The Sweet Stuff

Melanie Warner takes a look at growing consumer wariness of high-fructose corn syrup and how many firms are now moving back to making some products with real sugar to appeal to them even though it “costs some 40 percent more.”

Warner notes that scientific evidence that there are special HFCS-related health problems is actually a bit hard to come by, but from a policy point of view I think the key point is that the relative prices for these commodities are substantially impacted by hard-to-justify policy interventions. First off, there are severe restrictions on the ability of Latin American farmers to export sugar to the United States. Second, there are substantial monetary payments to encourage high levels of domestic corn production. The economic and foreign policy case for doing away with this business is extremely compelling, so unless there’s some overwhelming public health reason to prefer corn then the case for changing things up is solid irrespective of these health disputes.