Where your junk food is grown

November 3rd, 2009  |  Published in Stumpblog  |  2 Comments

Given our recent discussion of GM food, here’s another spanner in the works: Let’s say we use GM to produce abundant, disease-resistant crops. OK, that sounds like a good start. But where might that GM material go? Healthier spinach? Shiny purple eggplants? Or stuff that we don’t actually need?

Author Margaret Webb explores one of the real reasons for good food shortages: Overproduction of crap.

From the Toronto Star:

Follow the flow of food. That’s what any farmer will tell you. Because apples don’t grow in supermarkets.

So to get to the root of the exploding obesity epidemic, I went in search of a junk food farm.

Such farms are not so easy to spot. No fields of Dorito bags waving in the breeze, no orchards blooming with soda pop, no soil bursting with 99-cent burgers.

What you do see are vast operations growing the raw materials for junk food: soybeans and corn.

The two crops go into the production of many things: pharmaceuticals, industrial products, animal feed – and inexpensive calories.

Tonnes of soybeans and corn are turned into “edible food-like substances,” as food system critic Michael Pollan calls them, used in virtually all processed foods, beverages and junk food.

Last year, Ontario farmers planted 2.4 million acres of soybeans and just over 2 million acres of corn. That’s nearly half of all cropland in the province, a near-colonization of Ontario farms by the soy and corn industry.

It has provided an abundance of cheap calories for a food system that operates by Doritos economics. A bushel of corn produces some 440 two-ounce bags of 99-cent chips. Farmer grosses $3.70 for the bushel of corn, Doritos more than $440.

Full story


  1. R-Jud says:

    November 11th, 2009at 4:49 pm(#)

    So do you guys have the crazy system of farm subsidies up there that we Yanquis have? Our subsidies overwhelmingly favor corn, wheat, and soy producers (see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agricultural_subsidy#United_States).

    This is part of the reason we end up having veggies and fruit flown in from places like Kenya and New Zealand: US farmers could grow that stuff, but they prefer not to since they don’t get cash money from Uncle Sam for it. This is also why corn chips are so much cheaper than, say, bell peppers.

    I hear the Obama administration is looking into reforming this system, right after they bring peace to the Middle East and stop global warming and give everyone in America socialist health care and a pony.

  2. Mistress Krista says:

    November 12th, 2009at 6:02 am(#)

    R-Jud: We have subsidies but they are somewhat different. I’d love to say that industry isn’t sleeping with government as closely in Canada as they are in the US, but there’s definitely a relationship. On the other hand, it’s more like a FWF arrangement than a longstanding dysfunctional marriage.

    Industry here is doing remarkably stupid shit like closing down fruit canneries in Niagara. So, let’s see. Fruit is grown in Niagara. But apparently it’s more cost effective to close the cannery literally next door to the orchard, and thus ship the fruit from the orchard across the border, can it, then ship it back. In the previous arrangement you could probably have had people just walk the fruit to the cannery.

    Interestingly we often take heat from the US. The War on Drugs maniacs were all up in our shit because we wanted to grow industrial hemp. The hand-wringers enacted legislation to ensure that we couldn’t grow hemp within a certain distance from a school, as if small children were going to run into the fields and smoke leaves with a nonexistent THC content.

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