The USDA Food Pyramid and the documents which preceded it have been rewritten many times over the years. In the early years, nutritional research was done to support the recommendations.
Unfortunately, after the late 1800s and the explosive growth of the food manufacturing industry, the USDA’s dietary recommendations changed under increasing pressure from the food manufacturing industry. The history of the USDA Food Pyramid shows clearly how it changed from a science-based tool to a marketing tool for agriculture and food processing.
The USDA’s guidelines set the standard for all Federal nutrition programs, including school lunch programs and they often have an impact on what food products Americans purchase. Think of the egg–cholesterol “scare” in the 1980s, and how it drove the consumption of eggs sharply down.
Hence, the food processing industry takes a very active role in how the dietary guidelines are set, since the recommendations can mean either big profits or big costs to them.
There are large volumes of research results that disprove the reasoning behind the food pyramid recommendations, yet the USDA Food Pyramid has not changed much since it first came out in 1992.
It continues to benefit the billion-dollar food processing and agricultural industries by recommending the consumption of large amounts of high carbohydrate grain and vegetable-based products, in conjunction with US agricultural policies supporting the large scale cultivation of corn and soybeans.
And since the Food Pyramid is the “authoritative” source for nutritional information, it has been propagated by the American media, well-meaning teachers in school classrooms, and by physicians and nutritionists in medical offices all over the country. The food pyramid has become ubiquitous, and all of the benefit has gone to Big Food and Big Agriculture.
The American people haven’t been so lucky. Many have suffered the damaging health consequences which come from following the USDA Food Pyramid’s advice. Americans have lowered their fat consumption and eaten more grains and vegetables because the pyramid said it would promote better health.
But as we now know, this advice has completely failed, and in fact, has resulted in higher rates of disease and death in the US.
The United States has one of the highest adult and infant mortality rates in the industrialized world.
Heart disease and cancer are still the number one causes of death, despite the fact that millions of dollars have been spent on research to conquer them. Diabetes and obesity rates are skyrocketing, and Alzheimer’s is a new threat to millions of Americans. If the “low fat, low cholesterol, eat more grains” advice is such a healthy way of eating, why are Americans sick and getting sicker?
I believe it’s because the USDA Food Pyramid recommendations fully support the processed food industry. The processed food industry uses the USDA guidelines to market low fat engineered fake food products, and to create new products containing grains and food additives polluted with pesticides and genetically modified organisms. These same polluted crops are also sold to large scale meat, milk and chicken feeding operations.
The guidelines also benefit the agribusiness giants like Monsanto which are intent on destroying natural food crops through the propagation of genetically engineered corn, soybeans, canola and cotton. Destroying natural seeds will ensure farmers have to buy new seed each year from these businesses instead of being able to save natural seeds capable of re-germination in the next planting cycle.
In fact, in 2007, Monsanto acquired the world’s largest cotton seed company, Delta & Pine Land Company for $1.5 billion dollars. Delta & Pine has created a seed technology nicknamed “Terminator”.
This technology produces plants that have sterile seeds, which do not flower or grow fruit after the initial planting, thus requiring customers to purchase new seed from Monsanto for every planting in which they use Monsanto seed varieties. And to ensure they are the only seed variety source, Monsanto is methodically buying other large seed companies. In 2008, Monsanto bought the Dutch seed company De Ruiter Seeds for around 855 million dollars.
In recent years, opposition from environmental groups and farming associations has grown, mainly because these seeds increase farmers’ dependency on seed suppliers like Monsanto.
There is also concern that the “Terminator” effect will be spread to native vegetation through natural pollination, and result in the sterilization of all natural plants. In 1999, Monsanto pledged not to commercialize terminator technology, but don’t be surprised to read about its effects in the near future. And the USDA will have played a role in that disaster.