Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Monsanto's Proxy War on Salt

Our nation faces an obesity crisis. Diabetes and heart disease threaten the lives of every American. In response, Congress and the FDA are taking swift action... By declaring a war on salt, which causes neither diabetes nor heart disease.

Why salt? Why now?

Last week, nobody really cared about salt. The populace was nebulously aware that salt is bad for you, and most were convinced that American eat too much of it. I guess that's all it takes for massive federal intervention these days.

The brouhaha began with the release of a recommendation from the Institute of Medicine (I did not know we had one), which urges action (NOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!) on the salt issue. Doing so will save 100,000 lives per year, the Medicine Men breathlessly claim.

So what are we waiting for? Analysis and modeling for the various policy initiatives to... NO TIME! Says Tom Harkin of the push to impose federal limits in salt content:

"I understand they want to do it in a phased kind of a deal, but I don't want it to be too long,"


Rep. Rosa DeLauro agrees:

"I don't want this to take 10 years. . . . This is a public health crisis."


Wow, I didn't know public health was so important to them. How did this nascent public crusade against the world's tastiest mineral attract such fine upstanding members of congress?

Well, Harkin is from Iowa, and Rosa DeLauro's husband is/was a consultant for Monsanto (just ask organic farmers). Let me punch that into my calculator o' special interests. Five? Wait! This is just an ordinary calculator. That Chinese man needs to give me my $2,000 back.

So, basically, the two elected officials demanding the fastest action on this issue represent corn and big ag. Corn subsidies are the primary driver behind the increased consumption of high fructose corn syrup, which, as it happens, does quite a bit to cause diabetes and heart disease.

Let's face it, the tide is turning against ag welfare. Conservatives see it as a waste of money. Food-conscious liberals see Monsanto as the purveyor of all things poison. Beyond that, there is a general push to find ways to reduce health care costs, and people want to see our leaders taking steps to improve public health.

So when the Institute of Medicine decides to pretend that salt is killing 100,000 people per year, why not pounce on a less influential industry and divert attention from a far greater problem?

Of course, the backlash to the FDA's proposal has been swift and fierce. People don't like being told what to do by big brother, and this is a pretty egregious example of the phenomenon. As such, we can predict the FDA will backpedal, and reposition this as a research initiative or something.

Don't buy it. If it were true, they wouldn't bother saying it.

Advocates of the salt ban argue that people may simply choose to add salt later. This is ignorant. Cooking with salt impacts flavor differently from simply adding it after preparation. That's why recipes include it.

Others argue that this only impacts the sort of processed foods we should be eliminating from our diets. The truth is, the actual initiative will target whoever earns the ire of lobbyists. Big corn will tell you what to eliminate from your diet, thank you very much.

Federal regulations historically benefit large companies, which can hone formulas to pass regulatory muster. It won't be long before the government is breathing down the neck of your favorite chef, while Hostess evades scrutiny. What seems like pointless needling now will have a negative impact on health outcomes down the road.

As someone who genuinely cares about convincing others to eat real food, a federal ban on salt is a colossal leap in the wrong direction. Now, those who choose to eat natural, home-made, and organic foods are going to be lumped together with the salt-banning idiots.

Rep. DeLauro and Sen. Harkin do not care. More control over our diets means more control over our decisions, and more dollars for their corporate pimps.

Maybe the pepper industry should get in on the act.

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