11 Perverse Subsidies

Subsidized beef, consumed primarily in the global north, is one of man’s most destructive practices. There is no escaping this fact. If we consider the carbon storage potential of the land lost, 4kg of beef becomes the equivalent in climate damage of a flight from London to New York City. One million dollars of taxpayer money are spent every minute on perverse subsidies which over-incentivize land-hungry, emissions-intensive and climate-vulnerable farming practices that are not determined by consumer demand or necessary to guarantee food security. The subsidy wedge is a sleepwalking monster. The city’s resource supply is its hinterland and while 70 percent of the used land on earth is operationalized in one way or another, just three percent of it is urbanised, and that percentage is liable to shrink. Sixty person of the output from one of the best-known profit landscapes, the US’s corn and soy belt, is fed to animals. A further thirty percent is used for bioethanol while just 10 percent is fed to humans in the shape of corn syrup and other foods. For the most part, farmers do not choose which crops they grow: the state, precedent, technological capacity, and the small fraction of mega-corporations who control the food business do, circling a one trillion dollar wedge of zombie payments that can and must be redirected towards carbon drawdown, ecosystem management, and research to increase yields and diversify the food system. We are often taught that a suspicion of new tastes, textures, experiences and sensations is the primary obstacle for emerging food cultures to overcome – but there is an economic barrier that may prove far more difficult to surmount. Nonna’s lasagne doesn’t seem so innocent when you realize how we’re paying for it.