Tamar Haspel Profile picture
Dec 6 11 tweets 3 min read
There is a zombie idea that just won't die and I am going to kill it with math.

If we put all our crop subsidies into fruit & veg, it WOULD NOT change the way Americans eat ONE IOTA.

Ok, maybe ONE iota, but not TWO.

Here's why, and it's MATH.

A cranky 🧵
Let's figure out how much money we're talking about!

The subsidies we have now go mostly to corn & soy. We'll include both insurance premium subsidies and what used to be called "direct payments" and are now called ARC/PLC.
The amount varies by year, but I think it's reasonable to say 11 billion for insurance and 5 billion for ARC/PLC.

Total amount to redistribute to fruit & veg:

$16 billion! A decent chunk of change.
Let's distribute that $16 billion over all the acres that grow fruit & veg (called "specialty crops" by the USDA).

That's about 15 million acres.

For the sake of having a nice round number let's say that means we have $1000 an acre for all fruit & veg.

Let's also assume 100% of that subsidy goes to reducing the price of the crop.

NONE to the farmer. NONE to the farmworkers. NONE to the distributors. NONE to the retailers.

ALL to us, the eaters.

How would that affect prices? Let's look at some examples.
Example 1: BROCCOLI

An acre of broccoli produces about 16,000 pounds.

The subsidy would make broccoli 6 cents a pound cheaper.

(Other green veg will be in the same ballpark.)
Example 2: APPLES

An acre of apples produces about 20,000 pounds.

The subsidy would make apples 5 cents a pound cheaper.

(Other tree fruits will be in the same ballpark.)
Example 3: WALNUTS

An acre of walnuts produces about 5400 pounds.

The subsidy would make walnuts 19 cents a pound cheaper.

(Other tree nuts will be in the same ballpark.)
But wait! Now that we've taken away subsidies for corn & soy, won't that make junk food MORE expensive?

No. Ingredients are 10-15% of the price of highly processed foods, and even those prices go up a full 10%, that's a 1% price increase.

Vegetables are WAY MORE EXPENSIVE to grow.

Growing a calorie of broccoli costs 50x more than growing a calorie of corn.

Subsidies CANNOT make up the difference.

PS: people mostly don't eat veg because they don't like them, not because they're expensive.
Redirecting subsidies would change veg prices by pennies per pound. It's just math.

It's downright silly to suggest that would change people's eating habits.

I REALLY want to change our subsidy system, but it won't change the way we eat.

Thanks for listening.

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More from @TamarHaspel

Nov 20
For your Sunday morning reading, an @adele_peters @FastCompany piece on regenerative ag.

It's a good run-down of the projects and uncertainties.

I want farmers to get paid to put carbon in soil.

BUT ...

A short🧵
There are 2 huge problems:

➡️How to measure changes in soil carbon

➡️What to do when land *loses* carbon

Let's take them one by one.
On measurement, I think progress is being made. We know how to do it, but it's gotta be cheaper.

And I can't emphasize enough that credits have to be based on measurement.

Models are not sufficient, because the effects of practices (no-till, cover crops) vary widely.
Read 9 tweets
Nov 9
My mom, Barbara Haspel, died on Monday.

Because what’s left is our collective memory, I find I want everyone to know her.

I had the same impulse when my father died, a few years back.

May I introduce you to my mother? Image
She wasn’t very mom-like. My sister-in-law called her the mom who fell to earth. When I was a kid, and experienced the small tragedies that kids do, she always had a damned constructive suggestion. It was maddening.
She had a savant-like intelligence when she was young, and could remember, nearly verbatim, everything she read. Often, those damned constructive suggestions took the form of a poem. I think she could quote more poetry than any person living.
Read 24 tweets
Sep 30
Hey nutrition twitter, I have a question.

What do we actually know about how diet affects health outcomes?

And by "know" I mean near-universal agreement in the nutrition community.

This is a 🧵

Please add to it ...
➡️Trans fats are bad

I think that one's pretty solid
➡️Sat fat in meat & butter (but not cheese & milk) raises LDL & ApoB

There are some who claim that, although this happens it's not a health risk but they're a distinct (read: keto) minority.
Read 9 tweets
Aug 16
The grazing people make an argument that I think is wrong.

They claim that ruminants co-evolved with grasslands (true!) and grazing is necessary for grassland health.

I don't think that's true. This is a 🧵about why.

Start here, with @GeorgeMonbiot
Ruminants & healthy grasslands can definitely coexist!

But the question is whether grasslands, whether or not they co-evolved with grazing, are healthier with or without livestock.

People study this, and the answer is nearly always without.
Monbiot cites this meta-analysis.

It looked at 109 studies and found that lands where livestock were excluded had more abundant and diverse species.

Read 8 tweets
Aug 11
In-the-weeds nutrition 🧵 here.

Why I don’t buy the Carbohydrate-Insulin Model (CIM) of weight gain.

It posits that carbs drive insulin which drives fat storage which makes you hungry and you overeat.

So, overeating is a RESPONSE to weight gain.
Here are two predictions made by CIM:

1. You will burn more calories with a low-carb diet, compared to a regular-carb diet with the same number of calories.

2. The regular-carb diet will make you hungrier, and drive you to eat more, than the low-carb diet.
I will note here that this is a good-faith effort to explain the CIM, and if anyone wants to jump in with edits or caveats, that’s totally welcome. I am trying to keep this as straightforward as I can.
Read 14 tweets
Jul 28
Per the FAO, calories in our food supply haven't increased as we've continued to get fatter.

@davidludwigmd says that doesn't support the Energy Balance Model of weight - and that's true!

Problem is, it doesn't support *any* model, including his.

A 🧵
The Carbohydrate Insulin Model (as I understand it) doesn't say you gain weight without consuming more calories. It says eating carbs drives hunger, so you eat more.

In both the EBM & CIM (sorry for the abbrevs!) people overeat - they are just 2 different explanations for why.
There are disagreements about burning energy ...

And macronutrient content can affect how many calories you burn, but the difference is small.

Nobody (that I've ever read) claims those differences can be responsible for obesity increases, absent more consumption.
Read 10 tweets

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