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They're Made Out Of Corn

Earlier tonight I was looking at Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, a book tracing where our food comes from. That page links to a chapter 1 PDF which probably includes what I'm going to pass on: Americans are made out of corn (maize).

Oh, sure, the bread and pasta are wheat, and the french fries are potatoes, and the fruit and veggies, if any, are themselves. But most else is corn. Beef? Cows fed on corn. Pork, chicken? Raised on corn. Milk, cheese? Ditto. The french fries are cooked in corn oil. The cheeseburger (melted corn on grilled corn, in a sesame-seed bun) is washed down with Corno-Cola (corn syrup.) Lots of the random food chemicals -- triglycerides, say -- come from corn. If you try to be healthy on the cheap and eat farmed salmon then that too might have been fed on corn. Having a beer? Might be fermented from corn glucose. Chicken nuggets: corn breaded in corn, and fried in corn. Even the protective wax on the fruits... corn.

And it shows up. Corn happens to use C-4 carbon fixation, a different photosynthetic pathway than our other food plants (C-3), which means a different carbon isotope ratio (C13/C12), which shows up in animals which eat C-4 or C-3 plants. Americans are more corny than Mexicans, who get 40% of their calories from corn tortillas, but don't waste sacred (well, to the Indians, probably just expensive now) corn on livestock..

Does this *matter*? I don't know, I didn't read that far. But he seemed to be making a point that the apparent diversity of our supermarkets was, outside the produce section, largely based on one species. Which is poor taste in an omnivore...

Random funny quote: "Maize is self-fertilized and wind-pollinated, botanical terms that don’t begin to describe the beauty and wonder of corn sex."

is a Frontline interview with him, where he talks about all the problems corn causes for cows, from needing antibiotics to bloat to liver damage, as well as the problem for us of lethal E. coli strains in the shit caking the cow's hide at slaughter.

The Journey of Number 534.

Pollan vs. Singer's utilitarianism and animal rights.

Tangent: he mentions that "corned beef" is from the old sense of corn, any grain, even grains of salt. (A dictionary I checked has the phrase "to corn gunpowder", to granulate it.)



Damien Sullivan

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January 2018


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