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Fw: Corn is King

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  • sgeibel@netscape.net
    I just looked at the artical below... I thought only Malawians were dependent on maize... and I thought that dropping maize subsidies were important to opening
    Message 1 of 2 , Aug 9, 2002
      I just looked at the artical below... I thought only Malawians were dependent on maize... and I thought that dropping maize subsidies were important to opening a free market economy... lets drop all US subsidies, then force the corn farmers who go out of business to join the Peace Corps and teach their trade, then Malawi can thrive and reintroduce maize subsidies and be just like us... and as part of this program we can require the farmers to buy only fertilizer per US govt. guidelines, therefore bringing a lot back home to our economy... hey, I sound like an expatriate!- Scott


      When a Crop Becomes King

      July 19, 2002
      By MICHAEL POLLAN

      CORNWALL BRIDGE, Conn. - Here in southern New England the
      corn is already waist high and growing so avidly you can
      almost hear the creak of stalk and leaf as the plants
      stretch toward the sun. The ears of sweet corn are just
      starting to show up on local farm stands, inaugurating one
      of the ceremonies of an American summer. These days the
      nation's nearly 80 million-acre field of corn rolls across
      the countryside like a second great lawn, but this
      wholesome, all-American image obscures a decidedly more
      dubious reality.

      Like the tulip, the apple and the potato, zea mays (the
      botanical name for both sweet and feed corn) has evolved
      with humans over the past 10,000 years or so in the great
      dance of species we call domestication. The plant gratifies
      human needs, in exchange for which humans expand the
      plant's habitat, moving its genes all over the world and
      remaking the land (clearing trees, plowing the ground,
      protecting it from its enemies) so it might thrive.

      Corn, by making itself tasty and nutritious, got itself
      noticed by Christopher Columbus, who helped expand its
      range from the New World to Europe and beyond. Today corn
      is the world's most widely planted cereal crop. But nowhere
      have humans done quite as much to advance the interests of
      this plant as in North America, where zea mays has
      insinuated itself into our landscape, our food system - and
      our federal budget.

      One need look no further than the $190 billion farm bill
      President Bush signed last month to wonder whose interests
      are really being served here. Under the 10-year program,
      taxpayers will pay farmers $4 billion a year to grow ever
      more corn, this despite the fact that we struggle to get
      rid of the surplus the plant already produces. The average
      bushel of corn (56 pounds) sells for about $2 today; it
      costs farmers more than $3 to grow it. But rather than
      design a program that would encourage farmers to plant less
      corn - which would have the benefit of lifting the price
      farmers receive for it - Congress has decided instead to
      subsidize corn by the bushel, thereby insuring that zea
      mays dominion over its 125,000-square mile American habitat
      will go unchallenged.

      At first blush this subsidy might look like a handout for
      farmers, but really it's a form of welfare for the plant
      itself - and for all those economic interests that profit
      from its overproduction: the processors, factory farms, and
      the soft drink and snack makers that rely on cheap corn.
      For zea mays has triumphed by making itself indispensable
      not to farmers (whom it is swiftly and surely bankrupting)
      but to the Archer Daniels Midlands, Tysons and Coca-Colas
      of the world.

      Our entire food supply has undergone a process of
      "cornification" in recent years, without our even noticing
      it. That's because, unlike in Mexico, where a corn-based
      diet has been the norm for centuries, in the United States
      most of the corn we consume is invisible, having been
      heavily processed or passed through food animals before it
      reaches us. Most of the animals we eat (chickens, pigs and
      cows) today subsist on a diet of corn, regardless of
      whether it is good for them. In the case of beef cattle,
      which evolved to eat grass, a corn diet wreaks havoc on
      their digestive system, making it necessary to feed them
      antibiotics to stave off illness and infection. Even
      farm-raised salmon are being bred to tolerate corn - not a
      food their evolution has prepared them for. Why feed fish
      corn? Because it's the cheapest thing you can feed any
      animal, thanks to federal subsidies. But even with more
      than half of the 10 billion bushels of corn produced
      annually being fed to animals, there is plenty left over.
      So companies like A.D.M., Cargill and ConAgra have figured
      ingenious new ways to dispose of it, turning it into
      everything from ethanol to Vitamin C and biodegradable
      plastics.

      By far the best strategy for keeping zea mays in business
      has been the development of high-fructose corn syrup, which
      has all but pushed sugar aside. Since the 1980's, most soft
      drink manufacturers have switched from sugar to corn
      sweeteners, as have most snack makers. Nearly 10 percent of
      the calories Americans consume now come from corn
      sweeteners; the figure is 20 percent for many children. Add
      to that all the corn-based animal protein (corn-fed beef,
      chicken and pork) and the corn qua corn (chips, muffins,
      sweet corn) and you have a plant that has become one of
      nature's greatest success stories, by turning us (along
      with several other equally unwitting species) into an
      expanding race of corn eaters.

      So why begrudge corn its phenomenal success? Isn't this the
      way domestication is supposed to work?

      The problem in corn's case is that we're sacrificing the
      health of both our bodies and the environment by growing
      and eating so much of it. Though we're only beginning to
      understand what our cornified food system is doing to our
      health, there's cause for concern. It's probably no
      coincidence that the wholesale switch to corn sweeteners in
      the 1980's marks the beginning of the epidemic of obesity
      and Type 2 diabetes in this country. Sweetness became so
      cheap that soft drink makers, rather than lower their
      prices, super-sized their serving portions and marketing
      budgets. Thousands of new sweetened snack foods hit the
      market, and the amount of fructose in our diets soared.

      This would be bad enough for the American waistline, but
      there's also preliminary research suggesting that
      high-fructose corn syrup is metabolized differently than
      other sugars, making it potentially more harmful. A recent
      study at the University of Minnesota found that a diet high
      in fructose (as compared to glucose) elevates triglyceride
      levels in men shortly after eating, a phenomenon that has
      been linked to an increased risk of obesity and heart
      disease. Little is known about the health effects of eating
      animals that have themselves eaten so much corn, but in the
      case of cattle, researchers have found that corn-fed beef
      is higher in saturated fats than grass-fed beef.

      We know a lot more about what 80 million acres of corn is
      doing to the health of our environment: serious and lasting
      damage. Modern corn hybrids are the greediest of plants,
      demanding more nitrogen fertilizer than any other crop.
      Corn requires more pesticide than any other food crop.
      Runoff from these chemicals finds its way into the
      groundwater and, in the Midwestern corn belt, into the
      Mississippi River, which carries it to the Gulf of Mexico,
      where it has already killed off marine life in a 12,000
      square mile area.

      To produce the chemicals we apply to our cornfields takes
      vast amounts of oil and natural gas. (Nitrogen fertilizer
      is made from natural gas, pesticides from oil.) America's
      corn crop might look like a sustainable, solar-powered
      system for producing food, but it is actually a huge,
      inefficient, polluting machine that guzzles fossil fuel - a
      half a gallon of it for every bushel.

      So it seems corn has indeed become king. We have given it
      more of our land than any other plant, an area more than
      twice the size of New York State. To keep it well fed and
      safe from predators we douse it with chemicals that poison
      our water and deepen our dependence on foreign oil. And
      then in order to dispose of all the corn this cracked
      system has produced, we eat it as fast as we can in as many
      ways as we can - turning the fat of the land into, well,
      fat. One has to wonder whether corn hasn't at last
      succeeded in domesticating us.


      Michael Pollan is the author, most recently, of "The Botany
      of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World."



      Terry Z. Riley
      Director of Conservation
      Wildlife Management Institute
      1101 Fourteenth Street, NW, Suite 801
      Washington, DC 20005
      202-371-1808 (voice)
      202-408-5059 (fax)
      wmitzr@... (e-mail)
      http://www.wildlifemanagementinstitute.org/ (website)


      __________________________________________________________________
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    • emmanuel_afraka
      Speaking of corn, does any member of this group know Dr. Cheyembekaza of Lilongwe? He went to school here in the Uniter States. At one time he was married to
      Message 2 of 2 , Aug 9, 2002
        Speaking of corn, does any member of this group know Dr. Cheyembekaza
        of Lilongwe? He went to school here in the Uniter States. At one
        time he was married to a Black American girl by the name of Andrea,
        who was a friend of my mother. Dr. Cheyembekaza was a biology and
        agriculture major. He was supposed to be working on the development
        of a drought-resistent and pest-resistent peanut. I'd like to know
        how he came out.

        Sincerely,
        Emmanuel Afraka
        __________________________________



        --- In ujeni@y..., sgeibel@n... wrote:
        > I just looked at the artical below... I thought only Malawians were
        dependent on maize... and I thought that dropping maize subsidies
        were important to opening a free market economy... lets drop all US
        subsidies, then force the corn farmers who go out of business to join
        the Peace Corps and teach their trade, then Malawi can thrive and
        reintroduce maize subsidies and be just like us... and as part of
        this program we can require the farmers to buy only fertilizer per US
        govt. guidelines, therefore bringing a lot back home to our
        economy... hey, I sound like an expatriate!- Scott
        >
        >
        > When a Crop Becomes King
        >
        > July 19, 2002
        > By MICHAEL POLLAN
        >
        > CORNWALL BRIDGE, Conn. - Here in southern New England the
        > corn is already waist high and growing so avidly you can
        > almost hear the creak of stalk and leaf as the plants
        > stretch toward the sun. The ears of sweet corn are just
        > starting to show up on local farm stands, inaugurating one
        > of the ceremonies of an American summer. These days the
        > nation's nearly 80 million-acre field of corn rolls across
        > the countryside like a second great lawn, but this
        > wholesome, all-American image obscures a decidedly more
        > dubious reality.
        >
        > Like the tulip, the apple and the potato, zea mays (the
        > botanical name for both sweet and feed corn) has evolved
        > with humans over the past 10,000 years or so in the great
        > dance of species we call domestication. The plant gratifies
        > human needs, in exchange for which humans expand the
        > plant's habitat, moving its genes all over the world and
        > remaking the land (clearing trees, plowing the ground,
        > protecting it from its enemies) so it might thrive.
        >
        > Corn, by making itself tasty and nutritious, got itself
        > noticed by Christopher Columbus, who helped expand its
        > range from the New World to Europe and beyond. Today corn
        > is the world's most widely planted cereal crop. But nowhere
        > have humans done quite as much to advance the interests of
        > this plant as in North America, where zea mays has
        > insinuated itself into our landscape, our food system - and
        > our federal budget.
        >
        > One need look no further than the $190 billion farm bill
        > President Bush signed last month to wonder whose interests
        > are really being served here. Under the 10-year program,
        > taxpayers will pay farmers $4 billion a year to grow ever
        > more corn, this despite the fact that we struggle to get
        > rid of the surplus the plant already produces. The average
        > bushel of corn (56 pounds) sells for about $2 today; it
        > costs farmers more than $3 to grow it. But rather than
        > design a program that would encourage farmers to plant less
        > corn - which would have the benefit of lifting the price
        > farmers receive for it - Congress has decided instead to
        > subsidize corn by the bushel, thereby insuring that zea
        > mays dominion over its 125,000-square mile American habitat
        > will go unchallenged.
        >
        > At first blush this subsidy might look like a handout for
        > farmers, but really it's a form of welfare for the plant
        > itself - and for all those economic interests that profit
        > from its overproduction: the processors, factory farms, and
        > the soft drink and snack makers that rely on cheap corn.
        > For zea mays has triumphed by making itself indispensable
        > not to farmers (whom it is swiftly and surely bankrupting)
        > but to the Archer Daniels Midlands, Tysons and Coca-Colas
        > of the world.
        >
        > Our entire food supply has undergone a process of
        > "cornification" in recent years, without our even noticing
        > it. That's because, unlike in Mexico, where a corn-based
        > diet has been the norm for centuries, in the United States
        > most of the corn we consume is invisible, having been
        > heavily processed or passed through food animals before it
        > reaches us. Most of the animals we eat (chickens, pigs and
        > cows) today subsist on a diet of corn, regardless of
        > whether it is good for them. In the case of beef cattle,
        > which evolved to eat grass, a corn diet wreaks havoc on
        > their digestive system, making it necessary to feed them
        > antibiotics to stave off illness and infection. Even
        > farm-raised salmon are being bred to tolerate corn - not a
        > food their evolution has prepared them for. Why feed fish
        > corn? Because it's the cheapest thing you can feed any
        > animal, thanks to federal subsidies. But even with more
        > than half of the 10 billion bushels of corn produced
        > annually being fed to animals, there is plenty left over.
        > So companies like A.D.M., Cargill and ConAgra have figured
        > ingenious new ways to dispose of it, turning it into
        > everything from ethanol to Vitamin C and biodegradable
        > plastics.
        >
        > By far the best strategy for keeping zea mays in business
        > has been the development of high-fructose corn syrup, which
        > has all but pushed sugar aside. Since the 1980's, most soft
        > drink manufacturers have switched from sugar to corn
        > sweeteners, as have most snack makers. Nearly 10 percent of
        > the calories Americans consume now come from corn
        > sweeteners; the figure is 20 percent for many children. Add
        > to that all the corn-based animal protein (corn-fed beef,
        > chicken and pork) and the corn qua corn (chips, muffins,
        > sweet corn) and you have a plant that has become one of
        > nature's greatest success stories, by turning us (along
        > with several other equally unwitting species) into an
        > expanding race of corn eaters.
        >
        > So why begrudge corn its phenomenal success? Isn't this the
        > way domestication is supposed to work?
        >
        > The problem in corn's case is that we're sacrificing the
        > health of both our bodies and the environment by growing
        > and eating so much of it. Though we're only beginning to
        > understand what our cornified food system is doing to our
        > health, there's cause for concern. It's probably no
        > coincidence that the wholesale switch to corn sweeteners in
        > the 1980's marks the beginning of the epidemic of obesity
        > and Type 2 diabetes in this country. Sweetness became so
        > cheap that soft drink makers, rather than lower their
        > prices, super-sized their serving portions and marketing
        > budgets. Thousands of new sweetened snack foods hit the
        > market, and the amount of fructose in our diets soared.
        >
        > This would be bad enough for the American waistline, but
        > there's also preliminary research suggesting that
        > high-fructose corn syrup is metabolized differently than
        > other sugars, making it potentially more harmful. A recent
        > study at the University of Minnesota found that a diet high
        > in fructose (as compared to glucose) elevates triglyceride
        > levels in men shortly after eating, a phenomenon that has
        > been linked to an increased risk of obesity and heart
        > disease. Little is known about the health effects of eating
        > animals that have themselves eaten so much corn, but in the
        > case of cattle, researchers have found that corn-fed beef
        > is higher in saturated fats than grass-fed beef.
        >
        > We know a lot more about what 80 million acres of corn is
        > doing to the health of our environment: serious and lasting
        > damage. Modern corn hybrids are the greediest of plants,
        > demanding more nitrogen fertilizer than any other crop.
        > Corn requires more pesticide than any other food crop.
        > Runoff from these chemicals finds its way into the
        > groundwater and, in the Midwestern corn belt, into the
        > Mississippi River, which carries it to the Gulf of Mexico,
        > where it has already killed off marine life in a 12,000
        > square mile area.
        >
        > To produce the chemicals we apply to our cornfields takes
        > vast amounts of oil and natural gas. (Nitrogen fertilizer
        > is made from natural gas, pesticides from oil.) America's
        > corn crop might look like a sustainable, solar-powered
        > system for producing food, but it is actually a huge,
        > inefficient, polluting machine that guzzles fossil fuel - a
        > half a gallon of it for every bushel.
        >
        > So it seems corn has indeed become king. We have given it
        > more of our land than any other plant, an area more than
        > twice the size of New York State. To keep it well fed and
        > safe from predators we douse it with chemicals that poison
        > our water and deepen our dependence on foreign oil. And
        > then in order to dispose of all the corn this cracked
        > system has produced, we eat it as fast as we can in as many
        > ways as we can - turning the fat of the land into, well,
        > fat. One has to wonder whether corn hasn't at last
        > succeeded in domesticating us.
        >
        >
        > Michael Pollan is the author, most recently, of "The Botany
        > of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World."
        >
        >
        >
        > Terry Z. Riley
        > Director of Conservation
        > Wildlife Management Institute
        > 1101 Fourteenth Street, NW, Suite 801
        > Washington, DC 20005
        > 202-371-1808 (voice)
        > 202-408-5059 (fax)
        > wmitzr@a... (e-mail)
        > http://www.wildlifemanagementinstitute.org/ (website)
        >
        >
        > __________________________________________________________________
        > Your favorite stores, helpful shopping tools and great gift ideas.
        Experience the convenience of buying online with Shop@Netscape!
        http://shopnow.netscape.com/
        >
        > Get your own FREE, personal Netscape Mail account today at
        http://webmail.netscape.com/
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