Friday, August 07, 2009

Oceans of Corn

I just read an interesting movie review in National Review. One of the garden variety leftist movies coming out in the last ten years or so are those attacking the US food industry. As the author of the review says:
It was with this attitude that I went to an afternoon showing of Food Inc. I was fully prepared to hate it, expecting another lecture from the food police, another horror story about fast food.
Source: Eating is no Fun Anymore (The new documentary Food Inc. gets it just about right.) — Julie Gunlock for National Review

However, Ms. Gunlock thought the movie to contain a good kernel of truth. The movie's thesis is subsidies given to corn production create an amount of corn in excess of our nation's ability to use it and so therefore, corn is a product in search of a use. Much of that excess corn is used to make high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) that according to research cited by Ms. Gunlock is thought to play a significant role in some of our nations chronic health problems. Another factor tilting in favor of corn is tariffs on cane and beet sugar which according to Ms. Gunlock do not carry the same health risks as HFCS.

Now we get the part disappointing to Ms. Gunlock — solutions. The solutions presented amounted to the typical lefty bullet points. Buy organic, increased food safety regulations (yeah let's help out ADM some more here), buy local, buy farmers markets, etc. Strangely enough, no mention of eliminating or curtailing corn subsidies.

I do not believe the biggest obstacle to people eating better is the cost so much as time and convenience. A good ham sandwich with fresh tomato, lettuce, onion, and the like is going to be less expensive or competitive with McDonald's fare. The problem is that ham sandwich takes a bit of time and effort to make. When I am traveling, running around trying to get my Christmas shopping done or have a huge list of chores to do it is all too easy to stop into McDonalds and be in and out quickly. This applies for a lot of people and their home meals too, when shopping I see a lot of people loading up with instant dinners of one sort or another — all of which are highly processed foods containing lots of additives we normally would not put into our foods. Again, pop it into the microwave and ten minutes later everyone has their food. Again, I don't swear these off totally and we stock up on those items for surprise guests or times when we are too busy (or just not inspired).

In any event, the movie's suggestions are self-defeating. A family they claim can not afford good food so they eat cheap fast food. So the producers believe that telling that family to buy organic foods is going to change their gastronomic behavior? Their call for increased food regulation will only work to make it harder to get into food production further consolidating the positions of corporagri giants. Also, I live in Northeast Wisconsin, buying local produce is not an option for half the year or more. The solution is to attack the subsidies and while they are often pictured as preserving "The American Gothic" family truth is a lot of those subsidy dollars go to the corporagris and other wealthy "gentlemen farmers". We see corn subsidies becoming more enrooted with the push for corn derived ethanol again in detriment to better solutions.

You don't have to buy organic produce the regular produce will do just fine.