In America, we never go hungry. We are known for being able to produce massive quantities of any kind of food we desire, but we are also known for our waste. It’s an issue that most Americans shrug off, but it’s time to open our eyes. A great way to do this, and really see what is happening in our country, is by watching America Revealed: Food Machine and King Corn.
Both this episode and the film focus on the process of food production in America and go straight to the source. America Revealed: Food Machine focuses on the mass production of food in America and how it’s done. In the episode we get to follow pizza delivery boys, visit a farm in California and visit the Shasta Dam in Northern California. The episode really shows us how our demand for food has affected agriculture and the earth. When we visit the Californian farm, we get to see the amount of space needed to grow tomatoes and how much work is put into it. We learn about the use of pesticides to grow tomatoes more rapidly and the process they go through after they’ve been picked. We also get to see the damage our massive farm creates. We all know that most of America’s food is grown in California because of the year round sunshine and good soil. But there’s an issue that comes with those benefits: there’s no water. California rarely gets rain and the only way to get the necessary amount of water to support the intense agriculture is to irrigate it from somewhere else. And the closest large body of water to central California is Lake Shasta in Northern California. So with the host, we get to visit the Shasta Dam and it’s quite an eye opener. The size of the dam is overwhelming and, though dams create energy and a source of water for other areas, they negatively affect the environment around them. Dams block enormous amounts of water from flowing, and because it has to go somewhere the water pushes out onto land. Basically, dams recreate the shape of a body of water and that causes problems for the animals and plants that live in that area. Another issue with the irrigation system is that the water has to travel through so many pipes and for such a long time that it has to be treated in order to use it. And the water in California is so treated that I can’t even drink it from the tap, I have to filter it and even then my body still dislikes it. Coming from Portland, where water is plentiful and is so naturally fresh I never thought twice about drinking from the tap. But when I moved to California all that changed. It’s hard to believe that water can be such an issue, but because of our high demand for copious amounts of food it’s a reality.
King Corn, which is a film about our dependency on corn, opens our eyes in another light. In America, everything we eat has corn in it. And most Americans know this, but they don’t understand the scope of it. Corn is used to produce almost all the food we eat in America and most of the corn we grow is grown specifically for food production, not to be eaten. In the film King Corn, two men want to know how corn affects our lives, so they grow their own plot of corn. While the corn is growing, they visit beef farms and do experiments with using corn starch to make high fructose corn syrup. Their experiment of making high fructose corn syrup is something I will always remember, because it is such an eye opener to what is in our food. It is an interesting process of cooking corn starch and adding in chemicals that will poison us if we breathe it. That, in it’s own, shows that we shouldn’t be eating high fructose corn syrup but the visual of the final product is just as disgusting. I won’t ruin the visual for you now, but you’ll understand what I’m talking about when you watch King Corn.
Even though both America Revealed: Food Machine and King Corn focus on different aspects of the process of American food production, they both leave lasting impressions on whoever watches them. If you watch both, and you should, you’ll be able to understand a small piece of what food production is, and maybe you’ll consider a different way of producing food.