Twinkies are made from 39 ingredients, most of them requiring elaborate processing themselves, in addition to packaging and marketing.
But they, like many other processed foods, are cheaper than a similar quantity of carrots, which require no processing or marketing, and little or no packaging. How is this possible?
The answer is a piece of legislation called the farm bill, which is renewed every five years (including this year), and sets guidelines for the American food system — including which crops will be subsidized and which will not.
Processed foods like Twinkies are made from carbohydrates and fats extracted from corn, soybeans and wheat, which, along with rice and cotton, are the products supported with $25-billion subsidies from the U.S. government.
But the farm bill does almost nothing to support farmers growing other forms of produce, such as more nutrient-rich vegetables. The result is a food system flooded with corn-derived added sugars, and soy-derived added fats. Meanwhile, the real price of fruits and vegetables increased by nearly 40 percent between 1985 and 2000, while the real price of soft drinks (made with high-fructose corn syrup) actually declined by 23 percent.
The farm bill has far-reaching effects on health, the economy, and the environment. A growing body of activists are becoming aware of the implications, and are pressing for changes to the bill, which has remained largely unchanged for decades.
New York Times April 22, 2007
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