I want to show a picture of my friend Brittney.
She’s sixteen years old.
She’s got six years to live.
Because of the food that she’s eaten.
She’s the third generation of Americans that hasn’t grown up within a food
environment where they’ve been taught to cook at home
or in school.
Or her mum. Or her mum’s mum.
She has six years to live!
More pictures of people with very round faces and rounder bodies:
This is a normal family, guys!.
We need to change normal.
That’s what Jamie Oliver wants to do.
Obesity leads to diabetes and heart disease.
And what leads to obesity?
Lack of exercise combined with food stuffed with
high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), salt, and fat
in massive portions.
Fast food has taken over the whole country, we know that.
Time to take it back.
I wish I could come up here today and hang up a cure for AIDS or cancer,
you’d be fighting and scrambling to get to me.
This, all this bad news, is preventable. That’s the good news.
It’s very preventable.
Vote with your food purchases.
Demand a food ambassador in every supermarket.
Demand big food businesses back food education.
Get the government to work with the fast food purveyors
to wean us off the fat, sugar, and salt.
Schools, ages 4-whenever: proper fresh food cooked from local sources on site.
Every child should leave school knowing how to cook ten recipes
that will save their life.
Corporate American should feed their staff properly.
You can care and be commercial.
That’s his prescription.
Doesn’t sound so hard, does it?
Update 2012-08-30: old graph links decayed; replaced with other graphs of same data.
Almost as many obese as healthy weight adults in the U.S., and the rest are overweight. Something changed starting about 1980.
Data source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2005) Health, United States, 2005.
Graph source: Wikipedia Blue Cross Blue Shield, with this accompanying text:
While the percentage of the U.S. population considered overweight has been stable since 1960-62, the percentage considered obese has more than doubled.
Michale Pollan points out that if we actually get health care reform that removes terms like “recission” and “pre-existing condition” from health insurers’ playbook so that they can’t exclude artificially unhealthy people from their insurance pool, something else will change:
The moment these new rules take effect, health insurance companies will promptly discover they have a powerful interest in reducing rates of obesity and chronic diseases linked to diet. A patient with Type 2 diabetes incurs additional health care costs of more than $6,600 a year; over a lifetime, that can come to more than $400,000. Insurers will quickly figure out that every case of Type 2 diabetes they can prevent adds $400,000 to their bottom line. Suddenly, every can of soda or Happy Meal or chicken nugget on a school lunch menu will look like a threat to future profits.
When health insurers can no longer evade much of the cost of treating the collateral damage of the American diet, the movement to reform the food system — everything from farm policy to food marketing and school lunches — will acquire a powerful and wealthy ally, something it hasn’t really ever had before.
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.
In the same way much of the health insurance industry threw its weight behind the campaign against smoking, we can expect it to support, and perhaps even help pay for, public education efforts like New York City’s bold new ad campaign against drinking soda.
High fructose corn syrup treated like nicotine: it could happen.
Aug. 13 (Bloomberg) — Monsanto Co., the world’s largest seed maker, plans to charge as much as 42 percent more for new genetically modified seeds next year than older offerings because they increase farmers’ output.
Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans will cost farmers an average of $74 an acre in 2010, and original Roundup Ready soybeans will cost $52 an acre, St. Louis-based Monsanto said today in presentations on its Web site. SmartStax corn seeds, developed with Dow Chemical Co., will cost $130 an acre, 17 percent more than the YieldGard triple-stack seeds they will replace.
That’s quite a price hike! Why are they doing this?
The new seed boosts yields 5 percent to 10 percent compared with other products, partly by reducing the amount of land that must be planted with conventional corn to 5 percent from 20 percent, Monsanto said.
“They are in essence splitting the value of the extra yield 50-50,” Gulley said by telephone.
It will be interesting to see if farmers really do get such improved yields. If not, there’s a simpler possible reason for the price hike: now that Monsanto has gotten pretty near every farmer locked in to using its seed, it’s exercising its monopoly power and raising prices to increase its profit.
Meanwhile, is Monsanto splitting the costs of all the dead birds, frogs, house pets, and ill humans caused by their chemicals? Or the costs of the epidemic of obesity caused by the high fructose corn syrup that their corn is used for? Ah, no. Those would be what Bloomberg would call economic externalites, which is to say other peoples’ problems. Monsanto gets the profits; the rest of us get the problems.
All of this is overseen by a handful of giant corporations that control the growth, processing and sale of food in this country. Take Monsanto, for example. It has a patent on a custom gene for soybeans. Its customers are forbidden to save their own soybean seed for use the following year. They have to buy new seed from Monsanto. If you grow soybeans outside their jurisdiction but some of the altered genes sneak into your crop from your neighbor’s fields, Monsanto will investigate you for patent infringement. They know who the outsiders are and send out inspectors to snoop in their fields.
Food labels depict an idyllic pastoral image of American farming. The sun rises and sets behind reassuring red barns and white frame farmhouses, and contented cows graze under the watch of the Marlboro Cowboy. This is a fantasy. The family farm is largely a thing of the past. When farmland comes on the market, corporations outbid local buyers. Your best hope of finding real food grown by real farmers is at a local farmers’ market. It’s not entirely a matter of “organic” produce, although usually it is. It’s a matter of food grown nearby, within the last week.
Remember how years ago you didn’t hear much about E. coli? Now it seems to be in the news once a month. People are even getting E. coli poisoning from spinach and lettuce, for heaven’s sake.
Why are Americans getting fatter? A lot of it has to do with corn syrup, which is the predominant sweetener. When New Coke failed and Coke Classic returned, it wasn’t to the classic recipe; Coke replaced sugar with corn sweeteners.
High fructose corn syrup, bringing obesity, diabetes, and heart disease to a third or more of the U.S. population.
Perhaps it’s time to do something about this.
Before you say “there’s nothing we can do” consider that even Wal-Mart has changed its food buying habits due to customer demand. We vote every time we buy food, and the one thing big corporations don’t want to lose is customers.