How Sweet It Isn’t

This information comes from a film review in World Ark magazine the Jan./Feb. 2009 issue pg. 38. The film is The Price of Sugar: How Much Is Too Much? by Bill Haney, narrated by Paul Newman, Uncommon Productions 2006. More info

Haiti and the Dominican Republic share a Caribbean Island off the cost off Cuba. The Dominican Republic is touted as a tropical paradise for travelers. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. The Dom. Rep. is the largest supplier of sugar to the U.S. (Do you suppose the difference is that Haiti is on the Cuba side of the island? I don’t know, it may just be coincidence. Another thing to look into.)

Huge sugar plantations, totaling about a quarter of a million acres, rely on the labor of Haitian migrant workers. These desperately poor people are promised work at good wages and end up living in barracks surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards. Their plight is given a blind eye due to the importance of the crop to the Dominican economy and because of the influence the wealthy plantation owners have .

As sugar consumers we subsidize this kind of activity. In addition, as consumers of industrialized foods we have become addicted to sweeter and sweeter foods. I know I don’t make much of an impact in all this, but about a year ago I stopped bringing sugar into my home, because if it was there I would eat it. I still use a substitute but I hope to change that too. I am going to try growing Stevia.

Stevia is a plant that can be used as a sweetener by grinding the dried leaves or making an infusion. If nothing else this might help to remind me of the problems in the agriculture of sugar, as well as the effects of sugar and other sweeteners (can you say high fructose corn syrup?) on our diet and health.

A friend of mine owns a retail operation that is struggling. He recently cut his hours to reduce operating costs, but at the same time gave his employees a raise. Why? He said; “If I can’t pay my staff a living wage, I shouldn’t be in business”. Should we (Americans) who pay a smaller percentage of our income on food than other countries (US 9.9%, Italy & France 14.9% , Spain 17.1%) continue to get fat and unhealthy at the cost of the lives and welfare of others? I don’t think so.

I am trying to wean myself off the processed food like substances in the typical US diet and back onto the real foods that my Mom raised me on. I’m trying to be more aware of where I buy my food and where I eat out. When I crave a Twinkie I try to remember that it is a super processed food-like substance that has been formulated in the lab to excite certain receptors in my brain and make me crave for more. (Maybe we should call them Drug-like foodstuffs.) And they are made at the destruction of an agricultural heritage that I cherish, and the livelihoods of people all over the world.