The agricultural subsidies have had negative impacts on both the environment and human health. Most subsidies in the United States support cotton, corn, wheat and soybeans, most of which are then converted into fast food high in salt and fat, which is contributing to the obesity epidemic. Fruits and vegetables do not receive agricultural subsidies, making them more expensive as a result. Also, organic produce is not subsidized, so traditional farming practices, including those that use pesticides and other chemicals, continue to harm the environment. If organic produce was subsidized, there would be more of an incentive to cease conventional farming methods, which would mean less environmental impact.
A lot of agricultural subsidies go into corn-based biofuels. While this might sound like it’s good for the environment, it’s really not. Corn-based ethanol isn’t very efficient, so the amount of energy you get from the fuel isn’t really any more carbon-efficient than gasoline, once you compare it to the amount of water and carbon it took to produce the crop.
Furthermore, because energy is so valuable and the subsidies are so great, a huge amount of corn goes into making biofuel compared to the actual demand for it. Only 8% of American’s transportation needs are met by biofuel, but a whopping 40% of all corn grown in the country goes to the effort!
This is wasteful because the whole world is currently undergoing a foot crisis in face of population growth. If all corn being used for ethanol were converted to food production, the entire world’s corn supplies would go up 14%. So we should definitely stop subsidies for ethanol and put them into better sources of energy, like renewables.
Source: The Economist, February 26th 2011, Special Report on food, pg 6.
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