Sunday, May 20, 2007

Why Twinkies Are Cheaper Than Tangerines

In a recent article published in The New York Times, Michael Pollan talks about the ways in which the current farm bill influences what we eat -- by determining which crops will be subsidized -- and, ultimately, contributes to our national obesity epidemic. For the last several decades U.S. agricultural policy has been designed in such a way as to promote the overproduction of commodities such as corn and soy.

Pollan writes: "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."


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