Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Big Sugar locks down Florida: corporations with the same rights as people, billionaires with joysticks, seeding the political atmosphere with toxics … by gimleteye

The excellent investigative report by the Tampa Bay Times, exposing links between Florida's top GOP politicians -- including Gov. Rick Scott and Republican legislative leadership -- Big Sugar and high cost, free hunting trips to the King Ranch in Texas show the extent to which the party of the "free market" freely undermines the ideals of its base: sugar is one of the most heavily protected industrial crops in America, enjoying vast subsidies including illegal (according to the Florida Constitution) subsidies for the costs of Everglades cleanup.

Sugar's true cost to taxpayers, and the context of U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystal's flagrant entertainments of elected officials, isn't the Everglades and measures to shift cleanup costs to taxpayers -- it is public health and strategies to prevent Big Sugar from becoming the next Big Tobacco.

"Drastic Measures", in the Financial Times (April 25, 2014): notes the reach of Big Sugar, but also details a dramatic shift in health care priorities that is putting the first significant, coordinated pressure on sugar consumption. Earlier this year the World Health Organization reduced the recommended daily sugar intake by half, to the equivalent of six teaspoons of sugar a day.

"The amount of scientific research linking sugar intake with obesity has increased. And governments are waking up to the rising costs of illnesses such as diabetes and cancer that have increased alongside obesity. "The discussion of sugar linked to dietary concerns has been has been gathering momentum," says Stefano Natella of Credit Suisse. "The related global healthcare costs are at an all-time high--the bill is $500 billion or over 10 percent of global healthcare spending -- as are obesity and diabetes levels."

While Republican members of Congress ranted and raved about the costs of the Affordable Health Care Act, none also complained about the toll on consumers' health through excess consumption of sugar.

Democrats have also been loathe to tie the costs of Big Sugar to the domestic health care emergency, because of the enormous impact of campaign contributions to members of Congress and state legislatures where sugar is grown. When Michele Obama tried to move her popular "Get Moving" campaign towards the sugar problem, she was warned off by White House policy makers.

It is not just Florida, but Florida is the state where the lockdown by Big Sugar of the Florida legislature and Governor's Office is a given. The entire governmental investment for Everglades restoration, spending billions and hundreds of thousands of man hours in the multi-decadal effort, is a work-around of Big Sugar.

Cynical industry manipulation of public processes, with billionaires at their joysticks -- is crippling government agencies and forced Congress through the Farm Bill and state legislatures through lax regulations to keep intact taxpayer backed programs that form the backbone of protectionist trade policies.

So why haven't environmentalists decried Big Sugar as the same kind of destroyer as Big Tobacco? It's time.

"Sugar has become the new tobacco," says Simon Capewell, professor of clinical epidemiology at Liverpool University, one of the founders of Action on Sugar, a UK campaign group formed in January. "Everywhere, sugary drinks and junk foods are pressed on unsuspecting parents and children by a cynical industry focused on profit not health."

Environmentalists calling for eminent domain proceedings in the long standing battles to obtain enough land to clean up Big Sugar's polluting farmwater runoff ought to call attention to the public health costs. To the excess costs of phosphorous pollution, a byproduct of fertilizer, plus the recruitment through farming practices of the most toxic substance known to mankind: methyl-mercury; add the true costs to public health of sugar.

In Great Britain, policy makers are considering a sugar tax. In Florida, when Big Sugar faced a tax that would have paid its costs for polluting the Everglades, it enlisted among its chief supporters the churches and leaders in the African American communities of Florida; shameful given that obesity rates disproportionately affect minorities.

Environmentalists and homeowners, despairing a starved, disappearing Everglades and property values destroyed by pollution, ought to deploy the one tactic they haven't tried -- teaming up with health care professionals and experts fighting the epidemic of costs associated with excess sugar consumption.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of lawyers and consultants hanging on these words.