Corn: The Husk of Humanity

Pollan M. 2006. The Omnivores Dilemma. The Penguin Press, New York, NY. 15 – 120 p.

Corn. Corn. Everything is corn. Corn is in our meat. Corn is in our drinks. Heck, corn is in almost every dietary product known to man. As a plant on an evolutionary scale, corn has done extremely well for itself; it has garnered the adoration of the most manipulative species on the earth, and in doing so has made us so dependent on the crop that we will incessantly propagate the grass until it overwhelms us. Michael Pollan’s book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, preaches a litany of corn’s prowess, it’s power, and it’s ability to co-evolve with humans to such an extent that I no longer can find a single semi-processed product that doesn’t contain some fraction of corn within it’s ingredient list. Our dependence, our obsession, with corn has led to a vast overproduction of the product. Nowadays, corn is in such abundance that we’ve taken to making it a commodity, a currency: something that’s traded, bought and sold like an everyday appliance. A food product that is no longer food, which has become something foreign, something ephemeral, a cash deposit made of starch and sunlight.

Farmers are forced to print more and more corn from their nutrient-deprived fields. Propelled forward by government levies and abundant fertilizers, humans generate millions, if not billions of bushels of corn. The environmental damage is innumerable; fertilizer is synthesized with petroleum products, pumped improperly onto fields, and leaches into waterways, causing biological catastrophes throughout the land. The food we eat, all this “corn with a side of corn” is no better for us as humans. The abundance of wasted calories is shunted into our soft drinks, our fries, our salad dressings, and our meat. All this surplus afflicts us with illness, for this burgeoning food-commodity entity fills our plates with excess: excess calories from the grains and excess portions from the money-hungry corporations looking to squeeze every last drop of profit from their starchy currency. Heart disease, diabetes and our waistlines exponentially increase as we are continually fed more and more food from this crop, unbeknownst to us, of course. Who would think that all that added sugar, xanthan gum, starch, and vitamin isolates were all coming from the same plant? No one, that’s who. No one, that is, except Michael Pollan.

Pollan brilliantly brings to light these issues, this twisted economy centred around our co-dependence: our co-evolution with corn. “Indeed, the linoleum and fibreglass and adhesives out of which [this] building itself has been built – is no small measure a manifestation of corn.”

“And us?”

It’s an odd thing, to think that we are all simply “Corn Walking”, but that is what the world has moved to. We are humans controlled by a green master, seed stem and husk moving our bodies and minds with its sugary polysaccharide strings.






One Comment Add yours

  1. rhustox says:

    It really is quite shocking just how much of our food supply is reliant on corn. Your writing style properly articulates just how dominant Zea mays is in our world. It’s really quite hard to envision our society without this plant, and your methods of properly assessing it’s authority over us as a society is explained very persuasively.


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