Does farm policy make Americans fat?
March 18, 2010
• UC Davis looks into possible relationship
• ‘Farm subsidies have many critics’
The nation’s farm and food policy and the problem of obesity will be the subject of a two-day workshop to be held at the University of California, Davis, Conference Center May 21-22. Speakers will address a range of government policies that influence obesity through their effects on prices of food and beverages or commodities used to produce them.
There is no evidence to support the claim that farm subsidies -- by making fattening foods relatively cheap and abundant -- contribute to obesity in the United States, according to an analysis by UC Davis and Iowa State University researchers.
"U.S. farm subsidies have many critics," says Julian Alston, a professor of agricultural economics at UC Davis. "A variety of arguments and evidence can be presented to show that the programs are ineffective, wasteful or unfair. Eliminating farm subsidies could solve some of these problems -- but would not even make a dent in America's obesity problem."
The workshop will highlight findings from the four-year project exploring the effects of agricultural and food policies on obesity, which was conducted at UC Davis and Iowa State University with support from a National Research Initiative Grant from the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture.
Mr. Alston and scientists from other universities, government agencies and the private sector will present their latest research findings on the influences of specific farm and food policies, facts about nutrition and obesity, and the possible mechanisms through which agricultural and food policies could be influencing health and body weight.
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Comments on this story
Louise Hodges 3/18/10 3:43 PM
Just finished reading a most interesting new book, The Town that Food Saved. About a small town in Vermont and the move by some for eating local. Very balanced, well written and sometime amusing. It provided if I may make a pun, Food for Thought. Many sides to the issue of local food and the benefits to local economies and health. Discusse all manner of side issues.
I live in an agricultural area and think farm subsidies are generally a very bad practice.
Elaine Cullen 3/19/10 10:03 AM
I find it disturbing that agricultural supports are being pressured upon the U.S. to be cut for the domestic U.S. market. I find it also notable that this is occurring at the same time that there is international pressure from other countries using the WTO, to do the exact same thing, cut US farm support subsidies as these studies. The WTO's actions are indicative of policies that have worked to ruin the U.S.'s industrial sector and other country's agricultural sector and appear to be the same purpose that they in their pressuring the US to sign the Doha round agreements in support of cutting U.S. domestic farm supports. It appears this study is connected to these international actions.