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will you please eat more corn, please?

February 4, 2010

Michael Pollan is a genius, and reading his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma will certainly have an effect on your outlook of what you eat.  It’s fairly maddening to think about the way that cheap corn, and all the chemical compounds and sugar substitutes that result from this simple veggie, wind up in our bodies.  It’s gross, really, to discover what goes into this very new-age food cycle that begins with massive industrial farms growing only corn and soybeans, to the breeding and feeding of cattle on massive feedlots (who, by nature dine on grass but have been bred to tolerate corn), to the processed foods and sugar substitutes that wind up in, well, nearly everything we eat.

It all starts and ends with corn, which appears to have spent the last 500 years since Columbus bumped into America making humans its bitch.  From Pollan’s book:

Corn is not the only source of cheap energy in the supermarket – much of the fat added to processed foods comes from soybeans – but it is by far the most important.  Growing corn is the most efficient way to get energy – calories – from an acre of Iowa farmland.  That corn-made calorie can find its way into our bodies in the form of an animal fat, a sugar, or a starch, such is the protean nature of the carbon in that big kernel.  But as productive and protean as the corn plant is, finally it is a set of human choices that have made these molecules quite as cheap as they have become: a quarter century of farm policies designed to encourage the overproduction of this crop and hardly any other.  Very simply, we subsidize high-fructose corn syrup in this country, but not carrots.  While the surgeon general is raising alarms over the epidemic of obesity, the president is signing farm bills designed to keep the river of cheap corn flowing, guaranteeing that the cheapest calories in the supermarket will continue to be the unhealthiest.

No. 334: 2/3/2010

No. 335: 2/2/2010

No. 336: 2/1/2010

I think if you try to learn the story of humanity, not through the
wars or conquests that kill people but through the food, it’s for life.
It’s a nice story.

Olivier Roellinger, chef from Brittany, France

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