Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Does The U.S. Government Subsidize Junk Food?

The U.S. government is perpetuating the childhood obesity epidemic by subsidizing the commodity crops that make junk food junk, according to Mike Russo of the U.S Public Research Group (PIRGs) Education Fund. Russo’s new report, Apples to Twinkies: Comparing Federal Subsidies of Fresh Produce and Junk Food, says between 1995 and 2010 , out of the $260 billion in agricultural subsidies, $77.1 billion went to corn production.  About $7.5 billion went directly to corn-based sweeteners and starch, the report says.  

If agriculture subsidies went back to the people, Americans would receive 19 free Twinkies per person per year, Russo says. However, with the $262 million that go towards the production of apples, we would be rationed about a quarter of a red delicious apple per person per year. One in five children ages six to 11 are obese. In January, the USDA published a report announcing that they were embarking on a campaign to educate children about healthier eating. Russo further discusses the reality of the American agriculture business and how the American people can help change the industry.

Neon Tommy: Could you comment on how the agricultural subsidies are affecting this country?

Mike Russo: If you look at where the agricultural subsidies are going, billions of subsidies are spent on crops and a big piece of that is junk food. All the trends are really scary in terms of what it means for our health, for our health care system, and how much we’re looking to pay or to deal with those issues. So for the purpose of this campaign we’re really focusing on just saying that taxpayer’s dollars shouldn’t be going to these services, that we should get rid of this wasteful spending on these counterproductive subsidies. 

There is certainly a lot of other stuff that needs to be done in order to really reverse the obesity epidemic, and these whole lot of other causes that are into why there is all of that cheap junk food available including what consumers like to buy, to what the food processing industry looks like, to the way that marketing and packaging have gone through, and you know those are all pieces of the puzzle when you are talking about how to address the broader issue of obesity.

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