Saturday, October 18, 2014

Corn questions from 'Food, Inc.' worksheet

I concluded Corn for fuel, a story I tell my students with a program note that my students who read this blog will appreciate.
On the subject of corn, I showed "Food, Inc." to my students this week.  Stay tuned for a post about the questions about corn from my worksheet for that movie.
Follow over the jump for the questions about corn from my worksheet for Food, Inc. as well as answers to them.

7. How many bushels/acre of corn were grown 100 years ago in the U.S.?  How many now?  Who does Michael Pollan credit for this increase?

In the spirit of a picture being worth 1000 words, here's a graph from Purdue University.

It's not quite 20 to 200, which is the figure Pollan says in the film, but it gets the point across.  As for who is responsible, Pollan credits breeders and chemical companies, specifically the manufacturers of fertilizers and pesticides.

8. How much of the land base of the U.S. is planted in corn?

According to the film, 30%.  Here's a map that supports that figure.

9. How did corporations and government encourage the production of corn?

Lobbying and subsidies.  I don't have a good graphic for lobbying, but I do have one for which crops received subsidies from the federal government.  Corn is number one by far.

10. Name at least five products made from corn.  Which one did you find the most surprising?

The graphic I included in the original post doesn't display, but here it is from another source.

Just to reinforce the point, here is another graphic showing all the chemicals that can be make from corn starch.

This list impresses my students every semester.

11. How did the growing of cheap corn make cheap meat possible?

If feed is cheap, then so is the meat from the animals fed by it.  Cheap corn (and soybeans) act like a subsidy and appears to be treated as one in this image.

In terms of direct subsidies, the effect is less striking, but still apparent.

13. How did the feeding of corn to cattle along with other raising and slaughtering practices lead to evolution and spread of a dangerous strain of E. coli?

Corn makes cattle stomachs acidic, which promotes strains of E. coli that are pathogens in humans.  These strains can then survive passage through human stomachs.  For my students who missed it the first time, here's the segment from the film.

16. How could cattle growers reduce E. coli in cattle?  How do they reduce E. coli in meat instead?

Feed them grass for the last week before slaughtering instead of corn.  Nature knows best.

Instead, the meat is sprayed with ammonia.  Yum.

23.What effects did production of cheap corn have on the corn farmers of Mexico?  List at least two.

First, drive them out of business.  Next, the unemployed farmers immigrated to the U.S. without documentation.  Again, I present the relevant segment from the movie: Food, Inc. - Food Industry Benefits From Illegal Immigration.

That's it for this installment.  For other entries that might have answers, Monsanto wins gene patent case partially answers questions 26 and 27, a comment to CNN and Russia Today cover the March Against Monsanto gives a complete answer to 27, and the photos in the original post about the worksheet include hints to more.


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