One Simple Change in Diet Changes so Much More
In just over thirty days from now the current federal “farm bill” which addresses agriculture programs and more importantly, farm subsidies is set to expire. The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed its version of the farm bill last month by a close vote margin of 216 to 208. The new House version of the farm bill contains some new controversial provisions: 1) eliminated the food stamp program as part of this historic legislation (whether there will be subsequent food stamp legislation remains to be seen) and 2) a requirement of more scientific and economic studies before a 2010 food safety law goes into effect. See http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/12/us/politics/house-bill-would-split-farm-and-food-stamp-programs.html?pagewanted=al The U.S. Senate has passed its own version of the farm bill. See http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/11/us/politics/senate-passes-farm-bill-house-vote-is-less-sure.html Eventually the two houses of government will need to reconcile them to pass a final bill for President Obama’s consideration.
Of course, there is much more contained in both farm bill versions. Put aside those complexities and consider this: the primary goal of the farm bill is to establish our government’s financial incentive program for farmers. Basically, it tells farmers what to grow and what not to grow by paying them with our taxpayer dollars. It is a fundamental vehicle of our nation’s food policy.
But is this policy making us a healthier nation or not? Not according to a study published earlier this month by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Essentially, that study concludes that by giving farmers money incentives to grow more commodity crops, such as corn and soybeans, which are used for processed food ingredients, our nation’s food policy encourages the production of unhealthy foods. This results in high rates of diet-related illnesses and increasing economic costs for citizens —- health care and insurance among other things. Instead, if our food policy emphasized the growth of more fruits and vegetables and as a result, healthier foods became more affordable and available to a vast majority of our population, then our country could save an amazing $11 trillion from saved lives. This economic value is determined by the amount of lives saved, lower treatment of diseases associated with unhealthy processed foods, the impact on insurance and medical costs and other factors. That study can be found at http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/solutions/expand-healthy-food-access/11-trillion-reward.html After reviewing the study, one could argue over some numbers and figures, however, its basic proposition presents a legitimate question: are we spending taxpayer dollars on a food policy that encourages healthier foods and results in improving our country’s health or just the opposite?
The study also emphasizes how one simple change (which all of us could do) can make a major difference in our lives and in our economy. The study concludes that if Americans ate just one more serving of fruits or vegetables a day then more than 30,000 lives and $5 billion a year would be saved. Those rates more than triple if Americans were to follow the current USDA recommendations for daily consumption of fruits and vegetables. See http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/aib-agricultural-information-bulletin/aib792.aspx#.Uh1WrYUctJk
It always amazes when one simple change could change so much more around us.