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It gets uglier. More than 80 percent of Iowa farmers are dependent on some type of taxpayer subsidy. More than 175,000 of the state's corn farmers received more than $15 billion in subsidies from 1995-2012. Those figures also come from EWG.
In 2006, Harkin bragged that "Iowa lead[s] the nation in corn and high fructose corn syrup production."
So Tom Harkin is a hypocrite. Though that's hardly unique here in Washington. Secretary Vilsack is equally ghastly when he talks about how he's tried to rein in the food industry.
In 2011, for example, Matt Yglesias, then at ThinkProgress, wrote of Vilsack's "unconvincing case for farm subsidies."
Like I said, there's lots to dislike here. Food industry representatives don't love the movie, either.
“Rather than identifying successful policies or ongoing efforts to find real and practical solutions to obesity, it adopts a short-sighted, confrontational and misleading approach by cherry-picking facts to fit a narrative, getting the facts wrong, and simply ignoring the progress that has been made over the last decade in providing families with healthier options at home and at school,” said Pamela Bailey of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, in remarks reported by The Wrap.
The film does have its supporters. USA Today critic Scott Bowles claims Fed Up "tackles American diets with a ferocity that would make Michael Moore proud," whatever that means.
I found the parts of the movie that make the most sense and are most grounded in fact are those that lay blame at the hands of government policies and programs.
“The government is subsidizing the obesity epidemic,” says Michael Pollan partway into the movie.
But for every smart Pollan quote, there are at least a dozen absurd policy prescriptions.
Anti-sugar activist Dr. David Ludgwig (or is it anti-sugar activist Dr. Robert Lustig, who's also featured in the film), for example, claims at one point that the only choices available for stemming the rise of childhood obesity is either expanding gastric bypass surgery or restricting food marketing to kids.
Others who appear in the film offer similar policy prescriptions. New York Times columnist Mark Bittman, for example, calls for taxing food or drink that contains sugar and other caloric sweeteners. But why should government screw Americans twice? Why tax us to give a needless handout to farmers who raise crops that are turned into sweeteners and then tax us a second time as punishment for buying the products that contain those sweeteners? Where's the logic in that?
Couric herself concludes that two specific policy steps to reduce obesity are 1) warning labels on cans of soda and 2) requiring celebrities who act as pitchmen and pitchmen for so-called junk foods to also be required to pitch a vegetable.
This is the same Couric who, as recently as this past winter, was offering viewers of her doomed daytime show a chance to win a free "swag bag" that featured a large bag of upmarket crème caramel almonds, a product billed as "the ultimate salty sweet snack."
As I watched the previews before the movie, I noticed that by my count only two of the dozen or so people in the theater were eating. Notably, both snackers were men who appeared to be in their early 30s. One man, who sat a row in front of me and who was heavyset, ate a large bag of popcorn and slurped on a large drink during the movie. The other man, who sat in my row and appeared to be very fit, ate the same size popcorn and drank the same size beverage as did the overweight man.
I don't have all the answers. But unlike Fed Up's filmmakers, I don't pretend that I do.
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