The United States is among the world’s largest sugar producers. Sugar production increased when the U.S cut ties with Cuba in the 60’s, and stopped importing sugar from them. Even more sugar began being produced since the introduction of government farm subsidies in the 90’s. Since then the production of the cheap sugar alternatives, like high fructose corn syrup, has increased and started making way into more and more American foods. HFCS increased from 2.2 million tons in 1980 to an average 9.2 million tons in the 2000s. Demand for HFCS is driven by demand for products that use the syrups as inputs. For HFCS-55, the major use is in the beverage industry, which demands over 90 percent of total domestic deliveries.
There have been numerous studies proving That High Fructose Corn Syrup does in fact cause and promote obesity. Countries that use HFCS in their foods have a 20 percent higher chance of having diabetes. Since 1995 to 2010, 16.9 billion dollars in federal subsidies went to companies and organizations in the business of producing and distributing corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, cornstarch and soy oils. By subsidizing these companies the US government is supporting an unhealthy diet that consists of these foods in their processed form, namely high fructose corn syrup, soybean oil, and grain-fed cattle – all of which are now well-known contributors to obesity and diseases.
Many people are under the impression that farm subsidies benefit the little guy, and help the small farmers stay afloat. However, in truth, these subsidies are only going out to a few select mega farms. This farm subsidy system, in fact, is responsible for putting many small famers out of business when they can’t compete with the large corporate farms. Between 2003 and 2007, the top 10% of subsidized farmers received an annual average of $68,030, whereas the bottom 80% averaged $2312.
There has been a national debate over healthcare reform in America. Many Americans agree that we should ensure access to basic healthcare, and that government may play a role in that task. However, how can we trust a government that dumps money into the production of foods that so clearly make us unhealthy? The US farm subsidy program is backwards and corrupt, subsidizing junk food in one federal office, while another department is funding an anti-obesity campaign.
The American diet is filled with foods based on the processed and nutritionally devoid crops of corn, wheat, and soy. The overuse of HFCS and other processed grains in our foods is creating an obesity epidemic.
HFCS is a cheap alternative to sugar, but at what cost? Our country's health and well-being?
Globally: Currently HFCS is has restricted use in Europe. However, it is not “banned” in Europe as many people think; it is just not being used due to production regulations. So what happens when these regulations are lifted? Will obesity run as high through Europe as it does in the USA already? We have an obesity crisis on our hand here in America as is. What happens when it becomes world wide?
Nationally: If we continue at the pace we’re going, there will be more issues than just a little extra weight. We are already starting to see the affects
Personally: Healthy food is expensive, and as a broke college student also working 30 hours a week, I don’t have the money to shop at Whole Foods or the time to make healthy at home meals all the time. I still try to be as health conscious as I can, but that’s because luckily I grew up with a family teaching me good eating habits, and I am educated on HFCS and its effects on our health. For many low income families, trying to pinch pennies wherever possible, HFCS food items are going to be affordable and eaten more often. Low income families might not have the means or time to educate themselves on HFCS as well.
Forecast the range of impact over the short term (the next 2 months to 2 years), to the long term (next 20 years to 20 + decades).
Right now so many people are simply accepting the fact that HFCS is an ingredient in a lot of cheap American foods. Everyone has the choice to eat what they want, but unfortunately a lot of low income families have to resort to these cheap HFCS pumped foods. We will most likely see more and more food start to contain HFCS if we don’t do anything to stop it. This can (and has) result in higher obesity rates, more people in debt due to health related bills, and a greater disparity in wealth throughout our country and even world.
What could you do, or could be done to create the greatest positive impact on the future?
Due to the farm subsidies of the 90’s, America is producing massive amounts of corn. Could we be using this corn elsewhere? What if we took some of the HFCS profits and used it towards researching into other ways we could use corn (i.e fuel)? What if there was a bill/law enacted, that used the corn that was once being used for HFCS and instead used it for fuel? Instead of spreading obesity, spread clean energy!
What could you do, or could be done to create the greatest negative impact on the future?
Keeping at the rate we are going with HFCS, or increasing the amount of HFCS in food, would be the greatest negative impact on our future.