Michael Pollan: The Government Makes You Fat

Michael Pollan looks at the way Government policy determines what we eat and why "the most reliable predictor of obesity in America today is a person’s wealth." He quotes a study by Drewnowski of the University of Washington, who determined that a dollar will buy 1200 calories of cookies or chips but only 250 calories of carrots. If you don't have a lot of money, the most rational thing to do is buy junk food to get the most calories for your buck.

Why is a complex food like a Twinkie, with its 39 ingredients, processing, packaging and marketing so much cheaper than a bunch of carrots? Government subsidies and programs like the Farm Bill. we quote:"Like most processed foods, the Twinkie is basically a clever arrangement of carbohydrates and fats teased out of corn, soybeans and wheat — three of the five commodity crops that the farm bill supports, to the tune of some $25 billion a year. (Rice and cotton are the others.) For the last several decades — indeed, for about as long as the American waistline has been ballooning — U.S. agricultural policy has been designed in such a way as to promote the overproduction of these five commodities, especially corn and soy.

That’s because the current farm bill helps commodity farmers by cutting them a check based on how many bushels they can grow, rather than, say, by supporting prices and limiting production, as farm bills once did. The result? A food system awash in added sugars (derived from corn) and added fats (derived mainly from soy), as well as dirt-cheap meat and milk (derived from both). By comparison, the farm bill does almost nothing to support farmers growing fresh produce. A result of these policy choices is on stark display in your supermarket, where the real price of fruits and vegetables between 1985 and 2000 increased by nearly 40 percent while the real price of soft drinks (a k a liquid corn) declined by 23 percent. The reason the least healthful calories in the supermarket are the cheapest is that those are the ones the farm bill encourages farmers to grow."

Fascinating reading in the ::New York Times

Tags: Corn

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