Put Agricultural Subsidies on a Diet
|May 10, 2011|
Last week, just days after the marriage of his son, Prince Charles was in Washington, D.C., delivering an important warning against destructive agricultural policies. The Prince’s speech echoed that PCRM and others have voiced for years. A recent article in theNew York Timesshowed that Capitol Hill is finally ready to heed this warning: It’s time to overhaul our country’s federal policies that lead to tens of billions of dollars in handouts to an agricultural system that favors the unhealthiest food products.
Last month, PCRM released a report revealing the stark contrast between the foods our government recommends we eat, and the food products it supports through subsidies.
The vast majority of subsidies directly or indirectly support the production of the least healthful foods—those that are high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories, such as meat, dairy products, and sweeteners. On the other hand, the types of food that have been identified to help protect our health—fruits and vegetables—receive a fraction of the support.
The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines not only point out the health problems associated with fatty foods like meat and cheese, they highlight the benefits of a plant-based diet, stating: "Vegetarian-style eating patterns have been associated with improved health outcomes—lower levels of obesity, a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, and lower total mortality. Several clinical trials have documented that vegetarian eating patterns lower blood pressure."
About 60 percent of all deaths in the United States are caused by diseases linked to unhealthy diets, including heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Poor diets are also linked to epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Not only are taxpayers forced to finance large agribusinesses, we must also pay hefty medical bills—both directly and indirectly through federally funded health care—that are fueled by diet-related diseases.
My message to Congress is that it is time to put unhealthy agricultural subsidies on a diet. We can rein in federal spending and give our nation a health boost in the process.