Nov 19, 2013

US emerging as the world's largest cancer economy.

Is the US emerging as the world's largest cancer economy? Well, when I say a cancer economy what I mean is an economy sustained to a larger extent by the growing incidence of the killer disease. The more is the incidence of cancer, the more is the medical costs involved, and that adds on to the country's GDP. It's obviously a drain on the society but at the same time for the medical industry it provides an immense business opportunity. And some would say a profiteering medical industry will provide for more jobs !

In 2008, the US National Institute of Health (NIH) estimated the total annual cost that cancer was causing to the economy at $ 201.5 billion, which included $ 77.4 billion of health expenditures and $ 124 billion as the indirect mortality costs. After all, in a country where more than half a million people are expected to die of cancer this year, and that works out to 1,600 every day, nearly 75 per cent of the health care costs revolve around the cancer epidemic.

This startling analysis is presented in a blog Inspired Bites written by Robyn O' Brian (Link: that I came across yesterday. Quoting a report of the President's Cancer Panel she writes: " (The Panel) is urging all of us to do our part to reduce the burden of this disease.  Most notably, they encourage all Americans to reduce their exposures to contaminants like pesticides, insecticides and other chemicals now so pervasive in our food.  Why? Because 41 per cent of us are expected to get cancer in our lifetimes, 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women. It did not used to be this way.  And can we really eat to beat this disease as the President’s Cancer Panel suggests? It’s tough to do with a food supply so dependent on synthetic chemicals.  In the last fifteen years, new ingredients, synthetically engineered in laboratories to withstand increasing doses of toxic weedkillers, have quietly been inserted into our food.  And while correlation is not causation, the soaring use of these chemicals corresponds so directly with the soaring rates of certain cancers that at the very least, it merits an investigation."

Although, as she says, while correlation is not causation, there is a definitely a growth pattern that is clearly visible. Food contamination is certainly linked to the growing incidence of cancer. And if the Panel itself is suggesting to people to be watchful of pesticides, insecticides and other chemicals in food, the indications are loud and clear. I would have however expected more serious efforts visible in America to curb the use of chemicals, including pesticides and insecticides, based on the recommendations of this report. The failure to take the report seriously is not only disappointing but if I may be allowed to say so it is reflective of a criminal neglect. 

Especially at a time when US President Barack Obama has been trying to push for medicare, I thought the best way to prevent the disease from taking such a massive human toll in future would have been to go in for safe food. When Michelle Obama launch organic gardening in the White House complex, she obviously conveyed a powerful statement, but her husband failed to get the message right. As Charles Benbrook has conclusively shown that between 1996 and 2011, an era when GM crops proliferated in the US, the application of pesticides has risen by 404 million pounds. This data alone should have forced the US Department of Agriculture to come down heavily on the industrial farming systems. 

While the USDA continues to push for more of the same, the US President has been trying his best to push the harmful technologies to the developing world. His global food security initiative promotes the faulty and harmful technological approach as the mankind's saviour. This is where the US President fails, and fails miserably. In his desperation to find ways and means (even if these are harmful in the long run) to jack up the economy, he is trying to create conditions for the US health care industry to profit. He is aggressively using the g-20 to push his flawed economic approach. And that makes me wonder when will the world get a political leader who looks beyond the financial capital; who goes all out to build on the human capital.  

Till then, I can only pray for the well-being of Americans. If 1 in 2 men, and 1 in 3 women is expected to live with cancer in the years to come, God save America. But please don't pass on this deadly killer to the developing world. We already have enough problems at hand. 

1 comment:

Tony said...

nice post.. goodluck