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Baker Jack Baker 11-4-11 WR 121 Tanya Katz Why Buy Corn?

Today's food products are seemingly more diversified. When I look at the nutrition label of a product I'm usually mildly interested to learn what ingredients make up the food. This is probably because when I eat at home, my step Dad always tells me what he puts in the food he makes, and why adding that food makes the entre tastier. Most of the time, I'm surprised by what I can find on a label, and am even more surprised when the foods with more ingredients often don't taste as good as the simple dishes my family makes. I'm starting to realize that this is because of a difference in priorities. Food companies' number one priority is the economics of their products. If a food won't last long enough preservatives are added, and if it isn't tasty enough, flavors and ingredients are made to perfectly tailor the food up to the point where cost of the new ingredients is too great for the product to sell. On the other hand, when I'm eating at my house, my family has nothing to lose when I say I don't like something that was made. I find it interesting how the food companies have a larger stake in my desire for their food, as opposed to my family who's economic welfare doesn't depend on my taste buds, but rather my health. So, if different priorities result in different ingredients, is that bad? Well, if the difference in ingredients results in less nutritious or tasty food then maybe so. I've noticed that some of the most widely distributed ingredients in purchased food products turn out to be confusing additives such as Polydextrose, Ascorbic acid, Calcium stearoyl, Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) Malt, Citric acid, Crystalline fructose, Ethyl maltol, Fumaric or Lactic acid, Dextrin or Dextrose Glucose, Maltodextrin, Maltose or Maltol, High Fructose Corn syrup, or Xanthan gum. What are these things? My step dad doesnt put Xathan gum in my spaghetti sauce... Once doing some research on these things, I've realized that all of these ingredients are derived from one thing I could understand, corn. What is corn doing in all my food? Why is corn in all my food? 3280 Words

Baker After doing some brief Internet searches I'm blown away at the amount of corn use and production in the US. It turns out that the US subsidizes farmers, or more appropriately corporations, to over-produce corn. This has resulted in huge growth in the corn industry, which is fed six billion annually by taxpayers (Pimentel 3). Why am I paying for the overproduction of corn? After doing some research I found that the price of products that use corn as an ingredient is slightly dependent on the price of corn. This means that when corn is produced in huge quantities and made cheap, the price of many products that use corn drops. Beef, Pork, and Chicken are all heavily fed on corn resulting in a price relationship between these meats and this crop. So, to what extent does corn affect our meat, and more specifically, beef industry? As it turns out, corn is a relatively new addition to the diet of our nation's cattle. This is because it is probably the most nutritionally and economically efficient food that the US can grow. It holds more nutritional value than traditional feeds such as grass, uses less land, and is easier for farmers to manage. However, there are some emerging problems with growing corn on such a large scale to feed the growing meat industry. The vast majority of corn purchased here is from an "80-million-acre monoculture" which consumes "More chemical herbicides than any other crop" (Pollan 11). These plantations are also more susceptible to disease and pest destruction because of the nature of monocultures; once one stalk is infected, it is likely that the whole crop will be ravaged due to a lack in DNA (thus immune system) diversity. As a result, more pesticides and genetic modification is used than would be needed in a more diverse crop. These chemicals, along with those from fertilizer runoff, can be found "down the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico, where it has created...a 12,000-square mile 'dead zone'" (Pollan 11). This large-scale pollution is a result of mass crop production, which in turn leads to mass crop transportation. On the assumption that a single cow eats roughly 25 pounds of corn every day, it "will have consumed in his lifetimes roughly 284 gallons of oil." This means we are carting food around the nation for an animal that would normally eat the grass it stands on. Even though farmers pay for corn to be trucked to their feedlots, they often times run into health problems when trying to feed it to their cattle. Cows are ruminants, which means they have evolved to

Baker utilize nutrients found in plant-based foods such as grass or leaves using bacteria in their stomachs. Once cows are fed grains like corn, sickness, and sometimes even death, is imminent. At the feedlots, Pollan describes seeing "vats of liquid vitamins and synthetic estrogen; next to...pallets stacked with 50-pound sacks of Rumensin and Tylosin". The use of these medicines and antibiotics is increasing as the use of corn does. E. coli 0157 is one of the greatest health threats to consumers, affecting roughly 70,000 people who die or fall ill from the disease every year. It lives in the gut of more than half the nation's cattle, quietly building up underneath hooves in manure. Before corn was introduced, the bug originally adapted to live in a cows stomach, so humans' more acidic stomachs normally didn't have a problem killing it if by chance it ends up in our food. However, since corn is acidic, and since weve been feeding corn to our cattle, the pH environment of our cattle's stomachs are closer to our own, making transmission rates increase from newly adapted strains like E. coli 0517. This is why the use of ammonia and other chemicals used to prevent the spread of E. coli is increasingly found in our nations beef. These drug fixes are the only thing preventing this biological mix up from total disaster, and is the key to "sustaining" the life of the large and concentrated corn-fed operations. Because of corns nutritional value and all these chemical band aids, we can speed the growth of a cow for slaughter from 4 years to 14 months. The incentive for speed was originally economical; less time for the animal to get sick, less feed to buy, and a sooner turn around. Now however, almost any farmer wishing to be competitive is forced to either follow this model, or raise the price of their goods. This is because of government subsidies that pay for a portion of every bushel produced, so alternatives with equal nutritional value are always going to be more expensive. So why are subsidies important if you're not a farmer?

To find out I paid a visit to the National Corn Growers Association's website (NCGA). According to their website, the NCGA's mission is to "create and increase opportunities for corn growers". I thought this was an interesting statement, because I would naturally think the question for farmers would be how much corn must be produced to meet consumer and industry demand, but instead it is now a question of how much consumer and industry demand must be produced to meet the production of corn. So far the

Baker corn industry has integrated itself very deeply into the processed foods industry, the livestock feed industry, and according to a document I found I found on this website, the energy industry.

The NGCA has created a document called "The Ethanol Roadmap" which details the corn industry's desire and reasons to jumpstart the consumption and production of domestic ethanol. The document argues that the US dependence on foreign oil, the growing global climate change, and sagging economy can all be significantly helped by the promotion of ethanol use (Roadmap). If these statements were to play out, maybe my money is going to help domestically solve many problems in the US and world. How accurate are these claims?

As it turns out, James E. McWilliams, Author of "Just Food", had the same question. In his book, "Just Food", McWilliams argues that $315 billion dollars used in all subsidies is the cause of systematic pollution by farmers. "Subsidies not only allow but practically beg farmers to use excessive amounts of fertilizer, to spray pesticides and insecticides with abandon, to ruin the topsoil with intense monoculture, to tap out aquifers and build irrigation systems, to send millions of cattle to trample federally owned land, to expand relentlessly into rainforests and wetlands, and to abandon the ameliorative effects of crop diversification" (McWilliams 192). This is a much different picture than what the NCGA painted. Williams also puts a number to the money I pay to cause these consequences by citing Myers and Kents estimates that "A typical American taxpayer forks out at least "'$2000 a year to fund perverse subsidies, and then pays another $2000 through increased prices for consumer goods and services or through environmental degradation'" (191-2). Thats a lot of money Im paying to have a higher risk of E. coli! Not exactly a win-win for consumers. McWilliams then goes on to comment that even with all these hidden costs, more exist in incalculable health-care costs "related to the unhealthy environment and food that emerge from these supports."(192)

When I read that taxpayers pay an additional $2000 largely from increased price of goods I was confused. Aren't these subsidies supposed to reduce the cost of corn derived foods? Maybe so, but after reading Scott Kilman's article "Crop Prices Erode Farm Subsidy Program" detailing the changing

Baker economic climate in the food and crop trade and how rising crop prices have made farmers less financially dependent on income from corn subsidization, I've come to a different conclusion. Until 2005 "corn average[d] roughly $2 a bushel year after year, and soybeans around $6. But corn now sells for about $7 a bushel...far above the subsidy program's target price of $2.63" (Kilman). This also means large increases in how much all corn products cost. This includes fuel, plastics, and the massive amount of processed foods that contain corn products. These price rises are all happening while there are tariffs on importing corn, and while subsidization is exclusively helping large farmers who are the only ones able lower their corn prices thanks to mass production monocultures. Kilman's article also questions if the benefactors still need this subsidization aid. The article details how the benefiting farmers have changed since the implementation of legislation encouraging corn production and how these changes make subsidization to the now "less than 1% of the population [that] is in farming" economically inefficient. One point that the article touches on is how both the rising demand and price of global grains is allowing farmers to become less dependent on corn subsidies, pointing out that "global grain markets shifted in 2006 when Washington began to require that the oil industry mix billions of gallons of corn-derived ethanol with gasoline annually" (Kilman). Mix billions of gallons of corn-derived ethanol into our gasoline? Why would we put corn-ethanol into our gas?

The NCGA claims that corn-based ethanol releases significantly less carbon emissions when burned than gasoline. However, this data may not take into account the process of making ethanol and all of the gases released during the production process, from the fertilizers used to grow the corn to the gasoline being burned to transport the fuel. For example, unlike gasoline, ethanol must be transported using trucks rather than through pipe lines because residual water found in pipelines dilutes and ruins ethanol.

After looking into this life cycle of corn-derived Ethanol I found David Pimentel's article "Corn Ethanol as Energy". Pimentel sheds some light on many issues not typically known or discussed around the production of ethanol in the U.S. Pimentel argues that when corn is produced in such large quantities

Baker to meet the huge demand of liquid fuel rather than the demand for hunger, the corn farmers benefit while the "economy, the environment, and the world suffers." (Pimentel)

Pimentel argues that the economy suffers when the government required the conversion of 33% of our corn crop from food use to ethanol production, which consequentially raised the price of "meat, milk, and eggs by 80 percent for the US consumer" and subsequently the rest of the world. However, this isn't so bad for corn growers who now also benefit from the massive consumption of liquid fuel in the US and subsequently from gas price regulation and tax breaks. This nearly forced consumption of ethanol by citizens also leaves them victims of supporting an industry responsible for some serious environmental degradation. In light terms, corn ethanol may not actually be helping sustainability. As it turns out, "A 2008 National Research Council report warned of a 'considerable' increase in damage to the gulf [dead zone] if ethanol production is increased" (Lochhead). This is because of the mass amounts of fertilizer run-off from corn monocultures. The now homogenous landscape of the northwest is leaving soils depleted of their natural nutrients requiring farmers to use excess fertilizer to yield thousands of pounds of corn per acre. High yield is good, but not when the consequences are as far reaching as the SF chronicle reports, "Around 1700 gallons of water are consumed for every gallon of corn ethanol produced. Corn is the number one cause of soil erosion in the United States and its overdependence on nitrogenous fertilizer, herbicides and insecticides is the prime reason of the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Yet, corn ethanol produces only 1.3 percent of nations total oil consumption, which, according to Prof. David Pimentel, entomology, defeats the purpose of energy sustainability". Pimentel commented on this point in an interview saying, "Suppose we converted 100% of the corn [into ethanol], it would provide us with 6% of our petroleum use in the US -- is that making us oil independent?" (Pimentel). In this interview Pimentel also referred to the report he released to the EPA detailing the same devastating environmental consequences. Pimentel said "after it was released by the Secretary of Energy, two congressmen from the corn belt didn't like what we said -- as you might expect -- and they had this investigated by GAO" even after having the study "reviewed by 26 top scientists in the United States"

Baker (Pimentel). As it turned out, the "GAO spent 20 times more money than we did producing the report and investigating us, and when GAO finally published their report...they concluded that we were 100% correct" (Pimentel). I feel that with this much backing behind Pimentel's finding I can be more confident in his reports than the NCGA's claims of ethanol's sustainability. So if ethanol's sustainability already been investigated, why is it still a debate? As it turns out, I found a report published by this year which tracked campaign contributions to corn corporations lobbying for more expansion of government support. In his article, "Senators Supporting Ethanol Subsidies Reap Riches From Corn Interests", Micheal Beckel provides a take on the politics of national corn production and reveals a very notable correlation between senators who receive campaign contributions from crop production companies and senators who vote and create legislation which support many of the same crop companies. One of the major players in legislation supporting ethanol production from corn is Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). In November 2010 a measure for the subsidization of corn was to expire, however Grassley roped up senators including Kit Bond (R-Mo), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), and Ben Nelson (D-Neb), who coincidentally all are from economically corn-dependent states, to sign on to a letter which opposed the expiration because "allowing the provisions to expire or remain expired would threaten jobs, harm the environment, weaken our renewable fuel industries and increase our dependence on foreign oil" (Beckel). Although ethanol production does create jobs, at this point basic science and observation has more than revealed that every positive component of ethanol production that Grassley mentions are false statements. It's also no secret that in Washington if a senator doesn't give their state's people what they want, they won't be re-elected into office. Because ethanol corn production has created somewhere between 15,000-20,000 jobs concentrated in several Midwestern states, it would be political suicide for these senators to oppose a proposition like this. This demonstrates these senators interests in prioritizing their individual jobs over the national environmental, political, and long-term sustainability interests. This can also be seen when looking back into these senator's campaign contributions. It's been found that since January 2005, Grassley has "received about $36,000 from the PACs of the Monsanto, POET LLC, Archer Daniels Midland, the National Corn Growers Association, Growth Energy and the

Baker Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, according to research by the Center for Responsive Politics" (Beckel). The other senators supporting the petition have also received "at least $20,000 to their campaign committees...from these same ethanol-supporting political action committees since January 2005" (Beckel). These statements of ethanol's "renewability" is a joke, being proven wrong many times over. So what gives? By supporting the addition of 40% of our corn crop into our fuel supply, It seems these senators have prioritized the jobs of their home state over the environment, national financial interest, and the price of grains worldwide. Corn is nutritious and is a very efficient crop. However, the second when an industry has to create a demand for it's product in order to be successful, it is doomed to be inefficient and wasteful. Without real need, this corn-ethanol industry is merely a facade to provide political figures the opportunity to artificially create jobs in their home states. The integration of corn products into our food system is also guilty of causing widespread disease and chemically induced environmental destruction. By doubling crop yields time and again, the US is also encouraging people in third world countries to use similar chemically destructive techniques in order to keep up with our production of corn, causing thousands of acres of rainforest to be deforested every year. Although there is no clear cut way to substitute corn's new massive role in our world, at the very least the truth of its inefficiencies must be brought to the forefront of public eye in order to begin slowing growth for it's demand and the consequences that follow it's production.

Baker Works Cited Beckel, Michael. Money in Politics -- See Who's Giving & Who's Getting. Rep. Open, 3 Jan. 2011. Web. 4 Nov. 2011. "Crop Prices Erode Farm Subsidy Program" Business News & Financial News - The Wall Street Journal Web. 10 Nov. 2011. Jalloh, Abubakar. "The Scientist: David Pimentel | The Cornell Daily Sun." The Cornell Daily Sun | Independent Since 1880. Web. 10 Nov. 2011. Lochhead, Carolyn. "Dead Zone in Gulf Linked to Ethanol Production." Editorial. SanFransisco Chronicle 5 July 2010. San Francisco Bay Area News, Sports, Business, Entertainment, Classifieds: SFGate. 27 June 2011. Web. 10 Nov. 2011. McWilliams, James E. Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly. New York: Little, Brown and, 2009. Print. National Corn Growers Association's Ethanol Roadmap. Publication. Web. 10 Nov. 2011. Pimentel, David. "Corn Ethanol as Energy". Harvard International Review Oct. 26, 2009. Pimentel, David. "Questions about Ethanol - Dr. David Pimentel of Cornell". Interview with Steven Gibson. Truth Driven Thinking. June 14, 2006. Podcast text found Online. Pollan, Michael. "Power Steer." Editorial. The New York Times Magazine 31 Mar. 2002. Michael Pollan. Web. 5 Nov. 2011.