Most Overweight Nations: OECD Report (PHOTOS)

A facebook discussion has broken out regarding this article: Most Overweight Nations: OECD Report (PHOTOS)

I thought I’d share a somewhat editied selection of my posts and others.

I wrote: The American food industry is so productive and efficient both that it produced far more calories per capita than we should be eating. But we eat them anyway.

Of course we shouldn’t, but it is a more complex issue than is generally presented. If we ate the DRA, than I think that might be as few as 40% of what we produce. What will happen to the rest of the food? Should we not grow it or produce it?

We can’t simply export all food for lots of reasons, so are we willing to sacrifice jobs for our waistlines?

A response: over eating is a large part of the problem but lack of exercise is also to blame. we did not evolve as a species to sit behind a computer screen or in front of a tv.

My followup: Yes of course, but we didn’t evolve as a nation to simply toss out or limit an industry because it became *too* efficient at what it does.

Notice that when our food industry produced something on the order of the amount of food we should eat, instead of 2-3 times as much, we were skinnier.

I am not aware of any evidence that shows that, for especially urban or suburban, in say, the era from 1945-1960, that people exercised more than they do now.

OTOH, I do know that President Kennedy instituted a national exercise effort because kids were soft compared to their scary Soviet counterparts. So already by then, there is evidence that kids (and presumably their families) were not exercising enough although they were eating just fine.

I don’t know how old you are, but I am old enough to have been in college in the late 70s early 80s, and I am amazed almost every day at the difference in portion sizes in every restaurant and the expectations about what constitutes a meal since I was in college.

That changed not because people suddenly demanded more food, but because the food industry was producing so much, they needed to do something with it to sell it. Unused capacity is anathema in our economy, and so is throwing out what you made. In fact, both can be illegal in some circumstances. And I am sure people would scream bloody moral murder if we start dumping food.

So the only alternative s to sell what you produce, and to make it attractive enough that people will buy and eat it against their individual best interests, for the vague economic collective value of keeping the machine humming.

It seems really weird to me, even as a entrepreneur who is all about disruptive business models, that the solution to overcapacity in the food industry is to create leaner consumers (real live human beings!) who are simply better able to devour the excess output of the food production industry.

Suggesting that we improve our diet industry, our exercise industry, and other related matters simply to match what the food industry has done, on the backs of the individual people in our society is simply bizarre. It is a suggestion to profit a second time – to stick a hand in the other pocket in the pants that the food industry has claimed the first pocket.

Let’s not pretend either hand is interested in the individual, or that the individual has responsibility to fix this broader problem.

And I say this sitting squarely in the middle of the most productive farmland in the entire world.

Response from the same guy: it is not an issue i have followed closely but ultimately it comes down to personal responsibility. portion control, diet and exercise are on the individual. the excess farm capacity part is an interesting angle i have not thought about. makes one wonder even more about the utility of farm subsidies.

And my followup to that:I think there is some evidence that when societies are rich enough, and when they have sufficiently unhealthy food, they will eat it to excess. Slim evidence on my part for now, but weren’t there those in Elizabethan England in the Royal cl…ass who suffered from gout due to over-consumption of rich foods? Or was that France? Or both? And more?

It is probably only in our lifetime that a wide swath of society has had the means and opportunity to do this. Maybe humans never evolved a defense to this, because there was never any selective pressure to do so.

So I ask, is there a broad philosophical underpinning to your claim? Or is the sin of gluttony special somehow, free from industrial responsibility?

I ask because if I live in a house where the drywall was made from Chinese shit and people are getting sick, no one will say it is my fault.

No one will say that because people are collectively getting sick from air pollution or water pollution or other Industrial Disease (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rWuc5kar3Y) that it is their fault. We collectively look to redirect industry’s efforts when they are affecting the health of people in predictable ways.

We don’t blame a girl for getting raped.

Why is this case different?

Not picking on you, but I would like to explore this, kind of brain storm it. I hinted at a possible answer some might give – it is a sin to be gluttonous. But I wonder, is the public health arena the place for religion, especially a religion not everyone believes in and to which industry has no allegiance at all?

Posted in Agriculture, Facebook rants and raves, Food Economics.