King Corn

Netflix now has about 10,000 movies in their "Watch Instantly" system, which allows you to stream the movies over the internet, and which is completely free for Netflix subscribers.  Most of the movies aren’t current hits due to licensing issues with the studios, which Netflix is working on I’m sure, but there’s still a lot of good stuff in there.

A few days ago I watched King Corn, which is a documentary about 2 guys who move to Iowa in order to grow an acre of corn and follow it through its harvest and into the market.  The movie was both interesting and informative.  By the end of it, you get the idea that they’re taking a dim view of the corn industry in America, but overall it does not come across as pretentious or judgmental at all.

Some (rough) quotes from the movie:

Quoting King Corn:

A fast food meal is largely corn: corn-fed beef, french fries of which 50% of the calories come from the corn oil they’re fried in, and soda which is primarily corn syrup.

Corn farms use anhydrous ammonia fertilizer which allows a 4x increase in yield compared to corn crops 2 generations ago.

Corn has been genetically engineered with one goal: increasing yield.  This is done by engineering the plants to be able to tolerate growing very close together.

Fields are sprayed with an herbicide called Liberty to kill weeds; the "Liberty Link" corn has been engineered to be resistant to this herbicide.

One acre of corn produces about 200 bushels or 10,000 pounds of corn.  Of this:

- About 50% is fed to animals to become meat
- 32% is either exported or turned into ethanol
- About 5% becomes sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup

Growing and selling corn would not be profitable without the government subsidies that encourage corn farming.

Prior to the 1970s, the US government paid farmers to not produce crops, to cut back on production.  Earl Butz changed that policy when he was Secretary of Agriculture under Nixon.

We spend less of our income on food than any generation in history.

Posted by Anthony on reply

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