The debate over the health effects of high fructose corn syrup continues to rage in the public sector as waistlines in America continue to expand. The use of high fructose corn syrup is everywhere and is not going away anytime soon. The economics and fiscal policies behind high fructose corn syrup are keeping prices artificially low and decreasing competition. Health professionals and some free-market economists call out for the ban of high fructose corn syrup, but it will not happen anytime soon. The reasons for this are simple: subsidies and quotas/tariffs.
Subsidies for corn
What started out as a simple program to help the average farmer make a living and provide the United States with annual crops has morphed into something else. The cost to grow and market corn now exceeds the market price. This difference is paid out to the farmer by the U.S. Government. Unfortunately, the recipients of this subsidy are generally not the stereotypical image of the small family farmer, but giant corporations. In particular, Archer Daniels Midland benefits heavily from these subsidies. Studies have indicated over 40% of ADM profits are as a direct result of subsidies. The political capital ADM and other subsidized corporations have is immense and legislation to ban or curtail these subsidies always fall flat.
Quotas and tariffs on sugar imports
Along with trying to keep the corn growers happy, decades ago the U.S. brought about legislation to limit the amount of sugar allowed into our country. By limiting the amount allowed as imports, the domestic crop is guaranteed a market but at a much higher price than what could be obtained by consumers and manufacturers on an open exchange. The little bit that is allowed into the country is also affected by tariffs which further increase the cost. The cost of sugar in the United States is double that of nearly every other country in the world.
The lack of affordable sugar guarantees that food manufacturers will continue to rely on cheap high fructose corn syrup. Profit is king and along with corn subsidies and quotas and tariffs on sugar imports, profits will continue to increase--as will the cases of juvenile diabetes. It is no coincidence that obesity has increased at a dramatic rate since the 1980s. This is the era when soft drink manufacturers all switched to high fructose corn syrup. As the food leaders go, so goes the rest of the food industry. Now it is found in everything from ketchup to cookies and cakes. Consumer health issues are important especially with food manufacturers constantly providing surprises with unexpected ingredients in foods or contaminated products. It may very well come to light that high fructose corn syrup is even worse nutritionally and chemically than imagined. The future cost of medical issues stemming from obesity is astronomical, but there will be no relief physically or fiscally until something is done about these political issues. Do not look for a ban on high fructose corn syrup anytime soon. The best you can do is be a smart consumer and encourage others to look at the labels of their products closely.