Wednesday, February 11, 2009

King Corn Review

What with Michael Pollan's _The Omnivore's Dilemma_, the obesity epidemic, and a new organic-free-range-fair-trade market, food is on the mind of many Americans. Particularly corn. If you couldn't get through The Omnivore's Dilemma (there's quite a lot of corn at first, though I'm told it gets better), try watching King Corn. Learn about food while watching a TV screen. It's a very American thing to do.

King Corn traces the journey of two twenty-somethings as they grow their very own acre of corn. They drive tractors, plant their corn seeds (without actually seeing the seeds go into the ground), and dispense fertilizer and pesticides. The corn grows. Months pass. Lots of beautiful shots of corn fields and blue sky. In the end, they have a successful harvest (four times what their grandparents could've raised from the land) which goes to the local silo. Unfortunately, they can't track what exactly happens to their individual seeds of corn after that--but they can figure it out.

One thing does not happen to the corn. People don't eat it. It's not edible in a corn-on-the-cob sort of way. Instead it gets processed into livestock feed (an unhealthy diet--but luckily the cows eating it are slaughtered before it kills them) or gets processed into high-fructose corn syrup.

The woman interviewed about the process is, to be frank, scary. The words come out of her mouth, she smiles, and all I can think of are the youtube videos re: high fructose corn syrup. (Check out, and then for the spoof) Then the guys try the process at home, which involves chemicals labeled with scary pictures.

So watch the documentary. Get scared about the amount of corn you consume. Also, the occasional animation is pretty cool.

--Jeannette Westwood

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