On Corn: Michael Pollan vs George Bush


We are halfway through Michael Pollan's the Omnivores Dilemma with the intent of writing a review, but after reading President Bush's speech yesterday at the Ethanol Lobby's lunch we are going to do an interim review of a slice of it — of pages 33 through 56. Hell, we may just retype them in their entirety. Author Michael Pollan visits George Naylor, who grows corn on 470 acres in Greene County, Iowa. He grows enough to feed 129 Americans and is one of the most productive humans who ever lived- Yet he is going broke doing it. He sacrifices a bit of yield because he won't use GMO's- "sure you might get a yield bump, but whatever you make goes back to cover the premium for the seed. I fail to see why I should be laundering money for Monsanto." He still makes 180 bushels or ten thousand pounds of food per acre, perhaps nine times what his grandfather did. How does he do it? Fertilizer. Invented by Fritz Haber in Germany in 1906, Fritz figured out how to convert fossil fuels to nitrogen so that you could forget about crop rotation and just keep packing in the corn. It now takes fifty gallons of fossil fuel to grow an acre of corn, or more than a calorie of fossil fuel to grow a calorie of food. Can we get more than a calorie of fuel out of it?

Michael Pollan isn't talking about ethanol, he talks about the death spiral farmers are in, producing more corn yet getting less money and constantly being beaten up by Cargill and the elevator companies, and destroying their land as they go. He talks about a depopulated state and a monoculture of corn as far as the eye can see. As George might say, Gosh! Taking this corn that has been grown with fossil fuels and then turning it back into fuel is just might be the dumbest idea ever. ::The Omnivore's Dilemma from ::Amazon