Saturday, August 2, 2008

Film of the week: King Corn

This past week, we finally made time to sit down and watch this film,  sent to us from a friend in Iowa.  Perhaps you've seen it?  If not, I highly recommend it.

This story started out when Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, two young men who met in college in Boston, decided to find out where and how corn is grown, and more importantly, follow its trail into the many products it is grown to support.  They spent a year growing an acre of corn in Greene, Iowa, and along the way, learned more than they had ever dreamed they would...and so will you.

I know there are always debatable facts in any story.  Just this morning, as I was looking for their web site, I found a long list of rebuttals to their claims about corn fructose syrup from the corn industry.  I don't purport to understand the science behind all of this, nor all of the politics (although that's probably much clearer and obvious).  I only know this film has given me more to think about than I probably wanted.

I will share a tidbit I learned:  did you know that the cattle who are fed corn and corn by=products (silage) would die from this food if not slaughtered for market?  Their systems are NOT meant to eat it; their stomachs ulcerate terribly from it.  Cornometer_2
As an enthusiastic carnivore, this has left me extremely upset and armed with plans to seek out grass fed beef.  And worse:  I was sharing news of this movie this past week with a friend who is from Iowa...he shared with me having visited a feedlot that, because of soaring corn costs, is now feeding their beef (hold on for this one) old Wonder Bread and Mars bars, products that have no shelf life left and are being sold cheaply by their manufacturers. 
Now there may be one of you out there who has information on this, or maybe wants to dispute it.  I can't vouch for second hand information.  I only know this is a very honorable man who grew up in corn country who shared this with me, with no reason to have dreamed this up on his own.  (And really:  could you have dreamed that up?  I sure couldn't have.) King Corn if you can, and think about it the next time you're wondering where those few (or more) extra pounds have come from.  You may be as surprised as I was...

(And P.S.:  the King Corn web site is chock full of information...about both the film and what we can all do to try to get some changes made if we're interested.  I really encourage you to check it out.)


Stephanie Griego said...

Thanks for another great recommendation - King Corn just moved to the top of my list. Sounds like the work of MIchael Pollan. Nothing surprises me when it comes to agribusiness. Have you read *Fast Food Nation*?
The whole food chain process can be both fascinating and disgusting. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

Martie said...

Michael Pollan was actually interviewed a number of times in the movie. I have his books but have yet to read them. There is so very much to learn and yes, I vascillate between feeling the need to know more and wishing I didn't know anything.

RuthieJ said...

Thanks for the tip Martie. I'll add this film to my Netflix queue. Living here in the heart of the corn belt, it sounds like it will be an eye-opener for me and Mr. Johnson. I know that a lot of the corn planted is now genetically engineered and there are also so many chemicals the farmers use on it.

Martie said...

Ruthie: I would love to know what you think about it after you see too, Stephanie!