King Corn: Badness in America's Hearland

The Wiz and I sat down again last night to another eye-popper documentary. King Corn covered the evils of Corn in America (but it also mirrors what's going on in Canada to a certain extent).

It all starts when 2 guys have a geneticist test the composition of their hair. Turns out, their hair follicles are 56%  corn. They decide to  move to Iowa for a  year, grow an acre of corn and see where their corn really goes. 

King Corn exposes the ridiculous government subsidies involved in the farming of corn (approx $28 per acre in general corn subsidy and an additional $14/acre in "special" subsidies.) Without subsidies, these two fellows lost $19/acre for their 180 bushel corn yield. Subsidies have lead to an over production of corn, so much so that it now sits in expansive yellow mountains next to grain elevators already at capacity. High fructose corn syrup is one of the new uses for this excessive corn over-production - along with corn starch, and is one of the cheapest ingredients in our food chain. It's added as a filler and sweetener to almost everything we consume, with the highest concentration used as sweetener in the soft drink industry.

“If you’re standing in a field in Iowa, there’s an immense amount offood being grown, none of it edible. The commodity corn, nobody caneat. It must be processed before we can eat it. It’s a rawmaterial—it’s a feedstock for all these other processes. And the ironyis that an Iowa farmer can no longer feed himself.”
—Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma


Cripes...
The Wiz and I realized that there isn't hardly any food product that isn't touched by the corn industry. Everything from milk, eggs, all meats and just about anything that's processed. You have to look long and hard to find beef that's not grain fed. Texas Longhorns aren't grain fed - but that's likely due to the fact that you can't jam them safely into a feedlot - not with those horns ;-)

(BTW, grain fed beef is pretty bad. Cattle don't naturally eat corn, but farmers have figured out that if you feed cattle corn for the last 5-6 months of their life, they put on weight really fast for market. Unfortunately it's not *good* weight, but mostly fat. That fat ends up on our tables, and in our tummies. The bad side is that eating corn for that long damages the cow's stomach. ) :-(

Of course, movies like this invariably lead you to think about food choices, and food alternatives. My biggest question though is what would happen if something terrible happened to the corn industry, since alol the corn produced now is so terribly genetically modified, one new disease or pest could completely wipe out the corn production. With our reliance on corn as a main ingredient in almost everything we use and eat, where does that leave the rest of our food chain?


Sigh.
Up next: The World According to Monsanto