Land Food vs. Seafood

Omega-3s, Omega-6s and the battle for the health of our planet

Paul Greenberg
4 min readAug 16, 2021

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This spring, two striking things happened in the United States: one on land, the other at sea.

On land, farmers planted almost 87 million acres of soy and over 92 million acres of corn. That new production was supported by a record $46 billion in farm subsidies that covered everything from crop insurance to debt relief and enabled farmers to till more land for, yes, more corn and soy. Because of all this, the top five calorie sources in the American diet are a mélange of processed treats sweetened by high-fructose corn syrup and corn-fed meats. Soy oil is used in 75 percent of all American processed food, and corn, as either an additive or a substrate, is equally omnipresent. Collectively, this makes for a diet extremely high in what are known as omega-6 fatty acids — polyunsaturated fats that some nutritionists believe can play a critical role in causing many of the so-called “Western” diseases.

With seafood, meanwhile, investment is going in the opposite direction despite the belief of nutritionists that omega-3 fatty acids are healthier than omega-6s. Overall the US allocated less than a billion dollars for all fish in the US — wild and farmed. In lockstep with that investment, the US has slid to 17th place in world farmed seafood production, slipping behind Myanmar and pulling up just short of Malaysia. And while per capita American seafood consumption recently increased by a few ounces, fish and shellfish rich in omega-3s still represent a tiny portion of the overall American diet: 19 pounds of seafood per person per year compared to around 274 pounds of land food meat per person per year.

56 percent of the calories consumed by Americans are the direct result of subsidized commodity land crops

This is significant because, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, approximately 56 percent of the calories consumed by Americans are the direct result of subsidized commodity land crops such as corn and soy. The researchers found that these crops could be linked to high body mass index, glucose-related abnormalities such as diabetes, and cholesterol imbalances. In short, the…

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Paul Greenberg

New York Times bestselling author of Four Fish as well as The Climate Diet and Goodbye Phone, Hello World paulgreenberg.org