The New York Times reports on a new study by the Union of Concerned Scientists (accessible through the story), which claims that shifts in agricultural policies, ending subsidies for junk foods and encouraging healthy eating could deliver $11 trillion in economic benefits. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/06/11-trillion-reasons/?hp
That number seems a little... ummmm... made up, but the study does highlight the vast gap between policy and the public interest. Fruit, in particular, are categorized as "specialty crops" in the U.S. which do not receive subsidies and are not eligible for crop insurance. Corn, on the other hand, is so heavily subsidized that it is actually cost effective to generate bio-ethanol from U.S. corn, even though it takes approximately 1.2 liters of fuel equivalent of gasoline to produce just one liter of the stuff.
According to the UCS report, increasing fruit consumption in the U.S. by just one portion per person per day could cut the cost of treating heart disease by $17 billion a year.
How do we address the misalignment in public policy that appears to contribute to unhealthy eating, soaring health costs and often carries a significant environmental cost, particularly in the face of the powerful lobbying groups and special interests that originally campaigned for the subsidies and market protection they now receive? Should companies like insurers, which have a vested financial interest in improving public health, become more activist in promoting healthy eating?
Category: Funding longer lives: Health/medicine, Food security: Diet/alternatives