Documentary Film: King Corn
Aaron Woolf’s film documentary King Corn is about the industrialization of corn in the U.S. In the film, two recent college graduates, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, move to the Corn Belt in rural Iowa for a year to grow an acre of corn. They take us through a complete growing season, harvest, and post harvest—following the corn through distribution, and all the products that corn is an ingredient. They mirror the local corn farmers through the entire corn producing process, from buying seed to using powerful herbicides and pesticides provided by government subsidies and selling their corn to industrial factory farms who use it as feed for cattle, where it ultimately ends up–in our fast food chains.
To reveal how omnipresent corn has become in our bodies, Cheney and Ellis conduct a lab analysis of hair strands, since “hair is a virtual tape recorder of what we eat.” They find that corn is highly predominant in the hair strands largely because high-fructose corn syrup is in the vast majority of packaged and processed foods, canned foods, salad dressings, breads, yogurt, frozen foods, and sodas today–and is in our corn-fed beef and dairy today as well. So eating meat and dairy now is about eating corn and soy, not the natural ruminant diet of grass and plants.
This is a fascinating documentary that tells the truth about how politicized corn has become between farmers, ranchers, industry lobbyists, big agriculture corporations and the U.S. government. Much of what drove this agricultural shift to industrializing corn was the “ability to produce a cheap food supply that allowed us to have more money to spend on other areas of our lives,” says Earl Butz, Agriculture Secretary in the 70s who promoted industrializing agriculture. Within a few years, the U.S. government dramatically changed our food policy from one of small and medium family farms across the country to one run by a few large corporations encouraging maximum crop growth and yield using monoculture crops, and one in particular—yellow dent corn.
Putting this yellow dent corn on fast-track production in the U.S. drastically lowered corn prices, increased yields, and quickly caused an enormous surplus oversupply of yellow dent corn on the market, that is still here today. This overproduction of one type of corn forced farmers and food scientists to look at new ways to use our surplus corn. Small, multi-generational farmers were forced to sell their land over the past few decades to large industrial corporations growing massive quantities of corn in their quest to produce a government subsidized cheap crop. Increasingly, they have consumed more and more U.S. land to produce the crop. The use of herbicides, pesticides and insecticides has increased over the years in order to continue growing this monoculture crop that has been destroying top soil, since crop rotation is no longer used that kept soil healthy. Massive fertilizers have been required to propagate the depleted top soil, contaminating the environment.
Over 60 percent of our U.S. corn (and soy) crop today is going to feed cattle on huge industrial factory farms to “fatten and finish” them, instead of feeding people directly. Using corn and soy feed has allowed corporations to consolidate cattle to small, concentrated feedlot spaces. However, cows are ruminant animals and need a diet of grass and plants to keep them healthy. Feeding them corn and a grain-based diet has caused severe health problems for them, as they cannot digest corn and grains, so they live with severe acidosis, intestinal ulcers, bowel loops, and severe gastric distress–often to the point of making the cows completely immobile. Not to mention they live in severe and chronic pain as a result of a corn and grain-based diet. In fact, corn is so harmful to their intestines on these factory farms that now beef cattle are slaughtered in a shorter period than ever before–less than 6 months after coming to the feedlots. Antibiotics are necessary to control the gastric illnesses so prevalent on factory farms, but the antibiotics have a secondary benefit for these corporations–they work to increase the size and weight of beef cattle in a short period of time. In the U.S. 70% of all antibiotics today are used for livestock, leaving only 30% to treat humans. And with this corn-based diet—meat and dairy today is now 65% fat.
This powerful film highlights the negative impact mass-producing yellow dent corn has had on the health of Americans since the 1970s, including the explosion of obesity and diabetes from corn-based products; the increase of metabolic diseases from high-fructose corn syrup and animal fat; the buy-out of small family and multi-generational farms by large corporations to grow single mono crops to feed livestock; the increased use of herbicides, pesticides and insecticides in the U.S. due to growing monoculture crops (corn, soy); the high amount of fertilizer needed to prop up depleted soil; the extinction of over 300 corn varieties for one single variety (yellow dent corn) that is considered a poor variety of corn; the agricultural waste of food/land caused by the U.S. government subsidizing of corn instead of land that could be used to grow a wide diversity of crops; land used to grow corn/grain/soy for animal feed, instead could be used to feed people directly—this is the cost of our “cheap” beef and hamburger meat.
Produced by: Mosaic Films, Inc.
Documentary Filmmaker: Aaron Woolf
Full Length Film: www.kingcorn.net
For more about the movie: www.kingcorn.net