It takes ten pounds of grain to grow one pound of beef, and by the time a cow has reached the age of maturity, it has consumed and fouled enough water to float a battleship. Or let’s look at it another way. It takes twenty thousand glasses of clean water to produce two pounds of meat. With water costing more than gasoline if you do the math only the extremely rich could afford to eat meat if it wasn’t subsidized by the Federal Government.
So what if we weren’t growing all of that grain to feed to cattle which is a poor exchange as far as a wise use of our agricultural resources. If we were a global population of vegetarians, would the resulting abundance of land now available for planting vegetables and fruit be enough to wipe out global hunger?
The Farm Bill, a massive piece of federal legislation making its way through Congress, governs what children are fed in schools and what food assistance programs can distribute to recipients. The bill provides billions of dollars in subsidies, much of which go to huge agribusinesses producing feed crops, such as corn and soy, which are then fed to animals. By funding these crops, the government supports the production of meat and dairy products—the same products that contribute to our growing rates of obesity and chronic disease. Fruit and vegetable farmers, on the other hand, receive less than 1 percent of government subsidies. When you take into consideration that more than half of the population is lactose intolerant, it is almost criminal to proceed along our current lines. It defies all logic.
The government also purchases surplus foods like cheese, milk, pork, and beef for distribution to food assistance programs—including school lunches. The result of these practices have resulted in the poorer people becoming the most obese group of people in our society.
When the House of Representatives debated the bill in July, PCRM (the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine), along with many other health and public interest groups, supported the Fairness in Farm and Food Policy Amendment, which was offered by Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ). This amendment would have limited government subsidies of unhealthy foods, cut subsidies to millionaire farmers, and provided more money for nutrition and food assistance programs for Americans and impoverished children overseas.
Unfortunately, politics doomed the reform effort. At the eleventh hour, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) feared that freshman representatives who voted to cut subsidies might risk losing their seats in farm states in the 2008 elections, endangering the Democratic majority. The reform amendment was defeated 117 to 309.
Nonetheless, Congress did make some modest changes to the Farm Bill’s subsidy programs at the very last minute.
The President’s Cancer Panel had this to say about the country’s farm policy:
“Current agricultural and public health policy is not coordinated—we heavily subsidize the growth of foods (e.g., corn, soy) that in their processed forms (e.g., high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated corn and soybean oils, grain-fed cattle) are known contributors to obesity and associated chronic diseases, including cancer. The upcoming reauthorization of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (the Farm Bill) provides an opportunity that must not be missed to strongly increase support for fruit and vegetable farmers, improve the national food supply, and enhance the health of participants in the national school lunch, food stamp, and Women, Infant, and Children food assistance programs.”
The American Medical Association in a resolution passed by the AMA House of Delegates in 2007 stated the following:
“RESOLVED, That our American Medical Association support efforts (1) to reduce health disparities by basing food assistance programs on the health needs of their constituents, (2) to provide vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, vegetarian foods, and healthful nondairy beverages in school lunches and food assistance programs, and (3) to ensure that federal subsidies encourage the consumption of products low in fat and cholesterol.”
Slowly we are making progress in the right direction. The big question is, will it be in time? Another huge consideration is the fact that when we do not grow our fruits and vegetables organically, after a few seasons the soil in which non-organic crops are grown actually becomes sterile. It loses a lot of micro-organisms that are necessary to grow healthy, nutrient dense crops. That coupled with the fact that the modern agricultural industry does not usually rotate crops means that the same nutrients are being depleted from the soil year after year and the soil thus becomes exhausted. When this happens, the modern agricultural industry attempts to replace the soil nutrients with chemical fertilizers. This is the main reason that when most Americans go to the doctor, they are placed on a vitamin program. It is almost impossible to get all of the required nutrients from foods that have been grown in a commercial non-organic fashion.
This is another one of the reasons that when the medical community looks at people who are raw organic vegans they almost always see a cause for alarm. Because in their world, they are examining a huge section of the population that is in fact deficient, because the food that they are eating is deficient.
The following is a true story. When my wife Jinjee was pregnant with our third child she went to the doctor to get her blood work done. It came back a little low in iron. She stepped up her intake of green leafy vegetables and vegetable juices including dark leafy greens and a 1/4 of a beetroot. She then went back to the doctor and he said that she was doing fine but he still wanted her to take some supplements just to be on the safe side.
What I gathered from this was here was a doctor who was so used to seeing people come into his office deficient until it was just a reflex to put them on a vitamin program. Now, I admit that there may be times when people become so deficient that the vitamins actually do help. There are times when the good outweighs the bad. But most doctors will agree that taking supplements can potentially interfere with the natural absorption of nutrients.
It is much better if you can get all of the nutrients that you need from vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds in a raw organic state.
But as long as we have the doctors and scientists and other people in positions of power feeding us a diet of high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated soybean oils as well as dairy and meat products, then we are going to have major health problems that are, for the most part, totally preventable.
I have mentioned the political corporate process to show that food is both tied into big business, and that a lot of the time it is also tied into the corporations who have a huge amount of power over our food supply. But in no way do I feel that the change is going to come from them. It is going to come from everyday people saying that “enough is enough”. I truly believe that by voting with our individual dollars we can create the most amount of change on a grass roots level, and at the same time we can achieve near-instant results as far as improving our health, diet, and our lifestyle.