We Are What We Eat – Michael Pollan | Center for Ecoliteracy


I’ve read a few articles decrying the US overproduction of corn, and they never fail to depress the hell out of me. There are solutions to this problem, but it seems all are too intrenched in their ways (or their political grovelling) to make the first step towards tough-love. A must-read, if not a happy one.

Before you go out and sue McDonald’s over the size of your waistline, consider that overproduction of cheap corn is government policy. It’s done in the name of the public interest, using our taxpayer dollars. American taxpayers subsidize every bushel of industrial corn produced in this country, at a cost of some four billion dollars a year (out of a total of 19 billion dollars in direct payments to farmers).

But before you blame subsidies for all these problems keep in mind that agricultural overproduction is an ancient problem that long predates subsidies. In any other business, when the price of the commodity you’re selling falls, the smart thing to do is to curtail production until demand raises prices. But farmers don’t do that, because there are so many of them, and because they all operate as individuals, without any coordination. So when prices fall farmers actually expand production, in order to keep their cash flow from falling. This economically and environmentally disastrous phenomenon has resulted in an increase in the American corn harvest from four billion to ten billion bushels since the 1970s.

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