Aug 242011
 
Authors: Justin Hill

One of the last things I ever find myself asking is, “Where did this hamburger come from?”

I first found the answer to this a few years ago in a wellness and fitness lecture at my previous college. Most people would never guess that it begins with the smallest, seemingly most insignificant of things: corn.

I find this to be very disconcerting. I feel as though we have been so far removed from the natural process of food production because of the deliberate veil that has been raised between the food consumer and the process of the production of said food.

It has come to the point that if something is labeled as food, we will put it into our mouths without hesitation.

Food production seems like such a simple notion in developed countries of the world because we as consumers are so far removed from the actual process. Yes, in my mind I understand that hamburger meat comes from cows and nuggets come from chicken, but I have noticed that we do not actually understand the path that our food takes from the factories and laboratories to our dinner plates.

Yes, you heard me right. Factories and laboratories.

When we walk through the super markets, we see “fresh” this and “farmer” that, but sadly, this is all an advertising hoax –– a façade. In reality, there are very few real farmers left in this country. There are actually about four major food producers today that control over 80 percent of the production market. Tyson, Perdue and Monsanto are just a few of these.

Monsanto, for those of you who have never seen the documentary “Food Inc.”, is a seed company that employs chemical engineers and biologists to work in laboratories to figure out ways to alter the simple make up of corn.

I would certainly say that this is interesting enough. I, personally, love corn, and if they can make it even better tasting, then I might be in support of their work. However, that is not Monsanto’s goal.

I recently read a study done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, which showed that in 1926, American farmers produced roughly two billion bushels of corn. That number increased exponentially to almost 14 billion bushels in 2006.

American farmers increased their production seven fold on that 80-year period. It seems a little high, even adjusted for the U.S population increase, which only tripled in that same amount of time.

But why do we need so much corn?

Corn has a very simple chemical makeup, allowing it to be easily altered to meet many kinds of chemical expectation. Food chemists, particularly those at Monsanto, have figured out a way to genetically alter corn so that when it is fed to animals, they grow at a much more rapid rate, and they grow to be much larger than what is natural.

For instance, when chickens eat this corn, they grow to be two times their normal size in roughly half the time.

Monsanto has since patented this strain of corn DNA, and it occupies a majority of the cornfields in America, giving this single company rapidly expanding unregulated control and ownership over a natural resource.

But, the most interesting part to me is this: When have you ever seen a cow eat corn? Or a chicken? Or better yet, a fish?

That’s right, even fish are being fed this genetically altered corn. It is not a natural food option for these animals and their stomachs are not trained to handle the chemical makeup of corn, much less the newly altered version.

So what is the point of all this? Why is it a problem?

Well, aside from the purely economic effects of having such an unregulated oligopoly controlling the food industry (an issue I will refrain from covering here for more than one reason), and aside from the animal cruelty displayed by the effects of feeding them this altered food, we are wasting a truly valuable resource.

I think if we were to allow these animals to eat and grow more naturally, rather than feeding them genetically altered corn, we could be using all of this corn to solve the serious hunger issue we have on this planet right now.

“Food Inc.” said that roughly one third of U.S agriculture is directed towards corn farming (again, a majority of which is owned by Monsanto). Just imagine the good we could do with all that food if it was left in the hands of the individual farmers and used to feed people, rather than wasting it on chemically altering animals.

Be conscious of what you eat, because it might not be as natural as you think.

Justin Hill is a junior journalism major, a poor college student, an anarchist blogger and a musician.

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