Editorial: I know too many people with diabetes

Lisa Yates, Editor

Today, 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes. A physician friend told me that 1 in 3 Americans born after 2000 will contract early onset diabetes; among minorities, the rate will be 1 in 2.

That’s crazy. When I was growing up, I didn’t know anyone with diabetes. Today, I know too many people with diabetes. What is happening?

The 2009 documentary “Food, Inc.” suggested there’s a correlation between changes in American agriculture and the national epidemic of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

In the film, director Robert Kenner lifted the veil on the industrial food process by asking the simple question: “Where does our food come from?”

It turns out that huge multinational corporations are consolidating their control over our food system, including the organic sector.

While grocery store shelves appear to provide abundant choices, most of these are marketed by a small and decreasing number of firms. The trend raises a number of concerns – including some health concerns.

The film stars investigative reporter Eric Schlosser, who wrote “Fast Food Nation,” and Michael Pollan, who wrote “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food.”

Pollan, a professor of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, has been a long-time critic our current farm policy that supports commodity crops with approximately $25 billion each year.

In fact, current food policies and subsidies encourage growers to overproduce corn and soy which are then used to create sugary, fatty, factory-made, industrial food products sold as processed, fast, or funk food.

In essence, the government is standing next to us in line at fast food restaurants helping us to purchase burgers, fries and colas at cheap prices. But in the produce isle of the grocery store, we’re on our own.

Our country’s Farm Bill offers little support to farmers for growing fruit, vegetables and healthy whole food.

The extra corn (sugar) and soy (fat) which farmers are encouraged to produce are turned into industrial processed food and sugar-sweetened beverages – combinations of fat, sugar and salt that are proven to be addictive.

These subsidized, cheap, low-quality foods are heavily marketed and consumed by us, as our obesity rate is approaching 3 out of 4 Americans. The more we eat, the fatter we become. The fatter we become, the more we develop heart disease, diabetes, cancer and a myriad of other chronic ailments.

While the situation may appear bleak, corporate dominance is being challenged by groups that have been adversely affected, such as farmers, workers and consumers.

I’ve found one organization that is helping to change things: the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. NSAC is fighting for better food and a better farm policy.

NSAC is an alliance of grassroots organizations that advocates for better policy reform to advance the sustainability of agriculture, food systems, natural resources and rural communities.

On its website, NSAC says:

“The perfect storm of economic, environmental and health crises currently gripping our nation demands farm policy reform that will ensure a sustainable future for American agriculture.”

I agree because I know too many people with diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

I’m supporting NSAC’s 2012 Farm Bill platform which aims to expand opportunities for family farmers to produce good food, sustain the environment and contribute to vibrant communities.

The Farm Bill is up for authorization this year. This is an opportunity for all of us to transform federal food and farm policy and it only comes only once every five years.

Lisa Yates is the editor of Gonzales Weekly Citizen. Follow her on Twitter @Lisa_editor.

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