We just watched the documentary, King Corn, last night, and it was another piece of the “food education” movement that we believe is essential for everyone to watch. The film makers, 2 new college grads, learned that their bodies contained corn (via analysis of strands of their hair), which they found was related to what they were eating and drinking. So, they went to Iowa to plant an acre of corn and see where their crop eventually would end up.
We’ve read books and videos (also see our blog library) by Eric Schlosser, Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, and many TED talks by them as well as Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. To us, the message is clear and not entirely new. We Americans (and others around the world) are mindlessly eating ourselves to death, and into “debt.” Choosing what to eat for our next meal goes way beyond issues of personal taste, cost, or personal health (obesity & diabetes). This choice affects our economy, cost of health care (or sick care), the death of the family farm, industrialization of our plants and meats, exploitation of immigrant labor, degradation of farmland, government policies (e.g., subsidization of corn), and global warming, to name a few.
Here were some startling statistics mentioned in the documentary:
- In Brooklyn alone, 139 million gallons of soda were consumed per year, sweetened by 20,000 acres of corn
- 70% of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) produced goes into sodas
- One soda per day corresponds to doubling risk of developing Type II diabetes
- Mass produced Genetically modified corn (e.g., made to resist pesticides) is not edible as fresh corn. They are grown to be processed.
- Corn feed literally will kill the cow. Cows evolved to digest grass. Antibiotics keep them alive, and the corn diet allows the cow to grow to mature size faster, but they are not lean, mostly fat. (We are what we eat– we’re getting fat on fat cows)
People can debate about the merits and/or harm of HFCS, but the bottom line is that the abundance of corn allows the mass production of cheap corn sweetener, making sodas extremely cheap and abundant (As far back as I can recall, 2 liter sodas have been $.99. It’s inflation proof!) The overproduction of corn (and soy) gives industrial farms cheap feed to mass ‘produce’ cattle, pigs,chickens etc., thereby making dollar hamburgers ubiquitous (hey that’s inflation proof, too!). The quality of the meats is degraded, and the industrialization of these farm animals is polluting the air and the earth.
My college students, in a show of hands, nearly all said they ate meat on a daily basis, and more than half had meat at every meal. They are walking, talking, ipod listening, stalks of corn…
What’s the next step? We can spread the word by teaching (and showing) our children about the truth behind our foods. We need to inform our friends and family about these books and films. On a personal level, here was the challenge I set forth to my students, and now to you (although I realize if you’re reading this, I’m probably preaching to the choir):
- Start a food journal, documenting everything (food and drink that is) going into your body for say, a week.
- If possible, list the ingredients that went into that food or drink (you can actually find ingredients and nutritional content on every fast food company’s web page). You may need to take a week off of work, as this will be time consuming.
- Highlight each ingredient you don’t understand (get a backup highlighter for this, as you’ll run out of ink quickly)
- Reflect on this list, and notice what it in your diet, where the ingredients may have come from, and whether you ARE what you eat.
My departing thought: If we know that cows did not evolve to digest corn, did humans evolve to eat Twinkies?
We Say NO to Status Quo.
Live Small. Live Green. Give Large. Take Little.
Take Notice. Take Action.