How Crop Subsidies May Make You Fat

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A new study shows that bloated crop subsidies may be contributing to Americans’ expanding waistlines and poor health.

The study, conducted by researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Emory University, and published in the scholarly journal JAMA Internal Medicine, looked at foods made with corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, sorghum, dairy and livestock – the commodities that receive the most government support in the form of federal taxpayer-funded subsidies.

Their conclusion: People who ate more of these subsidized foods were more likely to be obese, register high levels of bad cholesterol, and have high blood sugar and inflammation.

The scientists recommended “better alignment of agricultural and nutritional policies [to] improve population health.”

What does that mean exactly?

Essentially, the most heavily subsidized crops tend to be used in processed foods with fewer redeeming nutritional qualities than fresh fruits and vegetables. Livestock is fattened on heavily subsidized corn and soybean feed. Animal protein and processed meats are linked to obesity and other chronic diseases.

If the government were to give greater incentives to farmers who raise fruits and vegetables, and encourage more organic farming, American diets and health could improve.

Between 1995 and 2014, EWG found that corn growers received $94 billion in taxpayer-funded subsidies. Soybean growers took in more than $31 billion. 

Next year, Congress will begin debating the next federal farm bill. This legislation sets the nation’s agriculture policy and determines how the government will support farmers. EWG takes the position that federal subsidies should be linked to food and farming practices that protect water, land and air, and produce healthier foods, in contrast to the existing system, which rewards farm polluters and junk food producers.

If you want to avoid overly processed foods, check out EWG’s Food Scores database to find healthy alternatives.


comments powered by Disqus