Life's too short to eat bad food - Me

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic - Arthur C. Clarke

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Children of the Corn II

In a December 10 op-ed, Nicholas Kristof, whose reporting on Darfur is a must read, turned his attention to the Department of Agriculture. In his opinion, it should be renamed the "Department of Food". Doing so would indicate a change in focus from the mere production of agricultural products, to a focus on what we eat.

Renaming the department would signal that Mr. Obama seeks to move away from a bankrupt structure of factory farming that squanders energy, exacerbates climate change and makes Americans unhealthy — all while costing taxpayers billions of dollars.

The nature of our farm policy in this country has been disgraceful since the days of Earl Butz and the rise of agribusiness as basis of the Prime Directive of said policies. It focuses on mere production rather than what is best for our diet, or our country. We have fence-to-fence monocultures of crops, payments to millionaires for not growing crops about their McMansions (aka "Cowboy Starter Kits") and qualifying for disaster relief after the Columbia shuttle exploded overhead. We have New York journalists being paid not to grow crops on land the breadth of the country away.

But the worst is our corn policy, which includes low cost food of dubious nutritional value, sweeteners that are addicting, and production of corn ethanol at no environmental or energy gain, and an overall waste addiction to petroleum in general.

Many were encouraged to hear of President-elect Obama's familiarity with the work of Michael Pollan, and hoped a new day had arrived.

Of course, then Mr. Obama named Gov. Tom Vilsack to be the next SecAg. I found Mr. Vilsack intriguing during his short run for president, his record on agriculture is spotty on CAFO's, and while he looks at ethanol from non-food sources, corn is still king. After all he was Governor of Iowa the lagest producer of corn in the nation.
But at least there is congressional oversight. The chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee is Tom Harkin of , oh, Iowa. Well the House Agriculture Committee is chaired by Collin Peterson of Minnesota, which is only the forth largest producer of corn in the country. It's the fox in the henhouse.

In the meantime, the President of the Corn Refiners Association wrote this to the Buffalo News:

Criticism of high fructose corn syrup is unfounded The Dec. 27 letter, “Instituting ‘soda tax’ will aid public health,” may mislead consumers about high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup, sugar and several fruit juices are all nutritionally the same. High fructose corn syrup has the same number of calories as sugar and is handled similarly by the body. The American Medical Association in June 2008 helped put to rest misunderstandings about this sweetener and obesity, stating that “high fructose syrup does not appear to contribute to obesity more than other caloric sweeteners.” Even former critics of high fructose corn syrup dispel long-held myths and distance themselves from earlier speculation about the sweetener’s link to obesity as the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition releases its 2008 Vol. 88 supplement’s comprehensive scientific review. In 1983, the U. S. Food and Drug Administration formally listed high fructose corn syrup as safe for use in food and reaffirmed that decision in 1996. Consumers can see the latest research atwww.HFCSfacts.comand Audrae Erickson President Corn Refiners Association

I wrote a response which hasn't been printed:

A recent letter from the Corn Refiners Association, as well as their recent ad campaign, seem to be rebutting an argument about High Fructose Corn Syrup that is not being made. The issue with HFCS is not that it is different from other sugars per se, either as a sweetener or as a contributing factor (among others) to Childhood Obesity or Type 2 Diabetes. Rather, the issue is that the cost of HFCS is kept artificially low to a point - according to the USDA - less than half of the cost of refined table sugar. It is kept artificially low based on misguided corn subsidies and paid for by our taxes.

As a direct result of the subsidies, products made with HFCS are also priced artificially low. Further, cheap HFCS has allowed it to become insidious, appearing in foods you would not expect to find it - have you checked your kid's bread lately?

While I am a big fan of choice in food, there is no question that our children consume way to much sugar in whatever form. I just don't think we should be using tax dollars to be enablers of this “habit”.

Only one politician has stood up to big corn, and he is fictional. Life (and corn) goes on!


Ulla said...

AHEM! a wonderful post!:)

Scotty said...

Thank you for your kind words!

ntsc said...

I agre with Ulla, excellent points.
And if I recall correctly, forigen grown white sugar is kept at an artificiall high price via trade law.

Scotty said...

ntsc, you are correct sir, but now your HFCS comes laced with mercury!

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
- Arthur C. Clarke

Life's too short to eat bad food -