Tuesday, November 27, 2007

King Corn

I was listening to public radio while driving. They interviewed two men who made a documentary called King Corn. Because I was driving, I didn't take notes. When the radio story was beginning, I didn't realize that it was going to be so excellent. I couldn't find a recording of the interview on npr.org. So you get what information I remember. In this blog, I call these two men 'the authors.'

Growing an Acre of Corn

The authors spent a year learning about corn, and what is involved in producing and using it. An Iowa farmer allowed them to plant one acre of corn on his land. They made a documentary King Corn, which is supposedly coming out in theaters. I recommend watching the documentary when it becomes available.

Corn is in Everything We Eat

When you read package labels, it is obvious that High Fructose Corn Syrup is an ingredient in many many foods. On the radio, they listed a variety of other ingredients that originated as corn but have names that disguise this origin.

One thing that astonished me was the statistics they gave about the percentage of the beef that we eat that is really corn. Say you eat a hamburger. Between the corn that was fed to the cow and the corn-ingredients that are added in processing, it is a ridiculous percentage. I wish I had stopped the car and written the number down. Even when you eat a steak, you are still getting a lot of corn - that is if the cow was raised in a feed lot, i.e. a factory farm. Before this project both authors were frequent consumers of hamburgers, I believe primarily from fast food restaurants. Because of what they learned, the authors have now modified their diet to exclude hamburgers.

What is Involved in Growing Corn

he authors learned all of the details associated with growing corn. You don't just go down to the field and plant the stuff. Their journey began long before the placing of seeds in the ground. They spent very little time actually working in the corn field. Most of their time was spent learning about and dealing with everything else involved.

Farm Subsidies

Production of staple food commodities is highly subsidized by the United States government. (My brief search shows this to be less so in Canada.) These subsidies guarantee that farmers receive dollar amounts that are determined by the number of acres that they have planted, rather than by the market price for the food. This results in the production of vast surpluses of commodities like corn, soy, and wheat.

Because of farm subsidies, the authors received money well before they actually began growing corn. The amount is paid per acre, so they didn't receive much. The interview did not mention if they later received more.


Prior to planting the corn, the soil was injected with nitrogen fertilizer. I was astonished to hear that the nitrogen for fertilizer is concentrated out of the air. Huge quantities of fossil fuels are burned to produce this nitrogen. I assume that liquid nitrogen is used.

A Note About Ethanol for Use in Fuel Mixtures

A lot of ethanol is produced from corn, for use in automobile gasoline. Supposedly we do this to conserve on fuel. But fossil fuel is burned to condense the nitrogen for making fertilizer to grow the corn! Even if other crop materials are used for making ethanol, if they are fertilized, then it does NOT really save fuel. Wikipedia says that about half the gasoline used in the U.S. contains ethanol, and that its use is expanding in other countries.

Corn is Not Edible - Industrial Material

The interview jumped straight from the innoculation of the soil with fertilizer to describing the mature plants; no details were given about the actual planting, the intervening months, the harvesting, or the transporting of the final crop.

The plants were tall, lush, and healthy looking. The authors pulled ears off to eat, expecting it to be like the sweet corn that is sold in grocery stores. Instead it is all bland starch. They described it as an industrial material that is basically inedible. It is designed to be processed. No wonder it makes cows sick. This is what is in processed foods! Sounds delectable, huh?

What Happens to the Corn?

The authors traveled around the country, learning about all of the ways in which their corn would be used.

A Cow's Life

Feed-lot life for cows is pretty dismal. The authors saw cows crammed into pens, with no room to walk around. The cows stand amidst all of their feces and other waste. Yuck.

Cows eat lots of corn, particularly in the later stages when the 'farmer' is fattening them for slaughter. Corn makes cows sick. Because of this, they are given antibiotics. Apparently, if cows ate corn all the time, they would die. They are fed corn to fatten them up, antibiotics keep them 'alive,' and they are slaughtered before the get so sick that they die.

Does this make you think twice about eating that burger?

I suggest that you get pasture fed meat, whenever possible. The quality is so much better that it is worth the money and effort.

High Fructose Corn Syrup

Huge quantities of corn are processed to produce high fructose corn syrup, an ingredient in an astonishing percentage of packaged foods. The authors went to extensive efforts to observe the process of producing it. But they were never allowed inside a production facility, and in fact, they never even saw the final product. They still don't know what high fructose corn syrup looks like.

Do you find this as horrifying as I do?? The fact that observers were completely forbidden tells me that corn must be so highly processed and altered that industry doesn't want people to know what is happening. After all, high fructose corn syrup is put into so many foods that it is difficult for someone to completely exclude it from their diet.

Corn, the industrial material, is processed into many other ingredients that are added to food products. I'm sure the process of making them is equally horrendous.

Eating Corn Free

The authors went one month without eating corn. It was extremely difficult to do. They described becoming so desperate that when they found foods that they could eat, they would binge on them.

Even if the ingredients list on a food label does not mention ingredients that obviously come from corn, this is no guarantee. Such packaged foods may still contain corn, because some ingredients are not listed on the label. I think food manufacturing companies find ways to do this, because some consumers avoid certain ingredients. In other words, reading labels still doesn't give you a guarantee that ingredients you wish to avoid are absent from the foods you buy.

Of course, avoiding consuming corn would have been easier if the authors were starting with fresh whole foods and preparing their meals, rather than eating packaged and restaurant foods. To me, this is obvious. They did not mention if they had tried this at all.

Because of what they learned during their corn-growing year, the authors have stopped eating some foods, including hamburgers. And the farmer whose land they planted has chosen to retire and stop farming corn, perhaps partly as a result of working with the authors.

I Hope You Found This Educational

That's it for my King Corn story.

Eat Whole Fresh Foods!


Sandra Lynn Lee
Certified Healing Codes Practitioner
Miracle Inspirations

Everything in this newsletter is the opinion of the author and is provided for informational and educational purposes only. When information is drawn from outside sources, both credit and access to the source are given, when available.

Copyright 2007 Miracle Inspirations. All rights reserved.

To go to the Breathe - Life's Inspirations With Sandra blog.

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