Two Eco-activists Follow the Corn Trail in American Food Production
Without much difficulty or drama, Cheney and Ellis convince a local farmer--who actually sells his family farm during the course of the filming--to let them use an acre of his land to plant their crop. Acting as our eyes and ears about current corn conditions and concerns--government subsidies, fertilizer, pesticides, soil type and the like--the eco-duo call on local experts to advise them about the best corn to plant, best way to plant it and, indeed, to do some crop maintenance for them.
As the boys watch their grass--yes, we learn, corn is a type of grass--the boys become rather attached to their flourishing crop and, when the time comes for them to sample its issue, they're quite surprised and dismayed to discover that the corn they carefully nurtured tastes “like chalk.”
In reality, they come to understand, there‘s no need for it to taste good. It‘s actually not intended to be eaten, rather it’s to be made into the high fructose corn syrup and corn fillers that are used to ‘enhance’ and ‘sweeten’ consumer food products ranging from ‘fresh’ orange juice to pre-pattied hamburger meat, among millions of other items--including ethanol or drinking alcohol.
The corn that Cheney and Ellis--and the farmers whose land surrounds their single-acre--are growing is a type of yellow corn that has been genetically engineered to thrive in closer proximity to other stalks--so planting can be much denser and more fruitful. Knowing that, and it should come as no surprise that the produce doesn't taste good--or, even, like corn.
All About Corn
Eventually, when Cheney and Ellis found out they must relinquish control of their little crop to the greater corn processing conglomerate, rather than abandon their follow-the-corn-from-crop-to-supermarket-shelf agenda by buying some partially processed corn with which to make their own high fructose corn syrup. Then, after they’ve worked the alchemy, they’re somewhat dismayed to find that the ubiquitous sweetener doesn’t taste good either.
How Corny Are You?
Will this film change anything? Probably not. King Corn doesn’t roll out as a revolutionary, earthshaking, pattern-shattering revelation about the world‘s food chain. But, it’s down-home, friendly and entertaining presentation might just prompt you to--as Cheney and Ellis do at the beginning of the film--get a strand of your hair analyzed (a certain type of hair analysis, we learn in the film, actually indicates just what you‘ve eaten during your lifetime).
Will you join the throng to take the hair test to find out for yourself just how much of a corn by-product you are?