King Corn

King Corn is a film that will hopefully be coming soon to a theater near you. If you're traveling for Thanksgiving, you can see it at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art in Grand Rapids starting this Friday Nov. 23rd. It will be playing until Nov. 29th.  Here's the promo info:

"America's fast-food empire is fueled by a secret ingredient: corn. High fructose corn syrup makes the sodas sweet, corn-fed beef makes the burgers fat, and corn oil crisps the fries. As college buddies Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis find out, their junk food generation has grown up eating so much corn that if you test their hair-it's actually made of the stuff. In a tiny town in the middle of Iowa, Ian and Curt plant and grow an acre of America's most powerful crop, and attempt to follow its fate as food. What they find is alternately hilarious and horrifying: genetically modified seeds and home-brewed corn syrup, a bumper crop of obesity and diabetes, and a government paying farmers to grow what's making us sick."

I've been very excited to see this. If you've read The Omnivore's Dilemma or seen the excellent documentary The Future of Food you know that much of the processed food we eat is made with a large portion of that subsidized commodity - corn. And many people are starting to say that the empty calories especially from corn syrup are what's largely responsible for making us so fat and increasingly diabetic.   I see that there is a King Corn Challenge, where the filmmakers have sworn off corn for a month and invite the rest of us to do the same.

"The rules of the challenge are simple in theory, but treacherous in their reach, a symptom of the broad adoption of corn byproducts and feed usage in our industrialized food system.

  • No corn products, apart from fresh corn on the cob.
  • No soda or other products made from high fructose corn syrup.
  • No meat, dairy, chicken, fish, or other animals that have been raised on corn products.
  • No products that contain corn derivatives."

Some facts that they list about aspects of the Farm Bill's subsidization of industrial agriculture that make no sense for a healthy food community:

- Less than $1 million dollars was spent to promote the 3,700 farmer's markets in the US in 2005, while $9.4 BILLION dollars was paid to subsidize US corn production.  
- Over the past 3 decades, consumption of high fructose corn syrup has increased 1000%.
- Between 2003-2005, 66% of crop subsidies went to 10% of farmers.
- Between 1997 and 2005 the industrial broiler chicken industry saved $11.25 billion and the industrial hog industry saved $8.5 billion from farm bill policies that kept corn and soybean prices below the cost of production.

No wonder food at the grocery store seems cheap. 

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