This article by Ronnie Cummins, director of the Organic Consumers Association, is reprinted with permission. The original article with live links, including an action link to OCA’s campaign against forced, for-profit health insurance, can be found HERE.

Over the past 65 years, chemical agriculture, factory farms, and now genetic engineering have devastated public health, wrecked the environment, and destabilized the climate. The U.S. public now spends $2.4 trillion dollars a year on health care, $800 billion of which is directly attributable to consuming chemical-laden junk food. In only 15 years unregulated and unlabeled genetically engineered foods and crops (GMOs) have been planted on millions of acres of farm land, on soil which is then repeatedly doused with toxic pesticides and chemical fertilizers. GMO corn, cotton, canola and soy are currently laced into 80% of (non-organic) supermarket foods and restaurant items. The bodies of the majority of American adults and children are bloated and contaminated with so-called agricultural commodities: high fructose corn syrup (GMO corn), trans-fats (GMO cotton, canola and soy oil), and meat and dairy foods derived from factory farmed animals fed and reared on GMO and pesticide tainted grains, antibiotics, hormones, and slaughterhouse waste.

As a direct result of chemical and GMO agriculture, most American consumers are ill-fed and disease-prone.

Overall, diet-related diseases are the cause of an estimated 580,000 deaths every year.

* OBESITY. In the U.S. nearly 100 million people are seriously and dangerously overweight. Obesity kills thousands and costs taxpayers and employers $147 billion annually.

* HEART DISEASE. In 2010, heart disease will kill hundreds of thousands (in 2006, 831,272 people died of cardiovascular disease) and cost the US $503 billion.

* DIABETES. The number of people with diabetes in the US is expected to increase from 23.7 million to 44.1 million in the next 25 years. The cost of treating diabetes is expected to triple in that time from $113 billion per year to $336 billion per year.

* CANCER. Cancer has reached epidemic proportions, with 48% of men and 38% of women now stricken during their lifetimes. 35% percent of cancers are diet related. Diet-related cancers now out-pace smoking-related cancers (30% are smoking related).

* FOOD POISONING. The U.S. industrial, factory farm food system is responsible for 76 million cases of food-poisoning reported every year that result in over 300,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths. Food poisoning costs are substantial, estimated at up to $22 billion each year.

* ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE. In part because of the routine overuse of antibiotics on factory farms – in the US, animals consume 70% of the antibiotics – more than 63,000 people die in the US each year from hospital-acquired infections resistant to at least one antibiotic. This financial costs of this public health emergency are up to $5 billion dollars a year.

Overall, over $2.2 trillion is spent on health care in the US. (That’s the 2007 figure.)

After poisoning us with cheap food and destroying the environment, Big Food Inc. turns us over to Big Pharma and the Industrial Health Complex to repair the damage, or rather to keep us alive long enough to extract maximum profits. But from the warped perspective of the for-profit health insurance industry, overweight and diseased people aren’t very profitable. That’s why health insurance corporations spend $350 billion per year trying to avoid coverage and deny claims. The vast, paper-pushing bureaucracy the for-profit insurance industry has created to help them avoid providing services soaks up 31% of all health care spending!

If we shifted the 31% of health care spending taken up by the administrative costs of the for-profit health insurance industry to a single-payer, universal health care system, we could cover the uninsured without increasing total health-care spending. The Organic Consumers Association supports single-payer, universal health care, with a focus on preventive health, diet, nutrition and stress-reduction.

However:

IF PRESIDENT OBAMA SIGNS A BILL THAT TAKES AWAY OUR HEALTH RIGHTS, THAT FORCES AMERICANS TO BUY OVERPRICED, INADEQUATE COVERAGE FROM THE FOR-PROFIT HEALTH INSURANCE INDUSTRY, OCA WILL LAUNCH A BOYCOTT!

Forced health insurance is not health care reform, it’s corporate welfare and it is a direct result of the nearly 1 billion dollars that the health care industry is projected to have spent to shape the bill.

Not only does the for-profit health insurance industry spend 31 cents of every health insurance dollar pushing paper and avoiding claims, but the for-profit "health" system has become almost as deadly as the chemical and GMO food and farming system. Preventable mistakes kill as many as 98,000 people in hospitals every year. Another 300,000 people are injured due to medical errors.

Pharmaceuticals are even more dangerous than medical errors. According to Terence Mix:

# More than 50 percent of all drugs have serious adverse reactions that are discovered only after the drugs have entered the market (e.g., they are not detected during pre-market testing) – making us all unwitting guinea pigs.

# About 2,270,000 patients per year incur hospital costs as a result of adverse drug reactions.

# Another 4,300,000 visit other health care providers (physicians, hospital outpatient departments and emergency rooms) as a result of adverse drug reactions.

# Approximately 230,000 die each year as a result of an adverse drug reaction (105,000 using drugs as directed and 125,000 as a result of mistakes). This is the third leading cause of death in the United States.

# The total annual health care costs as a consequence of adverse drug reactions exceeds a staggering $200 billion – an amount equal to what is spent on Medicaid every year and almost half of what is spent on Medicare.

Reforming our health care system is literally a matter of life or death.

Eventually, we have to stop arguing over who’s going to pay for out-of-control health care costs and restore public health! The real solution to our health care crisis is to stop subsidizing chemical and GMO food and farming, along with the destruction of our environment and our climate, and make the long overdue transition to organics. Then, under universal health care or Medicare for All, we can shift from health care that treats sickness caused by unhealthy food and an unhealthy environment and lifestyle to health care that promotes wellness.