Great column from George Will on the dangers of our corn-based agriculture system:
During World War II, when meat, dairy products and sugar were scarce, heart disease plummeted. It rebounded when rationing ended. “When you adjust for age,” Pollan writes, “rates of chronic diseases like cancer and type 2 diabetes are considerably higher today than they were in 1900.” Type 2 diabetes — a strange epidemic: one without a virus, bacteria or other microbe — was called adult-onset diabetes until children began getting it. Now it is a $100 billion-a-year consequence of, among other things, obesity related to a corn-based diet, which is partly because steaks and chops have pushed plants off the plate…
Corn, which covers 125,000 square miles of America — about the size of New Mexico — fattens 100 million beef cattle and at least that many bipeds. Much of the river of cheap corn becomes an ocean of high-fructose corn syrup, which by 1984 was sweetening Coke and Pepsi. Disposing of the corn also requires passing it through animals’ stomachs. Corn, together with pharmaceuticals and other chemicals — a Pollan axiom: “You are what what you eat eats, too” — has made it profitable to fatten cattle on feedlots rather than grass, cutting by up to 75 percent the time from birth to slaughter. Eating corn nourished by petroleum-based fertilizers, a beef cow consumes almost a barrel of oil in its lifetime.
And, of course, we’re all paying to subsidize the corn business — part of the Department of Agriculture’s 70s-era price control scheme. So, we’re spending money to encourage the consumption of a product that is making us all unhealthy. Only in America.