Engrossing and eye-opening KING CORN is a fun and crusading journey into the digestive tract of our fast food nation where one ultra-industrial pesticide-laden heavily-subsidized commodity dominates the food pyramid from top to bottom - corn. Fueled by curiosity and a dash of naivet college buddies Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis return to their ancestral home of Greene Iowa to figure out how a modest kernel conquered America.With the help of some real farmers oodles of fertilizer and government aid and some genetically modified seeds the friends manage to grow one acre of corn. Along the way they unlock the hilarious absurdities and scary but hidden truths about America's modern food system."A graceful and frequently humorous film that captures the idiosyncrasies of its characters and never hectors" (Salon) KING CORN shows how and why whenever you eat a hamburger or drink a soda you re really consuming corn.System Requirements:Running Time: 90 mintuesFormat: DVD MOVIE Genre: DOCUMENTARIES/SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY Rating: NR UPC: 767685110898 Manufacturer No: NNVG110891
Picking up where Super Size Me left off, King Corn examines America's health woes through the multifaceted lens of one humble grain. Director Aaron Woolf and co-writers Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis offer irrefutable proof that the US is virtually drowning in the stuff. Corn meal, corn starch, hydrologized corn protein, and high fructose corn syrup fuel a multitude of products, from soft drinks to hamburgers. The starchy vegetable grows with ease and government subsidies insure over-abundant production. Woolf documents the 11-month effort of college friends Cheney and Ellis, who trace their ancestry to the same small Iowa town, to raise their own crop. After finding a farmer willing to lend them an acre, they meet with agronomists, historians, and other experts before plowing, seeding, and spraying. Prior to harvesting, the easygoing Yale grads travel to Colorado to compare the grass-fed cattle of yore with today's corn-fed counterparts; then to New York to explore the links between corn syrup, obesity, and diabetes. With assistance from author Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma), a whimsical score, and stop-motion animation--farm toys and corn kernels--Woolf and associates bring biochemistry to vivid life. On a micro level, this genial eye-opener celebrates friends and farmers; on a macro level, King Corn bemoans the subsidies and genetic modifications that have turned a formerly protein-filled product into the fatty "yellow dent no. 2." Bonus features include a music video, photo gallery, and "The Lost Basement Lectures," an amusingly fake instructional movie about the aims of agriculture. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Funny, gross, and scary at the same time King Corn is kind of like Super Size Me's little brother. It traces the pervasive influence of corn on modern America, including the obesity epidemic and the fact that Iowa is growing trillions of bushels of *non-edible* corn to continue receiving lucrative government subsidies. College buddies Ian and Curt, both from the east coast, discover that they both had distant relatives from the same small town of Greene, Iowa. Ian and Curt decide to go to Iowa and plant one acre of corn, following it through its lifecycle, including where it goes after the harvest.
The film starts off slowly as the reasons for the trip are explained. The prerequisite talking heads introduce some scary factoids about how Americans are literally made of corn; if you do a hair analysis, it's like a diet diary, and the vast majority of the American diet (corn-fed beef, fast foods and processed foods) contains corn derivatives. Much of the corn we ingest is in the guise of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a cheaper alternative to sugar that is produced via a scary chemical conversion involving several toxic acids. HFCS has been directly linked to the current obesity crisis and its impact on Type II Diabetes (the body processes HFCS differently from table sugar). Prior to the 1970s, hardly any company used HFCS due to its high cost. But after then-Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz did away with the old New Deal market control policies in favor of rapid expansion in 1973, there was a constant surplus of cheap (and non-edible) corn, fueling the rapid expansion of the corn syrup industry. Here's a quick test: walk into any convenience store and count how many items contain corn, specifically corn syrup. The list includes obvious choices like soda and candy, but you'll also find HFCS in deli meats, breads, ketchup, pickle relish, spaghetti sauce, and cough syrup. Oh yes, and one main variety of corn grown in Iowa (Liberty) is genetically modified, as is at least one ingredient in HFCS manufacturing.
Corn production geared towards ethanol is briefly mentioned, but the majority of the focus in King Corn is on the impact of non-edible corn on the nation's food supply. In this respect, it's kind of a gentler version of Supersize Me; there's no shock value for the most part. Also mentioned is the disastrous consequence of converting cattle from grazing animals to force-fed confined ones. Cattle normally forage for a plant-based diet, but it is far more profitable to bring them up to market weight by forcing them to stand still and eat continuously. In addition, the acids present in corn cause deadly ulcers for the cows, who are slaughtered before developing acidosis. The end result is that 70% of the antibiotics in the US are used on livestock (antibiotics combat both the acidosis and the infections resulting from confinement). Literally everything at McDonald's contains corn: your hamburger is corn-fed, the bun contains HFCS, your soda contains HFCS, the French fries are fried in corn (or soybean) oil, and your ketchup and pickle contains HFCS. Ditto for most vending machine foods, frozen dinners, and anything you don't make from scratch. It's extremely difficult to escape buying foods containing corn, since a variety of pseudonyms are used, including baking powder, caramel color, dextrose, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, stearic acid, and vanilla, making it a nightmare for anyone with corn allergies.
Perhaps the most effective element is that of nostalgia. Ian and Curt also take time to find their long-lost relatives in Greene, and to reflect on the rapid changes in our recently agrarian society that have forced farmers to maintain massive farms harvesting non-edible corn. In other words, the farmer can't even feed himself with what he's growing. Without the hefty government subsidies, such large-scale corn operations would be out of business. They interview various farmers and ranchers who are disgusted with the system, but who have little real choice (one farmer says flatly, "We're growing crap!"). We're shown the evolution of farming equipment and of the family farm itself as a quaint reminder of the past; there are nostalgic shots of Main Street and hometown parades, quiet diners and local bars.
Ian and Curt's visual style is playful; the charts and graphs are hand-drawn, interspersed with stop-motion plastic farm toys to get the point across (and the dancing corn on the map of the US was great, too). The quirky soundtrack is a standout as well. DVD extras include some outtakes, a music video, bios, and some great 1950s-style educational clips. King Corn is a thought-provoking look at the old adage "You are what you eat," and boy, it's scary. ...more info
King Corn We had watched the King Corn on PBS. He loved it so much he asked me to go on-line an buy him a copy. He has since watched it an is inviting a friend over to watch it again with him. I checked various sites and found that Amazon.com to have the best price....more info
"You Are What You Eat" Whether you're aware of it or not, if you're living in the United States in the early 21st century you are made of corn. "King Corn" is, at times, disturbing and charming. No matter what your politics, the impact of government subsidies on both farmers and consumers will both surprise and shock. Iowans will particularly enjoy the film, which documents small-town farmlife without ever mocking it....more info
Very Enjoyable Follow two college students as they learn why corn showed up in their hair analysis. It also addresses the plight of the family farmer, what the farmer goes through to plant and harvest his corn crop, where corn is used in the entire food chain, the use of corn as fuel today, and hopefully, the use of corn silk, stalks, and cobs as future fuel source.
I had seen this DVD on PBS a few weeks before it was available for purchase. I was so impressed with it, I decided to buy a copy....more info
Eye-Opening This movie opened my eyes to what I am really putting into my mouth. It also showed me that agriculture in this country is not on the right course and is contributing to the degredation of our nation, the world and the environment. Slightly misleading, however, is the fact that it is listed as "by Michael Pollan", which is is not... he is just a guest speaker of sorts. That was why I purchased the movie, and though feeling misled I still REALLY liked the movie. A must-see for everyone....more info
King Corn tells it like it is about our food supply Excellent film that should be shown in high school and college classrooms. Few people know how US agriculture has become dangerously unbalanced in terms of the variety of food and the quality of food that is grown in this country. Of course, seeing how corn is grown will also open your eyes as to how terribly the land is managed, and how independent farmers are muscled out by big agri-business. Now, start looking at the ubiquity of high fructose corn syrup in desserts, cereals, packaged meats, etc., and you'll also understand why Americans are so obese. There are no exaggerations in this film--the frightening facts speak for themselves. Wake up, America....more info
What you all don't get... is that CORN FARMERS, or farmers who grow ANYTHING, grow what makes money. Crops are subsidized so the gov't can keep control. Control how much is grown (acres), control the prices, and make sure they are "nicey nicey" to other countries and buy commodities from them. I want to laugh and say, if you could get a promotion and make more money, would you do it? Why should a farmer not do what makes them money? DUH! If commodities could be sold in a free market economy, it would be great. We don't want subsidies, we want a free market and the government's hand out of our business.
Many farmers in the western high plains are barely making it. They're not rolling in money, they don't have retirement plans, they don't have many of the luxuries you city dwellers (and not self-employed workers) have....you work for someone who pays for your health insurance and offers a 401k? Must be nice! You worry about how much gas cost in your little car? Must be nice.....we spend THOUSANDS in fuel each month.
I am not saying that they don't have some valid points, especially regarding the over processed food we eat. But its pretty ignorant to "blame corn" over it. 99.9% of my crop feeds cattle. Cattle ranchers would like to make money too, and feeding corn is more profitable in the long run than grass...besides, I hate to break the news to you, there is not an abundance of grassland in the country. You want exclusively grass fed cattle? Be prepared to pay....a lot!
So before you go jumping on the anti-corn, anti-farmer bandwagon, make sure you have "walked a mile" in a farmer's shoes....more info
NEEDS A PART TWO THAT'S NOT TOO CORNY These lads of Yale infiltrated the Iowa farm machine with stealth aplomb, despite the corniness of the family connections to farming and the constant ingestion of McSlopburgers. A fine and informative study is presented, although the tone remains steadily non-confrontational. The information is an H-bomb for the uninformed. Perhaps it is already too late for the soda drinkers. For those long in the know,a film showing a sense of where we actually are is required. No mention is made of the steady movement towards local fresh produce farming and organic philosophy that is occurring everywhere around the rotten, chemical soaked, decaying Heartland of this Corporation...I mean Country. Faced with the staggering dumbness of what they learned, perhaps the Yale lads can come back baring some teeth and infiltrate the world of organic farms to present the future of the actual food supply. They better grow some beards first.Maybe listen to some punk rock instead of soppy folk music....more info
King Corn: learning about the industrial food chain Whether you are well versed in the ways of the industrial food chain or just beginning to learn about it, King Corn is an entertaining film that delivers a lot of information. 2 friends plant an acre of corn, giving the viewer insight on the entire process. There are many other subjects touched upon, including the far reaching impacts of conventional agriculture, the disappearance of family farms, the economic impact of corn on small town America. This film would be a great starting point for people just learning about the current state of the food system, or the film the well versed person might lend to their less than knowledgeable friends. Much of the truth in The Omnivore's Dilemma delivered by 2 nice guys, Fischer Price stop-motion animation included....more info
Excellent & Thought Provoking If you are at all curious about where our corn goes, this is very, very interesting....more info
Farming based on cheap fuel, corn as ethanol not efficient This film is an amazing look into the amazing complexity of corn production and consumption. It is encouraging me to seek grass fed beef and other more natural products (without high-fructose corn syrup).
I was disappointed, however, that the writers failed to mention that corn production relies heavily on lots of equipment that use non-renewable fossil fuels. As fossil fuels get more scarce, prices will (hopefully gradually) rise. What will we do then? Offer more subsidies to farmers?
Not only does the government subsidize corn production, it also subsidizes conversion of corn into ethanol. The process of converting corn into ethanol uses more energy than is derived from the ethanol. We use fossil fuels to heat and move the processes involved. Nobody would be making ethanol from corn if it wasn't subsidized....more info
King Corn As a registered dietitian, I am concerned about our food suppy. This documentary presented facts and trends that frightened me. As the film suggests, I looked at all the food products that have high frutose corn syrup and it is in so many foods. This film presents both sides on how our country came to this point of encouraging the production of this product. ...more info
And what we eat is garbage... Although not perfect, I'll give any documentary, movie, TV show or book five stars if it alters my life and King Corn definitely rates five full stars. I would highly recommend that everyone purchase or at least view this movie once; I had the opportunity to see it this week on PBS's series "Independent Lens." Corn is nothing but a "raw material" that is separated to almost its basic elements and used to build our daily "garbage" diet.
I learned about the relationship between obesity and the use of high fructose corn syrup (aka HFCS) by accident a few years ago when I made a visit to Victoria, Texas and they sold Dr. Pepper with "Imperial Sugar" and the 10-2-4 logo on the bottle. I didn't know that sometime in the early 70's that the soft drink companies switched from sugar to HFCS as the sweetener. Who would have thought that decades after being told that sugar is bad for your teeth, etc., etc. that it is actually much better for you than the HFCS alternative!
After watching this documentary I did some research and HFCS is in almost everything you buy. For example, it is that main ingredient in many of the ice cream syrups on the supermarket shelves... HFCS is in everything form hamburger and hot dog buns to "low fat" salad dressing! Honey graham crackers... EVERYTHING! Fast foods are full of this HFCS junk and this is only one of the many things you'll learn from this documentary.
Where I live in Corpus Christi most of the population is obese, they exercise little (if at all), have a high incidence of diabetes and fast foods are their favorite filler. In fact, at the local Driscoll Children's Hospital on one side you have the emergency entrance and on the other the "golden arches." No joke! It is really sad.
One can only project into the future after the wheat gluten from China killed our pets in the United States... Will we outsource growing corn to China so we can get even cheaper HFCS to fatten and kill our population off?
My only minor criticism is that the filmmakers didn't explore our government's role in ruining our diets by providing a version of "corporate welfare" to factory farms that produce this junk. As it turns out, they would not be in this business, save the subsidies they get from the USDA. Go figure!
UPDATE 13May08: A recent story in the The Wall Street Journal [1-year subscription] (May 7, 2008, Page B3A) by Susan Buchanan raises some interesting points on the use of corn syrup.
I do not want to give anyone the impression that the only reason that our nation is obese is due to HFCS. In fact, the problem with obesity in the United States is the result of many interrelated and complex factors. They include, cheaper foods coupled with larger portions, an increase in eating out (especially at fast food joints), reduction in exercise and, unfortunately, a greater acceptance of being overweight as the "norm" in our society.
As this film points out, our government is responsible for subsidies to make something that is unprofitable profitable, while at the same time making food cheaper with heavy doses of HFCS inside. I wish, instead, that our government would give big subsidies to organic farmers and tax breaks to those who walk or ride their bikes to work. Instead, our government (FCC) is more concerned with giving us more channels of digital TV by February 2009; another major cause of obesity is the time spent sitting in front of the tube. Where I live the Corpus Christi Police Department and Nueces County Sheriff's Department have almost a zero record in regards to protecting pedestrians, joggers and bicyclists. It is downright dangerous to make an effort to be physically fit where I live. At the same time, the situation in Corpus Christi is not, by any means, unique in our country.
To reduce the epidemic of obesity in the United States we need a multi-pronged attack on the problem that includes support from our government for more healthful ways of life and a population that will say NO to eating junk and YES to exercise.
Should Be Shown in Every School Room Having recently made a friend of a person who is very allergic to corn I was "sensitized" into watching this. My friend and this film gave me a whole new appreciation of just how ubiquitous corn is in our diet. It's nearly impossible to avoid corn in so many commercial products it's insane. It also becomes obvious it's certainly not wise to have our nations figurative eggs in so few crop-baskets, virtual mono cultures. I'm old enough to remember grass finished beef, and prefer it, and think it's beyond egregious that animals are subjected to CAFO's and factory slaugher houses that regularly have to recall hundreds of thousands of pounds of meat due to contamination. The waste is totally unacceptable and now Mexico won't accept meat from many of our processors. This traces back to the ubiquitous use of corn and factory farming. Besides the unnatural corn in cattle rations there are other "proteins" including processed road kill and euthanized pets. The epidemic rise if type II diabetes in this country must be tied to so much corn and sweetener/browner/filler/starch as before the use of so much corn, diabetes was fairly UNcommon. The corn syrup seems to upset the metabolic system and contributes to obesity. I do wish that movie had addressed the issues surrounding GMO corn. But then, the lawsuits might have started rolling in. Corn that kills the earworm isn't something I want on my menu. I realize that bacterium thuringensis is fairly harmless when used as a dust on corn silks, but who knows what the effect is when it's built into every single kernel we eat of that particular modificication. That said the movie is easy watching with compassion for those who are being forced out of a way of life lived happily for generations and even out of small towns where generations have lived. It is an appeal for America to come to it's senses and have a good look around. We're very soon going to need the jobs small farms provide AND food we can actually eat might be handy! ...more info
agricultural nostalgia meets dietary tragedy This documentary film is a sort of prequel to Fast Food Nation, and does for film what Michael Pollan has done in his two books, The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food. Best friends Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis relocate from the east coast to Greene, Iowa (population 1,015) to grow an acre of corn and then follow its fortunes after harvest. Planting an acre of 31,000 genetically modified kernels takes eighteen minutes. Fertilizers, sprays, water and time will yield about 200 bushels or 10,000 pounds of corn. That's why there are literal mountains of corn in Iowa. But none of it is edible, and was ever intended to be, until it is artificially processed. Over half of the crop goes to feed cattle, another third goes for ethanol and exports, and then a significant minority of it goes to make high fructose corn syrup and similar sweeteners that you'll find on virtually every label of processed food. In short, this is corn that is not really food. Cheney and Ellis netted a loss of $19.92 on their acre of corn, but that's before massive government subsidies put them in the black. Not even the farmers in this film were happy about agribusiness as usual, but that's the story of corn to date....more info
Growing awareness of food vs. agribusiness. This interesting film illustrates what happens when food becomes more of a vehicle for making money than for feeding people. Most of the corn we grow in our 'breadbasket' is inedible for humans, and is used as feedgrain for cows (I wonder how much the cows like it as well).
In addition to documenting their farming experiment, the filmmakers visited a massive cattle feedlot in Colorado. It brought to mind another movie that explores our meat industry Fast Food Nation. As the meat industry, like the cigarette industry, increases their global marketing, ever increasing amounts of grain are being used to feed cattle; along with creating fuels. Amazingly, some crops are being genetically modified to produce pharmaceuticals Transgenic Plants: A Production System for Industrial and Pharmaceutical Proteins.
With growing food crises around the world, one wonders when we'll reach a tipping point and decide to create a food system that serves people instead of serving the interests of executives at Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland Rats in the Grain: The Dirty Tricks and Trials of Archer Daniels Midland, the Supermarket to the World. Thinkers like Frances Moore Lappe have long argued that the real issue behind a lack of food security is not a lack of food, but rather a lack of democracy World Hunger: Twelve Myths. We need to dethrone 'Kings' of corn and many other commodities and put decision making power into the hands of civil society, as Vandana Shiva has advocated for so eloquently Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace. See some of Shiva's presentations on YouTube, she's a modern-day Gandhi.
A couple other resources to help us create a sustainable, organic, biodiverse, and localized food system:
Good Growing: Why Organic Farming Works (Our Sustainable Future)
Micro Eco-Farming: Prospering from Backyard to Small Acreage in Partnership with the Earth
Slow Food Nation: Why Our Food Should Be Good, Clean, And Fair
Mother Earth News
How to Save the World
Informative documentary This documentary helped me understand farm subsidies and how those government policies came to be. I now see how the intentional overproduction of corn has driven down overall food prices in real dollars during the past 30 years. Perhaps I'm missing something, but it seems like farm modern industrialization is so efficient that corn farming is not nearly as laborious as I imagined.
Other aspects of the film such as corn fed cattle confinement and the filmmakers' journeys beyond their Iowa project were most intriguing. The "extras" are just throw aways, mildly entertaining (dare I say corny?) but nothing near what I've come to expect as bonus material from a good documentary these days. ...more info
LOVED IT!! What a wonderful movie, besides being well put together and easy to watch and follow it was so enlightening!! I loved how they went step by step on how the corn becomes the stuff that's in everything we eat/drink!! I eat almost all organic and this is just another motivating factor to stay on that path. No feed lot burgers for me ever again!...more info
Great video This dvd was creative, entertaining and very informative. I learned things I never realized were true....more info
Ten star winner!!! As documentaries go this is a wonderful one and if I do say so myself a fair one. Never fully realized that all that corn grown in places like Iowa, is inedible until its been processed and doctored up in some way.
Or that some towns are supported by pure farm welfare programs called farm support, that we the taxpayers pay for. And now with the flooding in the region we will pay even more.
I especially appreciated being reminded that we have cheap food in the United States because so much of it is made in some way by corn or corn syrup.
But cheap food as the documentary notes also means higher health care costs because of the increased health problems that arise from eating foods made from corn. And sadly as the documentary shows, its the small family farm that wants to raise healthy crops, livestock who is being shut out. ...more info
Kernels of truth America's heartland, (Iowa, particularly, in this film) is undergoing some serious changes and Aaron Woolf's expos®¶ on the commodity of corn is a welcome addition to those authors and filmmakers who investigate what we eat and how it's made. One thing stands out more than anything else....corn is ubiquitous.
Gently told by Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, friends who move to Iowa to raise an acre of corn and then try to follow it to its destinations, "King Corn" goes farther than how corn is planted and tended. The lives of the residents of Greene, Iowa, where the film takes place, become central. This is not your average Chamber of Commerce town tour, by any stretch. Unlike the hard-driving Michael Moore or the self-absorbed Morgan Spurlock, Cheney and Ellis let the camera and the townfolk do the work. It's a winning combination and what the viewer learns from this documentary might not be shocking but nonetheless revealing in sobering terms. "King Corn" is well worth a look....more info
Affable, Informative Documentary for the Whole Family Two friends from college decided to track the process of growing America's #1 crop - corn. We see them rent their own acre of land and start, literally from scratch.
They learn some of the evils and the economies of what has become the big business of agriculture - in some ways following in the footsteps of Roger Moore. They produce an eye-opening documentary. However these two pals do their investigating in a hands-on, non-confrontational way. As much as possible, they become a part of the Iowa community where they start their jovially hip adventure.
They usher us through the process of sowing and reaping the corn, as it is done now with giant combines yielding billions of tons of grain every year. Then the friends pursue their crop as it is traded and processed, and as it makes its way to our tables in one form or another.
They show how ubiquitous a part of our lives corn is. It is added as sweetener to almost all the processed food products we eat now, perhaps contributing to the epidemics of obesity and diabetes. It is the staple ingredient in most cattle feed. All of this commercial corn is foul-tasting, almost inedible in its primary raw state.
The two young men do a good job of showing the details of the journey the corn makes from seed to feed. They include the way the crop is fertilized using ammonia. They touch on the herbicides sprayed on the fields and how these chemicals do their work of eradicating weeds without harming the young corn shoots. However, there's one glaring omission. The pals don't discuss pesticides at all, and seem not to have used any on their God's Little Acre.
But the two also take the larger view. They probe the different philosophies that have guided Government programs dealing with farmers. They even track down Earl Butz, the controversial Secretary of Agriculture in the Nixon-Ford Administration, and interview him. He explains how he revamped and reversed the system of incentives given to farmers. He saw that they were paid, not for how much land they withheld from production, but for how much land they planted. This policy has contributed to the near-glut of corn on the market and to the creation of vast monoculture farms.
There's a wealth of information in this documentary, presented in a lively, engaging way. The pals in effect take a cheery road trip with each other and with their corn - but make some sobering discoveries along the way....more info
light hearted look at very serious issue I am still processing everything I learned from this documentary. I encourage everyone to watch it and have donated my copy to the local library. The interviews with farmers, professors from the university, and food industry professionals is very interesting. I also looked up the King Corn website and was intriguied by the challenge to go 'corn free' which for me meant really taking a look at all the products I eat which contain corn. Perhaps a word of caution when you get to the feed lot portion of the documentary. I had absolutely no idea cattle were raised like this and the impact that eating corn based diets has on them. It has really put me off eating beef. I feel this topic needs to become more mainstream so everyone is aware of the impact of their choices on their health. And if I could encourage people to do one thing to change their diet - stop drinking sodas!!!!! ...more info
King Corn As a nation we have slept for 2 generations while our (and the world's) food industry has gone awry. If you eat, you should see this documentary....more info