As we continue our exploration of the changes in the food industry this week, I am grateful for the comment of one woman, Stephanie, who remarked on the last post that there are many hard-working, good-hearted people working in this field to provide feasible solutions for the many challenges of agriculture and food production. It reminded me of the perspective that the producers of another food documentary, "King Corn," introduced toward the end of their film: that many of these changes that we may regret now were introduced with the good intentions of feeding more at a lower cost. Thus, on this topic, we need to follow the Scriptural injunctions to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19), because the one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him (Proverbs 18:17).
"King Corn" is about how corn has become the staple of our diet, because its by-products are in nearly everything we eat. It is an important subject to understand because it may be a key factor in some of the dominant public health issues of recent decades. The filmmakers obviously have a concern about this widespread mutation in our food consumption, but they do include a poignant scene at the end of the film with former Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz, who was obviously proud of what he had introduced in the early '70s. In an editorial last year, the filmmakers write about this scene and the juxtaposition of perspectives:
Dr. Butz recounted the birth of the modern food system with pride. Cheap food, fueled by federal production incentives for corn and soy, had quieted protests over expensive meat and eased worries about hunger. It had untied the hands of entrepreneurial farmers who wanted to experiment with economies of scale. And, in a point Dr. Butz returned to several times, it had left Americans with so much disposable income that even kids my age could afford cars. At his alma mater, Purdue University, there was a parking shortage.
For the better part of an hour, Ian and I tried to muster up the courage to challenge a system that spent, from 1995 to 2005 alone, $51 billion subsidizing cheap corn. Why flood the nation with processed commodities that become fast food? Why drive family farms out of business for the sake of grain companies? Why not subsidize fruits and vegetables in place of corn syrup?
But as our meeting went on, I realized that Dr. Butz’s policies of abundance were somehow understandable. When Earl Butz finished college in 1933, it was the middle of the Great Depression; when Ian and I graduated, it was the obesity epidemic. I had never known scarcity, and had little respect for its power.
That's well-stated and it's just one of the many viewpoint conflicts that surround the issue of food. Therefore, I am recommending that you join me as I continue to educate myself on this subject and watch "King Corn." It is available on DVD, from iTunes, and is streaming for free from Netflix. Below is low-quality version of the trailer. If you want a better quality version, click here.