Corn on the cob. Cornbread. Veggie corn dogs. All pretty tasty, right? What about high-fructose corn syrup? Maltodextrin? Sorbitol? Um. Not so tasty-sounding. As one of the “most productive, most subsidized grains” in the U.S., corn’s presence is everywhere. So is its impact. In order to learn more about where their food comes from, two friends decided to conduct an experiment: to farm an acre of corn and follow it into the food system. And then they made a film about their experiences.
My husband John and I, and a couple of friends, watched King Corn a few nights ago. John is a man of few words; here is his review of the film: “Good. Informative. Well done. Scary.”
I think all of us agreed. As an activist, I knew about the enormous amounts of corn grown to become animal feed in the U.S. (80% of about 10 billion bushels), and I knew about the large percentage of corn that is genetically modified (more than 45%). But, I had no idea that corn farmers make their money, not from selling their corn, but from the subsidies and special payments they receive from the government (which is part of the reason they grow mountains of it). And I didn’t know how physically harmful corn is to the animals eating it. And, I think all our jaws dropped when we saw just how many products on the grocery store shelves (and in fast food restaurants) contain highly-processed corn. (When the filmmakers had their hair chemically analyzed, the results determined that they were primarily “made of” corn, i.e., that much of the carbon in their bodies came from numerous corn products they ingested.)
It could be easy to become angry with the farmers who grow insane amounts of corn to get subsidies, or who feed “killer” corn to animals, or with the government for subsidizing such crops, or with the people who create highly processed, unhealthy products, or with the grocery stories and fast food restaurants for selling them. But, the ultimate power (and responsibility) lies with us and what we choose to buy (or not). And whether or not we choose to speak out. It’s challenging for people to choose differently when they don’t know that they have other choices, and when “everyone else is doing it.” Corn became such a ubiquitous presence in our lives from many choices, small and large, made daily over a period of time.
King Corn can serve as a great tool for discussing and exploring a variety of topics with family, friends, coworkers and others. As the filmmakers mention, growing and processing corn affects “soil, water, energy, history, genetic modification, and of course, food.” There are additional issues, such as hunger, poverty, environmental degradation, worker health and animal suffering that can also be explored.
Check it out and see what you think. After watching King Corn, one of our friends said that he would never eat corn-fed beef again. That’s a positive step, even if only a small one.
Filed under: farmed animals, films, food and diet, genetically modified foods, MOGO Media, Resources | Tagged: corn, documentaries, farmers, farming, films, food and diet, genetically modified foods, health, King Corn | Leave a comment »