Letters to the Editor

Ag ecologists

March 15, 2009


To the editor:

George F. Will’s column attacking corn was surprising for two reasons. In the first place, Will ignores the role personal lifestyle choices and personal responsibility play in obesity — a role much more significant than one particular food ingredient.

In fact, while per capita consumption of high fructose corn syrup is actually on the decline, obesity and diabetes rates are rising. And obesity rates are rising around the world, including in Mexico, Australia and Europe, places where the use of high fructose corn syrup is limited. Per capita red meat consumption has done nothing but go down since 1996.

Second, farmers are growing much more corn with less fertilizer and pesticide use. Nitrogen use per bushel, for example, dropped 38 percent between 1980 and 2005. And whether it is pounds per acre or pounds per bushel, the use of pesticides has dropped significantly since 1990. A new report from the Keystone Center likewise has found reductions in key environmental impacts. The energy needed to produce a bushel of corn, for example, dropped 37 percent between 1987-2007.

Farmers are the original ecologists. We pride ourselves on finding innovative ways to grow enough food to sustainably meet all needs. We are proud of our work and happy to know we are helping provide plentiful and inexpensive food.

Pat Ross,


FenixKS 9 years, 1 month ago

Corn and corn syrup actually are good for relieving constipation. The world would be a much happier place if people were more regular.

RedwoodCoast 9 years, 1 month ago

Oh, man. This entire LTE is detailed in Michael Pollan's work. Check it out; I guarantee you'll look at things a little differently afterwards... which, by the way, is not saying that I'm taking any sides in the issue.

peach_plum_pear 9 years, 1 month ago

"Farmers are the original ecologists." - yes, but not all farming practices are created equal. In today's modern large-scale farm, government subsidized genetically engineered corn has pushed out all kinds of heirloom and native crops. When a monoculture is created (this is basically what these large farms are) farmers shift from growing crops for their own use to growing crops to sell. This means that in place of eating fruits, vegetables, and grains that they or their neighbors grew, they have to buy processed foods (lower nutrient content) or fresh foods that are shipped from hundreds of miles away (larger carbon footprint).

Government subsidies for Big Corn have got to go! Check out the documentary King Corn if you want a good insight into modern corn farming practices.

Paul Decelles 9 years, 1 month ago


You are right...Pollan's work is a real eye opener about not just corn but the whole food system. And he isn't too kind to certain types of organic foods either.

princetonmom 9 years, 1 month ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.