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Corn Manipulation: Greatest Agricultural Blessing or Blasphemy?

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Religion has nothing to do with this, but I can’t help but ask myself, are we playing God? There is a natural order to the world. There are patterns and cycles that have been in motion since long before agrarian societies were established and animals were domesticated. There is also something called capitalism and profit and these (for some) are just as important in the natural order of the world. Populations have expanded greatly and this has become an age when everything that a person could want can be brought to their doorstep, yesterday. Everything is fast and what the consumers want they get, but at what price?

I have always believed that when it comes to large corporations, it’s all about making money. Some corporations may be ruthless in their tactics to achieve this goal while others may be more ethical. However, for agribusiness and especially for the business of growing corn, it seems to be a delicate and overwhelming situation. Corn has been modified to withstand pests, disease, and other factors detrimental to producing a high yield. Corn is cheap and can be found in everything from sweeteners to plastics, meats, and even our fuel. Corn is king in America, as the aptly named film King Corn explains.

It would seem that this high production of commodity corn would be beneficial because it results in cheap food, which means Americans across the country have a well stocked pantry — a chicken in every pot, so to speak. Easy, cheap production of corn may also be an opportunity for us to help other countries. China and India are rising fast on a global level and they have to support their populations in whatever way necessary. But if corn seems to be the answer and it is in everything, then why do we have these issues that are connected to corn production such as health problems and pollution?

I return to the idea of the total costs of how we treat corn, from growing it to processing it for its many uses. The world is always changing, but all of it isn’t for the better. Companies use corn because it’s cheap, but farmers (big and small) are struggling to grow a crop that doesn’t benefit them in the long run. Small farmers are disappearing and health issues due to obesity are becoming the norm. We as human beings are omnivores, but our bodies can only take so much of something. Like corn is fed to cattle to fatten them up faster, the same is happening to us. All of these issues are in some way linked. Agribusiness can only make so much money, and the costs may be much more monumental.

Finding a solution to these issues means dealing with multiple factors. America has the idea that cheap food is more cost-effective. Companies want to keep their costs low as possible while making a high profit. From government to corporation to farmer, the parts of the cycle are all connected. Changing the way people think is a lot easier said then done. I believe that the people high up should find out what their priority really is, but in any revolution, the people, not the government, are usually the catalysts. Long-term thinking is necessary right now because no amount of corn will help us in the future.

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About Olithia Rose

  • Hey O: It’s corn insanity. This brings to mind that movie with Matt Damon, The Informant. Companies don’t care about the cost, even when it comes to health issues; they are only concerned about their god (little “g”): money.

  • Olithia Rose

    Yeah, I saw that movie and I know what you mean.

  • Brian Green

    High fructose corn syrup is a major part of most manufactured foods and soft drinks. Combined with cane sugar and at times fruit sugar (fructose) too. Could be called a diabetic coctail!

  • Olithia Rose

    Hey Marty,

    Thanks for the comment and to answer your question: Corn production as well as soybeans are the two biggest commodities crops here in the states. They are also heavily subsidized by the government and is the reason why a lot of our food products are so cheap. Growing less corn may not be the solution, but growing more isn’t. Cattle are by nature grass eaters and grain has never been apart of the natural diet, but it makes them fatter and quicker, which means more money.

    Sorry about the long answer, but my point is that we need diversification here in the states besides corn and soybeans, as well as a more close monitoring of our food system. Corn and soybean should not be the only crops getting handouts from the government.

  • Food Inc. is in heavy rotation on PBS right now. The docu examines Monsanto and the pervasiveness of corn. Thanks for the post, Olithia.

  • HP

    Thank you for your interesting post. I don’t believe that improving processes that promise a greater return on investment is a bad idea, as this helps the economy as a whole.

    Sure, small farmers often struggle to achieve the full harvest they really need and truly deserve. Moreover, it is essential for them to have a rich harvest in order to sustain even a decent standard of living. Seeing how many farmers suffer hardships because of the low income they achieve, I doubt if this is merely a question of the “cheap” price.

    In other countries, for example in Asia, corn has become very “expensive” (for local standards) since it’s a high risk for farmers to grow corn in these uncertain climatic conditions.

    Over the last view years typhoons and flooding repeatedly destroyed entire harvests. Because of that, the prices for corn increased significantly, as well as the prices for rice. The problem is that this more money paid for corn doesn’t help the farmers either, nor does it serve the “poor” people who just need their basic food, which likewise became more expensive.

    The loss of income because entire corn fields were destroyed by “natural” forces, caused real hardships for so many families over here. Now, what shall the people eat? They need the corn to raise hogs, chicken and cattle but corn has become so expensive for an average household (average income is very low in asian countries).

    Now, one thing a majority of the people over here don’t have to worry about and spend money on is for weight loss, as overweight or obesity is generally not a problem here…

    Sure, to genetically modify corn (or other crops) helps to fight certain diseases and pests (which otherwise might interfere with the natural growth of corn and lessen the harvest). I’d rather see this as a blessing… and my concept of God doesn’t permit a blasphemy against something that probably could benefit mankind as a whole.

    Though it is true that “a man shall not live by bread alone…”, it is also true that at this stage of living in this world we simply don’t know how to do without corn. Therefore, it seems only natural for mankind to constantly search for new ideas and developing better methods of how to improve the processes of producing and distributing enough good food for an ever growing world population…

  • Great well-written and informative article. At some point the policy of passing the buck will be at an end. The check will have to be paid, and future generations will be dealing with enviornmental catastrophies.

  • I love this article, Olithia. It touches on a subject that needs far more airing. It seems as if the Pharmaceutical Corporations are behind all this. They own some of the top Agricultural Corporations. The Pharmaceutical Corporations have got it made. For example, they supply the hormones that fatten the cows and through their subsidiaries they supply the chemicals that are used in agriculture and they supply the drugs that are given to people when they get sick from eating all this toxic agricultural output. They also control what bad news might otherwise appear about them in the newspapers. Thank God for the internet and thank God for people like you who are prepared to write articles like this.