Friday, March 28, 2008

American Diet

American Diet

Are you over weight? Do you get tired easily? Do you struggle with high cholesterol or with high blood pressure? If so, do not worry you are not alone. Thousands of United States citizens suffer from obesity and other food related health problems. These problems can be traced back to the early twentieth century because it was at this time that the technology necessary to manipulate terrestrial food became readily available. This new technology enabled terrestrial foods to play a vital role in the global market, thus affecting the economy and creating social and environmental concerns. Social concerns mainly came about because of the decreased role of women in family life which had a domino effect -- giving birth to the fast food revolution, the creation of the FDA, world hunger.

In the early nineteen hundreds when agriculture was technologically advancing, the United States citizens were consuming a wholesome and more healthy diet than what we have today. Before chemicals and pesticides came into view, farmers ate and grew all natural fruits and vegetables to sell as well as to consume. Because of the Native Americans, farmers learned how to grow certain vegetables in a way that would help support other kinds of vegetables reproduction. 'They planted corn, beans, and squash together in small groups, so that the corn plants supported the beans, the nitrogen released by the roots of the bean plants fertilized the corn, and the sprawling squash vines reduced the number of weeds.' (Agriculture) In the 1930's new uses for farm products and agricultural wastes were discovered. New standards were beginning to become important when farmers packaged and sold vegetables and fruits. The standards were based on the sizes of the crops as well as how many were being packaged and shipped. These standards were in high demand of the people because farmers wanted to receive the bigger amounts that were being packaged as well as the bigger pieces of food.

The United States had extremely good quality fertile soil and plenty of land owned by farmers who were mostly interested in selling their goods than using them for their own personal use. This made farming much easier and made meat, grains, and vegetables widely available. The United States was so well off with their production that it was helping to feed the starving victims of World War I. (United States Culture: Food) Technology was getting more advanced and farmers were able to make more money by sending fruits that had been picked that very day on a refrigerated railroad car and straight to the consumers. This idea of 'same day delivery' made it seem that everything was fresh and new, while overlooking the fact that in order to freeze food other things were put into them.

Since the 1970's high technology farming, including new hybrids for wheat, rice, and other grains, better methods of soil conservation and irrigation, and the growing use of improved fertilizers has led to the production of more food per capita, not only in the United States, but in much of the rest of the world. (Agriculture)

World War II had a drastic change on family life. When men left for war and more jobs opened up for women, the food production industry also took a turn that forever changed the world's health. When women began to work, most of the jobs were long hours from dawn until dusk. No longer did they have the time to cook meals where they would have to literally milk a cow and chase a chicken. Since they no longer had enough time to cook from scratch because of their jobs, they had to jump at the idea and opportunity of frozen foods that would be shipped to them that same day, and ready to eat after it defrosts. After long hours of working, women were appreciative of the fact that they could begin using the new idea of canned goods.

The absence of knowledge about the health risks associated with prepackaged foods made it so that women fed their families the food that was available to them due to a larger income. Also, it was easier for children to feed themselves with meals that were already prepared. In some ways women are at fault for the emergence of prepackaged foods beginning rather than the all natural home cooked meals that people were accustomed to before and during the early 1900's.

Canned goods and pre-prepared foods were beginning to seem very practical to the average American family especially to the women whose husbands were off at war. In a certain way it started a lazy revolution. As a result of more convenient ways to do things, it became the norm to have an easy way out of everyday chores and jobs. While women were working and men were at war, without even realizing it everything was very slowly, but dramatically changing. For instance, machines were being built for farming, and the process of preparing food took less time because of the ways produce companies found easier ways to make food stay 'fresh' longer.

'The government encouraged agricultural expansion more directly with the Homestead Act, passed in 1862.'(Agriculture) The Homestead Act offered 160 acres practically free to any citizen who was voluntarily willing to develop land for use of consumption and farming. Politicians hoped that this opportunity would be more attractive to farmers because they wanted to expand the agricultural development in the western states. However, this expansion did not successfully occur. There was not enough rainfall in the West that would grow healthy crops because the farmers did not have the amount of land that the Homestead Act provided (Agriculture).

The government knew that it was extremely important to begin making the United States' agriculture grow into a strong foundation. Because there was so much land available, the government knew that all they had to do was give the perspective farmers the land which would instill self motivation, and then they would soon be able to build an incredible state of production.

These farming families settled on millions of acres that had been shunned by farmers who had crossed over the region earlier to settle in more inviting places on the Pacific Coast. These families farmed the plains with new techniques and equipment developed after the Civil War. (American Westward Movement) The government communicated with farmers to decide upon ways to manage the land and come up with ideas that could help increase the lands' production output increase. Farmers quickly learned how to use what was around them to help grow more crops, rather than depending on rain showers, and expensive equipment. When farmers began to move closer to streams and rivers, they began producing more than they ever did before while at the same time they were able to sell more crops and consuming more.

The US government created remedial programs to aid farmers during the 1920's. In 1933 the Agricultural Adjustment Act made it so that farmers were paid to decrease their land acreage as well as their crops. (American Westward Movement) With the government as the farmers support system, the beginning of the advancements of agriculture began to be a major impact on peoples everyday lives without even realizing it. While women were working to take care of there families while their husbands were at war, they did not even realize all of dramatic changes that were happening to the food that they were selling to other companies from their farms as well as the ones they ate themselves. The beginning of agriculture was the time when the decisions people made were what caused the molding of a completely other system that they did not even see coming. All they saw were the amazing advancements that were being created while they were too busy to notice. The positive and negatives of this system are quite extreme. The good side is that we have advanced on a level where we can save time and sometimes money, but the bad is that our advancements have caused problems with our health. Such advancements have created the technology to make food faster than ever creating a fast food revolution. Fast food chains have been growing in popularity and contributing to our over-consuming ways. 'May I take your order?' Does this sound familiar to you? Several people today depend on pre-prepared food to have an 'on the go' meal. Why care about our health when we can have food right away at the second window on the left of the drive-thru. Our current lack of patience is increasingly problematic because our hectic, busy lifestyle holds more importance than overeating grade F meats, preservatives, and genetically modified food.

Meat has been around since the beginning of time. It traces all the way back to the age of hunters and gatherers, but today, we no longer hunt for the animal, kill it, and then butcher it -- rather we go to the nearest drive-thru. In fact, 'we produce and eat so much meat it is literally killing us and our environment' (Tudge). In the United States, farming had always been easier with just a few animals. The environment is already suffering because of the amount of cattle and pigs that are into the industry. 'Meat offers the food industry a way to raise the ceiling on global consumption of farming output. By 2050, the world's livestock population will, on present trends, have grown to the point where the plant food it consumes could feed an extra 4 million people, if it wasn't hived off for meat production' (Tudge).

What is the whole craze for fat foods? Is it the taste, the accessibility, or has it become the trend for young children at lunch for who has the latest 'Lunch-able'. In today's society, the number one goal for food is getting the longest lasting expiration date. What does this mean? Fatty foods are being placed in the market like no other. Who does not walk down that aisle and crave a Coca-Cola or Oreo. The saddest part is that the obesity rate is growing drastically and it is thanks to marketing, although, 'Kraft foods has promised to stop marketing junk food directly at children in one of the industry's biggest concessions yet to anti-obesity campaigners' (Obesity fears...junk food ads).

'Fast food has become a prominent feature of the diet of children in the United States and, increasingly throughout the world...' (Bowman). After being curious of the affects of long term unhealthy eating terms, departments got together to conduct a survey and the results were shocking.

On a typical day 30.3 percent of the total sample reported consuming fast-food. Children who ate fast food, compared with those who did not, consumed more total energy, more energy per gram of food, more total fat, more total carbohydrate, more added sugars, less fibers, and fewer fruits and non-starchy vegetables (Bowman). It is remarkable to think how many diseases and problems can be prevented just by what we feed our children.

American advertising is amazing. It is only in this country that we have glorified junk food. Junk food is just that: 'junk,' and adding a gram of calcium or zinc does not change it. However, parents are greatly attracted to this new version of junk food and think that they can kill two birds with one stone -- which is giving kids what they want to eat and having a pre-baked meal for them (Lee). A significant problem that is emerging is the substitution of 'fortified' junk food for healthy foods that actually supply core nutrients. 'The food and drug administration does not encourage indiscriminate addition of nutrients to foods, nor does it consider it appropriate to fortify...snack foods such as candies and carbonated beverages' (Lee). Just think, Nestle Nesquick now comes in fat free, or fortified with calcium and fruit Gushers are said to be made with real fruit.

'Fast food has hastened the marring of our landscape, widened the gap between the rich and poor, fueled an epidemic of obesity, and propelled American culture imperialism abroad' (Schlosser). The fact of the matter is, food is being made too quickly, we do not take the time like we used to. Even today in farming, 'Pharma Crops' are food crops that are grown, secretly, as research for pharmaceuticals. The director Margaret Mellon, of the food and environment program for the Union of Concerned Scientists, makes a good point, 'nobody wants to discover drugs in their cornflakes' (Toner). The fact that these 'Pharma Crops' are grown outdoors means that they can contaminate the nation's food supply. Corn and soybeans are the most widely grown for 'pharma crops.' These two plants are in most all processed foods, as well (Toner).

It is important to look at different times and eras, to see how food consumption in the United States has evolved. It is interesting to see how times have changed and how people have become more dependant on instant gratification. In the 1930's, a food survey was taken and it stated that, 'one-third of the nation's families had diets that were poor by nutritional standards' (Food Consumption...century). The government then interceded to create a better living condition by increasing the amounts of flour, in the 1940's. However, there were big strides in the distribution of food products, especially because of the new home refrigeration. This change made people purchase more food. In the fifties, convenience was more of an issue and there was a 'consumer acceptance' (Food Consumption...century) of new, more convenient foods such as mixes for bread and ready made baked products instead of backing from scratch. In the seventies, there were new technological inventions such as freeze-dried products, commercially frozen foods, and more advanced packaging. In the eighties, there was a shift in diet and nutrition issues. Many people went from whole milk to skim milk and decreased their intake of meat for dietary purposes (Food consumption...century). 'The amount of fat in the average diet was still higher than recommended and Americans were not eating enough fruits, vegetables, grains, and low-fat dairy products as recommended but the latest dietary guidance, the Food Guide Pyramid' (Food Consumption...century).

Food Consumption can most likely be traced to incomes in developing countries. As incomes in developing countries rise, the availability and consumption of high-energy, high-fat diets also increase (Global...Trends). There is such an importance on the consumption of animal products. An expert has stated that there has been an increase in pressure on the livestock sector. This is because the livestock sector has to attempt to meet the quickly growing demand for high-value animal protein. Even though the high demand for animal products this can and often does lead to excessive intakes of fat (Global...Trends).

Recently the USDA surveyed food consumption changes and came to the conclusion that, 'Americans are eating more grain products, especially grain mixtures, such as lasagna and pizza, as well as ready to eat cereals and grain based snacks like crackers, popcorn, pretzels, and corn chips' (What we eat in America). It also has come about that American's show a decrease in dark-green vegetables and deep yellow vegetables. For example, twenty-five percent of Americans eat potatoes such as French fries and potato chips while thirteen percent eat deep-yellow vegetables (What we eat in America).

Another change in consumption is that Americans are 'drinking more non-citrus juices' (What we eat in America). Also, Americans drink less whole milk and more low fat and skim milk because of dieting. Those that do not drink milk are drinking more beverages such as juices and soft drinks, which are made of mostly sugar and dyes. Moreover, the amount of people that drink carbonated beverages such as Pepsi, Coke, and Sprite has increased by fifty-two percent (What we eat in America). But even with all this over eating, over consuming, and over producing that is going on in the United States, it is still important to remember that there are nations in the world that with quite the opposite is the problem.

Today the topic of world hunger is often disputed. Who has the responsibility of dealing with this predicament? 'Over the past century or so, and especially in the past fifty years, the western industrial democracies have experienced what can only be described as an economic miracle. Living standards and the quality of life have risen at a pace, and to a level, that would have been impossible to imagine in earlier times' (The world according to CSR). The United States is currently eating so high in the food chain. People in the United States are eating a lot of meat. As a result, it has come to hurt us more than offer an advantage. Eating the meat people produce do is causing problems in the environment, as well. 'The companies, after all, are in pathological pursuit of profit and power'' (The world according to CSR). The United States is a very rich nation but we need to look at what is going on around in our own country and other countries. Instead of making so much profit there is a need to help others so they do not continue to starve. Picture this scenario, once you have finished a meal at home or a restaurant all the leftovers are being thrown out. Compare how much is being consumed to how much is going to be wasted.

'The UN Food and Agricultural Organization estimates that around 840 million people are undernourished. That's approximately 14% of the human population. About 25,000 people die every year from hunger related causes' (Feeding the World). Many are not only suffering from diseases but dying because of the lack of food. The church speaks recurrently on the topic. 'The earth has only a limited area of viable agricultural land, so the way this land is used is central to our ability to feed the world. The problem is not lack of food, but lack of availability' (Feeding the World). People will continue to die from hunger until we figure out a way to stop eating so high up in the food chain and distribute the land properly.

Once people are aware of what is going on perhaps then they can take a stand and begin to better the situation. 'In the United States ninety percent of agricultural land is used for livestock agriculture. The United States uses twice the energy per unit of population on food production than less developed countries per unit of population for all of their purposes' (Akers). It is evident around the world that there is a major injustice occurring. The United States needs to change their diet to better out society in regards to weight, food distribution, animal protection, and healthy all together. Not only is there a meat increase but a sugar increase as well. Sugar is a household must -- many meals require it. 'Sugar consumption has been going through the roof. It has increased by 28% since 1983, fueling soaring obesity rates and other health problems. It is vital that the FDA require labels that would enable consumers to monitor-and-reduce their sugar intake' (America: Drowning in Sugar). The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) was created to secure safety in our daily lives. Since 1938 the FDA has been given responsibilities to which they must carry out. One of the most important Acts managed by the FDA was the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 to 'ensure that foods are pure and wholesome and produced under sanitary conditions -- that drugs and therapeutic devices are safe and effective for their intended uses -- that cosmetics are safe and made from appropriate ingredients -- and that labels and packaging of products are truthful, informative, and not deceptive' (Food and Drug Administration). Again, who is responsible for dealing with these issues? Does action need to be taken immediately? Who is suffering from all these changes? 'It is apparent to see how the overall of peoples lives have drastically changed over the centuries. 'In the council's opinion these moderately important benefits did not arise because business generated acceptable returns for their owners -- they arose despite that fact. Profit, unfortunately, is necessary, as the council sadly notes: otherwise you can not have business, along with the possibility of those quite useful contributions. But those contributions have to be separately willed. It is simply not in the nature of business as such to contribute. That is an add-on, a responsibility that business may choose to discharge or not discharge, as it sees fit' (The world according to CSR). Those who are being affected by this chain of events are suffering. Those in developing countries are being hit hard. The manner in which countless people are eating is affecting the rest of the world.

A huge problem revolving this issue is the land or lack there of The food that livestock are fed with grains and cereals that could have been directly consumed by humans or were grown on land that could have been used to grow food rather than feed. The developing world's undernourished million's are now in direct competition with the developed world's livestock. Worldwide, livestock use roughly 3.4 billion hectares of grazing land (Feeding the World). As demands are getting higher, the need for more outcome from laborers is as well. Right now animals are being given certain chemicals to the convenience of humans. Hogs are being placed and packed into small caged areas, causing the animals to release gastric needs over themselves causing disease and insanitation. Animal rights activists are trying to get these absurdities to end. Furthermore, this is the degradation of the land. In the end, all the harm we do to the land affects us, our soil, and our drinking water. The chemicals harming the land leach into the ground and into our drinking water. This is a problem considering the United States uses seventy percent of our water for irrigation alone. If we do not address this issue at hand and take action soon our environment will be suffering severe consequences.

The environment has a big effect on farming. 'A large proportion of diffuse pollution comes from agricultural land. Agriculture covers seventy-six percent of the land area and a source of seventy percent nitrate, fifty percent phosphate and fifty percent of sedimentation in water' (Costigan).

How you treat the land effects farming conditions. It is to the farmers advantage to use Best Management Practices (BMP). Using Best Management Practices farmers are able to develop a plan for complying with guidelines like manure management, field crop, nutrients, and water.

Farmers need to take into consideration certain factors when deciding what is needed for their field and the best conditions to handle their farms. For example, how much crop will be grown, crop yields, soil tests, while complying to Food and Drug Administration regulations.

Increased environmental concerns supported by reports of high NO3-N and P levels in springs and streams throughout Florida, have resulted in the passage of the Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) Act of 1987. Together with the Federal Clean Water Quality Act of 1977, the SWIM Act created a program that focused on preservation and/or restoration of the state's water bodies through the development and implementation of Best Management Practices (BMPs). Hence, as part of the implementation of the BMP program, a field research project was initiated in 2004 to determine the NO3- load under a crop field. (mg/NO3-N/acre/week). Load determination is done by placing drainage lysimeters underneath the field, grow tomato according to IFAS recommendations, and periodically sample the content of the drainage lysimeter. Therefore, the practice of farming today effects our environment because it hurts our soil and our drinking water.

There are some solutions to these problems -- or ways to lesser the severity of soil conditions. 'Catchment-Sensitive Farming is land management which keeps emissions of pollutants to levels that are consistent to ecological sensitivity of the river., groundwater, and other aquatic habitats, both in the immediate catchments and further downstream' (Soil Management). Another solution would be to 'use an up-to-date soil analysis and a recognized recommendation system' (Soil Management).

'Food companies such as McDonalds are destroying land just to keep their cattle there. With the international growth of fast food chains this seems to be an evident factor in the clearing of trees today. Large corporations looking to buy beef for hamburger and even pet food seek cheap prices and are finding them with the growth of cattle grazing This is where deforestation comes in' (Rochen).

This deforestation harms the ecosystem. Deforestation is cutting down trees and destroying the land for agricultural purposes. 'The forests have global implications not just on life but on the quality of it. Trees improve the quality of the air that species breath by trapping carbon and other particles produced by pollution. Trees determine rainfall and replenish the atmosphere' (Rochen).

There is an increasing need to stop the dispersion of pollution of farms. This pollution is hurting agriculture. Not only that, but providing terrible conditions that do not seem effective. 'Animals being reared in appallingly cramped conditions, frequently without access to fresh air, clean litter, and sunlight - the measures are unlikely to prove effective. Paradoxically, they may even make our food less safe, by ensuring that livestock production and slaughter become ever more centralised in the hands of a small number of large industrial-scale operators, better able to bear the costs of regulation than small-scale producers' (O Brien -- Adock -- Rifkin -- Pickard) By seeing this, the government is beginning to place regulations.

Do you recycle? Did you know that if you do you could help prevent over consumption? It is so easy to just throw things away without even thinking about how they could help the earth. Recycling is to take used goods and put them aside to be processed, manufactured, and purchased. Many farmers use most of what is not up to standards with their consumers to feed their animals. Whatever is not ripe or suitable to eat or sell they give on a very basic farm, to pigs and sometimes to chickens. Although that is not processing, manufacturing, or purchasing, in a more subtle way it is recycling. The farmers took what was not being sold and rather than throwing it away they gave it to animals as food which was appropriate and safe for them to eat.

Another way to reuse food in a positive way is using it as fertilizer. Anything that is organic can be used to fill the soil with nutrients that make it suitable and healthier to grow crops in.

Terrestrial foods start with agriculture. Agriculture is the production of crops, raising livestock, and/or farming. 'Agriculture is the source of livelihood for more than half of the world's population' (Agricultural Economics). Agriculture is so important to a country's life and prosperity that they both intertwine. For example, a country is considered developed if the agriculture is successful. 'For one thing, if development is to occur, agriculture must be able to produce a surplus of food and maintain the growing nonagricultural labor force. Unless food can be obtained through international trade, a country does not normally develop industrially until its farm areas can supply its towns with food' (Johnson).

Ever since the dawn of the agricultural revolution, thousands of years ago, humans have attempted to improve not only their crops, but their methods of crop production as well. To begin with, farming has come a long way since the introduction of the steel plow. Nowadays that image of an ox-drawn plow has been replaced by that of a tractor. Advancements in farming technology have played a major role in the construction of civilization. Certain advancements include the intro of the steel plow other advancements that sprung up during the Agricultural Revolution. But now it is time to discuss the modern advancements that have come about during the past few decades.

Farming advancements went into full drive after the conclusion of World War II. This was a result of colossal increase in population, which is known as the 'baby boom'. This increase the production of food led to what was called the Green Revolution, which involved the use of genetics in the cultivation of food (Agriculture). The use of science in food production had been used for centuries, but after the discovery of DNA and genetics, scientists and farmers were able to fuse science and food production. in a whole new light. The introduction of genetics manipulation into the farming industry can be considered a technological advancement in the production and cultivation of food (Agriculture).

Genetic manipulation's role in farming/cultivation can be seen as the single most important technological advancement in agricultural history, with the exception of agriculture itself (Agriculture). The use of genetics in agriculture has led to the development of hybrids and the ability to manipulate crops so that they can withstand changes in their environment. This green revolution of the mid-twentieth century also led to the higher crop yields, thus contributing to an ever increasing world population. This began a whole new cycle of supply and demand, in which the human population demands and the earth is forced to supply at all costs (Turning Land to Human Use).

The results of the green revolution are still being witnessed today, with the use of genetics in the production of food came the utilization of chemicals. Fertilizers were used to ensure high crop yields and chemicals were added to crops so that they would be more resistant to insects (Agriculture). Another result of the information attained during and through the green revolution was the ability to select the characteristics one desires in an animal and have them carried on to the animal's offspring. This led to hybrid animals which were mainly used in the meat industry and are still being used today (Genetically Altered Foods Fill Your Shelf).

It may sound shocking to the average consumer, but most of the vegetables and meat that one finds at the grocery store are not pure. This is the result of selective breeding, which has now come to be known as genetic modification. Presently there is a great debate over the presence of genetically modified foods. Genetically modified foods are foods that have had their genetic material altered in order to enhance a certain, desirable trait or traits. Some instances of genetically modified foods include tomatoes that have been injected with scorpion poison to increase resistance to pests and other vegetables that have been injected with fish genes to increase taste (Genetically Altered Foods Fill Your Shelf). It may seem as though this is good news for the ever increasing world population and the world economy, but the facts are not quite clear. The debate over genetically modified food stems from the fact that there is not a great deal of evidence about the effects of eating such foods (Brady, Brady 12). For instance, the meat that is sold in supermarkets may contain trace amounts of chemicals added to the crops that were put in the feed for the cow. And the meat may also contain hormones which are given to livestock so that they fatten up, the hormones that they are given are a great deal like steroids (Hormones and Livestock). These hormones not only may cause diseases in humans, but there is growing concern that they are also threatening other food resources. By the end of the 1980's the European Union grew attentive to the use of hormones in the meat industry, this awareness led the European Union to ban the importation of meat that has been treated with hormones. All the while the United States, along with Canada, has strongly opposed such bans with the use of tariffs and high taxes on meat imported from Europe (Hormones and Livestock).

Although some fruits and vegetables have been injected with the genes of other animals to increase resistance, most people are not aware that what they are eating is not pure. Although no deaths have been reported from eating genetically modified foods the fact that most people are not even aware that they are eating such food would prevent them from identifying the food as their source of illness or death (Genetically Altered Foods Fill Your Shelf). Genetically modified foods are common in the United States and Canada where most officials believe that since there is not sufficient information that discredits such foods there is no need to fret over it. This point of view is a far cry from that of government officials in the European Union that believe that since there is not enough information that says such foods are safe then they should not take an unnecessary risk (Genetically Altered Foods Fill Your Shelf). The harsh controversy that surrounds genetic foods has to do with the lack of information that scientists and researchers have on the issue. Nobody knows what eating these genetically altered terrestrial foods will do to human beings, and apparently the public does want to be informed about such matters. According to a survey conducted by the Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences to which 90% of those surveyed stated that they want to be informed about the risks of genetically modified foods, but with the lack of information they run the risk of purchasing and thus ingesting certain chemicals and hormones that could cause them bodily harm. Although most of the foods that fill supermarket shelves are genetically modified there have not been great deals of consumer complaints from the ingestion of such products (Genetically Altered Foods Fill Your Shelf). In a survey conducted by the Food Biotechnology Program at the Rutgers Food Policy Institute, 'less than half the people interviewed were aware such foods are sold in supermarkets. At the same time, more than half wrongly believed supermarket chicken has been genetically modified'. The findings of this survey are perturbing because they lead to the conclusion that despite the presence of genetically altered foods the public is not conscious of their existence. As a result of this lack of information most consumers would not think to classify their food as the source of their discomfort if they were to contract complications related to the chemicals and hormones in their food. According to the following statement made by the associated press there is little hope that consumers will ever fully know what they are eating:

Despite dire warnings about Frankenfoods, there have been no reports of illness from these products of biotechnology. Critics note there's no system for reporting allergies or other reactions to these foods. Nearly every product with a corn or soy ingredient, and some containing canola or cottonseed oil, has a genetically modified element, according to the grocery manufacturers group.

The production and sale of genetically altered food products is believed to lead to various forms of disease, although none of this has been scientifically justified (Genetically Altered Foods Fill Your Shelf). As long as the following statement from the associated press remains true there may be little hope for the health of the United States:

Labeling of genetically modified products is required only when they have properties different from ordinary foods, such as a higher nutrient content. Companies developing these foods voluntarily send their data to the FDA, but there's no official approval required.

In the end it is the consumer's decision. He or she can choose whether or not they will eat something without knowing whether or not it can harm them. Of course this sounds good in theory, but in practice it is quite difficult seeing as there is not enough knowledge about such foods and their effects. This means that most people are consuming daily amounts of hormones and chemicals, among them various carcinogens, without their knowledge. The United States is one of the few countries in which the public is not aware of the presence of genetically modified foods and this lack of information may be the reason why the United States has one of the highest obesity rates in the world (Hormones and Livestock). The consumer is the deciding factor in the debate over technology's place in the food industry (Brady, Brady 12). It is all in their hands...are they willing to trust scientists, government officials, farmers, and unknown chemicals when they enter a supermarket and evaluate that bright red tomato or that gigantic tripled strawberry? Yet they do not have a great deal of leeway when it comes to making these decisions this has led the public to consume much more than they normally would, thus setting off the obesity epidemic.

Obesity in the United States is a growing problem. Shocking statistics that are undoubtedly visible are all across America -- 'twenty-five percent of children and adolescents are overweight and fifty percent have a chance of becoming overweight in their lifetimes' (Press). Not only is this present in the generations of today but for those to come. Why? Advertising companies, fast food chains, soft drink industries, and environmental changes are all contributing factors to this life threatening disease -- which in turn creates an even larger problem of: over-consumption.

'The food industry is the second largest advertiser in America -- advertisers target children and teenagers to build brand loyalties that will last them well into the future,' according to the Children, Health and Advertising publication. These loyalties to companies, such as soft drink corporations and fast food chains -- directly contribute to the obesity epidemic in the United States. When commercials sell a certain product, they are selling more than just a scrumptious hamburger, they are selling a lifestyle. This lifestyle of poor eating habits is the main reason for the dwindling health of teenagers and children in the United States.

The sedentary lifestyle of a student and many other Americans, combined with the 'junk food' they consume, create long lasting medical complications. In the documentary Super Size Me the frightening results of devouring fast food were alarming. Morgan Sputlock, the creator of the documentary, was on a mission to prove the shocking truth about the health deteriorations caused by fast food. Starting off as a healthy exercising man, he changed his lifestyle to one of an 'average' American. Limiting his steps per day, measured by a pedometer, and eating only McDonalds. The first and obvious result was weight gain, ten pounds in only the first week, but the more astounding results were the health complications. Several doctors were pleading him to stop his experiment. Instead of trying to help the problem, large corporations only contribute to it. The Pepsi and Coca-Cola companies have been strongly criticized for having contributed to the obesity epidemic (Obesity Weighs heavily on Colas...). Since the soft drink business is worth over sixty-four billion dollars, it could easily cooperate with the critics and help create a soft drink that has some nutritional value. Instead, the mega corporations declined and try to defend its products. Ralph Cowley, chairman of the American Beverage Association, said, 'The whole game has changed' -- the industry is setting up a nationwide, fifty million dollar campaign to defend beverages (Obesity Weighs heavily on Colas...). Although, the industry has declined in sales, fifty-eight percent of consumers still consider regular colas to contain too many calories and one percent sees colas as healthy (Obesity Weighs heavily on Colas...). Still, the consumption of colas is obvious. Many children and teenagers prefer to drink colas rather than milk and juices. The choice in drink contributes to the environment children grow up in, the lifestyle they choose. It is much easier to grab a can of coke rather than pour yourself a glass of juice. The availability and comfort that the companies supply is the lifestyle they create for adolescents leading to obesity. In addition, the waste that comes about of the millions of un-recycled cans and bottles is enormous. Soft drink companies only add to the frequency of childhood obesity cases across American homes and schools.

Good things have come about the negative attention drawn to cola companies -- there have been a rise of wise healthy- conscious consumers opposing soft drinks (Obesity Weighs heavily on Colas...). Schools are now rejecting soft drinks and trying to replace them with healthier juices. The CSPI, the Center for Science and Public Interest, have been aware of the link between soft drinks and child obesity and have argued that schools should not be in the 'selling of soft drink business' (Obesity Weighs heavily on Colas...). Commenting on soft drinks being a main reason for obesity, Michael Jacobson, the Executive Director of CSPI said, 'We have been concerned about excessive consumption of soft drinks for a long time' (Obesity Weighs heavily on Colas...). The statements and concerns of such issues have made Coca-cola and Pepsi Enterprises stop using schools as a 'marketing vehicle' (Obesity Weighs heavily on Colas...). This resulted in a shift of sales because of health worries, American are now buying more bottled water and sport drinks (Obesity Weighs heavily on Colas...). The shift of sales is evidence that there is hope in stopping the widespread health problems and over-consumption issue. The effort to bringing a halt to the over-consuming America is finally an option for the future of the country.

Seeing that children are such an essential attribute in the food market, much attention is specialized to grasp their attention (Press). 'The two things sold to children the most in TV are toys and food, and 98% of the food advertising is for products children do not have to eat, nonnutritive things' (Press). Peggy Charren, a consumer advocate, states that 'Now in fact they (referring to food companies) are designing foods that would never be on the market if it were not for television and its ability to sell them' (Press). Television is a vehicle which brings obesity to the doorstep of every American. A vehicle that is going in a downward spiral only worsening the situation and adding to the over-consumption and obesity of children and adults alike.

Considering that about seventy-two of family food and beverage purchases are controlled by the teenagers and children of the family -- and the spending money children have available and contribute to the buying of snacks and sodas is roughly fifteen billion dollars (Press). It is obvious that the US food industry would spend millions of dollars, exactly thirty-six million dollars, yearly on advertising specifically to children (Press). All this time and money in having children buying nutrition lacking snacks is creating a society of over-consumption. Children are eating more than they need, and more than they even want. Simply, because advertising companies are making it seem 'cool'. This over-consumption leads to obesity. The lack of nutritional value of the over marketed 'junk food' contains high levels of sugar, cholesterol, and sodium -- teenagers, children, as well as adults are getting fatter every year. Obesity levels are on the rise.

Moreover, since there is a want from the consumer, companies are forced to fill that need. Driving companies to over-produce and over-consume the environment, depleting the environment everyday a little more. It is human nature to want things. It is not human nature to want everything. Commercials are installing hidden messages. They stress that having the newest apparel, having the latest toys, and drinking and eating the trendiest foods are what every teenager needs and wants. This, in turn, creates a certain lifestyle that is not fruitful for both the consumer and the environment.

Finally, there is a much debated correlation between obesity and the environmental changes.

According to investigators in the United States, the epidemic of obesity is world wide. It will be followed by an epidemic of diabetes. Although, there is a genetic basis for obesity and diabetes, the current epidemic reflects the failure of our genes to cope with a modern toxic environment (Bray). In other words, the environments we live in, along with the different foods we intake, are the factors that form the disease. The 'consumption patterns', what one commonly eats, has changes in the last thirty years. We now consume much more high-fructose corn syrup (Bray). This sugar is found in many soft drinks -- and the over-consumption of these drinks affects the health of the society as a whole. When the intake of corn syrup rose, the prevalence of diabetes and obesity also rose (Bray). There is a direct correlation between the two. Since consumers have ignored their need for more nutritious drinks, like milk, the health of many have suffered (Bray). Much like fluoride was removed from our drinking water years ago, these high-fructose soft drinks should be controlled in order to create a healthy balance. This balance would, in turn, reduce the amount we intake of these threatening chemicals, decreasing the frequency of obesity in children and adults.

The many factors that contribute to the obesity epidemic of America can all be sum up in one main idea: the American life of over consumption of products that are unhealthy and threatening to serious medical complication are a result of the environment we are enveloped in. This results in the creation of numerous problems, not only physical, but environmental and social. The decline of our society is the direct result of savvy and corrupt advertisement of products that do not have any additional value. Rather, they create a false sense of accomplishment. An 'accomplishment' that only worsens the situation and increases the obesity epidemic now and the far into the future that awaits us. As we have witnessed throughout history, change has consequences. The drastic changes in familiar life have lead to a series of events. The first occurrence was the growth of a fast food nation which lead to the creation of a strict set of FDA regulations and the lamentable depletion of our environment. These have all been the consequences of our over-consumption patterns due to change. These results can be seen in the political, social, economic, cultural, and environmental spectrums. The stark changes in the consumption of terrestrial foods over time have led to: famine, genetically modified food, and obesity. We are currently experiencing the true effects of our previous errors with regards to terrestrial foods. It is now up to us to fix our mistakes and begin a new chapter that will lead our society towards a more environmentally conscientious future.

by Anonymous Student



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