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Using Data

Here’s a Toast… and Corn

By June 1, 2010 2 Comments
King Korn: You Are What You Eat
Image by elycefeliz via Flickr

I had good times with my family this Memorial Day weekend. I am deeply thankful for all that has been given to me as a result of my service, and used the time to hang out with and remember old friends.

Remembering is important.

I also used the time to catch up on some movie watching, and one documentary in particular got me thinking a bit. If you haven’t seen it already, then you should definitely check out: King Corn.

The Story

Two friends find out that they both have great grandparents from the same town in Iowa. They decide to farm an acre of corn in the town together and film the process, whereby the audience learns about the positive and negative effects of U.S. agricultural policy

the good We have cheap food. What I really liked about the film was that they were able to interview the man who created the system of cheap food in the 1970s, Earl Butz. And it was obvious that in the interview he was still convinced that he had done the right thing for his country. Earl Butz had grown up in a time when food was labor intensive and expensive, and he had lived to see the day where Americans only needed to spend roughly 15% of their annual incomes on feeding themselves.

the bad Recent studies imply that cheap food may be causing an obesity epidemic across the nation, as American’s over consume things high in high fructose corn syrup due to its abundance and affordability.

The Takeaway

Politics aside, I think that the fascinating part of this storyline is that by solving one particular problem, the need for affordable food, we may (or may not) have created an entirely new problem, an addiction to sweets that causes health issues.

I get that it has taken some time to even see the symptoms of health problems that may be associated with the 1970s policy change… However, it seems to me that there is enough of a connection between the two areas: agriculture and health, to warrant more of a conversation than this about the two together.

I’m not saying abolish corn, because I don’t know if that is the answer. I am saying let’s break down the silos and really try to understand the network effects of policy decisions as we continue to make them. We can really only do this by connecting data together.

What do you think?

[Disclaimer Alert: I work for Humana, a health insurance company. However, the thoughts above are my own and do not reflect the thoughts of Humana.]


  • nickhuhn says:

    After watching Food Inc. and working for one of the food companies that calls its patrons “users” I'm doing a much better job of vetting what I eat. When a burger costs less than a banana, something (usually govt policy / subsidy) is just WRONG.

  • Tricia says:

    Have you seen Food, Inc. Cheap food has worldwide consequences in addition to our obesity and immigration problems caused by it. I'm with nickhuhn — I'm now doing a much better job of watching what I'm eating and where I'm buying it.