government subsidizes these crap foods, and these crap foods destroy health, and the cost of “sick” care rises.  Yet, I can’t go see a nutritionist or a holistic doctor under my PPO.  But I can go to the ER for free.  Go figure. 

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7 Jill September 29, 2011 at 10:47 am

When people realize where their precious tax dollars are going maybe they will get on board. It’s a sad state of affairs…

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8 Barbeebutts October 2, 2011 at 3:13 am

Great info-Sad story.
It’s sad that all these back-room, closed-door deals are done without the consent of The People.
It’s tragic that Persons of Influence (i.e. The 1st Lady) choose to ignore such details in favor of berating The People for their bad behavior. -Sheesh!

…Reminds me of the policy of the Military during the VN War: Distributed free cigarettes and then didn’t understand why so many soldiers smoked. DOH!

Jill, you are a Patriot! A true advocate for The People. I’d like to see more people like you in the cartegory: Persons of Influence.

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9 Tessa Williams Simpson October 4, 2011 at 3:47 pm

This issue always makes my blood pressure rise, and is a perfect example of what is wrong with the food culture here in America.  We’ve enabled to take our health and our food to He– in a hand basket in the last 6 decades with the food policies in place.  What is a parent to do when they have $10 to feed a family of four?  Get healthy,  real food with not enough calories to fill hungry bellies, or head to the subsidized processed food aisle where you can get 1000 calories for a buck?  It’s no wonder we have an obesity and diabetes epidemic.  Thankfully, it seems a lot of people are starting to get really fed up, which will  eventually transfer into change.

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10 Jill October 4, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Hi Tessa,
Well said! Thanks for your comments!

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11 Shannon October 4, 2011 at 4:16 pm

That was an interesting read, thanks for sharing!
Thanks for linking up to MomTrends this week!

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12 Meagan Garcia October 6, 2011 at 8:11 am

 This is a vicious cycle.  Corn is literally in almost every product in the grocery store, minus whole foods of course.  These poor farmers even WITH their subsidies aren’t making a real living and are depleting their lands of precious nutrients every year they continue to grow it.  Now they’ve also been lured into the soy business for the additional subsidies, and the simple fact that it is a good crop to rotate corn with.  Soybeans fix nitrogen back into the soil so they’re helping their soil minimally by joining in on this practice.

I am outraged that we’ve been led to believe that all these processed foods are safe for us.  Of course they must be, they’re fortified with every vitamin and mineral we need!  I’m outraged that the USDA continues to sway us from the truth of REAL nutrition by demonizing good fats and meats with their awful food pyramid.  Make sure you get your 6-11 servings of grains!  Just keep devouring that cheap, dead white flour and sugar.  At least it tastes good right??! 

Where did our common sense go?  Are we so progressive and enlightened that the wisdom from our forefathers is worthless now?  As much as we’ve been lied to and led astray, it’s time for us to become informed and conscious consumers.  It is no longer an option anymore.  I pray that we start engaging with our local communities, and re-learning the simple and satisfying trades of the past.  Let us become more self-sufficient.  I guarantee we’d all be happier without all this CRAP that just sits in our houses, closets and garages because we’d be the better social creatures that we are.

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