Bringing Purchasing Power to the Table: Driving Down the Cost of Organic Food to Counter an Epidemic

By Julie Graham

Diabetes and obesity are on the rise.  We’ve all heard it.  Countless news articles and medical journals say so.  In fact, it’s not just on the rise, it is insidiously reaching epidemic status among the American population at such an alarming rate that is becoming the norm.  Translated, blood sugar levels are getting higher.  High blood sugar levels cause much more than than irritability and fainting, as popularized in early health films.  Glucose molecules, when they become too high in serum, infiltrate themselves into the structure of a cell, in a sense, infecting the cell with dysfunctional, scarred, segments of its previously healthy structure.  The cells affected are not specific– any cell is at risk, and they are all bathing in a sugary bath at any given time in the hyperglycemic (diabetic) individual.  

Organic food prices remain high in the U.S.,  making it difficult for budget constrained American families to make healthy food choices.

All tissue is made of cells, all organs are made of tissue.  All human living systems are made of organs, cells, and tissue.  This is diabetic organ dysfunction simplified.  This is the stuff that blindness, kidney failure,  neuropathy, pneumonia, heart disease, and a literal cornucopia of other ailments, are made of.  High blood sugar level tax out the pancreas, just as elevated blood alcohol taxes out the liver.  The World Health Organization forecasts that deaths related to high blood sugar will double by 2030. A study at Princeton University , supported by the U.S. Public Health Service, supports what many of us already believe.  The increasing amount of  high fructose corn syrup in the American diet is closely tied to the similarly increasing prevalence of American obesity.  The American food system is complicated, with many strong forces contributing to  the status quo.  It is a system  failing the American consumer.   

In October of 2009, President Obama signed an executive order to enact the Environmentally Preferable Purchasing program, or EPP.  This program, is designed to drive green market share by using the federal government’s  tremendous buying power to “advance sustainable acquisition by acquiring products that are energy-efficient, water-efficient, biobased, environmentally preferable, non-ozone depleting, contain recycled content, or are non-toxic or less-toxic alternatives”

At this time, the EPP does not apply to the purchase, by the federal government, of organic food.   But it should. A  program of this magnitude, if it included organic food, could have the potential to significantly drive down the price of organic food by injecting significant federal dollars into the market.   Not only that, it would also feed organic food to government agencies, the military and school lunch programs.  It would offer an incredible incentive to the food industry to compete for a piece of the green pie, requiring organic reformulations of big brand products in the food and beverage industry, while bypassing those lobbying to protect the interest of high fructose corn syrup manufacturers and GMO’s.

EPP has already influenced purchasing transactions in other sectors, and it is time for it to do the same for food.   I reported last week on the healthcare industry’s adoption of the Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Program to green their supply chain.  Medical equipment manufacturers are partnering up with reprocessors to secure procurement relationships with healthcare agencies.  It is exciting and encouraging that healthcare is addressing the supply chain and the waste stream.  Why can’t we put our own health and generativity on the same sustainability agenda?


Julie Graham is a guest author, and Registered Nurse from Southern California.  She is pursuing her Master of Public Administration degree from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco.




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5 responses

  1. I may be missing something but I never knew that organic produce has less glucose than conventionally raised produce. Is there any evidence of that change? The reason I prefer organic food is it tastes better and often that means a sweeter taste. Why would organic farming lead to lower diabetes levels in Americans? What role do personal food choices play in diabetes onset?

  2. Organic food has a very significant role to play in lowering blood sugar. High fructose corn syrup has not only an intuitive role in elevating blood sugar, it is evidence based. High fructose corn syrup does not occur in nature, it is created in lab, and therefore not eligible for a USDA organic seal of approval. However,it is injected to the food supply at an alarming rate. It is absorbed much more rapidly than many other sugars, causing a surge of pancreatic activity. Our pancreas is a finite resource. It can only handle so many spikes in blood sugar. Once it is overtaxed, is is scarred and dysfunctional. There are many factors that contribute to glycemic load, and taste is not a good indicator. Natural foods are better accommodated by human digestion. Altering this process with GMO’s and synthetic pseudo-nutrients injects properties in food that our bodies react adversely to. This is a very simplistic explanation of the dangers of our current food policy. My advice? Pay attention, and think critically. There is incredible truth to the old adage, “You are what you eat”.

      1. Thanks for your comments! High fructose corn syrup is not organic, as it is developed in a laboratory. It does not exist in nature. There is much evidence to support an association between HFCS and surging obesity. Naturally occurring sugars have, for lack of a better word, “buffers” which mediate there absorption and subsequent effect at the cellular level. Most won’t argue the importance of curbing sugar intake, in any form. However, naturally occurring sugars, are better tolerated by human metabolism.

  3. What is missing in the current conversation amongst Americans is the subject of food awareness. We must re-learn that the purpose of food is to provide our bodies with nutrients and not just to taste good on the tongue and fill our overly fat bellies.
    When school kids don’t know the difference between tomatoes and potatoes, we see the problem. We are incredibly ignorant about one of the most vital things to our existence.
    And we are at the mercy of a food production system that is not interested in nutrition; it is interested by maximizing profits.
    Think the big food growers and processors care about us? They don’t care about us – period!

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