The Big Business of Keeping America Fat

More

obesity.JPGIt's rare for me to write two posts in one day, but Michael Pollan's brave opinion piece in today's New York Times deserves applause, and amplification.  In it, Pollan points out that a shockingly significant share of the skyrocketing cost of health-care can be traced to the nation's high rate of obesity and obesity linked disease.  This phenomenon, he says, is about to get swept up in a "sea change." 


Pollan writes: 

AGRIBUSINESS dominates the agriculture committees of Congress, and has swatted away most efforts at reform. But what happens when the health insurance industry realizes that our system of farm subsidies makes junk food cheap, and fresh produce dear, and thus contributes to obesity and Type 2 diabetes? It will promptly get involved in the fight over the farm bill -- which is to say, the industry will begin buying seats on those agriculture committees and demanding that the next bill be written with the interests of the public health more firmly in mind.

Cheap food is cheap only because American taxpayers pay for it in ways both obvious and subtle--from agricultural subsidies for grain and the livestock that fattens on it to food safety mishaps to our soaring medical bills.  While industry sponsored "pundits" and radio shock jocks rant on and on about "food nannies" limiting our "choices," for millions of low income Americans there is no real choice--they buy what they can afford, and what they can afford is predetermined by a politically driven agricultural and retailing system over which they have very little say or control.
 

So, as with so many things, food offers us a choice:  pay me now, or pay me later.  Frankly, given the quality of life costs incured by a food system built around quick profit rather than human needs, this choice seems like a no brainer to me.   

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


Jump to comments
Presented by

Ellen Ruppel Shell is the co-director of the Graduate Program in Science Journalism at Boston University. She is the author of Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

From This Author

Just In