When I started trying to follow the industrial food chain — the one that now feeds most of us most of the time and typically culminates ei- ther in a supermarket or fast-food meal — I expected that my investiga- tions would lead me to a wide variety of places. This is because every plant in it, being an F- 1 hybrid, is genetically identical to every other.
Folly in the getting of our food is nothing new. The initial deposit was made by the retreat of the Wisconsin glacier ten thousand years ago, and then compounded at the rate of another inch or two every decade by prairie grasses — big bluestem, foxtail, needlegrass, and switchgrass.
Corn, al- ready the recipient of a biological subsidy in the form of synthetic ni- trogen, would now receive an economic subsidy too, ensuring its final triumph over the land and the food system. Resistant starch, the last novelty on that list of ingredients, has the corn refiners particularly excited today. Hybrid corn is the greediest of plants, consuming more fertilizer than any other crop.
The only exception is D3A2C1, which does not depend on any previously established Conclusions. (For details, see Rickless (2007, 198–206).) It appears that every argument of D3 is logically valid. Though chiefly remem- bered outside agriculture for the racist joke that cost him his job during the 1976 election, Butz revolutionized American agriculture, helping to shift the food chain onto a foundation of cheap corn. Neither company sells products directly to con- sumers, so they have little to gain from cooperating with journalists — and seldom do.
Ideally, you would open your mouth as seldom as possible, ingesting as much food as you could with every bite. The 1 29 people who depend on George Naylor for their sustenance are all strangers, living at the far end of a food chain so long, intricate, and obscure that neither producer nor consumer has any reason to know the first thing about the other. Some evolutionary biolo- gists believe that evolution selected against cannibalism as a way to avoid such infections; animals’ aversion to their own feces, and the car- casses of their species, may represent a similar strategy.
Second, those plants exhibited heterosis, or hybrid vigor — better yields than either of their parents. While he and George were working on it I checked out the shed full of state- of-the-art farm equipment and asked him what he thought about the Bt corn he was planting — corn genetically engineered to produce its own pesticide.
Either way, it’ll earn you a measure of neighborly derision and hurt your yield. But agronomists in the Department of Agriculture had a better idea: Spread the ammonium nitrate on farmland as fertilizer.
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