The Omnipresence of Corn in the American Diet

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In Part One of Michael Pollen's book The Omnivore's Dilemma, the author looks at the plethora of products available in today's supermarkets and the ubiquitousness of one plant, corn. Corn is a grass native to Central America and unknown in other parts of the world before 1492 (Pollan, 2006, p. 23). After the Native Americans taught colonists to plant corn, they quickly learned to appreciate its value and versatility. Corn was ready to eat, could be dried and stored, and could be ground into flour. The grain fed people and animals. Dried stalks became heating fuel. Mashed, fermented corn could be made into whisky and beer. It was a commodity that sustained people in many ways. For nearly 450 years, corn remained an important staple that nourished humans and animals. It provided some by-products that were also considered quite useful. By the middle of the 20th century, however, corn became a political commodity and completely changed the way we eat. The years after World War II saw the introduction of chemical fertilizers. The government was looking to dump chemicals no longer needed for defense manufacturing. It may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but it changed farming and eating forever. The corn plant readily used these synthetics, growing prodigiously and eliminating the need for farmers to rotate crops. The government, Wall Street, and private industry capitalized on the bounty, ultimately resulting in the omnipresence of corn, in one form or another, in the

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