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Binghamton University professor warns against consequences of American diet

Andrus describes difficulty of finding sustainable options

One environmental studies professor gave students food for thought on Thursday as he detailed the many problems he found in the American food industry.

Kendall Loh/Photo Editor Richard Andrus, professor of environmental studies and biology, discusses the consequences of chemicals used in food production Thursday evening. Students gathered in Hillside Commons for the presentation, which covered the ecology of farming.

Professor Richard Andrus spoke at Hillside Commons on topics including the use of insecticide and child labor practices, as well as the dangerous ways in which food is produced. The talk was part of a series by the Apartment Communities titled “A Community of Peace.”

Andrus said that American diets are the worst among economically developed countries, and such diets are only comparable to those of people in countries who could not afford better.

“We live in a world where we make bad choices constantly, and we pay for with our health,” he said. “And it’s finally become a crisis.”

Andrus used the strawberry industry as an example, saying that the fruit companies inject and cover the soil with poisonous gas, known as ethylene bromide, to kill everything from weeds to insects around the crop. The chemicals were not used in any other Western countries besides the United States, or used for any other crop.

“I think it’s definitely going to make me think before I eat,” said Sam Meadows, a sophomore majoring in integrative neuroscience. “Now we eat whatever we want because everything’s accessible … I probably should make a more conscious effort and be more consistent.”

According to Andrus, American standards of meat are very low. He said nearly 90 percent of meat sold in dining halls and around the United States is from slaughterhouses that inhumanely hold their animals.

“Virtually anything you eat in the line of meat is factory-farmed, unless you go out of your way to find a source that isn’t,” he said. “You can’t just walk into a supermarket.”

During the event, Andrus challenged students to explain why these issues were important, asking the audience, “Who cares?”

Andrus said that Americans’ poor diets are beginning to have implications on their health.

“It consists of real junk like burgers, soda and ice cream and stuff like that,” he said. “Twenty to 30 percent of Americans are going to get diabetes, and the numbers are constantly going up.”

However, Andrus said, the health consequences would affect more than just the sick.

“You’re not just killing yourself. You’re increasing the cost of health care tremendously,” he said. “And we’re all bearing it, so it’s not a victimless crime.”