27 January 2004

Overweight America is Hooked on Sugar

The U.S. secretary of health actually claims, in the face of a mountain of scientific evidence to the contrary, that it's fine to get 25% of one's calories from refined sugar!

The real reason for the administration's preposterous position is that the powerful U.S. sugar industry is one of its biggest financial backers, and a major power in the key electoral state of Florida. The sugar industry is also one of Washington's most successful lobby groups and a huge contributor to congressmen and senators of both parties.

The result: the federal government subsidizes U.S. sugar producers to the tune of $1.4 billion US annually. Import restrictions protect them from foreign competition and keep domestic sugar prices three or four times higher than world prices. Sugar remains the nation's most heavily subsidized crop at almost $500 per acre per annum.

So American consumers pay inflated prices for sugar while tiny West Indian sugar-producing islands, that depend on the crop, are shut out of the U.S. market. Worse, sugar cultivation has damaging environmental effects. In Florida, 500,000 acres of the Everglades wetlands, one of America's natural treasures, have been destroyed to make room for growing sugar.

Joining the sugar industry in opposing the WHO campaign are America's biggest food and drink producers, led by the mighty Coca-Cola Company, and sugar exporting nations.

The WMD debate is shifting fast from whether they existed to why the intelligence was so bad. I suspect part of it is reliance on electronic and satellite intelligence to the exclusion of human intelligence. Another part of it is the Bush administration's enthusiasm for sugaring the pill when it suits.

After hearing the Bush administration on the US deficit, free trade, on global warming, on air safety at Ground Zero, why are we surprised when empirical evidence gets ignored?

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