We’re used to the arguments that the CAP’s subsidies and tariffs are very bad for many desperately poor farmers in the developing world, with some going as far as to say that the EU has blood on its hands but now comes a piece of medical research which suggests that EU farm subsidies are responsible for more than ten thousand diet-related deaths among European citizens.
By stimulating the production (and consumption) of foods that are high in fat and cholesterol, researchers based at Liverpool University in the UK have concluded that “The cardiovascular disease burden attributable to CAP appears substantial”. The research focusses on subsidies for full fat milk and butter and use the hypothesis that without CAP subsidies for dairy products, per capita saturated fat consumption would be 1 per cent lower and that consumption of poly- and monounsaturated fats would be 0.5 per cent higher. The results show that there are approximately 9800 additional deaths by coronary heart disease and 3000 additional deaths by stroke each year because of the CAP in the EU-15. The researchers stress that this was a very conservative estimate. The countries worst affected are France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.
The research points to the case study of Poland in the years 1990 to 2002 where farm subsidies that stimulated the production of fatty and high cholesterol foods were reduced:
“Recent evidence of the potentially powerful impact of reducing dietary saturated fats is graphically illustrated by the recent large falls in CHD mortality in Poland, between 1990 and 2002 (by 38% in men and 42% in women). This reduction across socioeconomic groups was attributed to the abolition of national food subsidies for saturated fats and the emergence of new, competitive markets, greatly increasing consumption of polyunsaturated vegetable oils. Ironically, this beneficial decline could now be threatened as Poland implements CAP after joining the EU in 2004.”
There can be no doubt that the CAP directs its support to exactly the wrong kinds of food for a healthy diet – milk, butter, cheese and red meat. Support for arable crops also benefits the livestock sector, by making feed cheaper and let’s not mention the EU’s substantial subsidies for ‘booze and fags’. The Single Farm Payment specifically excludes land used to cultivate fruit and vegetables. Until recently the EU was spending hundreds of millions on the disposal of surplus fruit and vegetables in landfill as a way of keeping prices high.
Estimating the cardiovascular mortality burden attributable to the European Common Agricultural Policy on dietary saturated fats. Ffion Lloyd-Williams, Martin O’Flaherty, Modi Mwatsama, Christopher Birt, Robin Ireland, Simon Capewell. Bulletin of the World Health Organization. Volume 86, Number 7, July 2008, 497-576