Firm Subsidies Causing Obesity in the United States
In the United States, farmers get subsidies from the government to increase their produce and at the same time earn more from agriculture. This contributes to high production of food, which is then processed into fast foods for consumption, and sweeteners are added to the processed foods as well as food preservatives. In addition, unhealthy foods are relatively cheaper than healthy foods, making it the best option for many people especially in such a time when prices of food are high. However, obesity will not only depend on the on the subsidization, but also personal responsibility For instance, choosing between food vitamins and fibers such as root tubers and vegetables over food rich in fats, and avoiding too much sugar. It is therefore important to note that subsidies for crops only contribute to obesity, just as other factors, and cannot be full blame for obesity.
In America today, the cause of low prices for corn, wheat, and soybeans is the subsidies from government, where these three crops are the most favored, comparing to fruits and vegetables, which are healthier than the three. This makes it possible for the low costs, and at the same time, abundance of these foods. According to Griffin, “In 2003 alone, corn, wheat, and
Soybeans subsidies totaled $2,812,727,118, $1,372,937,961, and $1,141,506,239, respectively. In contrast, fruits and vegetables are among the least supported domestic crops.” He further says that in the same yea, apples, which are the most favored fruits, received just a 3% subsidy compared to corn. These kinds of subsidies dictate the amount of food farmers produce in their firms, hence there is overproduction of the three heavily subsidized foods. This has in turn caused more unhealthy food production in the food processing factories, with production of foods such as the high fructose corn syrup from maize, which is high in glucose, also refined grains that come from the wheat and hydrogenated fats from soybeans, which are readily available at low costs. According to Griffin (2004), “in 2002, thirty-three percent of the corn used for food and industry was available as added sugars, especially high fructose corn syrup, while less than eight percent was available as whole corn. Further, last year, eighty percent of the fats and oils consumed in the United States were from soybeans.” In this way, the unhealthy food is available at low costs, causing consumption by majority of Americans.
To affirm that food prizes of unhealthy foods has contributed to their over consumption, several studies have been conducted, and some have shown that price does affect what food is consumed. In a research conducted in high school where prices of healthy foods were reduced by 10%, their sale increased tremendously (Zheng and Chen, n.d.). The same kind of experiment was conducted in a restaurant where prices of foods low in fats were reduced, while the same type of food with high fats remained the same. The sales of the low fat increased significantly, illustrating that people were sensitive to food prices, but at the same time, were aware of risks caused by high fat foods (Griffin, 2004). This affirmed that it is quite true that subsidies for these foods have increased their consumption, contributing to the epidemic in obesity, since people go for the unhealthy foods due to their cheap cost. In another study, to confirm the same but using the variant of poor and rich, it showed that households with low income tend to consume more unhealthy foods than house holds with bigger income. The poor could not afford the fruits and vegetables in plenty, while the richer could. This is largely due to high prices for fruits and vegetables, compared to the unhealthy foods from subsidized foods. In another study, it showed that unhealthy foods were used as substitutes for healthy foods, since change in price changed the demand of the other in the same way, and there was not much difference except changing to the other good. Many people will consider price as a factor to determine what they eat, hence the increased consumption in unhealthy foods.
The unhealthy diets contribute to obesity as mentioned above, hence, there is an epidemic of obesity in America due to the over consumption of this foods. Unhealthy diets such as the above foods when refined are high in fat content, which are a high-energy source in the body that cause imbalance of energy in the body when over consumed, hence obesity results, where the glucose has to be turned into fats and stored in the body. When these fats continue accumulating in the body, without having enough exercise, one is at high risk of becoming obese since these fats continue to accumulate in the body. In a study conducted on rats, it showed that rats that were fed with high fructose corn syrup developed the condition of metabolism syndrome and abnormal weight gain (Parker, 2010). According to Parker (2010), since the introduction of high fructose corn syrup around 40 years ago, the cases of obesity have increased rapidly, especially due to its availability. It said that before the high fructose corn syrup was introduced, only 15% of Americans could have or were at risk of obesity, while today, a third of the whole population are at risk or are obese. This was a confirmation that such processed food rich in fats can cause weight gain, resulting to obesity. The research showed that consumption of this corn syrup could cause increased fat in the body especially in the stomach, and rise in triglycerides, which are fats circulating in the body. Further, due to the use of the high fructose corn syrup in most of the beverages as a sweetener and other refined foods has increased the epidemic of obesity.
However, subsidies are not the only causes of obesity, as personal responsibility is also required in order to eat healthy. In addition, fat food may not be so harmful if people take exercises for their health to avoid too much accumulation of fat. In America, most people will prefer buying to eat out rather than buying food to cook. Most of the ready to eat food is rich in fats, and this adds to the problem too. This is the personal responsibility, where the government cannot be responsible for what people choose to eat in their daily diets, and it is up to the individuals and families to choose what is best for them. In addition, the foods mentioned above are healthy in their natural form, except when processed in the factories, do they become unhealthy. Hence, if they are in plenty, then people should avoid the processed foods from the factories, and buy them fresh for cooking to maintain a healthy diet. For instance, if people choose to have boiled corn over having burgers and added sweeteners, it would be a healthy meal with much less harm to the body. According to Hotakainen (2007), “Senators take millions from corporations that produce bacon, burgers and other fatty foods. Then Congress buys up these unhealthy products and dumps them on our school lunch program.” This contributes to extreme weight gain in the children who are not very aware of the consequences of such foods. The personal responsibility of people is very important in determining increase in obesity, since continuing to buy processed foods will mean continued unhealthy foods as opposed to eating unprocessed foods.
However, the above crops are the most highly demanded in the world, and are cheaper to produce in terms of labor needed and intensive care is hardly needed unlike other crops such as legumes and fruits, farmers will continue to produce them in large quantities with or without subsidies, hence they will still be available in abundance in the market.
In America today, obesity has increased to alarming levels not only due to the subsidies that make it cheap for unhealthy processed foods to reach the market, but also the lack of personal responsibility in minding what people eat, and also, due to the fact that fruits and vegetables require a lot of care and labor to produce. This makes hard for farmers to produce them since they are concerned about having maximum yield that comes from these subsidized crops. Subsidies for wheat corn and soybeans make possible to have cheap processed and unhealthy foods, which are just a contributor to obesity, just as personal eating habits.
Griffin, Meghan. “The Economic Cause of Obesity: The Low Cost of Obesity-Causing Diets.” 2004. PDF file.
Hotakainen, Rob. “Are rising obesity rates linked to U.S. farm aid?” McClatchy Newspapers 29 October 2007. Print.
Parker, Hilary. “A sweet problem: Princeton researchers find that high-fructose corn syrup prompts considerably more weight gain.” princeton.edu, 22 March 2010. Web. 3 June 2011.
Zheng, Xiaoyong and Chen Zhen. “Healthy Food, Unhealthy Food and Obesity.” N.d. PDF file.