The Nutrition Crisis of 2148
(This is a guest post from our very own Major Zed!)
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” – Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Samuel Johnson, et al.
THE NUTRITION CRISIS OF 2148
by Albert Jay Marx
May 18, 2154
Mr. Hanley’s 3rd period social studies
Principles of nutrition began to be understood in the early 20th century with the discovery of vitamins. By the early 21st century, many people took nutrition seriously, but for the vast majority, our nutrition system was still chaotic, disorganized, and dangerous.
People would literally pick things off a shelf and throw them into a hand truck. No counselors to help you make the right choices, no one to write you a scrip, no one carefully putting it all together and bringing it to you. Instead people might pick up a disgusting bag of dead animal parts – with a pathogen warning label right on it! Or they were forced to handle totally gross pieces of foliage taken straight from the ground, with dirt still on them! Then there were paper boxes of ground fiber and starches mixed with sugars, blown with air and pressed into colorful rings – very popular with children! What we enjoy today – smoothly sculpted globules of soy/lentil curd, wedges of aromatic mycoprotein, crisp packets of cultured vat tissue, all certified pathogen free, with customized mixtures of essential nutrients added – would have been unimaginable to our ancestors.
Provenance was virtually unknown. No one could tell where their nutrients came from, unless they produced it themselves in unsanitary and disgusting backyard operations. Mostly they relied on cartoon images on the packaging to give them some hint that what they bought today was the same thing they bought last week. Often, even that was no guarantee.
Attempts to bring order out of nutritional chaos were beaten back by mass propaganda and political maneuverings on the part of monied interests who profited from the status quo. Those few consumers who took nutrition seriously found it difficult to get access to trained professionals, and sometimes ended up dealing with charlatans and criminals instead.
While there was some government-mandated nutrition labeling, it was totally inadequate. For example, it might say that a serving contained 20 grams of protein. We know today that a careful balance of all 23 proteinogenic amino acids, tailored to the individual, is needed for optimal health.
Nutrition could be obtained nearly anywhere, in completely uncontrolled circumstances. Nutrient dispensaries dotted the landscape. Anyone with enough money could open and operate one; there were no educational requirements. None at all! Nutrients could even be bought at the same place people used to buy vehicle fuel, or even by the side of the road from mobile carts! Nutrient consumption centers were similarly uncontrolled, except for the most rudimentary sanitation standards, unevenly enforced. Rather than being focused on optimum nutrition, however, consumption centers of that day combined nutrition with entertainment and social interaction. According to some historical accounts, intoxicating beverages were available as well.
It should not be surprising, then, that this chaotic and largely unregulated situation was very unhealthy. Episodes of acute poisoning and contamination such as E. Coli and Salmonella were common. But the larger evil was that the purveyors of nutrition at that time competed not for the quality and balance of nutrients, but for their appeal to the buyers, who tended to be ignorant about what was important. Dangerous nutrient imbalances and high levels of salts and sugars led generations of people to chronic diseases and early graves.
THE EMERGENCE OF THE MODERN NUTRITION SYSTEM
This section presents a timeline of the development of the safe and healthy nutrition system we enjoy today.
2022 A deadly outbreak of scombroid poisoning was traced back to canned tuna fish packaged in a plant in Vietnam. Thousands of people got sick and 152 died.
2026 A number of health, nutrition, and public interest organizations, including the Center for Science in the Public Interest, American Nutrition Association, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Society for Nutrition, American Medical Association and American Pharmacists Association, backed by the Ford and Guggenheim Foundations, issued a joint report on the status of our nation’s nutrition and nutrient production and distribution systems. This scalding report, authored by Peter Paul Heinz, offered a fifty-seven point plan for upgrading the quality of nutrients (they called it “food” back then) and increasing the transparency of their contents and provenance. H-57, as it was called, was novel at the time due to its increased focus on educational and operational standards for nutrient producers and distributors.
Naturally, selfish special interests resisted the proposals, but some producers and distributors expressed a measured degree of sympathy. Texas A&M University spoke out strongly in favor of the proposals, and soon many other colleges and universities joined in. Nutrition studies emerged as a growing academic subject.
2030 Following the end of the Third Iraq War, successive waves of refugee immigrants broke the gerrymander chokehold that the Republican Party held, and by 2046, Republican presence in Congress had dwindled to less than a dozen representatives and Senator Rand Paul. The H-57 plan promoted by the Committee For Better Nutrition (as the renamed umbrella group had come to be organized) received a much more respectful hearing on Capitol Hill.
2046 A few of the largest nutrient producers set aside their selfish interests and withdrew their attempts to block the adoption of H-57. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, Federal Trade Commission, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created the Joint Commission on Nutrition (JCN) as a public-private partnership to study whether and how to implement something like H-57. The governing board consisted of representatives from the agencies and an equal number of private citizens, most of them associated with the the Committee For Better Nutrition.
2050 The Nutrition Improvement and Security Act was passed. The JCN was given the authority to recommend standards for the production and distribution of nutrients, such standards to be taken under advisement by the four sponsoring agencies.
2057 Interagency bickering led to an amendment to NISA to give the JCN formal recognition as a Non Governmental Organization, and authority to promulgate regulations.
2062 The first wave of JCN regulations affected nutrient producers. A consortium of “early adopter” producers led by Monsanto-Hathaway, who had been working closely with JCN to craft regulations, were given antitrust immunity to enable them to offer their services to other producers, or to joint-venture with them, to help them meet the tough new standards.
2064-2066 Nutrient dispensaries and consumption centers were given a reasonable period of time with which to comply with the new regulations, after which time they were inspected and graded by JCN agents all across the country. Those not making the grade were given six months to pass, and if they failed a second inspection, they were to be closed.
The inspections resulted in a large number of locations slated for termination. Twitter went off-line for two days during the mass protests. The Supreme Court intervened and rolled back the regulations, citing the disparate impact this had on lower-income and minority neighborhoods (where businesses, of course, found little profit potential and therefore underinvested).
As a result, existing dispensaries that passed pre-existing sanitary inspections were grandfathered, and were given a year to file operating plans that met a basic set of requirements. All new dispensaries, on the other hand, were required to (1) meet all of the ’64-’66 standards, including having a Certified Nutritional Officer on staff and (2) make a prima facie showing of need.
All consumption centers, new and old, were required to follow detailed operational plans, and if their offerings varied from the standard menu, they had to obtain prior approval from the local JCN board. New consumption centers had to follow rigorous structural requirements as well.
Because of disparate impact, a combination of subsidies linked to quotas induced the larger chains to open sufficient numbers of dispensaries or consumption centers in poor areas to balance branches opened in wealthy areas.
2070-2080 The economy totally floated because millions of jobs were created. The nutrient production industry needed lots of people because of the new provenance requirements and documentation and stuff.
Certified Nutritional Officer became a highly sought after credential. The number of applications to schools offering nutrition certification programs skyrocketed, but the quality of certified nutrition professionals was preserved by stringent qualifying exams – administered by the JCN – which limited the number of graduates to those who demonstrated true mastery.
2077 Voight and Kampff discovered that portions of previously-regarded “junk DNA” in the human genome mediated RNA transcription in a way that was highly sensitive to nutrient balance, and highly individualized.
2080-2100 Gradually, many old dispensaries were retired as their owners found it uneconomical to make the necessary technical upgrades. Fully-qualified dispensaries became the norm. Distribution and consumption organized more around the new Voight-Kampff test, and production focused more on generating the exotic proteins that so many people needed.
2093 The JNC formalized this trend by requiring all dispensary and consumption customers to show their V-K test results, and they could only buy nutrients that met floor levels consistent with those results.
2100 The JNC closed out the century by publishing “Nutrition in Retrospect: 50 Years of NISA Success.” Americans’ diets had changed dramatically since the first half of the century, and the old scourges of obesity and adult-onset diabetes had fallen more than 20%. Contamintion was rare. Admittedly, the nation’s share of spending on nutrition was higher than it had been – since 2080 the Nutrition Price Index exceeded the Consumer Price Index by an average of 8 points per year – but the quality improvement was astronomical.
2102 A report by the Nutrient Producer’s Association warned that investment in new production facilities and equipment had peaked in 2077 and fallen dramatically since then, and that the nation’s ability to continue to produce quality nutrients was at risk. Further, it cited the combination of what it called “onerous” testing requirements with “inadequate” rate hike approvals in the nutrient precursor sector for causing the lack of investment. The report, having been sponsored by private interests, was largely ignored in the mainstream media and debated acrimoniously in the alternative media.
2105 The first of a series of nutrition riots occurred in Memphis TN as the scheduled summer offerings for the Kaiser Wal-Agra chain of dispensaries failed to be delivered, due to cease & desist orders stemming from irregularities that were discovered in the supply chain. Riots followed in Atlanta GA and Richmond VA.
Immediately, President Fallaah al-Sajara instituted a crackdown on the black market in nutrients, promising famously, “We shall not be crucified on a cross of GMO!” There was broad agreement that because nutrition was so essential to life itself, there was no role for amateurs, opportunists, and criminals. JCN agents swept through the country, arresting thousands of UPONs (Unregistered Producers/Purveyors of Nutrition) and hundreds of licensed producers and distributors as well. At the same time, long-standing home exemptions were modified. While home dispensing of nutrition was left unregulated, home preparation began to be licensed.
Odd-even days were instituted in most cities, but even so, long lines outside of dispensaries were unavoidable. Nutrient delivery by drones was suspended after several were shot down and their cargo plundered. Even armored delivery vehicles needed police escort in some areas.
2106 By spring, nutrient distribution was back to normal thanks to emergency waivers granted to a nutrition import co-op.
2110 The beginnings of Nutritional Insurance emerged as some distributors began offering pre-paid nutrition plans to their customers, to protect them from unpredictable price spikes that had become frequent. A few state governments took advantage of the plans, incorporating them into their SNAP programs as a way to control costs.
Producers and distributors also began using “guarantee” contracts with each other, to protect themselves from shortages. The JCN permitted their use, with chairman Elian Blackbridge calling them “an important risk managment tool.” Within a few years, use of these contracts had grown significantly, with investors and dealers not directly in the business buying and selling them.
2115 Scandal erupted when high-ranking members of the al-Sajara administration were found to have been profiting from trading in nutrition guarantee contracts based on confidential government reports. The Democratic Party, having struggled with internal divisions for decades, finally split into the Liberal Democrat and the People’s Progressive parties. The PPP wanted an immediate end to private production and distribution of nutrition, citing how crucial nutrition was to human well-being. The LDP felt that a well-regulated capitalism was necessary to the security of the nation’s nutrition supply. Congress once again found itself bogged down in partisan bickering. The JCN revamped its regulations on the use of guarantee contracts.
2117 The Palladium War brought about a new reunification of purpose in America. The LDP and PPP joined together to pass legislation to aid the war effort. Comprehensive wage and price controls, backed by strong precedent from the 20th and 21st centuries, were instituted for the duration.
Businesses found they could no longer compete for workers on the basis of wages. Rather than compete on the basis of quality of work life, as President Twinkie Clinton had repeatedly urged them to do, they chose instead to offer pre-paid nutritional plans. A loophole in the tax law, with precedent from the 20th century’s health insurance being upheld by the Supreme Court, allowed them to do so at great advantage to themselves.
2120 Soon, nutrition insurance was well-established in the marketplace, and the federal government followed suit, introducing comprehensive nutrition insurance/assistance plans into the Senior Security program. This proved invaluable in securing nutrition for elderly people who could not easily cope with the rolling shortages of nutrients that had emerged in the early years of the War.
2125 Nearly 100 percent of seniors were covered by nutritional guarantees under the Senior Security program. Nearly 80% of non-retired Americans had some form of nutrition insurance coverage. This split between 25% receiving some form of government guarantee and 55% obtaining it in the marketplace, mostly through their employers. Because non-employer insurance came with high premiums and onerous restrictions and reporting requirements, few could or wanted to buy it.
2126 The Palladium War ended. Wage and price controls were lifted, and the price of nutrients skyrocketed. The People’s Progressive Party again pushed for nationalization of the nutrient production and distribution system, but the Liberal Democratic Party blocked them.
The PPP and LDP once again groped towards compromise. Said Senator Thelonius Kennedy (P-MA): “It is going to take a drastic overhaul of our entire way of doing business in the nutrition field in order to solve the financing and organizational aspects of our nutrition crisis. One aspect of that solution is the creation of comprehensive systems of nutrition delivery.”
2128 Representatives reached across the aisle to craft the Nutrition Stabilization Act which allowed for the formation of Nutrition Maintenance Organizations. These organizations controlled costs by standardizing the nutritional offerings of their members, and restricting them to access only “network” distributors and consumption centers. The NMOs were regulated and their competition coordinated (to protect all stakeholder interests) by the JCN. Government programs, while technically reorganized as NMOs, operated under different rules and had broad powers to negotiate price caps on widely-used nutrients. All citizens were required to join an NMO. In return, they were guaranteed access to 150% of their V-K minimum nutrient levels. This was known as the Rule of 150, and was the platform that propelled the PPP to its first presidential win as Senator Kennedy became President Kennedy.
2132 The iPhone XCVI worked with violetooth-enabled nanobots that monitored nutrients in the user’s bloodstream, making real time nutrient monitoring of all 2,146 essential nutrients affordable for the masses. This led to a dramatic increase in utilization of nutrient dispensaries as nutrition-conscious people sought to keep their nutrient levels within a narrow optimimum zone (based on their V-K profiles), a practice known as “nurking.” This led to frequent “runs” on certain exotic nutrients, where entire metropolitan or even larger areas would run out temporarily. The JCN combatted this destabilizing trend with the “It can wait” campaign, with the message that no one needed to have perfect nutritional balance in real time, that imbalances could wait hours or days, sometimes even weeks, before needing to be addressed.
2133 Not only did the campaign fail to moderate nurkers’ behavior, but in the wake of the publicity and consciousness-raising, the sport of “competitive nurking” emerged. The 2,146 essential nutrients are laid out on two 29×37 arrays. “Poppa” board is offense, the other “momma” or defense. Teams post their V-K results to social media. The rules are like a cross between Go and Battleship. [CENSORBOT: A 3,428-word description of the rules and strategies of competitive nurking have been removed from this message. Repeated attempts to transmit this illegal information will result in prosecution.]
2135 Competitive nurking created havoc in the exotic end of the nutrient market. In particular, selenomethylene (methylated selenomethionine), because if its location in the offensive array, was subject to a chaotic demand schedule.
2136 Competitive nurking was banned, but it is a difficult crime to prosecute because millions of people post their serum nutrient profiles in public every day, and without knowing what people are in which teams competing with which other teams, it is difficult to prove that their nutrient choices are other than random and idiosyncratic. Statistical analysis of public posts can find likely teams and games (and reporting these analyses has turned into a profitable gambling business), but the false positive rate is too high for this to meet a criminal burden of proof.
2147 Despite the efforts of NMOs, the Nutrition Price Index continued to rise. Approximately 18% of GDP was being spent on nutrition. A JCN report cited several reasons, including nurkers (who at that time comprised about 10% of the population), but mainly “better nutrition: As more sophisticated and expensive ingredients and techniques are used, the overall health of Americans has improved measurably. Unfortunately, this public good comes does not come for free….”
2148 At a time when two of three selenomethylene plants in the US were off-line for required upgrades, and stockpiles of the nutrient were unusually low (statistics suggest due to a massive competitive nurking tournament known as the Chesapeake Bay Game), the lone plant manufacturing it caught fire. The JCN ordered two other large plants to immediately shift to producing selenomethylene. However, those plants had been manufacturing precursors to other nutrients. Soon massive nutrient production failure cascaded through the system.
Producers, who had previously relied on intercompany guarantees to avert temporary shortfalls, found that they could no longer count on their guarantees nor honor their guarantee obligations to others. Within a matter of weeks, key nutrients were nearly unavailable, with black market prices hundreds or thousands of times higher than official prices (which, since the Nutrition Stabilization Act, were not allowed to rise by more than 10% in a given month so as to prevent gouging). The NSA also, however, required any dispensaries or consumption centers that could not honor the Rule of 150 to shut down. As a result, thousands closed their doors.
Once again, nutrient riots rocked the country. Large portions of the Los Angeles commercial district were lost to an urban firestorm which appears to have been started by a meticulous and well-prepared terrorist group calling itself the Free Lunch Movement.
A week later, the JCN issued emergency waivers to reopen most of the closed dispensaries and consumption centers. But many producers by that time were mired in lawsuits and bankruptcy hearings. For another year, millions of Americans who could not afford nutrition insurance became malnourished, and even those lucky enough to have a job that provided it found the rolling shortages difficult to cope with.
The report by the Nutrition Crisis Inquiry Commission offers a complex picture of the recent failure of our system to handle the demand for nutrition. Climate change and demographic problems set the stage. The Commission did fault the JCN for inadequate supervision of nutrient guarantee contracts and its failure to properly track precursor production, but it identified “precursor diversion” as the critical element. The still largely-unknown numbers of outlaw UPONs diverted key nutrient production elements to the black market, triggering shortages in “critical hubs” of the production network. This occurred despite the fact that tens of thousands of UPONs are arrested and incarcerated each year. The inquiry Commission’s report also detailed how incentives inherent in private ownership of the means of production and distribution facilitated and even encouraged this reprehensible behavior. Their recommendations included that diversion be made a capital offense. Congress is considering it.
The LDP keeps saying “capitalism can still work if we tweak it enough,” like anyone is still listening. Late Night host Paul Walkman was right when he said:
“It wasn’t government that gave us nearly 50 million nutritionally underserved Americans. It wasn’t government that gave us calorie and vitamin limits that have given so many people the dilemma of going hungry or going into bankruptcy. It wasn’t government that gave us a system in which the gap between what we spend and what we get is so enormous. It was the free market.”
The free market failed. Single Payer Nutrition now!
“It Can’t Happen Here” – Frank Zappa