Food Crisis: Where is the Government?

According to the CDC,

Percentage of obese U.S. adults: 35.7%

Estimated Annual Medical Cost of Obesity (in 2008 dollars): $147 Billion.

Difference in Individual Medical Cost between obese and those of normal weight: $1,429.

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The United States is currently dealing with an obesity crisis and something needs to be done about it. There are many entities (governments and organizations) that have taken initiative in this crisis, but there is still more than can be done.

Mark Bittman wrote a great op-ed where he takes the reader into the minds of different sectors of the food industry. He keeps the problem in perspective which makes it interesting.

The solution ultimately comes down to the government, though. Farmers cannot compete with the low prices and efficiency of industrial competitors. On top of that, the government has laws and policies which encourage industrialized production of food and discourage the growth of natural foods. The government provides different subsidies for industrial producers for various reasons, while providing subsidies for farmers to not grow food.

Another problem that he cites is that food stamps can be used to buy junk food. This is a major problem because the groups that are predominantly suffering from obesity also generally tends to be the groups that use food stamps. The epidemic will continue if junk food is cheaper and easily accessible to the groups who have severe rates of obesity.

The governments needs to make sure that the industrial producers internalize the negative externalities which they are imposing on society. There needs to be policy that makes the prices of industrial and natural products more equal. It might also be beneficial to find a way to encourage natural farming and improve farming techniques to increase efficiency.

Either way the United States needs to decrease the disparity between the consumption and production of natural foods and industrial ones. The government could make a huge difference by leading the charge.