Saturday, November 14, 2009

King Corn

Mary recommended the documentary King Corn, and Netflix has it on DVD. We saw it last week, and it was entertaining, informative, and, finally, disturbing. It is about how a peculiar, basically unhealthy kind of corn, corn with very little protein and mostly starch, transformed the Midwest breadbasket and, from there, the entire food industry, after a change in farm policy under the Nixon Administration. (What? I thought the Republicans are our friends!) I also commend, then, the movie to you.

UPDATE: Mary and I discussed the several references to Earl Butz, Nixon's Secretary of Agriculture and apparently the author of the policy change that crowned Corn as King (at least, that's the movie's thesis, and it seems plausible.) At the end of the movie there is a respectful and not unsympathetic interview of the elderly Butz at his nursing home apartment. What one learns is that the policy change that the Nixon administration wrought was with the best of intentions - to make food cheaper by encouraging the production of corn. The result that we wear the extra food on our bodies and hurt ourselves that way is an unintended consequence of the federal government's decision to intervene in such a critical part of the market place. While it is true that putting money into the pockets of farmers hardly hurt the Republican party, the goal of making food cheaper is a worthy one.

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