This will be my last post until the beginning of June. I’m going on vacation with my parents to the Provence and will be 14 kilometers from the nearest town, and consequently nowhere near an internet source.
However, I will leave you with a bit of reading I’ve been doing lately around the web. They’re newspaper and magazine articles I’ve found that have opened my eyes to the fact that we have a very big, complex problem on our hands. I’ve given you links, and quoted some of the things I found most surprising.
The Fatness Formula
published in The Economist May 18, 2007. Accessed May 23, 2007
“The latest figures suggest that a third of American children are either overweight or at risk of becoming so. If the trend continues, today’s children will be the first generation of Americans to have a shorter lifespan (by two to five years) than their parents.
[…] While most people concerned about their weight fixate on fats and carbohydrates, nutritionists say the real problem is sugar. And not just any old sugar, but the high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) that has replaced cane and beet sugar in processed foods and soft drinks over the past 25 years. […] In 1982, when the American government slapped import quotas on foreign supplies of cane and beet sugar, the American food industry promptly switched to cheap HFCS derived from subsidised domestic corn.
[…] But ponder this. Misguided government policy caused the food industry to switch to high fructose corn syrup in the first place. Another misguided government policy—America’s plan to produce 35 billion gallons of alternative fuels annually, mostly in the form of bioethanol made from corn—could make the food industry switch back to healthier sugars just as fast.”
Fear of Frying: A History of Trans Fats
published in N+1 by David Schleifer May 21, 2007. Accessed May 23, 2007
“[…] [KFC has] voluntarily eliminated trans fats, as [has] a very long list of other companies, from Applebee’s and Arby’s to Taco Bell, Starbucks, and the giant institutional food supplier Sodexho. […] From a business perspective, such moves seem counterintuitive. The FDA, after all, did not require any reduction in trans fat content, and a proposed footnote that would have warned consumers about health risks associated with trans fats was scrapped. […] So why would a food company advertise the fact that many of their products contain or used to contain a potentially dangerous ingredient? Why spend millions of dollars to reformulate products that people thought were just fine?
The answer, of course, is that “just fine” is never good enough. Rather than fighting regulation and obfuscating science, big food companies have been cultivating the fear of trans fats as a way to market new and improved trans-free products. Trans fats’ ongoing exit from the American food system is due less to the regulatory actions of any government […] than to an underlying tenet of the food industry: Fear sells.”
Corn for Cars: Will Biofuels Starve the Developing World?
published in Spiegel Online International by Lester Brown on April 27, 2007. Accessed May 23, 2007
“Cars, not people, will claim most of the increase in world grain consumption this year. The US Department of Agriculture projects that world grain use will grow by 20 million tons in 2006. Of this, 14 million tons will be used to produce fuel for cars in the United States, leaving only 6 million tons to satisfy the world’s growing food needs. […] In the United States corn supplies sweetener for soft drinks and is used in breakfast cereals, but most corn is consumed indirectly. The milk, eggs, cheese, chicken, ham, ground beef, ice cream, and yogurt in the typical refrigerator are all produced with corn. In effect, the refrigerator is filled with corn — meaning the price of every item is affected by corn’s price. Since almost everything we eat can be converted into fuel for automobiles, including wheat, corn, rice, soybeans, and sugarcane, the line between the food and energy economies is disappearing.
[…] Given the insatiable appetite of cars for fuel, higher grain prices appear inevitable. Indeed, the prices of wheat and corn have recently hit historical highs; wheat prices at the end of 2006 were 20 percent above their levels at the end of 2005. For the 2 billion poorest people in the world, many of whom spend half or more of their income on food, these rising prices can quickly become life threatening. Food riots and political instability in lower-income countries that import grain, such as Indonesia, Nigeria, Mexico, and scores of other countries, could disrupt global economic progress.”
LASTLY, but definitely not leastly, the article I originally wanted to post here is not only in German but no longer available for free. If you can get your hands on the Spiegel article “Not für die Welt,” published in the 19th issue of this year on May 7th, it is a must-read on agricultural subsidies of the North destroying farmers’ income in the South. This article paired with the above articles brings up the point, which Barbara Bormann hints at as well: let’s stop exporting to Africa and use our surplus corn to fuel our cars and not our unhealthy diets.