Vani and Sean were discussing the hidden ingredients in food, GMO labeling, corporate profits and lobbying — you get the picture. Before we go any further, let me preface this article with a few important points because I know this is an emotionally charged discussion:
- I don’t know either Vani or Sean personally and it wouldn’t matter if I did.
- I have listened to Sean for long enough to gather that he’s a stand up guy, a person I’d love to meet, and someone who is doing important work of immense value.
- I don’t know anything about Vani except what I heard during this interview and she sounds like a wonderful, dedicated person.
- This article is about politics, government, and economics; it’s reason-based and I’d like to think that it’s unbiased. In short, I don’t care what party you’re with or if you’re with no party. Who you voted for, who you will vote for in the future, or if you vote at all is of no consequence. I’m simply going to tell you exactly what the problem is and you can do whatever you’d like with that information.
- Your comments may help form the content of future articles in this series and may be directly quoted. Comment at your own risk.
- I’ve been thinking LONG and HARD on this topic for some time, so I’m not writing this on a whim. Hearing Vani and Sean’s discussion was simply the tipping point for me putting pen to paper.
- There’s an open invitation for both Vani and Sean to discuss this with me here on this blog, on their own blogs, or on my show if they’d like.
With those important points out of the way, let me tell you why health and food — as an industry — is a disaster in America, why it’s getting worse, why nobody in Washington seems to care, why it’s nobody’s fault in particular, and what to do about it. Please put aside any dogmatic thinking for the remainder of the article.
Most health advocates — people like Vani, Sean, and myself — are a little dismayed at the sheer unbalance in the availability of whole foods versus ANTI foods as well as the cost difference between them.
We’re also interested in bringing to light the manipulation of food via genetic modification (GMO), grain feeding, hormones and antibiotics, toxins and pesticides, colorations, and so on and so forth.
In order for consumers to make better choices, they must be aware. Aware that their food supply has been physically manipulated, that certain foods are cheaper than others because of economic manipulation, that the marketing on the front of packages says nothing about what’s in the package, and that — according to Vani — a Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich contains a hundred ingredients.
The result of all of this is that we’re suffering an obesity (and childhood obesity) epidemic and a preventable disease epidemic. This general decline in health is tallying up to billions of dollars in health care costs and lost productivity.
When bad things happen to this degree, the next logical question is, “what happened here?” Fingers start pointing and consumers want answers.
Next, advocates come out of the woodwork demanding that the federal government start regulating the producers, who they claim are out of control and only focused on profits. This was Vani’s position — more or less — in her discussion with Sean. I know for a fact she’s a huge proponent of federal regulations for GMO labeling (that’s her in the picture above).
As they talked back and forth on the issue, Sean brought up the point about how much “power” food companies have and how deep their pockets go, making it very difficult to fight against them and to bring about change. Whether you’re talking about food, education, or energy, you can make this argument against corporations regardless of the industry.
To summarize, here are the problems as the majority of health advocates would lay them out (and consumers would likely agree):
- Real food is too expensive and too scarce compared to fake food.
- Fake food is too cheap and accessible.
- Nobody knows exactly what’s in their food.
- Government isn’t doing enough to fix the problem.
- Food companies are too powerful and won’t allow change.
None of that stuff is the problem.
“Wait! You’re telling me that food companies — the people who produce all of this fake food and marketing and practically shove it down our throats without telling us what’s in it — aren’t to blame?”
That’s the level of emotion I’d like to avoid. So if that’s what’s running through your head right now, take a breath for me.
Corporations are easy targets. They’re the one’s selling the product and cashing the checks. They’re the ones who often don’t have a face or personality. Let’s put it this way: they’re easy to hate.
People REALLY hate them when they want change and find that these corporations and their deep pockets are paying the government to shut down their efforts. Sean and Vani both expressed this in their discussion.
In order to put your finger on the pulse of the issue, I want you to think of this like a basketball tournament.
Let’s say there’s 8 teams. You train your players day in and day out for months on the art of basketball. But when you arrive at the tournament, you find out that one team has given cash to the referees to blow whistles on their opponents and enact penalties, even if the opponent has done nothing wrong.
Another team has paid the referees money to force your players to wear 40 pound weight vests as you dribble up and down the court, putting you at a severe disadvantage. This is absurd.
So you go to a referee and say, “Hey man, this isn’t cool. Team A paid you cash to make these bogus calls and team B paid you to make us wear these heavy vests!”
And the referee replies, “Yes, they did. Do you have any cash? If you pay me more, I’ll let you take the vests off and maybe I can blow whistles on one of your opponents — it’s all part of the game.” So you respond, “Well nobody told me that! Here’s a Benjamin, start blowing.”
So now, instead of having a basketball tournament, we’re having a bribery tournament. It’s not what anyone signed up for, but it’s what we have.
Suddenly, the art of bribery is more useful than the art of basketball. And the fans who are watching the game — the consumers — are baffled. They want to see basketball, not bribery. What the hell!
So this is where I start to take issue with Sean’s assertion that corporations have too much power and everyone else’s argument that the evil corporations are to blame.
The game got rigged. Who rigged it?
Somewhere along the line, government (the referees) decided that this is how it should work. After all, if they didn’t want the money or if they wanted lobbying to be illegal, they would have rejected the dollars and made laws against it.
They didn’t. So we won’t have a food supply tournament, we’ll have a bribery tournament — at their behest.
Thanks to this bribery tournament, wheat, corn, and soy are the three most produced crops in the United States. The coaches (CEOs) in charge of the production of these crops are in a circle jerk with the referees.
Corn, as you may know, is used to produce High Fructose Corn Syrup which is a sweetener found in nearly everything because it’s exponentially cheaper to produce than sugar. Why is it cheaper? It’s cheaper because of corn subsidies. Cheaper only because of the referees.
And the influence of the referees is made even worse in two ways:
- The coach’s organizations (corporations) can’t exist without government in the first place. A corporation is a legal construct created by the referees.
- The referees have the power to influence supply and demand from their position of authority and power.
The bulk of the crap food available is supply aimed directly at filling the demand created by the referees’ guidelines (the food pyramid, faulty science made into policy, how doctors are trained and certified, etc.) made uniquely influential by their position of authority. Read that sentence again.
Corporations, on the other hand, have no unique power. They can’t create food pyramids and order schools across the country to follow them. They can’t turn faulty science into official policy. They can’t artificially affect supply and demand. They can’t manipulate pricing by punishing one group and subsidizing another.
The only way corporations have power is when there are referees for sale.
I’ll give you another one: companies who want to do the right thing have to pay the referees extra to label their food as NOT having pesticides and toxins (USDA Organic) rather than the crap food manufacturers having to pay extra to label their food as crap food.
So the good corporations are crippled in the fight against the “bad ones.”
But, for some reason…
…people keep showing up at rallies with signs bashing the coaches of the basketball teams in our tournament and saying nothing about the referees.
But what the coaches are doing isn’t illegal, it’s simply how the referees decided the tournament would operate!
If the coaches don’t pony up the money and protect their team’s interests, they’ll lose the tournament. How do you compete against a team that’s buying unique power unless you also buy power? It’s now their only choice because the playing field is no longer even.
But most people don’t see it that way. They see the referees as innocent bystanders in this runaway game and shout at them to “DO SOMETHING!”
Vani uses Kraft as an example of a corporation who is engaging in what she calls “hypocrisy.” Overseas, Kraft manufactures non-GMO versions of foods to comply with laws while still producing GMO versions for Americans.
Is that really hypocrisy? Kraft is not a health food company. They’re a cheap, processed food company. And they’re one of thousands of brand options you have to choose from every time you go to the store.
Cheap, processed food companies make money by producing cheap, processed foods. There’s no secret here. While it’s not healthy, it does provide for a need. The marketplace needs Ford Pintos as much as it needs Audio sedans.
If you buy a cheap car, you might have to deal with the fact that 1 in 100 blow up in a crash. If you buy cheap food, you might have to deal with getting sick.
One might argue that getting the referees to blow whistles and make new rules to change this is the answer. “If we outlawed GMOs, less people would get sick.” Perhaps. But it’s fallacious to think that laws always work and that laws are the only way. In fact, history has proved that the referees are both rarely effective and overtly manipulative.
What is the track record of these referees?
In my discussion with Denise Minger on TRB Podcast #40, Denise presented the story of Luise Light, the woman who gave the U.S. government the nutritional guidelines they used to create the official food pyramid.
The story is incredible. Luise Light presented the referees with a very sensible and refined approach to eating. But the food pyramid the referees created and released was in direct opposition to her suggestions and findings. She protested, saying that if they went forward with their manipulated guidelines, obesity and disease would result. They ignored her.
From the implementation of the food pyramid to today, tens of millions of people have been harmed by this chain of events. The food companies have used the guidelines to formulate their products — the same products we’re fighting against today.
Additionally, the referees took the faulty research of Ancel Keys and his saturated fat causes heart disease pseudo-science and made it the foundation of their recommendations. The result of just these two events is the worst preventable health care crisis in the history of the world.
This isn’t 27 deaths from a faulty Ford Pinto — this is tens of millions of lives ruined through direct action by referees.
And it’s not just about feeding us harmful food. The referees have decided that very helpful foods should no longer be accessible, based on nothing but cherry-picked statistics, emotions, and — you guessed it — cash money from certain teams.
…Remember, raw dairy products were declared illegal after a heavy lobbying effort from large dairy companies. The law was never based on actual harm or real science, only big dollars padding the pockets of unethical politicians. Don’t let their efforts win the day. If you can find raw dairy products, buy them. You’ll be much healthier in the long run.
That’s a quote from Sally Fallon from the Weston A. Price Foundation about raw milk, a safe and healthy product that is now only available for “pet consumption” in some states in the U.S. thanks to faux refereeing.
Remember our discussion about Kraft Foods? They’re in bed with the referees too. The two sentences below hit a myriad of potent points:
Federal subsidies encourage greater production and reduce raw-materials costs for grain traders such as Cargill Inc., Bunge Ltd. and Archer Daniels Midland Co. Meatpackers that rely on corn-fed livestock, including Tyson Foods Inc., and food processors such as Kraft Foods Inc. also benefit.
Encouraging greater production and reducing raw materials for foods that kill you is what the referees are doing, not the coaches. Without the referees, this behavior and lopsided playing field would be impossible to achieve. It requires a unique level of power.
Who are these referees? Why do they act this way?
Many people hold the view that the referees have their best interest at heart. That they’re fair and keep everything running smoothly. “They keep teams from cheating!” But the referees have proven time and time again that they don’t keep teams from cheating, they help certain teams cheat over other teams.
What the science says or what’s best for the players or the audience doesn’t matter. Referees — like all human beings — act in their own self interest. The only difference is that the referees have been given unlimited power over everyone else to serve that self interest.
The referees are also in a unique position to influence authority figures. In the case of our discussion, that means doctors. After all, they regulate and certify the doctors, don’t they? That’s a really unique position to be in.
And if you can get doctors thinking a certain way, those doctors can then prescribe the products of the pharmaceutical companies who are scratching the other side of your back. Agriculture scratches the right, Big Pharma scratches the left.
The ultimate mistake is to think that putting someone in the position of referee somehow enlightens them. It’s not naive thinking to say that making someone a referee gets rid of their biases, their immorality, their incompetence, their greed, or anything else; it’s dangerous thinking.
If you open a position of ultimate power and ask for applications to fill that position, you then have to ask, “What kind of person would apply to this position?”
The answer — as proven by historical record — is that positions of ultimate power attract the immoral more than they attract the moral. And the power only exacerbates whatever flaws that person has.
If you want to argue that the coaches in our basketball tournament are greedy and immoral for paying the referees, that’s absolutely fine. But that assertion will never solve the problem and will never benefit anyone except the referees, who get to continue their Kabuki theater.
No matter how greedy a corporation is, it still lacks the ultimate power to force their greed on the consumer. Unless, of course, it pays someone to do that for them; a special someone who was given all of the power by the consumer in the first place.
The referees — and their ultimate power — can force their rules on everyone against their will. They can influence the outcome of the game in any way they choose. Their greed has no limit. Their immorality, no temperance.
The failure of this model was clearly spelled out by Vani herself, though I’m not sure she understands the full picture.
Sean asked Vani how she would grade Barack Obama — a referee — on following through with his promise to enforce stricter food labeling. She replied unequivocally, “an F, I’d give him an F. And I helped him get elected.”
Let’s contrast to George Bush, who openly supports GMO foods. If you’re against GMOs, the choice between Bush and Obama is clear. But, as always happens with referees, once ultimate power is bestowed upon them they do what they want.
Barack Obama may have intended to do something about GMOs, but intentions have no value. You could vote for either man and the outcome is the same. If you voted for Obama to end the war in Afghanistan, you might be dismayed to find out that the war in Afghanistan has only become more deadly since he was given power to stop it.
That’s not an argument for or against war or Barack Obama, it’s an argument against the power we give away to people who have the same character flaws as any random person on the street.
Even if these referees followed through and “did something” about the problem, their track record for creating real solutions is pitiful, as I’ve already described. More often than not, “doing something” means punishing one interest and propping up another one, perpetrating unintended consequences on the players and the fans. When the government “did something” by creating the food pyramid and low-fat dogma, they harmed tens of millions of people.
This leads me to wonder why Vani is spending all of her time and passion fighting the coaches and the teams without a word about the referees, especially when neither side cares who she is or what she thinks…
Consumers need to smarten up.
The most compelling problem with having referees is that once you give them power and ask them to start moving the pen, you’ve given up your own vote. Your power is nil. Gone. Poof. You’ve also forfeited the power of the people whose referee lost the election.
If the referees don’t do what you hoped for, neither side has any power to call time out.
If you voted for Barack Obama to make companies stop using GMOs and he instead started rewarding them for using GMOs, what would you do about it? Get really upset? That’s about all you’d have the power to do.
In this scenario, you’ve effectively created a party — the referees — that compete against your own self interest. Instead of the food giants paying attention to your needs, they pay attention to the needs of the official you’ve elected. And the officials scratch their back in return.
Why would either party care about you when you now have no power? By electing referees, you’ve removed yourself from the negotiations.
And because you’ve helped form this alliance between the referees and the coaches, the referees are now in a position to protect the coaches that may do you harm and the coaches are now in the position to pay lots of money to stop you from electing different referees (or to buy out the next referee you elect).
Monsanto is probably the most popular “evil” corporation as far as health advocates are concerned. But the health advocates who are calling for the referees to blow whistles don’t seem to understand that the referees care more about Monsanto than they care about the advocates. The more power that’s awarded to the referees, the more that power trickles over to Monsanto. That power is used to create more cash, which trickles back to the officials. Everybody wins except you.
The question now is, are you able to get to a place where you can think differently from your programming to come up with a better solution? If you’re willing to listen, I’m willing to share.