Monday, August 6, 2012


Does any government has a role to play in deciding what its citizens must eat or what should not be eaten? This issue received a sharp focus recently when some of pro-active policies are being taken up by governments in a few countries to discourage consumption of patently unhealthy foods. Higher taxation, limiting large sized packs and more forceful labeling regulations have been the chosen routes for achieving the goal of herding the consumers to live more responsibly and avoid social burden through diseases like diabetes, CVD, obesity, cancers etc. The on-going tussle between the farming lobby and consumer interests invariably ends up in favor of the former because of close nexus between agriculture lobby and the governing political class. Here is an interesting commentary by a critic regarding the systematic blows being delivered to the consumers by the American government through some of the most idiotic policy orchestrations to oblige its farming lobbies with almost all multinational giants investing heavily on an agenda of protecting their financial flanks.   

"Also, the Golden Age of Cheese was not purely the result of individual choices. It reflects decades of pro-cheese U.S. agriculture policy. I am not making this up. The nation's cheese binge is a case study in the broader dysfunctionality of federal farm legislation, the latest iteration of which is being debated in Congress. Yes, there are real social trends at work, too. An aging population consumes less milk as fluid and more in solid form; a wealthier population can afford a richer diet, including cheesy dishes eaten at restaurants. But the country's appetite for cheese also reflects U.S. policy. Since the New Deal, Washington has tried to protect dairy farmers through price 
supports and production controls so arcane that only specialists can understand them. As a 2004 Agriculture leaving Department report explained, the net effect of dairy programs is to prop up fluid milk prices even when producers make more of it than people want to drink — plenty of excess to dump on cheese manufacturers. "Thus, consumers see lower butter and cheese prices and higher fluid milk prices than would appear in the absence of the programs," the USDA found. Not surprisingly, fluid milk consumption has stagnated while cheese consumption has grown. Of the 188.9 billion pounds of milk produced in 2008, some 82 billion were sold to cheese makers, according to the USDA. On top of those warped incentives, the Dairy Production Stabilization Act of 1983 authorized the Agriculture Department to collect a fee from all dairy farmers and turn the money over to a corporation known as Dairy Management, which promotes consumption of cheese and other dairy products".

Cheese and ice cream are two products liked universally and one of the reasons for this phenomenon in a country like the US is the ridiculously low prices at which they are offered in the market. In contrast fluid milk consumption is deliberately depressed by making it much more costlier which has the effect of stagnating consumption by those who find it increasingly difficult to buy it due to escalating prices. The twin objectives of satisfying the farmer as well as the industry are achieved by increased retail prices of milk to the consumer and supply of excess milk production to the dairy processing industry to turn out products like cheese, butter and ice cream at relatively low prices. It is the consumer who is left behind in this convoluted situation as drinking milk is progressively reduced and consumption of high calorie and high fat foods is increased putting the consumer health in jeopardy. This explains the tripling of the population that has become over weight and obese in the last 40 years and to day more than two thirds of American population are categorized as either over weight or obese! It is the unfortunate political compulsions that make the ruling class blind to the dangers of wrong and unhealthy food and environmental degradation due to pollution, global warming and other scientifically proven findings. If the US is facing frequent hot weathers, droughts, floods and similar abnormal situations to day, one must thank its government for the wrong policies being pursued by it. 


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