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The Sugar Puzzle

Big Sugar shapes American lives in countless places. Our collective waistlines constitute one locale. But there are bigger areas of concern.

The LA Times recently reprinted a Miami Herald article that points to Big Sugar pollution as a source of ecologically devastating algae blooms in Florida's coastal estuaries, seagrass die-offs in Florida Bay, and threats to the Lake Okeechobee dike and Everglades marshes from fluctuating water levels. At the same time, Big Sugar (in the forms of United States Sugar and Florida Crystals, a Fanjul brothers' company) has spent Big Money on local Florida political contributions. Laws favorable to agricultural polluters keep rolling through the state legislature. Coincidence?

But wait. The puzzle grows more complex. Nutrition maven Marion Nestle points out the peculiar double-speak that Federal policy dishes out on sugar.

She notes,

"On the one hand, we have dietary guidelines that say 'Limit calories from added sugars.'

On the other, we support sugar prices with a system of sugar quotas and tariffs that makes U.S. sugar cost more than sugar on the world market (but not enough to decrease consumption).

We let sugar producers indiscriminately pollute land and water and “encourage” elected officials to turn a blind eye and shift the costs of cleanup to taxpayers.

If ever we needed evidence why linking agricultural policy to health and environmental policies is so essential, the contradictions of sugar policy make the case."

Stay tuned for more sugar puzzles that are anything but sweet.

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