The USDA Contradicts its Food Pyramid Advice
A troubling disparity highlighted the awkward truth about the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA): What it advises people to eat to stay healthy does not exactly match what it pays farmers to grow ... to say the least.
For starters, the only reference to corn on the USDA's new food pyramid is a graphic of a bright-yellow ear of corn amid a sea of other vegetables; soybeans are not mentioned at all. Yet U.S. farmers receive $15 billion in subsidies to grow corn and soybeans that are largely used to feed livestock (with harmful chemicals and antibiotics often added).
What's worse, corn and soybeans are used to make artificial sweeteners and partially hydrogenated oils -- the very ingredients the food pyramid urges Americans to avoid. Comparatively so, fruit and vegetable farmers receive no subsidies whatsoever, though whole foods are supposed to make up the largest part of Americans' diets, per the pyramid's recommendations.
According to a former U.S. Congressman, farm policy has clearly been developed with little regard for the diets and health of Americans and instead is the result of a Depression-era program that was supposed to give temporary relief for low commodity prices. He further explained that those who attend hearings on domestic farm policies are largely lobbyists who protect the interests of a handful of crops, including:
A nutrition professor at New York University said the USDA has fought with conflict of interest since its mission was expanded beyond farming to dietary advice and food assistance to the poor.
Lobbying from the food industry has historically influenced the agency's nutrition advice -- the composition of the new pyramid included.
Moreover, the alleged conflict between the agency's role in promoting both nutrition and agriculture even prompted former Sen. Peter Fitzgerald to compare the USDA, when it comes to farm subsidies, to a fox guarding the henhouse. He introduced legislation to move the nutrition program to the Department of Health and Human Services, but his legislation fizzled.
Farm subsidies are not the only USDA program that seems to contradict the advice of the food pyramid: The department also sponsors a variety of marketing initiatives that encourage consumers to eat more of everything.
Chicago Tribune May 2, 2005
Dr. Mercola's Comment:
You may be wondering why there is such a gigantic discrepancy between what corn and soybean farmers are being paid, compared to fruit and vegetable farmers. The reason, as usual, is money.
The USDA doesn't give $15 billion to just anyone. In this case, they are guaranteeing themselves continued support from the mega food corporations, who make billions themselves from the sale of numerous products made with the ingredients supplied by corn and soy.
By itself, corn is used in an untold amount of products. Everything from conventional cattle feed to high-fructose corn syrup to even some forms of vitamin C are made from corn.
Of course, products made with soy constituents are equally plentiful. Many experts tout soy as a health food, despite the evidence that it is not. Most soy is grown for its uses in livestock feed and in the hydrogenated fats used in making processed foods.
It's unfortunate that the government doesn't place the same emphasis on your health as it does on capitulating to corporate conflict of interest. The above study only serves as more confirmation that there is still a long battle ahead to turn the health of America's citizens into one of its highest priorities.