I take a look at the way corn subsidies skew our eating habits — and not always for the good of our health — in this week’s Acton Commentary. Excerpt:

Government policy-makers regularly prove themselves to be unwise decision-makers by continuing to introduce arbitrary agricultural price distortions that create incentives for producing unhealthy food through farm subsidies. Perhaps the most effective national health care initiative moving forward would be allowing markets to function so that people can make better food choices.

We cannot be good stewards of our bodies or nature if we do not have accurate information. Prices help to convey that information. For example, what would happen if the market determined actual corn prices? Not subsidizing corn would cause a needed price correction. Perhaps our hamburger value-meals would adjust in price creating disincentives to eat fast-food. Without corn and other agricultural subsidies, maybe the price of meat would adjust to a point encouraging different choices benefiting us all in the long-run. Maybe, for example, eating a 72-once steak at the Big Texan restaurant in Amarillo, Texas would be too expensive to consider.

While individuals are ultimately responsible to exercise good stewardship in choosing what and how much to eat, incentives can be distorted by government meddling in the market. Dr. Barry Sears, author of Toxic Fat: When Good Fat Turns Bad, argues, “The problem lies with America’s continually subsidizing of corn and soybean production.” Government subsidies generate “an oversupply of cheap refined carbohydrates and cheap vegetable oils that when combined give rise to increased diet-induced inflammation.” This inflammation in turn “activates the genes in people who are genetically predisposed to gain weight with relative ease,” giving rise to all the health problems connected to excessive weight. Medical spending for obesity is estimated to have reached $147 billion in 2008, an 87 percent increase in the past decade.

Read “Too Much Government Makes Us Sick” on the Acton Web site and come back here for comments.

  • Joel Newman

    Coming from a lifelong farm family and being in the ag business, I’m offended by this article. Tell me why the price of food hasn’t doubled in the last couple years when corn and soybeans have over double their historical average in the same time period? Why does the farmer become the bad guy for producing cheap food for the poor of this country and the poor of the world? What is so bad about cheap food for those who can’t afford basic needs? Why isn’t the focus more of self control instead of finding a bad guy to blame? This is an outright falsehood that is being spread by a small minority that has the agenda of a non meat eating society.

  • Tracy

    I don’t think the blame is on farmers. The US Government has created food shortage on healthier crops like rice, corn or soybeans substitues such as corn oil for cheaper food to feed American while they use healthier crops for fuel production such a biofuel. Unfortunately Americans eat in large quantities of fast food since it is fast and relatively cheap causing us Americans to be overweight which leads to large number of people needing heath care to treat obesity. Why not the Government make wise decisions on helping Americans eat better by not rationing healthier food crops which Americans need to stay healhy might help the health care industries requiring the government or private sector spending tons of money on health care.