Junk food tax misses the point

The argument for taxing “high-sugar” junk food like soda pop has been brewing for years and is currently reaching a fever pitch. In a highly publicized article published February 1 in Nature journal, scientists claim that “sugar is a poison and should be as tightly regulated as cigarettes and alcohol.” 
The original article is available to subscribers only. However, a quick Google search 24 hours later turned up 446 news results. Clearly, this issue has some teeth.
 
It’s pretty hard to make a case for the social benefits of consuming junk food at our current obesity rates. Especially considering that there are now more obese people than malnourished ones across the world. (Care to guess where the majority of them live? Hint: it ain’t China.)
The best the beverage lobbyists can come up with are rebuttals like “The causes of these diseases are multi-factorial and demonising food components does not help consumers to build a realistic approach to their diet.”  Huh? 
 
I can already hear well meaning food and health policy wonks wetting themselves at the prospect of a health tax on slurpees. I have to admit, when I heard rumblings about the issue a few years ago I got pretty excited myself.
But not this time. This time ‘round, I’m sensing a rip-off. A cover-up. A bait and switch. 
 
Here’s my beef: If we decide that it’s in our best interest to consume less junk food (of course it is) then the first thing to do is STOP PAYING HUGE CORPORATIONS TO MAKE IT. (Duh, right?)
 
Ever wonder why twinkies are cheaper than carrots? Simple -- it’s because the ingredients in junk food (i.e. twinkies) are heavily subsidized, while whole nutritious foods (i.e. carrots) are not. Three main crops - corn, soy and canola - are ubiquitous in junk food products like candy and pop. They take the form of high fructose corn syrup (aka sugar), soy isolate and vegetable oil. Since 1995, $17 billion in subsidies for big agribusiness have gone to common junk food ingredients including high-fructose corn syrup.  
Meanwhile, carrot farmers have to contend with the “free market.”
 
But being highly subsidized out of the taxpayers’ pocket isn’t the only dubious distinction these industrial crops at the bottom of the junk food pyramid share. They also happen to be produced largely with genetically engineered seed, with the profits funneling into the coffers of giant corporations like, you guessed it, Cargill and Monsanto.
 

And yet the authors of this sensational report apparently offer no recommendations to end these insane subsidies. What gives? This seems like too much of a no-brainer to ignore. Especially given that the lead scientist on the report Robert Lustig is known to be “particularly critical of the widespread use of high fructose corn syrup in the United States.”  

Isn’t it kind of a scam to start taxing junk food while continuing to pay mega corporations to produce it? Wouldn’t it make more sense to cut off the corporate welfare that keeps junk food artificially cheap?

Personally, the idea of using a junk food tax to create a stream of income for government and their consultant cronies while continuing to foot the bill for twinkie production makes me feel more ill than than that time I downed a deep-fried Mars bar with a Cherry Coke.

More in Trends

Bling and glitter are back this Christmas

It's time to let your wardrobe shine with glittery and sequined items this holiday season.

Why I won’t be growing a moustache for “Movember”

I don’t want to unwittingly promote controversial cancer screening to the male masses. And I don't want to be a cause-marketing dupe for companies (and industries) that do not reflect my values.

Facebook gives big rewards for bug reports

Find a glitch in the popular social networking site, and be rewarded. With more than 750 million active users, Facebook said that the program would allow individuals to be recognized and it would...
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.