King Corn is a feature documentary about two friends, one acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation. In King Corn, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, best friends from ... See full summary »
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King Corn is a feature documentary about two friends, one acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation. In King Corn, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, best friends from college on the east coast, move to the heartland to learn where their food comes from. With the help of friendly neighbors, genetically modified seeds, and powerful herbicides, they plant and grow a bumper crop of America's most-productive, most-subsidized grain on one acre of Iowa soil. But when they try to follow their pile of corn into the food system, what they find raises troubling questions about how we eat-and how we farm Written by
It was already clear that when the time came to say goodbye to the corn from our acre, we would never know exactly where it would end up. After the crop is delivered to the elevator, following corn into the food system becomes a game of probability. Of the 10,000 pounds of corn our acre is likely to produce, 32% will be either exported or turned into Ethanol. In neither case ending up in our food. Or in our hair. But 490 pounds will become sweeteners, like high fructose corn syrup. And more ...
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In this interesting and informative documentary two young men, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, return from the east coast to the Iowa farm country of their ancestors in order to find out what it is like to be a corn farmer in America. Their plan is to plant an acre of corn and follow that corn to market and see what happens. They want to know what life is like for the farmers and they want to know how the corn is processed and eventually consumed. What they find out is mixed.
They learn about the high yields that are possible today with the variety of corn that dominates corn production in this country. This plant has the property of being able to grow close to others of its kind, thereby increasing the number of plants per acre. This is good no doubt. However this variety of corn while ideal for the making of high fructose corn syrup and ethanol is lower in other nutrients such as protein and oil. For my perspective this too is okay. If that is what sells, the farmer really doesn't have much choice.
But what is disturbing about the corn farming and processing business are the subsidies that go to big agriculture and the consolidation that has taken place turning small farms into huge farms. Monoculture is a disease of the land. If more small farmers were able to make a living planting different varieties of crops people would eat better and healthier.
Cheney and Ellis also learn that much of the corn is used to fatten cattle. The natural diet of cattle is grass. Fattening them with nothing but corn makes them sick, but not sick enough to die before being slaughtered for the market.
They also learn (if they hadn't already known it) that corn is in an amazing number of the processed foods in the supermarkets and is the basis of McDonald happy meals. In other words king corn is instrumental in fostering and abetting the obesity epidemic.
The documentary is fascinating because it shows the exact details of how planting, weeding (chemically), fertilizing, harvesting and marketing of the corn is done. There are conversations with farmers and others and the famous food writer Michael Pollan makes an appearance.
This is not a documentary that is going to please the corn industry, but it is not a polemic either. I thought it was fair and accurate as far as I know. I am on the side of more diversified farming organically, but I know that feeding the seven plus billion people on this planet isn't possible without mass agricultural methods such as seen in this video. The fact that our government insists on subsidizing a relatively unhealthy diet based on genetically modified corn and soy is the main culprit. If there were subsidies for farmers to plant a wider variety of crops using organic methods that would improve our diet and allow for sustainable agriculture. The problem with this is we would need a larger percent of the population to farm.
Dennis Littrell, author of "The World Is Not as We Think It Is"
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