Monday, September 7, 2009

How to get fat without really trying

Response to in class video
How to get fat without really trying

In the video ABC’s news reporter Peter Jennings investigates the connection between the federal government’s agricultural policies and the food industry growing irresponsibly in terms of the kinds of behaviors and practices they engage in and how when put together both the government and the food industry have played large roles (whether knowingly or not) in the dramatic increase of obesity in this country. In essence Peter Jennings states that the federal government agricultural policies have helped promote and in some cases even encourage many of the bad behaviors and practices exhibited by the food industry. One of the arguments he’s gives in support of this clam is the disproportion in federal agricultural subsidies and how more and more subsidies are going to foods Americans should be eating less of like sweets and meats (indirectly through the constant subsidies of corn which is used to make artificial sweeteners and to feed the cattle that are used in meat production), while fewer subsidies go to foods we should be eating more of like fruits and vegetables (which only receive a total of 1% of these subsides).

As a whole I really enjoyed the video and was very surprised to how much I did not know when it came to the Federal Gov. and their agricultural policies. In the end I found myself agreeing 100% with Peter Jennings and realizing for myself that the government should acknowledge the connection between their agricultural policies and the growing obesity epidemic in this country and take responsibly for the effects of their actions and attempt to reverse the disproportion in agricultural subsidies. By doing so I believe that we would at least start to see a change in the many of the irresponsible trends displayed by the food industry. For example part of the reason why many food companies continue to use corn based artificial sweeteners over their real natural sugar counterparts is because it is a lot cheaper to do so due to the disproportion in subsidies. Thus once there is more balance there will be less incentive to continue under current trends which after watching this video we can all agree is taking us down a path of increasing obesity.


  1. In fact just after watching this video in class I was reminded of how badly natural sugar is losing in the battle over agricultural subsidies under the current agricultural policies when I saw this article in the Wall Street Journal:

    AUGUST 13, 2009
    Food Firms Warn of Sugar Shortage

    Since natural sugar crops such as sugar cane receive so few subsidies it is very expansive to grow these crops domestically thus American food companies rely on importing these crops from other countries (since the cost of importing the sugar is cheaper than buying it domestically). However due to U.S import restrictions and current import quotas this has started to become a problem. Major food companies like Kraft Foods Inc., General Mills Inc., Hershey Co. and Mars Inc. have threatened to jack up consumer prices and lay off workers if the Agriculture Department doesn’t allow them to import more tariff-free sugar. Thus even when it comes to the natural sugar these companies do use (or need to use) in their products it is clear they are have problems getting the required amounts under the current government polices both with respect to importing and domestic agriculture. It is no wonder why these companies keep resorting to using corn based artificial sweeteners, replacing more and more of the natural sugar if the natural sugars are too expansive and harder to come by. If U.S farmers had more incentive to grow natural sugar and received more subsidies (just as they do with corn) then their prices for sugar would not be so high and food companies wouldn’t have to rely on imports and resort to the growing use of corn based artificial sweeteners. Right here in this article is a perfect example of how the government’s agriculture policies have a direct effect on the actions taken by the major food companies and how those actions can have a direct effect on consumer health FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE just as stated in the video How to get fat without really trying.

  2. Our American agriculture should become more varied than it is now. Sugar is a good example of a staple item that we should be producing in our own country, perhaps even locally if possible. However, this country doesn't have the ability though to offer enough diversity and still deliver food staples through only our own national production. Our population is just too enormous. So tariffs only make sense if they're placed on products that we grow in abundance on our own soil. Of course, if the only place we can get these products from is some country located thousands of miles away we should probably do without. Sorry Bananas!