Corn Cob up yers

Err, well, a euphemism from my yout', meaning an uptight person. Anyway, Michael Pollan's anti-corn screed is getting mucho sympathetic press. We'll probably read it this summer. Don't forget that ADM[*see below] is a big recipient of farm subsidies, and a big manufacture of high fructose corn syrup, another plague upon our nation (and many other nations as well).

Michael Pollan
Michael Pollan

Capitalism on the Cob - New York Times
Capitalism on the Cob By DAN MITCHELL MICHAEL POLLAN'S new book, “The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals,” describes a nation that is the victim of “a plague of corn.” The No. 1 legal crop is “the perfect capitalist plant,” he said on “Fresh Air” on NPR this week.

About a third of Mr. Pollan's book is taken up with corn. It is the “keystone species” of the “industrial food chain” that feeds most of us, he said in an interview with

America, Mr. Pollan says, has “a national eating disorder.” To describe it, the book traces the creation of four meals: one “industrial,” two “organic,” and one procured by the author himself as a “hunter-gatherer.”

There are problems with each, but the industrial meal, not surprisingly, is the most troublesome. He traces it from an Iowa cornfield to its final form — fast food scarfed down in a moving car.

All along that journey, corn wreaks havoc. The overuse of nitrogen fertilizers leads to occasional “blue baby” alerts in Des Moines warning parents that nitrate-loaded tap water could render their babies' brains unable to receive oxygen. Those same fertilizers flow down the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico, where they seasonally create a “dead zone” the size of New Jersey that is dangerous to sea life.

By virtue of its being “paved over” with corn, Iowa is, in its way, the most developed state in the country, he told NPR. On the market, corn is cheap, Mr. Pollan points out. But the costs — to the environment, to the economy, and to the health care system — are enormous.

“We eat so much corn that, biologically speaking, most Americans are corn on two legs,” Bonnie Azab Powell, a journalist, wrote on NewsCenter site of the University of California, Berkeley

previous coverage
Dead Zone
Genetic Engineering
Cannabinoid Moment

[*The Archer Daniels Midland company, super-briber to the political world, was involved in the most publicized corporate crime of 1996. Caught in a sting by Justice Department investigators, A.D.M., the planet's largest grain processor, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to fix prices for two products: lysine, a feed supplement for livestock, and citric acid, used in soft drinks and detergents...

Along with a bargain fine, Archer Daniels got a sweetheart deal: In exchange for pleading guilty and promising to help the Justice Department in its expanding investigation, A.D.M. was granted immunity against charges of price-fixing in the sale of high-fructose corn syrup, which, along with the corn-derived fuel ethanol, is A.D.M.'s leading product.

Also part of the deal was Justice's promise that its investigators wouldn't even bother to interview Dwayne Andreas, 78, who as chairman and chief executive has for decades treated A.D.M. as his personal fiefdom. His 47-year-old son, executive vice president and former heir apparent Michael Andreas, having been secretly taped in a price-fixing conversation with an Asian “competitor,” was indicted for conspiracy; at the very least, his career at A.D.M. is over. But old man Andreas once again proved himself to be a masterful escape artist. Could this talent possibly be explained by the more than $4 million he and his family and A.D.M. have given to Washington politicians since the seventies, most notably Kansas Republican Bob Dole (in return for billions of dollars in subsidies)? It also didn't hurt the elder Andreas's chances of getting special treatment that he personally donated $155,000 to the Democratic Party in 1993 and $100,000 in 1994, and was co-chairman of a dinner that raised $3.5 million for Clinton's presidential campaign in 1992.

Over the years his generosity has sometimes been suspect. He was acquitted of giving Hubert Humphrey an illegal $100,000 contribution in 1968; he slipped a thousand $100 bills into the Nixon White House in 1972, the year in which the term “money-laundering” entered the nation's vocabulary; and in that same season, a $25,000 check from Andreas somehow sneaked into the bank account of a Watergate burglar. But the old man has never tripped badly enough to earn a criminal record--except in 1993, when he and his wife paid an $8,000 fine for exceeding federal limits on political contributions.

Considering that it operates in one of the world's most piratical industries, A.D.M. has, like Andreas himself, led a charmed life, suffering only a couple of legal wounds: a 1978 conviction for fixing prices on grain sold to the Food for Peace program and a no-contest plea in 1976 to the charge of short-weighting and misgrading corn for export.

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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on April 15, 2006 11:29 AM.

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