Monday, July 2, 2012

At Least We All Agree on the Facts...Or Do We?

"Did you know that only about 1 percent of the corn we grow is eaten as corn?  The rest works its way into our food supply in other ways, such as animal feed or sweetener, or is used for industrial purposes like making fuel for cars."
If you think the above quote might have come from Michael Pollan or Marion Nestle or someone else known for criticizing our country's agricultural system, you're in for an eyebrow raise.  It's from something called the "Fact Book" on the website of the Corn Famers Coalition.

It's bragging.

The Corn Famers Coaltion has been around since 2009 in an effort "to educate policy-makers in Washington about how tech-savvy, innovative farmers are growing more corn every year...while using fewer resources and protecting the environment." The website is peppered with Rockwell-esque pictures and anecdotes of fifth-generation family farmers who are just so passionate about growing the plants that feed our country.  The coalition sees it as a good thing that technology continues to raise the number of bushels per acre that a single farm can grow, and that it continues to create demand to meet the supply.

It felt like I was reading the story of a rag-tag band of ingenious heroes who used their intelligence and dedication to persevere in the face of adversity.  They saw that their farming techniques were just too good, that they were producing too much and so they went to work finding ways for their fellow hard-working, family-loving Americans to be nourished in more and more ways by this wonderful crop.

It doesn't address why, instead of just, I don't know, growing a different plant, they instead choose to put all this technology into creating spaces for corn where there previously weren't any. I mean, I like dessert as much as the next person, but does everything have to be sweetened?  Even salad dressing?  Even ketchup?

The Corn Farmers Coalition doesn't just take pride in how much corn they grow, but how good the quality is.  They applaud American ingenuity for perfecting the technique of cross-breeding corn plants in order to produce a harvest with desirable traits.

The issue of genetic modification is suspiciously missing from the twenty-four page Fact Book.

Of course, there are some "facts"- like that claim from the coalition's mission statement that it somehow protects the environment- which are debatable at best, but before I get to that in a later post, I want to hear from you: Is picking one thing we're really good at growing and putting it in everything really such a bad idea? Is proudly admitting to many of the things for which they've been criticized and putting them in a new light a brilliant marketing move on the part of the corn farmers?  What else would you like to ask the Corn Farmers Coalition if you could?

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