Thursday, April 15, 2010

Omnivore's Dilemma Ch. 6/7

Toward the end of Ch. 7 (pg. 117), Pollan asks, “Why should it matter that we have 
become a race of corn eaters such as the world has never seen?  Is this necessarily a bad thing?”  
How would Pollan likely answer these questions?  You? 


  1. It should matter because of the repercussions that come out of being a race of corn eaters. Not only are we damaging ourselves (in terms of our health), but we are also damaging everything imaginable. We are degrading our culture, we are degrading our land, and we are degrading our minds.

    Our culture has been reduced to depend on processed foods, as Pollan points out McDonald's or other foods in that category are seen 'treats'. For those in low socioeconomic communities throughout the US, they are seen as a cheap alternative to regular, healthier food. The appeal of fast food lies in the advertising and the feeling of nostalgia that comes out of the first few bites. After that, there is indeed the realization that it does not actually taste like food. I think that many who eat or have eaten fast food can agree with that statement. After all of the processing that that "food" goes through, it no longer is food. It might look like food, but it actually is not.

    We are degrading our land and even our economy on the long term because of the way corn is planted and produced. The large scale monoculturing of corn is degrading the land and seriously damaging the surrounding land and the resources needed to farm (i.e. water). Farmers themselves plant corn at a loss, people who profit from the physical corn plant come after the farmers and continue on to the people serving us these processed foods.

    My last point that we are degrading our minds might seem a little dramatic, but if you think about it it's true. We have been brainwashed to eat these foods and to take in the exorbitant amounts of extra corn calories there are to take in because of overproduction. We are deceived into eating these empty calories because of the culture we live in. The culture around food has fallen apart to the point where we even consider processed foods a source of nutrition. We have let ourselves be convinced that it is okay to eat these foods, when in reality they are extremely bad for us. Not only are they high in fat and sugar which causes weight gain, but they also cause diseases such as type II diabetes and heart disease. Despite all of the things pointing for humans to not eat this way, we continue to do so at an alarming rate. The problems of obesity, diabetes, etc. are caused by the way we eat. At the end of the day, the sole person responsible for the way one eats is the individual. That innate power has been in essence taken away from us through processed foods. We no longer truly know what is in our food, which is scary to think about.

  2. The fact that we have become such a corn focused nation matters because of the mind set that we are letting ourselves slip into. We are becoming so dependent on processed foods and as Pollen has restated throughout the book, we are loosing sight of what our food actually is, and where it is coming from. In addition, just like what was discussed in an earlier blog, it isn't just corn as a food crop any more but the thought of corn as a commodity that is part of the reason for our problem. The mass production of corn, as well as the large amount of waste created by the high overproduction levels, is used in everything we eat, and has become an invisible part of our diet. No longer do we think about the fact that their is corn in our food but instead we don't even notice its presence because of the sweet covering of processed food. Food has become such a part of our diets that it is now almost unnoticeable at points even though it makes up such a large percentage of the American diet. This is the problem with our corn centered nation, it has become completely controlled and run by corn, and yet we can barely see it happening before our very eyes.

  3. Pollan has two points here, both of which are relevant and dangerous. In general, Pollan is highlighting the issue of species dependency on one specific crop - at this point the human race is more or less dependent on corn as a magical crop capable of solving all of the food industry's problems. This dependency screams danger. The idea of becoming dependent on one crop alone is simply a bad idea - if anything were to happen to corn, we would be entirely lost. This is true of all similar scenarios, whether they involve corn or not.

    Pollan is also suggesting the danger of dependency on a crop so easily manipulated by the food industry/its growers. As we have seen from the implementation of GMOs and the successes of the industry in making corn generally unavoidable, the concept of organic eating is becoming less and less common in places where genetically modified and monocultured corn is abundant. While we may not be feeling it in the Bay Area, people in the middle of Idaho are probably unable to find local food that is not somehow tainted by corn.

  4. It is relatively undeniable that the diet of the average American has taken a massive turn in the last century. The most notable component of this change is the overwhelming amount of corn that is consumed in every meal. Corn has worked its way into just about every sector of the American food and drink industries. This change in diet has had large impact on most Americans and American industries. Its effects can be seen from the farmers, to the producers, to the large companies that facilitate this process, to the consumer, and to even corn itself. Pollan quite readily accepts that this change is not entirely good or bad. For many this change has been excellent, and for others it has been disastrous. For the farmers the prevalence of corn has not been as boon, as would be expected, but has instead been quite disastrous. American governmental food policy aimed at producing cheap corn has hurt most farmers, reducing the amount of profit they can make per acre. Additionally the supply of corn has vastly overshot demand, and as a result prices have significantly suffered. However, for the large companies in charge of converting that corn to beef or any number of substances, the increased quantity of corn, and growing demand for corn products has been wonderful. Not only can they buy their raw materials for a fraction of a cent, they are catering to an ever-burgeoning market of American companies and consumers. The effects on consumers has been somewhat of a mixed bag. On one hand for poorer Americans they can now get more calories for significantly cheaper than they would otherwise be able to. But for those living in truly abject poverty throughout the world the growth of corn has not been nearly as beneficial. Whereas once corn was a cheap staple crop, now global demand has greatly increased its value, to a point where it has become unaffordable. Additionally, desires to use up as much corn as possible, through the use of relatively inefficient methods (ie. beef production) has reduced the amount of available corn. Although Pollan does not address it directly, it is also important to look at the effect that increased cultivation of corn has had on our environment. Although today we may not be feeling the full consequences of our agricultural choices, sometime down the road this will have a significant effect on nearly every person and enterprise on the planet. Inefficient land use, pesticides, fertilizers, deforestation, and a host of other problems associated with farming of corn will all do a tremendous amount to reduce the quality and quantity of the natural world around us. This will make life harder for every human being, and may also render many of the natural resources that corporations draw on today nonexistent or defunct. Finally Pollan mentions the effect that our choices have had on corn itself. Although we would like to think that we have melded corn to suit our desires, it might be more apropos to say that corn has used us to meet its own needs. Whereas before corn was small grass present in only a few areas, today it as a prodigious plant cultivated throughout the world.