Knowing Where Your Food Comes From is Vital to Your Health

Twinkies are made from 39 ingredients, most of them requiring elaborate processing themselves, in addition to packaging and marketing.

But they, like many other processed foods, are cheaper than a similar quantity of carrots, which require no processing or marketing, and little or no packaging. How is this possible?

The answer is a piece of legislation called the farm bill, which is renewed every five years (including this year), and sets guidelines for the American food system -- including which crops will be subsidized and which will not.

Processed foods like Twinkies are made from carbohydrates and fats extracted from corn, soybeans and wheat, which, along with rice and cotton, are the products supported with $25-billion subsidies from the U.S. government.

But the farm bill does almost nothing to support farmers growing other forms of produce, such as more nutrient-rich vegetables. The result is a food system flooded with corn-derived added sugars, and soy-derived added fats. Meanwhile, the real price of fruits and vegetables increased by nearly 40 percent between 1985 and 2000, while the real price of soft drinks (made with high-fructose corn syrup) actually declined by 23 percent.

The farm bill has far-reaching effects on health, the economy, and the environment. A growing body of activists are becoming aware of the implications, and are pressing for changes to the bill, which has remained largely unchanged for decades.

New York Times April 22, 2007 (Registration Required)


Dr. Mercola's Comment:

Celebrated author and frequent New York Times columnist Michael Pollan turns his attention to the farm bill, a far more vital piece of legislation than you'd ever imagine to world health.

Michael is one of the best natural food writers alive, and his recent book The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals is highly recommended if you have interests in natural medicine, as it is a terrific book.

The farm bill -- particularly its subsidies for corn (high-fructose corn syrup) and soy -- has been instrumental in creating and continuing the obesity epidemic that's ruining the health of our world.

Pollan argues that usually only a handful of farm-state legislators will pay much attention to the bill because it deals with farming, considered by many to be "an increasingly quaint activity that involves no one we know and in which few of us think we have a stake."

Perhaps, the best first step is to throw the word farm out of the equation altogether and call it what it actually is -- a food bill -- and then rewrite it with healthy eating in mind. Until that day comes, if ever, don't expect the government to regulate any issues regarding obesity. Instead, start a health care revolution in your own home by taking steps against the obesity epidemic today.

If you haven't already started, make the commitment to avoid carbohydrate- and fat-laden processed foods, and instead look to unprocessed, natural, organic, whole foods, ideally from local farms.

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