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Living Rivers Currents
November 26, 2001

Hay Burn: Alfalfa Subsidies and Public Health

LR Currents V1, N4, December 2001

By Gordon LaBedz, M.D.

More people die of heart disease and strokes than all other illnesses combined. The cause? The red-meat-oriented American diet, high in fat, with beef and dairy as the prime culprit. And you and I pay for it through government subsidies.

While many ranchers get their share of corporate welfare, the less-visible cattle feed industry is also cashing in: Corn is the main crop for fattening cattle in the Midwest, but here in the West, it?s alfalfa.

Taxpayers unwittingly fund a system that perpetuates unhealthy diets for millions of Americans, bringing on early death or illness for tens of thousands every year.

A recent US Public Health Service report concluded that 1.29 million, or 54% of all U.S. deaths can be attributed to the substantial risk factors associated with the consumption of meat products. The Economic Research Center reports $80 billion dollars in annual medical costs and lost productivity from over-consumption of fatty foods. Cows are killing us!

According to government and independent figures, we could save on average 75% of the water used to irrigate alfalfa by planting vegetables. If we subsidize crops, why not at least grow nutritious food? We could save money and river ecosystems, but most importantly, we would help people live healthier and longer lives.

As a physician I see more than my share of patients who are being killed by the beef?and alfalfa?industries. As a taxpayer I am outraged that my dollars are being used to keep these destructive industries in business.

Gordon LaBedz, M.D., is a physician in the Greater Los Angeles area and is Chair of the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter.

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