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Invited Commentary |

How Society Subsidizes Big Food and Poor Health

Raj Patel, PhD1,2
[+] Author Affiliations
1Unit for Humanities at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa
2Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin
JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(8):1132-1133. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.3068.
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Approximately 80% of calories eaten in the United States are grown domestically.1 Yet, the US diet is a leading cause of morbidity. The analysis by Siegel et al2 in this issue of JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that through commodity subsidies that encourage poor diet we are, in part, paying for our own demise.

However, commodity subsidies are a small part of a bigger problem. From 2014 to 2023, the 2014 US Farm Bill will cost $956 billion (letter from D. W. Elmendorf to Frank D. Lucas, chair of the House Committee on Agriculture; http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/hr2642LucasLtr.pdf), of which direct support for commodity production is only $44.5 billion over 10 years. Furthermore, among a range of agricultural products, farmers receive the greatest share of the retail price in beef and milk at 50% compared with only 7% for processed food, such as bread. So, while processed food prices may be low, commodity subsidies are not the primary cause.

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Submit a Comment
The Men Who Made Us Fat
Posted on July 8, 2016
G. Krucik MD MBA
Self
Conflict of Interest: None Declared
I read this article with great interest and reminds me of the BBC series - \"The Men Who Made Us Fat\" - which chronicles the history of the subsidies provided by the US tax payer. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01k0fs0 -
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