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Ch. 3 - The elevator

#31: Oct. - Dec. 2006 (Non-Fiction)
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Chris OConnor

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Ch. 3 - The elevator

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Please discuss Chapter 3 in this thread.
MadArchitect

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Re: Ch. 3 - The elevator

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One thing I wondered in this section: what would be the effect of ending the government subsidies that aide the monoculture of corn. As I see it, one implicit point here is that economic policy plays a role in crafting culture, a role that is worth reconsidering. Government subsidies drive down the price of corn by making it feasible (if not particularly profitable for the farmer) to make a living making corn. Were it not for those subsidies, normal price cycles might limit the viability of corn as an industrial food.To put it another way, Pollan suggests that social forces compel us to consume the excess of corn that's produced each year, and that the industrial food industry thrives in part by finding new ways to make it possible for us to consume more and more of that excess. (Oops, I'm looking ahead a little.) So if we didn't have that excess supply, would we have as much of a demand for industrialized corn products?
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Loricat
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Take away the subsidies, you take away...pop, chips, cheap beef...every processed food eaten in Canada, the USA, etc. Can you imagine the uproar? The few thousand in each of those countries who understand (the 'converted', to whom books like this 'preach', 'cause the average person/politician, who needs to read this kind of book, won't -- ever) will applaud, but it would be the kiss of death to any political party that tried it. The only way it would work would be if all people in public office worked together for the future good of all people, society, and the economy. They would have to be united to work on a long-term, real solution -- a 100-year plan, not a 4-year-while-I'm-in-office plan. ***Must say though, the images of the river of corn at the elevator, the dirty corn on the ground...the concept of corn-as-commodity being different than corn-we-eat -- powerful stuff. My worldview underwent a bit of a tip in this chapter. "All beings are the owners of their deeds, the heirs to their deeds." Loricat's Book NookCelebrating the Absurd
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Loricat: Take away the subsidies, you take away...pop, chips, cheap beef...every processed food eaten in Canada, the USA, etc.Most of them would still be around in one form or another. The difference is that they would just about all be more expensive. Which is fine by me. I personally feel like there's something wrong with a society where it's cheaper to buy Jolt cola than it is to buy orange juice. I feel like we're subsidizing our "standard of living" by jeopardizing our health. Not a very smart trade.
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Let's not forget that all these subsidies and cheap corn benefit the corporations who make industrial food. SO there will be no policy change as far as I can see.Pollan mentions somewhere that industrial food is a supply driven market, so keeping the price down is good in this case...good for the corporations. Now I do not have my notes or the book with me now, so I am sorry that I bring it up in the wrong thread, but Pollan also mentions some chicanery in food science in which there are developments in foods that do not get digested, and thus do not fill our bellies...and thus will have us spending more on industrial food. What the fuck!? Does this not piss everyone else off?We are letting the corporations treat us like cattle. I wonder how Capitalists feel about this...it is NOT capitalism at all...it is Corporate Socialism! I feel a bit pissed about all this. I am really going to try to change my diet......as I sit here eating a frozen dinner...WITH Corn as the Veg!!! But seriously...I will try. I have been wanting to change my eating habits and now this is a good kick in the ass.Mr. P. Mr. P's place. I warned you!!!Mr. P's Bookshelf.The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy PiperEdited by: misterpessimistic  at: 10/30/06 2:27 pm
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Quote:...as I sit here eating a frozen dinner...WITH Corn as the Veg!!!Keep in mind the very interesting distinction between the corn we eat, and the corn-as-commodity...which we still eat, but in its various processed forms. The way you're eating it, it's still a vegetable!! Don't worry.You're right though...I don't have the book in front of me either (had to take it back to the library!), but the 'scientific chicanery' to decrease the absorbable nutrients in already nutrient-poor food is terribly disturbing! "All beings are the owners of their deeds, the heirs to their deeds." Loricat's Book NookCelebrating the Absurd
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Yeah...but reading the ingredients list...I see #2 corn all over the rest of the meal!Mr. P. Mr. P's place. I warned you!!!Mr. P's Bookshelf.The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper
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I'm glad you're reading the book, Nick. Always good to have someone outspoken in the discussion. What do you think of the book so far?Yeah, eating whole corn is definitely better than eating hidden, processed corn -- at least you're more conscious of what you're eating. That said, the corn in a TV dinner is probably coated in corn #2 products -- preservatives, artificial butter, what have you.
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I started the book early in October and could not get past Chapter 1 for some reason...but over the past two days, I have read over 100 pages.I think it is a great book and it is making me see things, while not totally in a different light, in a more focused light. The control of corn and the uses to which it is put is scary and interesting at the same time.I am a bit miffed at the whole industrial machine and how manipulative it all is. Pollan is a very good writer, but I would prefer less metaphor in his descriptions. Although I do find the idea of Corn manipulating us for it's evolutionary advantage, as opposed to the opposite, very interesting!Mr. P. Mr. P's place. I warned you!!!Mr. P's Bookshelf.The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper
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The idea of corn manipulating us to its advantage is a rhetorical device that has it roots, as best I can tell, in Dawkins. If there are any books that described evolution by attributing agency to evolutionary agents, prior to "The Selfish Gene", I don't know about them.It's a good gimmick, in so far as it goes, but I think you have to make an effort to step back every once in a while and remind yourself that pressing the metaphor too far can confuse other issues. That isn't terribly difficult with Pollan, mostly because we inwardly snicker at the idea that corn could control anything, but I think the same device served to make Dawkins' thesis in "The Selfish Gene" more controversial than it should have been. His point, really, was that we're better served in thinking about evolution by looking at the benefit to genes rather than the benefit to the individual or the species -- and that the benefit to the individual and the species is, statistically speaking, derivable from the benefit to the gene -- but by falling back on the image of the gene "controlling" the individual Dawkins tapped into anti-evolutionist concerns about free will and self-determination.But I digress...
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