re: “Another bit of HFCS Truth”

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Apparently, the corn lobby reads the LRCBlog! After the publishing of my blog post on HFCS, I got a nice letter from the president of the Corn Refiners Association in D.C.

The note I received opened with:

We read the March 29 article “Another bit of HFCS Truth,” with interest. Unfortunately, the suggestion that “the only reason HFCS is so prevalent in the U.S. diet is because sugar tariffs and taxes make it cost effective,” is misleading. We would like to provide you with science-based information on this safe sweetener and be a reference for you for future articles.

Later, the note offered this scientific information:

High fructose corn syrup does not uniquely contribute to obesity

Even former critics of high fructose corn syrup dispel long-held myths and distance themselves from earlier speculation about the sweetener’s link to obesity as the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition releases its 2008 Vol. 88 supplement’s comprehensive scientific review.

The American Medical Association (AMA) recently concluded that “high fructose syrup does not appear to contribute to obesity more than other caloric sweeteners.” (American Medical Association. June 17, 2008. Press Release: AMA finds high fructose syrup unlikely to be more harmful to health than other caloric sweeteners

The American Dietetic Association (ADA) concluded that “No persuasive evidence supports the claim that high fructose corn syrup is a unique contributor to obesity.” (Hot Topics, “High Fructose Corn Syrup.” December 2008.

Here was my response, in part:

With my tongue not that far into my cheek, let me say this. When the tariffs are removed and HFCS still dominates the market, let’s return to this debate. Or, alternatively, when the Corn Refiner’s Association suggests that the tariffs are unnecessary, due to their product’s clear [superiority], I’ll change my tune.

Aside from being impressed with the use of “uniquely” in the heading to that paragraph, I’ve not much more to say about this information. In fact, I don’t really care that much, and that is, frankly, why one should be careful using data in this way. Using supposed scientific “facts” to drive a decision represents what my buddy Stef Molyneux calls, the argument from effect. Such debates are endless. You say, “tomayto” and your opponent says, “tomahto” and round and round it goes.

However, the argument from morality is decisive.

If your product, or your idea for spending tax dollars, or your program for making banks solvent really is that good, you should be willing–if morality and truth are important to you–to offer that product or service voluntarily and take your chances. On the other hand, if you steal from me or otherwise force me to use your “solution,” then neither of us really needs any data about its effectiveness.

As a matter of fact, debating such matters simply clouds the issue and obscures the fact that my choice was irrelevant anyway.

Update–writes Keith Hamburger:

ADM, Cargill and many others receive enormous subsidies to promote growing corn. This drives the price of HFCS down relative to other sweeteners.

Along with giving up the protection of tariffs, the corn growers would need to give up the subsidies as well if we are to consider their product on a free market.

11:11 am on March 31, 2009