Welcome All! I'm a dreamer, I hope you are too! A Posse ad Esse, or From possibility to reality, is a general state of mind. I hope you'll share your possibilities with me as I will with you. Namaste~

May 22, 2007

Omnivores Dilemma Reply

Crunchy Chicken has been sponsoring a book club reading the Omnivores Dilemma by Micheal Pollan. She asked some questions to spur the debate, and I hope to continue it here. The following are my answers to here questions as I have finished the chapters.

1. Before reading the first chapter, did you know how pervasive corn and its byproducts were in the foods we eat?
The short Answer is No, I didn’t. I mean I’m no dummy but I really had no idea how pervasive it was. To be honest I was a little shocked.

2. In chapter 2, Michael Pollan claims that modern monoculture corn farming is basically the conversion of fossil fuels into corn, where it takes around 50 gallons of oil per acre of corn. He also states than it takes more than 1 calorie of fossil fuel energy to produce 1 calorie of food energy for animal consumption. Do you think that the price of corn and its byproducts should more accurately reflect the true costs of production? Are you willing to pay significantly more to make up for this discrepancy down the line?
Yes and No. Yes, I think that the cost of corn should reflect accurately what it costs to produce it. This is not necessarily because I want to discourage the fossil fuel usage so much as it is because I want to encourage the change of diet from one of nothing but corn derivatives to one that is more nature based and healthier. I am willing to pay more for food down the line, but I would add the caveat that in paying more for food, I hope to be doing it by paying a premium to local farmers that are raising healthy crops be those corn or others.

3. In chapter 3, we find out that 1/3 of all the corn grown in the U.S. is sold to a select few companies, Cargill being one of the biggest (as well as the biggest privately held corporation in the world). These companies also are the biggest winners regarding government subsidies. Do you feel that this should change, or that the subsidies help out the right people?
I am really not a proponent of government subsidies. I think that in the long run, someone is paying for it somehow. The farmers have now become slave to the Dept. of Agriculture subsidies, and we have become slave to a falsely low price for the foods we buy. I look at them in the same way that I do with welfare checks. Unfortunately we humans are a lot like water in that we will always tend to find the path of least resistance. If someone will pay you for a certain behavior, (raising corn, or not working) the majority of people will continue that behavior until it is unsustainable to do otherwise.

4. Chapter 4 exposes the problems with feeding corn to livestock animals that never used to eat it. The benefits are many -- cheap feed, faster growth to market. And, in regards to beef, feeding corn results in a flesh that marbles nicely (as well as in those that eat the beef in turn :). Do the benefits outweigh drawbacks such as increased animal sickness, issues with the feedlot environment (overcrowding, filthy conditions)?
This chapter honestly made me really ill. I was astonished at the denial I have been in with regard to commercial meat production. I certainly don’t think that the benefits outweighed the drawbacks. I can’t say enough about this, really, it was abhorrent.

5. In chapter 5, we learn that wet milling of corn for human consumption requires 10 calories of fossil fuel energy burned for every 1 calorie of food produced. The differential is enormous, yet with farm subsidies, the big winners are, again, the manufacturers. For example, it costs approximately 4 cents of commodity corn to product one box of cereal, yet you pay $4 for the processed food. Is this fair? Is it possible that the manufacture of cereal costs that much more than the materials themselves for this sort of margin? Or do you think the consumer is getting fleeced?
I am Mid chapter and will update this post with my responses upon completing it.

6. Chapter 6 states that the farm bills were designed to keep the river of cheap corn flowing, thereby guaranteeing that the cheapest calories will continue to be the unhealthiest. Based on what you've read in this section, will you do anything to change this (e.g. contact your legislators towards creating an equitable farm bill, avoiding or limiting your consumption of these products, etc.)?7. Is it a bad thing that we have become a "race of corn eaters", or do you think, in the grand scheme of things, it really matters whether or not we are "corn chips with legs"?
I will update this post with my responses upon completing it.

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