Food is a contentious subject, with debates ranging from what is nutritious, how it is made, whether it is eaten in abundance or not, and whether it is available to all people. Even though the United States is one of the few countries with a surplus of food, there are still food security concerns. According to Pollan’s book Omnivore’s Dilemma, the American food market is divided into four food chains: commercial, industrial organic, locally sustainable, and hunter-gatherer (Pollan, 5). The use of corn as an example best exemplifies the industrial meal. The ability of infusion of corn into most food products from oils, farm feed, soft drinks, and even to non-food items such as toothpaste and batteries is simply amazing. The value of corn to the United States is invaluable and as a result there are cultural and political economic principles that come into effect. This paper seeks to analyze the industrial chain and determine the effect it has on cultural and political economic principles.
The first cultural effect that corn had on the United States is that it enabled the slave trade as it was paid for by corn (Berry, 5). Further, corn is grown in plantations requiring high input of labor which was easily accessible by use of African slaves. Today, although the growth of corn has been highly mechanized, a lot of labor is still needed which brings in the issue of cheap labor mostly sourced from Mexican workers who are not covered by unions. Today, there are a high number of African Americans and Mexicans living in the United States, a population that has invariably had an impact on the American culture.
The economic effects of the use of corn are far and wide; in essence, corn is the most grown crop in the United States (Munoz, 17). The application of corn in various capacities both as a food item and non-food item means that corn has a multi-effect on various industries. The fact that most farm feeds are based on corn means that indirectly, one still consumes corn. The manufacture of oil from corn to the production of soft drinks with corn implies that most of the food intake is composed of corn whether directly or indirectly. Whether it is supermarket products to a variety of foods in the restaurant, the use of corn is a major component.
The most ironic part of the growth of corn in the United States is that although its a food, it is rarely used as such and mostly covers other industry productions such as ethanol (Berry, 9). The growth of corn receives the most subsidies from United States compared to other crops showing a vast interest of the political class with the crop.
Pollans book, The Omnivores Dilemma had a profound effect on my eating habits. The fact that potatoes were grown using such strong chemicals as pesticides means that despite them being cleared for human consumption, one would inevitably consume the chemicals. This realization was startling given that I have a weakness in indulging in fast foods and that despite the high calorie intake, there is the risk of consuming very harmful chemicals, which are detrimental to my health. Further, Pollans analysis of the food market and the startling revelation of the high variety of products that contain corn made me question the nutritional value of it all.
Berry, Wendell. The unsettling of America: Culture & agriculture. Counterpoint, (2015):1-10
Muñoz, Carolina Bank. Transnational tortillas: Race, gender, and shop-floor politics in Mexico and the United States. Cornell University Press, (2016): 15-55
Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: Young Readers Edition. Penguin, (2009):1-19