Here’s a letter to NPR correspondent Allison Aubrey:
Reporting yesterday that bad diets are responsible for more deaths than smoking, you said the following: “What would happen if everyone around the globe began to eat a healthy diet, filling three-fourths of their plates with fruits, vegetables and whole grains? We’d run out. Yep, that’s right. A recent study published in the journal PLOS One by researchers at the University of Guelph found that there would not be enough fruit and vegetables to go around.”
With respect, both you and the researchers you interviewed confuse cause and effect. If more people wished to eat healthy diets, food suppliers – from farmers and fisheries to restaurants and supermarkets – would have every incentive to increase the supply of foods to satisfy such diets.
Despite the prices of some foods being distorted by agricultural subsidies and protectionism, the pattern of food production overwhelmingly reflects the demands of consumers. And this pattern is not fixed. If and when more consumers switch their spending away from the likes of processed foods and sugary drinks and toward the likes of fish and fresh vegetables, the market will reduce the production of the ‘bad’ foods and increase the production of the ‘good’ foods.
In short, we’re as likely to “run out” of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains if people want to eat more healthy foods as we are to run out of bicycles, running shoes, and yoga mats if people want to get more exercise.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030