Monday, December 30, 2013

Why not just pour food into our cars and kill two birds with one stone? (Literally?)

Many of us are ending the Christmas season, when we consume huge amounts of soy additives and high fructose corn syrup. Contrast this to the remainder of the year, when we consume huge amounts of soy additives and high fructose corn syrup.

I don't think I've ever written about soy, but I've certainly written about corn syrup, since everyone - except for observant Jews - seems to drink it. For example, I've noted that high fructose corn syrup and "New Coke" were not connected - Coca Cola had switched to high fructose corn syrup several years before New Coke was introduced. I also covered the attempt to allow high fructose corn syrup to be renamed "corn sugar" - the purpose was to "eliminate customer confusion."

However, I've never explicitly stated why we Americans use so much high fructose corn syrup and soy additives, and why Mexicans don't.

There's a simple reason - Congress doesn't provide subsidies to Mexican farmers. Only American farmers are subsidized.

Almost anything you can think of would be a better use of our tax dollars than subsidizing the ingredients in junk food, but every year more than a billion taxpayer dollars do just that.

The above sentence comes from CalPIRG, so it obviously goes on to talk about Monsanto and other evil corporations. But at the end of the day, Monsanto can't force a Senator to vote for corn subsidies. Another beneficiary of corn subsidies - ethanol - was recently defended by Senators from both sides of the aisle.

A federal subsidy of 45 cents a gallon for blending ethanol into gasoline and a 54-cent per gallon tariff on imported ethanol will both expire automatically at the end of [2010] without Congressional action. A bill introduced in April [2010] by Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa, and Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota, would extend the measures until 2015.

“Ethanol has proven its value as a homegrown, renewable fuel and, in light of the hundreds of billions of dollars shipped abroad as a result of foreign oil dependence, ethanol is a relative bargain,” Mr. Grassley said in a statement accompanying the letter.

The letter was signed by 16 senators, including Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, and John Thune, Republican of South Dakota.

And, of course, the reason why the Senators support these bills and accept these contributions is because they want to get re-elected by local voters. Somehow I suspect that the Iowa PIRG doesn't have a lot of success drumming up support to end the ag subsidies. (Although they try.)

Since people act according to their economic interests, it's doubtful that midwestern Senators will vote to end farm subsidies any time soon. So if you really want to battle all the stuff that's getting put in your food, one potential avenue is the tool of ridicule (not to be confused with the Rod of Ridicule, used by Michael O'Donoghue to berate fellow SNL writers). The next time that some shopping mall salesperson is encouraging you to try a food with "healthy corn syrup," simply respond to the person as follows:

Corn syrup? Isn't that the same stuff I put in my gas tank?

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