“For the first time in American history our generation will have a shorter lifespan than our parents, because of what we ate” (Cheney 5). The documentary King Corn directed by Aaron Woolf, starring college friends Ian Cheney and Curtis (Curt) Ellis, brings us along as they discover if there is any truth behind the saying you are what you eat.
Ian and Curt begin at the University of Virginia, where they visit Steve Macko in his isotope geochemistry lab for some tests he will run on their hair follicles. The reveal is that they are mostly made of corn! But not the type of corn one would first think: this corn is a genetically modified and inedible corn used strictly as a raw material to make products like high fructose corn syrup, ethanol, and livestock feed. Ian and Curt find a common bind between them: they are both descendants from the small town Greene, Iowa. There is where they obtain just one acre of land on Chuck Pyatt’s farm to plant their own genetically modified corn, a strain called “Yellow Daph.” They receive plenty of advice and help from the locals at every step of the process. The two learn that they will be paid by the government to plant and harvest their crop; they will also be paid to lose money on their harvest. The government subsidies pay the farmers for the expected loss each farmer will take by producing their crop. Ian and Curt were now part of the industrialized farming era where, as Michael Pollan states, the government rewards overproduction of cheap corn. King Corn shows 1973 footage then Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz when he lifted the limits off farmers and encouraged them to overproduce corn.
Ian and Curt realize prior to harvest the numbers game that is at play when one is a corn farmer. Ian explains that their one acre will produce about ten thousand pounds of corn and of that thirty-two percent will become ethanol, four hundred and ninety pounds will become high fructose corn syrup, and the remaining--more than...
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