Monday, March 19, 2012

Lustig Proposes Regulating Sugar Like Alcohol

 Robert Lustig, M.D., thinks sugar is so dangerous, he wants to use guns to prevent certain people from eating it.  In an editorial in Nature, Lustig and colleagues have expressed their belief that sugar is as toxic as alcohol and argue for regulating sugar consumption by use laws, i.e. guns.

They suggest establishing taxes on sweetened fizzy drinks (soda), other sugar-sweetened beverages (for example, juice, sports drinks and chocolate milk) and sugared cereal, use zoning to control distribution of fast-food outlets and convenience stores, and establish what I will call a 'legal sugar age' at which you can purchase sweetened foods and beverages.  From the editorial:

"States could apply zoning ordinances to control the number of fast-food outlets and convenience stores in low-income communities, and especially around schools, while providing incentives for the establishment of grocery stores and farmer's markets. Another option would be to limit sales during school operation, or to designate an age limit (such as 17) for the purchase of drinks with added sugar, particularly soda. Indeed, parents in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, recently took this upon themselves by lining up outside convenience stores and blocking children from entering them after school. Why couldn't a public-health directive do the same?"
Imagine this:

When you go to purchase a soft drink, ice cream, doughnut, or candy bar, you have to produce an I.D..

Juvenile detention centers filled with kids convicted of  buying a soft drink before the age of 17.  (Like our jails filled with people convicted of buying hashish.)

Gangs creating a black market for candies and sodas around grade and secondary schools.  (A predictable effect of market suppression.)

When you want to serve sweets to 'minors' at a birthday party held in a public place (say, a park), you need to get a special license from city hall, and have government "monitors" (i.e. police) present.

How about a SWAT team invading your grandmother's kitchen while she and her friends make Christmas cookies, charging them with endangering minors?

Hold It Granny!  Put that sugar down slowly and hands up!

I probably would have considered this last proposition hyperbole 10 years ago, but since then an organic food buying club and a raw milk dairy have been raided by SWAT teams looking for raw milk products.  Raids on sugar warehouses and baking clubs might not be that far off.

Nothing would please these people more, I guess.

Apparently Lustig et al don't see the crucial difference between parents taking it upon themselves to influence their children's behavior through action based on love, and using laws, backed by the force of police and guns, to regulate everyone's behavior.

If you don't think anyone would create an armed sugar or food police, keep in mind the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF), which sets the precedent. 

I just loathe this fascist mentality.  I think eating too much sugar can cause harm, but it is definitely not as toxic as alcohol, and I will defend to the death the right of individuals to choose to eat as much as they want, and to feed it to their children.

Conspicuously missing from the reports I have seen of their recommendations is any mention of stopping subsidies of the agricultural enterprises that make cheap corn, cane, and beets available for sugar production.  Instead of cutting off support of production, they propose regulating the individual users of sugar.  This is a bit like swatting mosquitos one by one while rewarding the people who create the swamps in which they breed.

In 2010 corn subsidies amounted to more than $3.5 billion, and between 1995 and 2010 they amounted to about $81 billion. [Environmental Working Group]

U.S. cane sugar subsidies amount to about $2 billion annually, and cause economic and environmental damage as well as supporting sugar consumption.  "Large areas of the Florida Everglades have been converted to cane sugar production as a result of sugar protection. That has caused damage from the related land drainage, runoff of chemical fertilizers, and the destruction of natural habitat."  [Cato Institute]

The sugar beet producers received $242 million in subsidies between 2000 and 2005. [Environmental Working Group]

Sugar subsidies cause considerable economic havoc. [The Great Sugar Shaft at the Future of Freedom Foundation]

How about looking for the causes of imbalances, instead of focusing on regulating symptoms?  Here, imbalanced consumption of sugar is largely a result of imbalanced production of sugar, and this is due to subsidies.

Removal of subsidies for corn, cane, and beets would increase the cost of these raw materials, which would increase the cost of sugar, which would lead to a voluntary reduction in use.   It would lead to a reduction of farmland devoted to overproduction of these commodities, and thus a reduction of environmental damage caused by that overproduction.  It would reduce the cost of 'government' and make unnecessary any 'sugar police' or 'sugar czar.'  

Instead Lustig et al propose creating another level of police state, another bureaucracy, another pile of laws.

I would hope that no-one takes him seriously, but unfortunately, some politicians like nothing more than any proposal that gives them another reason to create another law and take more control of more territory, even if it reaches into your kitchen.

Your favorite food could be the next candidate for regulations.  First, they came for the raw milk, and I said nothing.  Then, they came for the sugar, and I said nothing.  Then, they came for the starch, and I said nothing.....

I just say "No!" to sugar regulation and sugar subsidies.


carlos.theantichrist said...

Great article, Lustig is pretty nuts

praguestepchild said...

I couldn't agree more, Don.

Chrissy said...

Hi Don,

unrelated to this post, but do you have any plans to finish your Oriental medicine series? Or maybe I missed something? It seems to me you ended it with this post:

nanook kernell said...

has lustig been hired by the the dementia inducing aspartame industry, now? you can easily outlaw sugar without armed conflicts, as long as you provide a more toxic alternative. everyone will ask for it.

FredT said...

At least Lustig is getting press on the the danger of sugar issue, although his idea is unworkable, but born out of a real need.

Earl Cannonbear said...

During the paleolithic era, nature employed her own unique and highly effective "Swat Team' to prevent the over-consumption of sugar; ferocious swarms of extremely agitated wild killer bees.

George Henderson said...

Good on you for focusing on subsidies.
The subsidies should go, not our freedom to poison the children.
But seriously, the subsidies should go.
Can you believe FISHING is subsidized all over the world, while fish stocks are on a hiding to nothing?

OneOrbit said...

Yes defend your right to eat sugar... He basically thinks you should cut back to less than 100 grams/day of calories from sugar. You want the right to eat sugar but I bet you don't want to pay for the right to eat sugar. Because guess what? We are the ones paying for it in the end. Insurance pays, taxes pay and in the end we pay. And really the ones not paying are intact the people that Lustig wants to tax. Pepsi, Coke and Mc Donalds are the ones making the money while American and the World gets fatter and fatter. SO you can paint Lustig in a crazy light but beneath the rant there is a message that we need to take very seriously.