Posts Tagged ‘corn’

Years ago, back when I ate whatever and whenever (hey, I had just graduated from college), my brother recommended I read the book Fast Food Nation. I don’t recall the context of the situation or why he wanted me to read it, but I did. That book was the initial domino triggering a series of decisions and actions that are still in motion today. Though it didn’t necessarily change my views, it awakened me.

At the time, I already knew that fast food was unhealthy. There’s a reason I’d feel disgusting after eating a burger from McDonald’s or fries from Wendy’s. But this book ripped my head out from the sand and opened my eyes to how pervasive and manipulative the industry is. And, as an animal lover, I was disgusted to learn about factory farming and the conditions in which both animals and people are forced to operate.

From there, I started reading other books like Eating Animals and The Omnivore’s Dilemma and watching documentaries like King Corn and More Than Honey. When I wasn’t in a blinding rage, I started blogging about and doing more research on these topics and my journey toward living and eating sustainably. My hatred for Monsanto got to a point where when I took a job back at a former employer so I could move to San Francisco, I did so on the condition that Monsanto would not be one of my clients.

My research also extended to beauty products, because what goes onto our skin is equally as important as how the products are developed and tested. No More Dirty Looks is a great little book and blog that I’ve mentioned in previous posts.

It’s kind of like a rabbit hole with no bottom. There are a million and one ways that what we choose to buy and ingest affects our planet. I could ramble on forever about this, but I won’t. It’s already here on my blog and will continue to be in future posts.

Sometimes, when I’m giving my brother a hard time about his eating habits, I wonder if he regrets telling me to read that book in the first place.

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I happened to see this article today. Just to warn you, it’s pretty fucking scary and depressing. However, it’s not surprising. We already know that the government makes decisions on a purely financial basis, without regard for long-term consequences. And this just proves it.

I wrote about this three years ago. Did I not say that finding another reason to harvest more corn would cause problems? Now this: “Five million acres of land set aside for conservation — more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined — have vanished on Obama’s watch.”

Our landscape is being destroyed for the sake of commerce and capitalism. And the government knew this would be a problem:

“As a way to reduce global warming, [the EPA] knew corn ethanol was a dubious proposition. Corn demands fertilizer, which is made using natural gas. What’s worse, ethanol factories typically burn coal or gas, both of which release carbon dioxide.” 

I’ll admit that given where we are with discovering and harnessing alternative fuels, ethanol is probably a better solution than something like fracking. However, it’s likely that any environmental benefits to be had from adding ethanol to gasoline are canceled out by the agricultural process itself. Good in theory, perhaps, but not in practice.

This is not only hurting our environment, but it’s hurting farmers for whom keeping their grasslands in tact (and actually having self-sufficient farms) once made financial sense. As with industrial farming in general, the government (USDA) has ensured that there’s a greater financial benefit to farmers if they just bite the bullet and convert all of their crops and fields to corn and/or soy.

Oh, and by the way, they should probably use GMO corn and soy so that the crops are pest-resistant and yield more per dollar! Guess who benefits from that? You got it: companies like Monsanto and DuPont.

And this is somewhat alarming:

“Historically, the overwhelmingly majority of corn in the United States has been turned into livestock feed. But in 2010, for the first time, fuel was the No. 1 use for corn in America. That was true in 2011 and 2012. Newly released Department of Agriculture data show that, this year, 43 percent of corn went to fuel and 45 percent went to livestock feed.” 

I don’t condone industrial agriculture for feedlots. But if more and more of the corn is being used to create ethanol for gasoline, what becomes of the corn used for feedlot farms? Where will they get the extra food? Chances are we’ll need to replace even more of our sacred land with fields and fields of corn.

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The government would like to increase taxes on soft drinks, supposedly to help fight obesity. According to the New York Times, “The state budget office estimates such a tax would raise $1 billion a year when fully in effect, and reduce consumption by 15 percent.”

I agree that it would raise tons of money. After all, most people won’t be fazed by having to pay a few extra cents for soda. Just look at smokers. They whine and bitch about how the cost of cigarettes has nearly doubled in 10 years, yet they keep on smoking. I don’t agree that consumption of soda will be reduced by 15 percent, for the reason I just mentioned. And I’m pretty sure the government is counting on that, too.

See, the government wants you to think this tax is for the country’s heath. In reality, it’s just finding additional ways to get more money from the American people. Why would it single out one specific product when there are a million things that could contribute to a person’s obesity? Is it because soda consumption is out of control? According to the National Soft Drink Association (NSDA), consumption of soft drinks is now over 600 12-ounce servings per person per year. Since 1978, soda consumption in America has tripled for boys and doubled for girls. Or maybe it’s so the government can pay even higher subsidies to the industrial corn farmers, so those farmers can produce even more corn. Why? Read on.

The second ingredient in most sodas is high fructose corn syrup, which is made from — you guessed it — corn. Corn is grown by the industrial farmer. The government pays huge subsidies to these “farmers” so they can afford to grow more of the cheapest crop in America. (Otherwise, the farmers would lose money on the whole deal.)

You know what would make more sense than paying industrial farmers tons of money to grow corn and then raising taxes on the very products this corn creates? Putting your money where your mouth is. That’s right; instead of telling Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables while allowing the cost of them to greatly exceed the cost of processed foods made from corn (i.e., making it a lot cheaper to eat the foods that make Americans obese), give this money to the organic and local farmers so Americans have easier access to and can pay less for the foods that are good for them!

Problem solved!

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I recently started reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma: the Secrets Behind What You Eat by Michael Pollan. I chose the “young readers edition,” because I’m so young at heart. Actually it’s because I was in such a rush to get the book and spend my gift card at Borders.com that I completely ignored all book information except for the publish date. I thought that since it was the newest edition, it would have the latest vital information that wasn’t in the earlier editions. Instead, it has lots of cool pictures and a really large font. And hey, that’s cool too. I’ve always been a visual learner.

The reason I purchased this book, and a couple others like it, is because I’m on a quest to find out as much about what goes into my food as I can. And it’s not just about what I’m eating and my own health. It’s about the world I live in, and how the creation of this food impacts it.

This all stems from the fact that I’ve always had a soft spot for animals and the environment, ever since I was young. Unfortunately, loving animals and the environment isn’t just about adopting a dog and recycling, one of which I did and one of which I currently do. Don’t get me wrong, these are steps in the right direction. But there is so much more. This blog is partially to document what I learn and spread the word. I need a place to organize my thoughts, so that it doesn’t all seem so overwhelming. After all, change doesn’t happen overnight.

You’re probably wondering what all this has to do with me being corny. I’ll get to that now. It’s partially because I’m my father’s daughter. But it’s mostly because I am what I eat. And, as I’m reading the above-mentioned book, I’m learning that corn, or some derivative of corn, is in almost every processed food I put into my body. Even though I never eat corn on the cob, I’m eating corn when I eat cereal, desserts, condiments, candy, non-dairy creamer, sauces, etc. Even meat.

What’s the big deal? So I eat a lot of corn, without even knowing it. How does this relate to animals and the environment?

Oh, you will find out! You’ll find out about that and so much more. Just be patient.

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