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Michael Pollan's excellent Omnivore's Dilemma, ISBN-13 978-1594200823, features an anecdote about the Mayans early on in the first chapter. The Maya word that referred to themselves and their civilization was "corn walker," and often you hear Chicanos and other Mexican indigenous peoples using that term on themselves even today. But Pollan points out that in fact North Americans are truly corn, walking. The reason we know this is because corn is particularly greedy when it comes fixing carbon, especially carbon-13, from the atmosphere, which leaves a nice carbon trail throughout the food chain; to wit, our carbon-13 to carbon ratios in body mass often exceed persons with corn visibly more abundant in their diets (eg, the bulk of the average Mexican's diet consists of tortillas, tamales, things fried in corn batter, drinks made with corn, etc). But a more thorough look at the diet of a typical American reveals a food landscape overwhelmed with corn: high fructose corn syrup, corn emulsifiers, modified food starches, corn-based vitamin supplements (some which even enrich bleached white flour!) and perhaps most insidiously, livestock feed. And everywhere corn is, so goes carbon-13.

One resource that corn uses in abundance to fix carbon-13 and create carbohydrates and some proteins is nitrogen, which was found in the soil abundantly only 100 years ago. Since corn taxes the nitrate levels of soil, traditional multi-purpose farming would rotate in crops capable of fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere. Carbon is abundant and easy to fix from gas, nitrogen is not as easy to fix and is more scare than carbon in the atmosphere. One such crop that would rotate in after corn is a legume such as soybeans or peanuts, which lives in symbiosis with bacteria which fix nitrogen in exchange for glucose on the plant's roots. And for centuries, corn and legumes would rotate, one consuming the soil's supply of nitrogen and the other replenishing, year after year. This changed in last century when in 1909 a German Jew named Fritz Haber figured out an industrial process for fixing nitrogen to create ammonium nitrate, the industrial fertilizer used today to feed millions of acres of hungry corn stalks (as well as blow up federal buildings). He used his know-how in World War I to create a vast array of nitrate for explosive manufacture, as well as developing poison gases. He developed Zyklon B, which was ironically used to gas Jews during the Holocaust.

The downside of industrial nitrate fixing is that it requires a great deal of energy to do, energy that comes from burning coal or oil. A conservative estimate is that for each calorie of corn created, three calories of fossil fuels is burned -- but the true cost may be as much as 6-10 to one calorie where a farmer over-fertilizes, in transportation and processing cost, etc, or even more. All for something which growths naturally with neutral or even negative carbon impact on the environment. Consider the disparity of pounds of feed to pounds of meat in raising beef, and you begin to see the negative impact of industrial corn and meat cultivation in the United states: it takes roughly 32 pounds of corn to produce 4 pounds of weight gain in cattle (an 8:1 ratio), as opposed to a 2:1 ratio in chicken. Work backwards from a single calorie of grain-fed beef and you're burning maybe 100 calories of fossil fuels.

reposted from und1sk0

I know some pretty smart people. Solve this problem: Your entire food manufacturing industry is structured on an energy loss. Solve for x, where x = the magic solution to end world hunger, obesity, the oil crisis and save the environment. Tomorrow: we end the national deficit and make a timecube!
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nature abhors homogeny.. if all you eat is corn and corn by products, nature will punish you (obesity, heart disease, diabetes, etc).

not to mention that corn subsidies are bad for farmers, bad for the environment (cattle waste from a grain diet is too toxic for fertilizers), and is really just passing taxpayer money, almost wholesale, into the hands of agribusiness giants like conagra foods, general mills and adm.

these companies, at least, do not need a taxpayer subsidy that is north of $20billion a year, just like how we don't need to subsidize oil companies that are making record profits.
Which is fine and good, but it has nothing to do with what I said. I'm not saying it's healthy, and I didn't say it was fiscally smart for the nation as a whole; I'm just saying that there's not any kind of energy crisis.
nature abhors homogeny.. if all you eat is corn and corn by products, nature will punish you (obesity, heart disease, diabetes, etc).

You might want to look around at nature then. Most creatures have a relatively limited range of things they eat.

Obesity, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer, and virtually any other malady you name by and large effect those of us who are older. Plain and simple, we humans live longer than our ability to care for ourselves lasts.

It sure as heck beats the alternatives though.
whats good for koala bears is not good for omnivores (get it? omnivore's dilemma?). so, variety matters in our diets -- and while there may seem to be a glut of choices at safeway or on the menu of mcdonalds or even subway, the mass spectrometer doesn't lie: corn, everywhere.

i'm not going to disagree with the age argument, however, but it is predicted that ours (i'm 32) will be the first generation in a long time whose average live expectancy will be shorter than their parents' generation -- due in large part to otherwise preventable maladies related to what we eat; obesity, type II diabetes, heart disease. the three leading causes or contributing factors to early death.
So, what you really mean by "nature abhors homogeny" is that "nature abhors homogeny in omnivores only". Let's run with that.

Grizzly bears -- as an example of an omnivorous species -- tend to eat a far more limited diet than most people. That natural diet dooms them to a life shorter than yours in the longest cases.

Even if we assume the correctness of the statement that corn is in everything, it doesn't mean that corn *IS* everything. It also doesn't mean that corn is bad.

A counterexample: Water is in even more things than corn. The soda can on my desk contains far more water than all other things in it combined. Water, typically, is not seen as a bad thing -- excepting by the coalition to ban DHMO -- so the burden of proof is on you to show that corn is bad and that nature truly abhors our intake of it.

In your attempt to prove that, remind yourself that over the last 100 years, there have been a number of theories on nutrition -- and each one of them has fallen flat on its face. We know very little for certain about nutrition and its effects on us.