Jilara (jilara) wrote,

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Some (literal) food for thought...

On the way to somewhere else, I found an article called "Children of the Corn Syrup" by Shea Dean. In this article there is a discussion of how interestingly interlinked WWII and the rise of chemical/factory farming is. A couple fascinating paragraphs:

"DDT, the chemical that had saved hundreds of thousands of troops from malarial mosquitoes, was the first to be put into widespread use as an insecticide, and the abundance of cheap surplus military planes allowed farmers to “strafe” their own fields with it. Other war supplies were adapted to farm use as well. The government sold its ordnance factories to private agribusiness firms—gunpowder and nitrate fertilizer share many of the same ingredients—but only on the condition that the plants (both industrial and photosynthetic, to arm and feed troops and refugees) could be commandeered back into military service.

As Kroese writes, we became “a country constantly poised for war,” eager to employ military technology whenever possible. A 1946 Science Digest article suggested using A-bombs to blow up the polar ice caps, in the hopes that doing so would warm up the climate enough to expand the grain-growing region of North America into the Yukon. That idea never came to pass, but decades were spent trying to turn nitrogen-rich, low-level nuclear waste from the weapons program into a fertilizer. (Today many suspect that government-subsidized biotech companies are actually doing secret research into chemical and biological warfare.)"

Wow, global warming for agriculture! And don't you love the Teller-esque thought of using A-bombs to do it? What, they hadn't invented Nuclear Winter yet?

And eventually we get to Earl Butz, who had ties to the chemical companies...
"As assistant secretary of agriculture during the Eisenhower administration, Butz had helped to lock in the growth spiral outlined above by linking government subsidies to yield rather than to acreage. Large farms could turn a profit by buying chemicals in bulk and cutting labor costs to the bone, but small farmers could only cut away so much, and Butz knew it. His advice to them was “Get big or get out.”

Oren Lee Staley, then president of the National Farmers Organization, told the Senate agriculture committee that Butz “is widely known among farmers for his callous lack of concern about their welfare.” The National Farmers Union, which had never before opposed any cabinet nominee, opposed Butz. So did Friends of the Earth, Adlai Stevenson, Ted Kennedy, and Glen Harms of Clarinda, Iowa, who wrote in to say, “I’m tired of being discriminated against as a family farmer please not Butz.” This was all duly noted in the Congressional Record, and Butz was confirmed.

As with the A-bomb, few people understood how harmful Butz’s policies would be. The New York Times called Earl Butz a man “with a dry wit and a small chuckle” who was “fond of introducing Eastern newsmen to ‘real farmers, who can tell it like it is.’” Earl Butz in fact wouldn’t dare introduce Eastern newsmen to real farmers, who were being forced off the land, against their will, by the thousands. Once in office, Butz told farmers to plant “fencerow to fencerow,” convinced that the sheer volume of their crops would lift prices by forcing open new markets. There was a catch: One major new market turned out to be us. If we couldn’t eat more corn, we would drink it."

And of course, it's unsustainable...
"Today a tiny number of mammoth corporations control vast amounts of acreage. What allows them to withstand the negative feedback loop is that most have become not only addicts but pushers, either owned by or with contractual links to the chemical firms on one hand and the food manufacturers on the other. But even then they would probably not survive without billions of dollars of federal farm subsidies and Pentagon contracts. That is what makes Butz’s “Get the government out of the ag business” comment such a steaming load of fertilizer; only through corporate welfare (and Butz hated welfare, at least the type that discouraged “initiative” among the poor) can U.S. agribusiness sell corn 20 percent below the cost of production and still turn a tidy profit."

And there we go... And now, we will put it into our fuel tanks. And the economy is tanking hard. Drill the reserves and grow that corn! We must keep this pyramid scheme going! And we're all the chumps who were the last into the scam...

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