Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Cap and trade as food policy

From the Ezra Klein at the Washington Post:

Could cap-and-trade regulations have a place in food policy? That’s the idea behind a recent New England Journal of Medicine paper, which suggests that one way to stem our obesity crisis would be to regulate the total amount of unhealthy food that’s available. Cap and trade was a key part of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments as a way to regulate acid-rain-causing pollutants like sulfur dioxide. Under the program, the overall amount of pollution was limited, and utilities were allowed to trade pollution credits on the open market, so that the lowest-cost reductions got made first. The policy worked well...This leads them to ask: what if a cap-and-trade policy treated unhealthy foods as pollutants, limiting their availability?

The U.S. food supply can also be viewed as a polluted environment. Because of industry’s practices and consumers’ choices, pollutants such as excessive salt, sweeteners, and unhealthful fat end up damaging our health. Setting a cap on the amount of harmful ingredients used in U.S. food production could profoundly affect our diet. This approach could take many forms but would probably work best if applied to entities that supply food products directly to consumers, rather than to the producers of the raw ingredients. Although food ingredients are components, not by-products, of production, cap and trade may still make sense for several reasons. First, the approach is thought to work best when the capped substance is easy to measure. Ingredients such as salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats are even easier to measure than pollutants like sulfur dioxide. And cap and trade is ideally suited for markets in which many companies use or produce a given substance but it would cost some more than others to decrease that use or production.

Ah yes, our food supply is a "polluted environment" brought to you by the private sector, so we need the DC Deep Thinkers to control it.

Enjoy those Snickers while you can and a big Happy Halloween from the DC Demons & Washington Witches.

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