fauxklore (fauxklore) wrote,

King Corn

I watched the documentary "King Corn" on PBS last night. The concept behind the movie was an interesting one. Two recent college grads set out to understand the food chain and why their hair indicated that the major source of carbon in their bodies was corn. Both of them had family roots in a small town in Iowa and they found a farmer there to let them grow one acre of corn. They also explored feed lots, made high fructose corn syrup at home, and confronted former Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz about farm subsidies.

Which was interesting enough but their conclusions are overdrawn at best. They essentially blame corn for all the metabolic woes (diabetes, obesity, etc.) of Americans. The problem is that things are not as simple as that. A more realistic description would be that a certain percentage of the population is genetically disposed to these conditions, largely because that metabolic pattern increases the chance of survival when food sources are uncertain. Corn plays a role to the extent that its productivity enables cheap food production - so there aren't shortages to have to survive. There is no scientific evidence that high fructose corn syrup is any worse for you than sucrose, for example. It's just cheaper. Similarly, corn fed beef isn't worse for you because of the corn, but because of the feed lot system that results in fattier animals than free-range feeding on grass does. If you made the cows walk several miles a day to get their corn feed, they'd be as lean as grass fed cows are. (The economics would go to hell, of course.)

Finally, it isn't clear what they want as a solution. Should Americans do away with the availability of cheap food? Should we go back to paying farmers not to grow crops? They never offer an answer.
Tags: movies

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